Let the Candy Countdown Begin!

How Long Till the Halloween Haul Runs Out?

Get ready for the Monday morning after Halloween, folks – everywhere you look, there will likely be piles of candy hauled in by eager youngsters, this past Saturday night. And after a full Sunday of candy-fueled antics, parents all over America will be crying “Uncle” and vowing to get that stuff out of the house. Everywhere you look, in offices across the nation, Halloween candy will be spilling out of the cubicles, taking up needed counter space in the kitchenettes, and making a whole lot of us a little ill at the thought of yet another “snack size” morsel.

So, how bad is it? Just what are we looking at?

Consider this: In 2014, 4,120,000 children went trick-or-treating in the U.S.*. That’s not counting adults, but I’ve calculated how many might possibly be impacted by this veritable stampede of candy-collectors.

How many of us were expected to take to the streets on Halloween? A lot.

If I assume that the holiday spirit will continue (according to the National Retail Foundation,157 million of us were expected to partake in celebrations), I can roughly estimate how long we’re going to fend off the initial onslaught of all that extra non-nutritional intake — all ~20.6 billion additional calories’ worth.

By my admittedly ballpark, conservative calculations, things should simmer down by mid-week… or end of week, if we pace ourselves.

Let’s allow for 2.5 children per household – out of the 4.1 million trick-or-treaters. That puts us at ~1,648,000 households involved. Let’s say that there are ~1.75 adults per household, which amounts to ~2,884,000 adults potentially impacted by the trick-or-treat haul. Using a (very) conservative estimate of 50 pieces of candy collected by each child, that puts the total number of pieces of candy in circulation at ~206,000,000. (And if we allow for ~100 calories per piece of candy, then we’ve just introduced 20.5 billion additional calories into our collective forage – but that’s another discussion for another time.)

Then let’s allot the following “candy budget” to kids and adults alike:

Halloween: Kids: 10 pieces | Adults: 5 pieces
Sunday: Kids: 20 pieces | Adults: 10 pieces
Monday: Kids: 2 pieces | Adults: 10 pieces
Tuesday: Kids: 0 pieces | Adults: .7 pieces

At that rate, by my blue-sky calculations, the collective number of pieces on hand will drop precipitously after Sunday.


Woo Hoo! on Sunday… followed by what looks like withdrawal pains

The only thing is, this doesn’t look like much fun. Sunday looks way too… “exciting” for most people’s taste. Of course, it significantly cuts down on the amount of candy that needs to be dispatched over the coming days, but that’s at a price. If 4,120,000 kids are all allowed to consume 20 pieces of Halloween candy on that day, there will be a whopping 82,400,000 pieces of candy pumping untold amounts of sugar (not to mention over 8 billion additional calories) into the systems of kids all across our land. On One. Single. Day.

Fun for the kids. Less fun for Mom and Dad.

Now, if we look at a more staid plan – keeping everybody on a budget of ~2-5 pieces per day, the numbers look less precipitous. And perhaps a bit less scary. Plus, by the end of the week, the kids will be down to no candy… whilst leaving the adults a remaining 5 pieces to snack on.


A more steady approach that takes us through the week.

After all, we’re probably going to need the energy.

Whatever your living situation… good luck, this coming week.

* Estimated number of children ages 5-14, source: U.S. Census Bureau (via Infoplease http://www.infoplease.com/spot/halloweencensus1.html)

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There’s a word for that

Am I on the way up?

Change is an awfully big place. And in its house are many windows with very different views on the world.

It’s been over six months, since I posted anything here on this blog.

Life has been busy. In the time since my last post, I went from a purportedly stable long-term contract situation at a nearby office of a Massachusetts-grown multinational… to a fantastic opportunity of a permanent full-time position at an even bigger Massachusetts-grown multinational with twice the commute… to being one of nearly 200,000 employees at two tech monsters which will be merging sometime next year, provided everything goes according to plan.

Of course, a better offer could come in. Or someone could change their mind. Or someone or something could intervene. The deal is not done yet (tho’ you’d never know it, the way people keep talking about it), and there are a boatload of unknowns. Most of what I know is common knowledge to everyone, courtesy of the tech industry press. But the consensus seems to be, “It’s happening” — so, there we have it.

I was a smidge unsettled for about 36 hours after the announcement, a week ago. What will become of us? What will happen to my job? Why did this have to happen so soon after I started? Does that make me vulnerable? What about seniority (which I don’t have at this company)?

It is unsettling. Until I realized that in 20-some years in high tech, this sort of uncertainty has been the norm. It truly has. Even at “stable” companies, there was constant upheaval. There’s bound to be, in any emerging industry, and for all its familiarity to us now, realistically, high tech is new on the scene.

Compare it to agriculture. Or manufacturing. Or the trades. Or hunting and gathering. High tech has barely had time to let its most recent coat of paint dry, so to speak.

It’s very easy to get caught up in existential angst, whilst everything around you shifts and changes. It’s easy to fall into thinking that the last situation was so much more predictable (actually, it wasn’t), or that a different opportunity would have had more guarantees (no, it wouldn’t), and then to sink into the malaise of thinking nothing stable ever existed in the first place. It’s easy to feel precarious, threatened, even disposable. Chaos. Shifting chaos. Served piping hot with two healthy sides of WTF? and Not again! It’s hard to see where it’s all leading — especially when you’re in uncharted territory (like getting swept up in the largest tech merger on the planet… ever).

And so, in the midst of all the upheavals and the transformations, I look for meaning in it all. I look for words that will describe what I’m experiencing — words that connect me to others who have been through similar situations.

We live in times when words are cheap. They’re easy to find, online and everywhere else, and we can get them in writing, spoken language, illustrations, songs, videos, paintings… you name the medium, we’ve got words.

And we’ve got them coming at us from every conceivable direction. Reading the news about tech merger developments, depending on the source, the reportage can be hopeful, chipper, cynical, or dire. Or it could mean something else. And the specific words that people use to describe the action can tell us a lot about what’s going on behind the scenes. There’s a lot being said. And a lot not being said. And a lot that people are trying to not say, but that gets revealed in their choice of words.

So yes, I am paying a lot of attention to words, these days.

And in the absence of stability, a dearth of confirmable details, I’m paying particular attention to the meanings of the words being used. As I sort through the veritable deluge of combinations of letters and sounds that act as containers for meaning, I often stop to ask: What does that word really mean? Not just what it means when a certain person uses them, but what it really means, in essence. I take words apart and whittle them down to their etymological origins, thinking about how the words came to be in the first place. What purpose did they serve? What needs did they meet? Why would someone back in 1387 need to use a word like this, and what the heck did they do before they had that word to encapsulate that concept? Did they not think about that concept at all? Or did they have another word they used instead?

It’s frivolous. It’s heady. It’s fun. And while navigating the shifting sands beneath disruptive technologies and evolving industries, the practice tosses an anchor into the far distant past to steady my proverbial ship and keep me moored in the truth that, while things may seem chaotic and dramatic and uncertain, that’s pretty much been the case for much of humanity for as far back as we have recorded history — probably even farther back.

They say, “Change is the only constant.”

I say, “And whatever you might be thinking at this moment… someone was thinking it, umpteen years before… and there’s a word for that.”

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Big Lessons: Traffic boosts and content creation

10 months' worth of traffic -- room for improvement

10 months’ worth of traffic — room for improvement

So, here’s a challenge… I have a site where I’m sharing all the lessons I learned about traveling to and from Paris. It’s called Paris – In and Out.

I used to have a job that took me to Paris, France, a couple of times a year. I learned a whole lot about how to get in and out of Paris “with minimum pain and maximum gain”, in the space of a few years. After I left the company, my thought was to get the info out there, so others can benefit, as well. I also didn’t want all that knowledge to just evaporate.

What a waste that would be.

So, I started blogging about it. And then I had some ideas for books. And courses. Life, of course, is always interesting with the spanners it throws in your works, plus I have a ton of interests, so my real-life travels took me in different directions over the past nine months — with the net result being this:

Traffic to my Paris travel blog

Traffic to my Paris travel blog

I started out relatively strong in July of 2014, and I seemed to be picking up steam… then things tailed off in August, for some reason. September through November were slooow months, with things at work getting very hectic. Then traffic picked up in December, for some reason. January was a big month — perhaps because I not only posted a bunch of content, but I also cross-posted to Facebook and LinkedIn.

February I got seriously sidetracked by the constant storms and snow — that mess ate up a bunch of my time and energy and left me pretty wiped out after all the shoveling and roof raking, so I didn’t have much energy left to blog about flying to Paris. Then I got back into the swing of things in March. April is lagging again. The month is half over, and I’ve gotten all of 14 views.  Woo hoo.

I would very much like to jump-start this again. Honestly, I need to bump up my traffic, get the word out there, so on and so forth. 319 visitors in a month as a high point is obviously not stellar — I know better, and I’ve actually done better in other web situations. But that experience is not showing up in my stats here.

So, let the lessons commence. Boosting traffic to your site is not rocket science. It’s really more about consistency, than anything else. That, and knowing where to put your attention and efforts. And my Paris travel site is probably an excellent test case for figuring out the details — finding what works, and what doesn’t.

I do know this: Building a solid web presence takes discipline and consistency, and if you don’t choose the right path, right off the bat, you can end up spending a ton of time and energy on something that doesn’t pan out in the end. The online world is rife with stories of people who chose the wrong path, from the get-go. They decided to make and sell something that nobody actually wanted. They thought in terms of “Field of Dreams” — so long as they built it, people would come.

But they never checked if what they were building actually met a need, to start with.

I’m guilty of the same sort of thinking. I’ve done it myself, a number of times over the past 20 years. And I learned very quickly that if you don’t produce something that people actually want, your efforts aren’t going to pay off nearly as well as you expected them to.

So here’s the reboot of my approach. Targeted content. Informed choices about what to write and publish. Data-driven. A continuous learning experience which I hope benefits others as much as myself. Despite my background in all things web, I’m as human as the next person and I always have a lot to learn.

So let the Paris Travel Site re-boot commence.

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Homeless… and happy

This. Except, it was at night

This. Except, it was at night – and it was a lot less pretty in 1990

Note: This is NOT a commentary on how anyone else should or could feel, when they’re facing adversity, particularly homelessness. Nor is it a “recipe” for how to be less miserable when life flat-out sucks. It’s just a story about my own experience.

Anyway, 25 years ago today, I was just starting to get my act together. As we often will, in my early adult years, I had made a series of unfortunate and ill-informed choices about how I was supposed to live my life. The net result was that in the winter of 1990, I was in a life situation that was completely wrong for me — and was causing a lot of people around me a fair amount of pain.

That tends to happen when you make life-defining decisions based on what everyone else tells you to do, versus what you know you’re supposed to do — and are best at doing.

Anyway, long story short, things came to a head in January, 1990, and by the end of that month, I had removed myself from the home and relationship that everyone around me said was the “right” one for me to be in. I went to stay with a friend who offered her couch for me to crash, should I ever decide to get free. Then things didn’t pan out with that friend (she was too hungry for details that I didn’t care to share), so I took my bag, and at about 11 p.m. on an early February night, I stepped out onto the streets of Center City Philadelphia without any idea what I was going to do next.

I wasn’t sure where I was going to go. I didn’t know who I could stay with. I had one other friend who could possibly offer me shelter, but when I rang her doorbell, there was no answer. And on that bitter cold night, I found myself walking down dark streets with my bag over my shoulder, looking for a doorway to shelter in. It was cold, as I recall, but it wasn’t snowing. All I needed was a place to hole up, until daylight, when I could go to work, wash up and change my clothes, and see what my options were.

Now, at the time, Center City Philadelphia was not the most hospitable place to be after 10 p.m. There were a lot of drugs being sold on street corners, and “wolf packs” of young men were often on prowl looking for folks to rough up. I had no idea where I was going to go, or what I was going to do — beyond getting through the night and going to work the next morning. And in retrospect, maybe my situation wasn’t all that great.

But honestly, none of the realistic concerns weighed me down. Oh, sure, I knew the dangers were there. Absolutely. I had no plan on actually sleeping in a doorway – that would have been crazy and asking for trouble. I knew I was vulnerable, alone, and without any real way to stay completely safe. But that didn’t hold me back. If anything, that awareness just kept my feet on the ground.

And a good thing, too. Because the one emotion I remember feeling so very, very clearly, was elation. Sheer joy. Almost intoxicating levels of happiness.

Because I was free. I was out of that domestic situation, and I was out of that home that felt more like a prison than anything else. I was on my own, making my own choices, taking my own chances, and from that point on, I had only myself to thank for what was going on in my life. I had no one to answer to, other than myself, and it was sheer bliss.

No, things were not perfect. Yes, I could have been in dire danger, had I crossed paths with the wrong folks. No, there was no guarantee that I’d be able to find shelter that night… or the nights to come. But none of that mattered to me. All that mattered, was that I was cut loose from an anchor that was dragging me down, and my fate was squarely in my own hands.

I kept walking the streets, looking for a likely doorway to spend the night. I passed up a bunch of different options, because they either didn’t have a good line of sight, or they just didn’t feel safe for some reason. Eventually, I came around the block again to the front door of the one friend I had, and this time when I tried the doorbell, she answered. And she let me in, with my bag and my giddy elation.

So, I found real shelter for the night — and it lasted for the next month or so, till I found my own room to rent. If I hadn’t been able to hole up with that friend, that night, I would have just kept walking. On the street. Keeping moving so I wouldn’t be an easy target. On my own. I was out of house and home, and I didn’t care.

Because for the first time in a long time, I was happy.

By the end of March, 1990, I had found a room to rent which was in a perfect location to get a real feel for South Philly — right down the street from the two cheese-steak places — Pat’s and Geno’s. The trolley stopped nearby, so I could easily get to and from work, and the house was clean and well-kept.  I only stayed there a few months, till I found another place in Center City, just a few blocks from my job, but it was good while it lasted.

Things were in a bit of a shambles, family-wise, but I had my own life back, which was all I really cared about. And it was really, really good.

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Springing the language traps


On my weekly Sunday morning walk, I thought about language, jargon, and conceptual “containers” we use to wrap up seemingly complex ideas into bite-size bits.

We all have a lot going on, these days, so being able to encapsulate complex ideas into more compact form, can be a time-saver. Provided, of course, everyone has the same understanding of what’s inside the “jar” of the jargon.

In technology, business, science, philosophy, metaphysics, and just about every professional field, there’s an abundance of jargon and discipline-specific terminology that serves several purposes:

  1. To determine who belongs in the group, based on their apparent command and use of the jargon.
  2. To determine who doesn’t belong, based on the glazed-over look in their eyes when jargon gets liberally applied to conversations.

For the record,  I’m not a fan of jargon. It sounds contrived — which it is — and it always makes me wonder if the person saying those things actually understands what they’re saying, or if they’re just putting on a show.

At first, mastering the terminology may make you feel like you know what’s going on, and you’re part of the in crowd. But if used long enough, it can encourage lazy thinking. Rather than discussing the actual contents of that conceptual container and making sure the other person understands you and can do something with the ideas you’re trying to convey, you’re basically tossing that container at someone, expecting them to catch it and do something meaningful with it.

Or, you can dispense with the fancy speak, just sort out your thoughts and give the other person something to work with.

But what does it *mean*?

Of course, if you take that more considered route in certain company, you run the risk of having them think you don’t have mastery of the jargon, so therefore you are not one of them… and how did you get in here again?


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Okay, so what if there were a way to just let others “be”…?

It’s all in there

What if there were a belief system that actually “allowed” others to believe what they do, and completely respect those beliefs as valid for them, regardless of whether or not you agree?

What if there were a way to reconcile both the absence of duality and the pervasive nature of it?

What if there were a way to reconcile the co-existence of good and evil, without negating or watering down the very nature of each?

What if there were away to accommodate, well… everything? (Of course, with the understanding that “accommodating” doesn’t mean declaring the whole lot “super fantastic” and realizing that certain things produce effects that are indeed harmful to others and aren’t the healthiest of choices for humanity, regardless of your world view.)

For some time, now, I’ve had a very different belief in what constitutes Time, Space, and Matter. It’s different from how I used  to conceptualize them, which was standard-issue three-dimensional  height-weight-depth, with time being a fourth dimension.

Plenty of people believe it, plenty of people agree that that’s how things work.

I’ve read a lot of papers and writing and books ‘n’ such over the years — quantum physics, and whatnot. Some of it fringe. Some of it alternative. Some of it mainstream. I’m a huge fan of David Bohm and his concept of the Implicate Order. His work helped set me on the path that got me here.

But I’m not one for only reading. Even more I believe in observing, reflecting, and putting what one reads to the test.

Long story short, I realized about a year and a half ago that I don’t actually believe in time, space, or matter, as they are popularly defined. I don’t believe that we create our lives. I don’t believe that we create anything.

We perceive. We discover. We uncover. We discern. We detect.

I believe that every single experience, phenomenon, material object, and dynamic is resident in the comprehensive Whole, and that the world as we experience it is actually based on what our systems are able to detect from the Whole.

What is that “what” which we detect?

Qualitative Frequency “Signatures” of energy — patterns our systems pick up and order in a way that makes sense to our brains, our bodies, our hearts, and our spirits.

Rather than “attracting” things to us, we actually refine our ability to detect specific patterns from the Whole, and the result is a seeming “manifestation” of what we have “created”.

We haven’t created anything. We haven’t manifested anything.

We simply became capable of detecting the Qualitative Frequency Signatures of the conditions we encounter.

I haven’t the faintest idea if this makes sense to anyone else, but I guess I’ll find out…

For the meantime, I’ll be refining this view and — now and then — writing about it, as it comes clearer for me.

In my view, this approach resolves a truckload of philosophical and logistical issues that have confounded science — and not only does it resolve a ton of conflicts, but it also explains and allows for those conflicts as perfectly fine and valid parts of our collective unfolding process.

More to come. Perhaps.

We’ll see.

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Corporate… and Creative?

Think this can't happen, if you take that real job? Think again...

Think this can’t happen, if you take that real job? Think again…

So, you’re looking for ways to make a living and make your art…

You’re committed to your craft. Your novel. Your poetry. Your painting. Your drawing. Your mixed media. Or your dance. Your deepest desire is to develop your voice and vision, and to give form to the creative drive within you. It’s a gift. You’ve been told that so many, many times, and countless people have encouraged you to make the most of your gifts.

Because the world needs them.

It’s true. We do.

Here’s the thing, though. You don’t become proficient overnight, and even if you spend your college years (and possibly some post-grad time) honing your craft and really focusing on developing your talents, you probably still have a long, long way to go, till you achieve what you and others consider “mastery”.

It’s been said that it takes 10,000 hours of dedicated, focused practice to develop anything close to mastery. Now, that number/assumption has been disputed (and quite vigorously so), but fundamentally I think we can all agree that just as Rome wasn’t built in a day, so talent needs a lot of sustained TLC in order to develop into its most mature form. Even Picasso, who drew amazingly as a boy, continued to work and hone his practice all his life.

You might have no intention of becoming another Picasso (though it’s great if you do), but still. Honing your talent takes time. And while you’re taking the time, you need to eat, keep a roof over your head, and have your basic needs met. So that you can continue to focus on your art and develop it without having all your life force siphoned off worrying about your next meal or hiding from the landlady a-la George Thoroughgood.

So, what to do? That’s the age-old question. Nowadays, you have more options than ever before.

  • Get an Indiegogo or Kickstarter campaign going to get support from your fans and spread the word about your mission.
  • If you’re fresh out of school, move back in with your parents. 21st century parents are a whole lot more tolerant of that sort of behavior, than they were “back in the day” when I was fresh out of school. Er, scratch that — even if my parents had been open to me moving back with them full-time, I wouldn’t have done it. I was too focused on getting on with my life.
  • Take a series of temp jobs that get you enough coin to get by. That’s what I did, for a number of years, and it worked well for me. It was enough to pay for a spacious apartment in Center City Philadelphia with plenty of room for me to spread all my projects around. Then I got married and got a whole lot of extra responsibilities, and guess what? Rent goes up, when you get all respectable.
  • Get a “real job” and balance your job-work, everyday life, and life-work. This has been my approach since, oh, around 1995, when a thing called a “career” showed up in my life.

There are other options, sure. You can probably think of more. And your various choices have a lot of pros and cons. Some get you more freedom, but less money. Some get you exposure, while being short on guarantees. Some can keep you teetering in a fine balance between your regular life and your life’s mission and make you absolutely crazy with uncertainty.

For me, the last option turned out to be the most practical — largely because either none of the others existed for me, or they just weren’t stable enough. Getting a “real job”, if you’re just getting into the workforce, can seem like a real compromise, when your soul’s purpose is at stake. At the same time, how good a chance do you have of truly fulfilling your life’s mission, if you’re constantly struggling to make ends meet, and you’re constantly having to choose between paying your bills or buying art supplies?

Plenty of fantastic artists have done it, over the centuries. But it really does suck.

In any case, what we do for money and what we do for our art, may be very different things, but they don’t need to be mutually exclusive. And believe it or not, once you get into the corporate arena, you’ll find a whole lot of people there, who got a real job and a career, because it’s the best way they can find to live comfortably enough to create freely and without existential concern. That’s what happened with me, when I put in my 10+ years building web technologies for one of the most powerful financial services companies on the planet. I worked each day with people just like me — surrounded by writers, artists, crafters, painters, poets, inventors, actors, musicians, home brewers, and cartoonists.

It wasn’t our first choice for sustaining our art, but it sure as hell beat wondering about our next meal.

Plus, we all kept each other company.

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