Refused Sell Out

Yeah I am going there — mainly because no one else seems to be… and anyone who does even mention it in passing gives them a pass.

For those that don’t know, Refused was a Swedish hardcore band in the 90s. They put out 3 albums, with two on Burning Heart and one on Victory. So they were a pretty big deal. Especially their final album, The Shape of Punk to Come, which received critical acclaim and was even voted #13 in the top 50 most influential albums of all time by Kerrang! magazine.

Beyond the music, their lyrics focused on liberalism and anti-capitalism, packaged in a way that paid homage to bands like The Nation of Ulysses and Born Against. The lyrics and message were a big part of who they were and how people related to them.

I didn’t get to see them live (I did see International Noise Conspiracy, the band that came after Refused), so when I heard they reformed recently and were going to tour North America, I was super psyched.

Unfortunately, I am not going. Why, you ask? The tickets for the Toronto show (closest location to Buffalo, NY) were $38 ($45 after “convenience” fees)… can you say, what?!?

So much for anti-capitalism, huh? I even checked the other venues that offered pre-sale and the others were maybe $5 or $10 cheaper, if at all. So still really, really expensive.

Since a ton of bands from the 1990s hardcore scene seem to be reuniting these days, I even checked out tickets for other reunions. Much more reasonable — for example: At the Drive-In tickets in their home state of Texas were only $20. And I’d argue At the Drive-In were much more popular than Refused.

I’d pay $20 for Refused tickets. Totally fair and reasonable. That still seems expensive compared to the prices you’d pay to see these bands back in the day ($10 or less in most cases), but I can understand those kind of prices for a reunion.

So are they sell outs? Hypocrites? I’d say hell yes.

Does it matter in the end? I guess not, but it does mean something. That time in my life is important to me. It made me who I am today. I kind of feel like not being disappointed cheapens those experiences.

What say you?

Markdown and WordPress

I think I finally found a WordPress setup that allows me to use Markdown for writing posts, both in the browser and on my iPhone/iPad using the WordPress iOS apps.

A combination of two plugins:

The first plugin makes it possible for WordPress to save posts in Markdown format and display them on the front end. The second plugin replaces the WordPress rich text editor with a Markdown friendly toolbar. I even used the “Markdownify” setting that came with Quck Tags to convert my older HTML posts to Markdown in the database.

The whole setup works flawlessly!

If you write for the web, I highly recommend checking out Markdown. Once you get a hang of the syntax, it makes writing easy-to-read and easy-to-convert-to-HTML text a breeze.

January Love List Update

Wow. January is almost over already!

I just wanted to post a quick update on my Love List progress.

Things I’ve done well so far:

  • Kept on top of my priorities. (27 days in my new Moleskine planner. Each day has a ton of crossed off to-dos. I’ve also not procrastinated on any important task this month.)
  • Exercise. (Almost every other day for most of January.)
  • Blog once per week. (This is my 8th post this month.)
  • Purge stuff. (We unloaded like 15 bags of stuff to the Salvation Army a week or so ago. More to come!)
  • Blog design. (Moved forward one step, as I re-launched blog on the platform I’m going to use going forward. Design is next!)
  • See more movies. (Movies in the theater, I’ve seen recently: Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, twice, The Muppets, Alvin and the Chipmunks, and Mission Impossible.)
  • Go bowling. (Took the kids!)

Works in progress:

  • Take more photos. (I’ve taken more, but not a significant number and mainly only the kids.)
  • Read one book per month. (I seriously need to get on this. I started off good, but haven’t read in probably 10 days.)
  • Re-connect with friends. (Another thing I started off doing well, but failed the last week or two. Changing that this weekend and next, hopefully!)

FAIL or Starting Later

  • Go to more shows. (A few good shows are coming up!)
  • Go camping. (Need to make reservations soon!)
  • Spontaneus weekend trip. (Nothing yet.)
  • Create an iPhone app. (Have an idea, but no progress yet.)
  • Meditate every week. (Totally failed on this.)
  • Move my career forward. (No progress yet.)

I’ll post a recap like this at the end of each month to update my progress. How are you doing on your goals or love list?

Choices

There are three choices in life:

  1. You can live in the past by dwelling on the poor choices, mistakes, or yearning for something you used to be…
  2. You can worry about the future by living through fear of “what ifs” and uncertaintity…
  3. Or you can focus on the present and make the best choices you can in the moment to enhance your happiness and the happiness of people you care about.

The Little Things

Recently Seth Godin took a quick look at why one of his favorite restaurants was special. He came to this conclusion:

I think it’s the hand-fitted gestalt of thousands of little decisions made by caring management out to make a difference.

And he expanded on that, turning it into the secret of success in business:

This turns out to be the secret of just about every really successful enterprise. Sure, you can copy one or two or even three of their competitive advantages and unique remarkable attributes, but no, it’s going to be really difficult to recreate the magic of countless little decisions. The scarcity happens because so many businesses don’t care enough or are too scared to invest the energy in so many seemingly meaningless little bits of being extraordinary.

I think it’s important to remember that basic idea in all aspects of life: invest energy in the little interactions you have with the people you care about. Whether it’s your significant other, your customers, your employees, or your kids. They add up — they create the magic that is a great relationship.

The question I’ve struggled with lately, though, is: when you are on the receiving end of these “little things”, how much do you read into them?

Take this example:

Got my Christmas present from work: lotto ticket & mini flashlight complete with corroded batteries. At least I won $8. — Jason Dettbarn (@endonend – December 20, 2011

On one hand “it’s the thought that counts”, right? I’m not entirely sure that’s the case — especially when it comes to giving obviously defective gifts to a good number of people. Is that gesture offensive or am I looking into it too much? I’d like to think a company would treat it’s employees a little better than that, especially when they just closed the warehouse in our site and fired half the employees. Many of whom stayed on until this month to help with the transition. Seems disrespectful, doesn’t it?

At the very least, it’s as Godin says: many businesses don’t care enough or are too scared to invest the energy in so many seemingly meaningless little bits of being extraordinary.

Maybe I am looking too much into this or maybe I just have high expectations. Another part of me thinks that this is a signal that it’s time for a big change. We’ll see.

The Complete Guide to Snapping the Fuck Out of It

Julien Smith asks 6 great questions for the New Year:

  • Do you know which five opinions of yours, right now, are 100% wrong? So the first step in all of this is to consider that it’s possible that you are wrong – not a little, but a lot– in fact, that you’re fucking everything up and that you need a wakeup call.
  • Hey, so how’s that method working out for you? Get out of your usual habits and do something different or you will get nowhere.
  • Do you know what effort feels like? When was the last time you felt that you had to do something, because you knew it was important, but it was too much work, too much emotional labour, and further, even if you did do it, you don’t even know how? Then, how did it feel when you did it anyway? Yes, exactly.
  • When was the last time you questioned your direction? Go do something you actually care about – trust me, I’ve had enough conversations with successful yet miserable people
  • How are you going to be changing the world? If you had to leave something behind, if you were going to die and be entirely forgotten but could change one thing, what one thing would that be?
  • Why would you work on anything else but what actually matters?

A great post to read if you are feeling stuck or sick of your resolutions failing every year.

Better Through Less

To go along with starting, I think it’s very important to decide what not to do as well. To eliminate all the things that are not providing value or helping you focus your attention on the things you love.

I highly recommend reading Merlin Mann’s Better essay. Here’s my favorite part, where Merlin describes his process for eliminating all the things that don’t provide value or move him forward:

To be honest, I don’t have a specific agenda for what I want to do all that differently, apart from what I’m already trying to do every day:

  • identify and destroy small-return bullshit;
  • shut off anything that’s noisier than it is useful;
  • make brutally fast decisions about what I don’t need to be doing;
  • avoid anything that feels like fake sincerity (esp. where it may touch money);
  • demand personal focus on making good things;
  • put a handful of real people near the center of everything.

All I know right now is that I want to do all of it better. Everything better. Better, better.

What does that mean for me? Not quite sure yet, but I’ve already started to work through that process:

I am going to use the tags love list and better where appropriate, so you can follow my progress here on my blog. Stay tuned!

New Year, New Attitude

So, it’s finally 2012. And this year certainly got off to an interesting start.

I also spent the entire New Year’s weekend here in Buffalo, as my wife took our 3 kids to Albany and Long Island to visit her family. It wasn’t something I was happy about, as I love spending time with my family, but it was the right decision for a number of reasons.

After a very fun few days with friends, I decided to not spend the weekend being down. I wanted to keep the momentum going and start the new year on a good note. So I made a list of all the things I’ve put off around the house, all the errands I needed to run, and just started. Between Friday and Monday I checked off 25 items off my list. I finished all but one thing I set out to do and that project was a large one I probably could have spent the entire weekend doing. It felt so good.

Not only that, I did things for myself: I went shopping and bought myself a new pair of jeans (I ripped a hole in my favorite pair while working) and a new pair of Van’s to wear to work. I also went to a New Year’s Eve party at WNYBAC in downtown Buffalo, by myself no less. (I don’t think I’ve gone anywhere social without Melisa in a very long time, if ever.) I even had some down time and watched a whole season of Breaking Bad. (Amazing series, by the way.)

In the end, all of this gave me an enormous boost of confidence. I was even happy. (Even as my marriage was on the rocks and my kids on the other side of the state.) It made me realize that, as I looked back at the last 6 days, I haven’t focused on my happiness in a long time. I lived for a long time looking to things (computers, video games, TV, and other distractions) and other people to make me happy. I put very little effort into making myself happy.

I already mentioned that I am forgoing your standard resolutions this year and replacing it with a love list. I am going to focus on this list of things I love and want to start this year, because the act of starting is often the hardest part of actually doing anything. For example, running isn’t hard after a few times out, but getting your shoes on and going outside is infinitely more difficult. Once you start, the running part is easy.

All of it begins with the first item on my love list: Be on top of my priorities & make sure I fund them. No procrastination. The first step to happiness: be mindful of your priorities (the people, activities, and things you are passionate about) and make sure you give them the attention and energy they deserve. To make those small, daily decisions that push those things forward. That’s the one habit I want to build in 2012. If I can do that, I’ll accomplish a lot. There’s no excuse for not doing that, if you really truly care.

In addition to not funding my happiness, the thing I’ve been good at my whole life is procrastinating and taking the easy way out. And those habits play a part in your happiness. Merlin Mann summed it up well on a recent Back to Work podcast:

The more you procrastinate, the worse you feel. And we procrastinate when we feel bad. So we procrastinate more and it becomes a feedback loop. — Merlin Mann So true. My behavior and attitude has played a large part in my happiness over the years. I haven’t been sad, per se, but not happy and full of life. A comfortable feeling, which isn’t a bad thing in itself, but when you become complacent and stop growing you get stuck. And that’s where I’ve been.

I can do better. I’ve always felt like I could do anything I put my mind to, but somewhere along the way I got stuck. Now I am growing, looking inside myself, and changing my attitude toward everything important to me. It’s time to make those small efforts to move my happiness forward every day. So far it’s been great. It’s intoxicating even. Even as I went back to work on Tuesday, I’ve been productive (18 to-dos checked off in two days) and work hard every day to move something on my love list forward. Nine days and counting. Each day great.

To end 2011, I re-connected with some amazing old friends. We went bowling, out to eat a bunch of times, did some drinking, and just talked a lot. It was awesome. I had so much fun.

So, my advice for the new year?

Start more of what you love. Just start. Make those daily decisions that push those things forward and don’t make excuses. Don’t focus on the result, because each day you make those decisions, you are building the habit that will make success possible. Focusing on the result will only get you discouraged. That’s why most resolutions fail.

Just start. Every single day.