Heeeeere’s Johnny!

It’s been a while since my last post.  I’ve been kind of busy with some personal things.  Mostly my wife finished chemotherapy (she has/had breast cancer) and I had a nasty cold at the same time that lasted the better part of three weeks.  This was not good as she was immune compromised due to the chemotherapy.  So I tried to stay way from her as much as possible while supporting her and helping her as much as possible.  So it made for quite a weird scene.

Then she went in for surgery much sooner than we thought she would.  We thought two or three weeks after the last chemotherapy session.  She went four days after the last session.

So now we’re all well.  We’re just waiting on a biopsy report and then about five or six weeks of radiation and we’re good to go!

One thing that bothered me in all this however was my entire routine that I had been so disciplined about went down the tubes.  Diet went bye-bye, exercising was non-existent, no guitar playing, and mediation…well, it’s hard to concentrate on breathing when your having a hard time breathing in the first place.  The only thing I even marginally kept up with was my daily devotionals, which at times were more slugging through it than anything really spiritual.

I guess if there was one positive in all this is that I realized that I really enjoy the little routines and disciplines I have developed.  I just hope I can get back in the groove sooner rather than later.

Apple TV!! Yippee….oh, wait…never mind.

The new Apple TV was announced by Steve Jobs on September 1, to much “ooh’s” and  “aaah’s.”    At first blush, there is much to be impressed about.   After watching the announcement, I was ready to order the new Apple TV.   But, after settling down a bit, I decide to take a look at the specs and see what was really behind this new mystery box.

Now in the sense of fairness, please understand I have drunk the Apple Kool-Aid.  That  makes this review all the much harder. appletv2

From a technical perspective, there are a few fundamental differences between the new version of Apple TV and its predecessor.  The first is the lack of a hard drive.  Previous Apple TVs were available in 40 GB or 160 GB models, but this one has no internal hard drive to speak of.  This fact speaks volumes: this is purely a streaming device.  There will be no storing music, videos, or pictures on this device; any content for the Apple TV will be from an external source.

The also missing from the new Apple TV from the previous version is the composite Audio/Video, which some may find limiting.  But I think as the target audience is technophiles, this won’t really be excluding many end users.   And making a re-appearance in this latest iteration is a 10/100Base-T Ethernet connection.  I personally am happy to see this as I was always disappointed by the video quality that is achieved by streaming over wireless.  This was the Achilles heel, in my opinion, of the original Apple TV.

The gist of this device is that all media content is streamed from somewhere to this device.  It is the interface between the home media system and the other sources.  These other sources are iTunes, a PC or Mac, or a new inclusion, Netflix.  And soon the streaming capabilities will be increased to include iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch with the introduction of AirPlay.  Apple also says it will be able to stream internet radio and future software versions will increase the capabilities of this device.

All of this is packaged in a device significantly smaller than the size of the original.  And with a price tag of $99, I am reasonable confident this is bad news for the makers of the Roku player.

All of this is fine and well.  I’m sure it will find its niche.  But it falls short of the device I was hoping for.  I was hoping Apple would take this in the other direction of a full home multimedia center.  Instead we got a Roku player that can interface with iTunes.  My hope was that they would include a blu-ray player and DVR capability.    Clearly this wasn’t to be.

But my main criticism that I have is that I have all the capabilities the new Apple TV has already in my MacBook with a HDMI adapter, and in many respects, more.  I can hook my MacBook up to my TV and stream iTunes, Netflix, Pandora, LastFM, etc. already.  Likewise, just about any laptop purchased from Wal-Mart can do what this does (and more) without buying an additional device.  But unlike a laptop or my MacBook, I cannot put DVD in the Apple TV.

And since a good portion of the functionality requires that you have a PC or Mac to stream from, why exactly why do I need or want this device?  It doesn’t eliminate or merge any of the devices I already have and offers no revolutionary advancement in home entertainment.

To summarize, while I can see the Apple TV continuing to have a niche following, I don’t think this was the revolutionary product I was expecting from Apple.  Apple kind of phoned this one in.

On Materialism

When Mahatma Gandhi died he had very few possessions.  Popular media list these objects as a couple of bowls, a wooden fork and spoon, a diary, a prayer book, a couple of letter openers, two pair of sandals, his eyeglasses, a pocket watch, a spittoon, and his three porcelain monkeys (hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil.)room

One of my goals in perusing a Zen lifestyle is to break free of the materialistic lifestyle I have become accustom to, or at least lessen the hold material things have on me.  I find that in all facets of my life I try to acquire more and more things.  I noticed that, even in my office at work, I would always opt for more when offered.  Morse space, more furniture, more pictures, more everything.  I feel a necessity to surround myself with more and more “stuff.”

Paradoxically, however, what I really want is less and less.  I really want simplicity.  But I quickly trade that simplicity for material things with any real understanding why I do it.  Why do I need 350 books on the shelf?  Why do I need two different game consoles?  Why do I even need one?  Do I need a coffee mug from every city I’ve ever visited?

This list goes on and on.  Literally thousands of objects that I hang on to (or some might say horde) for no apparent reason save that I might need them “someday” or for some sort of sentimental value.

So I have developed a five step plan to break the hold that material objects have on me and to create a more Zen-centered life style.

 

  1. One item in = two items out.  Simply put, for each item I buy (not including things like food, medicine, etc.) two items must go out.  The preference is that the item be similar to one another.  (No fair buying a big screen television and getting rid of a coffee mug and an old tennis ball.)  If I buy a new CD or DVD, two must go out.  This not only challenges me to get rid of material things, but helps me focus on if I really need the item or just want the item, and if so, at what cost?
  2. Get rid of one item each day.  Regardless if I buy something or not, I will get rid of one thing each day.  It could be anything, big or small, but the goal is to focus on breaking the materialism a little each day.
  3. Set a goal for a number of items.  It can be a short term goal, (like reducing the total number of items owned by 200 by December) or a long term goal (like reducing the total number of items owned to 100) or a combination of the two.  The important part is to make a goal and work at achieving it.
  4. Set the goal realistically  There is no way possible I could drop down to five to ten items tomorrow, or next week, or even next year.  Frankly, I don’t think I could ever get down to 10 items like Gandhi did.  But that isn’t the point.  The point is to break the hold that material objects have on a person.
  5. Focus on what each item that I am getting rid of means.  What is the nature of the object?  Why am I getting rid of it?  Why was I holding on to it?  This introspection doesn’t have to be a huge production with mediation time and gongs or anything, just an acknowledgement that I am doing this mindfully and with purpose.