Monday, September 26, 2005

The Franklin Plan

I decided a month or so ago that starting after Labor Day i would attempt to spend the remainder of the year getting a bit more organized and a bit more productive, etc. My model for this is Benjamin Franklin's "plan". Franklin's plan consists of the 13 aspects below. Franklin's approach was to focus on one virtue each week, and he kept little charts to monitor his progress. I'm not quite that committed, but these still match pretty well with my own goals.

1. Temperance: Eat not to dullness and drink not to elevation.

This one's fairly hard. I'm no glutton, but i indulge a little too often in vending machine snacks and California Cabernet (though not usually at the same time). I can't really reduce calories all that much since i have certain dietary requirements imposed by my running schedule; but i'm trying to reduce or eliminate the pure boredom eating.

2. Silence: Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself. Avoid trifling conversation.

Not a problem for me. I think i've got this one squared away.

3. Order: Let all your things have their places. Let each part of your business have its time.

Another tough one. I have too much crap for everything to have a place, and i've got the attention span of a fruit fly. My approach to this one is to fastidiously remove as much from my house that i don't really need, and to develop a sort of informal schedule for getting necessary stuff done. The first step i've taken is to start getting up at a regular time. I'm using my cell phone as an alarm clock to wake me up at 5:30am, which gives me time enough to both work out and get stuff ready for the day.

4. Resolution: Resolve to perform what you ought. Perform without fail what you resolve.

I think the trick here for me is figuring out what i ought and what i ought not. I figure i have to get my kids to school with their homework more or less done, i have to do solid work at my day job, and i have to keep my house from collapsing into a vermin-infested rubbish pile. Beyond that, i'm not quite sure what this means. Are we talking generic good deeds here? Family and financial responsibilities?

5. Frugality: Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself: i.e. Waste nothing.

I'm cheap, so i think by the standards of our consumer-driven society i'm relatively frugal. On the other hand, i don't think i can claim to waste nothing. I spend too much on books that i only read once, and food that is more packaging than nutrient. My main goal here is to eliminate my credit card debt and adhere to a budget.

6. Industry: Lose no time. Be always employed in something useful. Cut off all unnecessary actions.

Man, this is hard. There are just times when i have to sit down and watch 10 minutes of idiot spew on one of the 400 cable channels. Plus which i spend several hours a week involved in "unneccessary" actions if you want to get all technical (running and martial arts training, blogging, hanging out with my kids). I think if taken literally, this one is a recipe for nervous breakdown. I'm boiling this down to wasting less time watching TV and reading the Internets, and setting better priorities so i'm getting the important stuff done.

7. Sincerity: Use no hurtful deceit. Think innocently and justly; and, if you speak, speak accordingly.

Screw other people. But seriously, as i've mentioned here before, i think my biggest problem in this vein is a tendency for sarcasm. OK, not so much a tendency as a lifestyle. I'm really trying to curb it, but it's hard to give up 40 years of hard-won snark.

8. Justice: Wrong none, by doing injuries or omitting the benefits that are your duty.

I'm having a hard time figuring out how this applies to my life. It's not that i'm saintly or anything, it's just that my life doesn't really afford that many opportunities to screw over other people.

9. Moderation: Avoid extremes. Forebear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.

I've always like the bumper-sticker slogan "Everything in moderation, including moderation". I'm really convinced about the benefits of moderation, but i also think it's good to ocassionally just go off the deep end. A properly lived life should have a few hangovers. I think this also conflicts a bit with some of my hobbies. Can one be "moderate" in one's pursuit to run a faster 26 miles?

10. Cleanliness: Tolerate no uncleanness in body, clothes or habitation.

I'm like totally down with this one. Except for leaving the laundry in the living room.

11. Chastity: Rarely use venery but for health or offspring; Never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another's peace or reputation.

Within the bounds of monogamy, i refuse to acknowledge that "too much sex" could be a problem. I'm ignoring this one.

12. Tranquility: Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.

I have a slight physiological advantage on this one, since i have low blood pressure and a resting heart rate of around 40. It's actually kind of hard for me to get untranquil. The one place where i'm applying this is one is on the freeway. You know the St. Francis bit about being an "instrument of peace". I try to keep that in mind when people are cutting me off in traffic. My inclination is, of course, to run them down; but instead i've decided to be the guy who lets everybody into the lane, doesn't flip anybody off, and forgives the ocassional brain cramp. Of course, in California when people get pissed at you on the freeway, they might shoot you; so there are practical reasons for this too.

13. Humility: Imitate Jesus and Socrates.

Humility is something that everybody thinks they have until their opinions are challenged. I've sort of re-learned the concept of humility in recent years to mean: the willingness to learn from other people even if they have less experience than you. I doubt this makes me much like Jesus or Socrates, but i figure i'm also less likely to be killed for my beliefs.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Hoist the Mainsail, Ye Scurvy Lubbers

Yes, it's Talk Like A Pirate Day, the most important holiday of the year. My pirate name for the day will be:

My pirate name is:

Black Tom Flint

Like anyone confronted with the harshness of robbery on the high seas, you can be pessimistic at times. Like the rock flint, you're hard and sharp. But, also like flint, you're easily chipped, and sparky. Arr!

Get your own pirate name from

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

End Of The World As We Know It

If it's a true story, this is the most beautiful thing to come of the Katrina tragedy.

I'm hoping that in a week or two, after the details are filled in and some sanity has returned, that the catastrophe in Louisiana and Mississippi will seem comprehensible somehow. Right now, i'm in total cognitive dissonance mode. Even if you account for the disastrous incompetence of the federal government and the unprecedented scale of Katrina, it's still hard to accept how horrible it all appears. In some ways this is harder to fathom than the 9/11 tragedy, if only because then we could all be angry at an external enemy, something that we could ally against and punish. This time we have to face that we're vulnerable, unprepared, and in many cases helpless. The most frustrating thing is that we know, cynical as it may seem, that after all of the recriminations and political fallout we still won't be any better off.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Mighty Sailin' Man

Gilligan is Dead. The news that Bob Denver has died bummed me out. Gilligan's Island was my first favorite TV show, and i still contend that it's underrated. There was a time when GI was virtually synonymous with bad TV, though that was long before the advent of such horrors as Big Brother, The Surreal Life, and various other indicators of the decline of Western Civilization. It was, of course, silly and implausible as if that mattered. However, i remind you of an episode in which the castaways put on a show that combines the text of Hamlet with the music from Bizet's Carmen. And the producers of the show assumed that people would probably know about both Hamlet and Carmen. How i wish we could all be that stupid again.