I took the kids out the other day for a photo walk, trying to teach them some principles of street photography by walking around the city and observing all there was to see.
“Take photos of the unusual, the fascinating, the unique, the strange, the weird. Whatever it is that catches your eye, try to take a picture of that”
So we walked through the wet market in Hong Kong, where fish lay on the boards before being cut, pieces of meat hang from dirty hooks cut by men with a cigarette behind their ear and a cleaver in their hands. Noodles are stacked high and stretched long as they are made in the shops and sent to restaurants nearby. Neon lights calling out for everything from foot massages to yummy bakery goods, which also filled the air with the sweet smell of freshly made treats.
And after nearly 20 minutes of this, my boys had yet to take a single picture.
“What’s wrong?” I asked. “I said take a picture of the unique, the strange, the fascinating things you see on the street and here we are in the land of noodles and neon and you haven’t taken a single photo.”
“Well yeah dad, we see this everyday”….
It was then I realized my kids really do call Hong Kong their home.
But for me it is still rather unique. So I’ve decided to start some Youtube videos of the “everyday” that we see here in Hong Kong. My new set is in a playlist on Youtube called “One Minute Hong Kong”–one minute snapshots of life from the city I now call home.
Feel free to take a look.
[iframe src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/videoseries?list=PLNmehJDsxSj8pMCQ85SimnIZvCsfr53dl” width=”560″ height=”315″ ]
The French street artist INVADER has come to Hong Kong several times, but this last month he came ‘officially’ as part of an organized show at the PMQ gallery. There his works hung on well lit walls with tour guides and a gift shop, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t busy again on the streets of the city.
INVADER launched a new wave of art on the city streets, and my kids took an immediate liking to finding every single one of them. The other day we did a city hike through the streets of Sheung Wan and managed to locate about 7 of the 20 or so new works with several more now on the agenda for our next hike.
As if that wasn’t enough, the kids are now trying to recreate as many Invader works as possible, along with a few original designs of their own. Arsenal man was a big favorite, and the boys are already asking how I can attach it to the wall. Thankfully they don’t know what grout yet, so we’ll make do with something a little less permanent.
Steve Jobs, William F. Buckley, Larry Ellison, Bill Gates, and a massive number of bankers and lawyers. What do they have in common? They all, basically, wear the same thing everyday. Steve Jobs was famous for his turtlenecks and jeans, and bankers and lawyers are always in charcoal grey with white shirts and a colored tie. Of course it isn’t the exact same item they are wearing day-in-day-out, but they are wearing ‘something’ that means they no longer have to worry about what they wear everyday. They can literally grab the first thing that comes out of the closet and put it on, ending the ‘decision’ period of what to wear, what to wear that goes on daily. Even if you spend only a minute a day deciding what to wear, you are wasting six hours a year.
You can even take it a bit further. If you find something you like, or that is not very important, such as underwear or socks, consider buying in bulk. I have 30 pairs of black socks and 20 pairs of white socks, all the same. I have not matched socks in over 10 years. Why? Because every sock matches every other. I have 30 pairs of underwear. I have 6 pairs of khaki pants and 6 pairs of black pants. I have two pairs of dress shoes (identical).
I just don’t care, and no one really notices. The reality is that unless you are working in the fashion industry, the vast majority of people wouldn’t notice if you wore the same thing daily, unless it started to smell.
2) Automate as much as possible.
Amazon Prime is one of the greatest inventions in history. Why? Because it allows for ‘subscriptions’ of many day-to-day items that we use.
It is ridiculous to buy at a retail store any of the following: soap, shampoo, razors, shaving cream, q-tips, toilet paper, deodorant, toothpaste, toothbrushes, sponges, dishwasher soap, laundry detergent, and many other household items. Why? Because the chances are you are ‘done’ deciding what brand to buy. You are set in your choices for these items and buying them is simply a matter of grabbing them and putting them in the cart, or maybe shopping around slightly to find a better price. You are not shopping–you are simply engaged in the logistical operation of getting certain goods to your house.
Automate this. Automate and NEVER think about this again. Have a delivery of these items brought to you every week. The time you will save will be significant, but you will also avoid the “emergency shampoo”.
In the course of a year, there will come a day when you need to make an emergency purchase of any of the above items. You have a meeting and you are out of toothpaste, or shampoo or whatever. This necessitates a run to the store, parking in the lot, walking in the store, buying something, and then driving back home again to take care of whatever it was. This can be quite a long time, and you’ll probably spend more than a dollar or two just on gas.
Automate the simple things. Get them out of your hair now and don’t think about it anymore.
3) Compartmentalize your media.
Consuming media can lead to a state of media gluttony–overloaded and overstressed. If you are a media junkie, the new tools of the Internet allow you far too much access to far too much interesting content. This can consume your preciously needed free time.
But if you step back, you start to realize very little of the consumption is ‘active’–it’s more passive and becomes very habit forming. Like eating french fires because they are there when you order a Big Mac, not because you really wanted them. The TV is on with noise, the radio, the net, email, messengers, etc. These ambient media sources come in and out of your day to life causing tremendous stress.
One of the best things you can do is to cut cable tv. Get rid of the 1000s of channels you don’t need so you find yourself focusing on the ones you really want. Turn off e-mail notifications. Use email rules to filter so much of the noise out before it arrives. Consider subscribing in paper to a newspaper instead of reading online (and getting distracted).
This was probably the toughest for me. I haven’t mastered it by any stretch.
4) Move to work, or work to you.
Commuting sucks. You probably think of the time spent getting to work as the actual time spent in your car, but the true ‘door-to-door’ time can actually be quite a bit longer. Waits in the parking garage, the time it takes to go down three escalators in the subway. Long commutes–heck any commute becomes this block of time in which you can do nothing but travel to and from your job. The time spent commuting is one of the biggest financial and time wastes of your life.
Moving closer to work, or working from home if that is an option, saves weeks per year. Weeks per year. Commuting can be one of the most expensive taxes you pay, not only in money on your transit but in the time wasted.
Sometimes this requires a career change, but the reality is that very few of us are in such specialized professions that there is “no other option”.
5) Declutter and Centralize
Have you ever looked for your keys? Your glasses? Your wallet? This is wasted time.
Have a centralized location for things you need every day. Glasses, keys, wallet, phone and any other item that is a ‘must-have’ every day you head out.
There is no need for paper for a vast majority of items. One of the best things I did was buy a sheet-fed automatic scanner to process receipts, letters, Christmas Cards, bills,–whatever comes across my desk and clogs things up. This is what I bought Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500 Scanner for PC and Mac (PA03656-B005) I now scan basically everything and minimize the paper shuffle going on my desk.
Take a look around your room. Anything you have not touched in the last 60 days should go to a place where it is not visible. Sorted into a closet or put away so as not to clutter your brain. Items you haven’t used in 12 months should be pitched. This goes not only for computer parts lying around that you are afraid to throw away, but clothes as well (getting back to the first point on my list).
Anyway, these are just a few random thoughts. What are your tips?
Christmas this year had many of the usual suspects under the tree. Soccer ball, LEGO Ninjago, some dominoes (my son wanted them), an Arsenal lunchbox & calendar & playing cards & jersey, and for the big ticket item this year a Scalextrix set that we’ve only played with a couple of times since Christmas (the kids are still a bit young and dad doesn’t want the cars to keep breaking, despite their immense joy whenever they crash together).
One other addition, unrequested, under the tree was an AirFix Spitfire. My oldest is now six and I can remember that when I was six I got some models too (I had the Apollo-Soyuez Space Capsule model for my sixth birthday, and no I don’t remember it–I just saw the photograph in an album). My kids hadn’t a clue what an Airfix was. When I opened it they were both a bit bummed that it wasn’t already completed and ready to play with. “You mean we have to build it?” Clearly their iPad-affected attention span was going to have some difficulty with this one.
But for me, this was a chance at redemption. I’ve built dozens of model planes in my day, and never, not once, has the thing I made look anything even remotely like the picture on the box. I simply didn’t have the patience skills to make it look anything like an official plane. But now with my kids–that would change. We’d take the time, do it right. I even took out my ‘third hand’ tool from my electronics shop to hold the planes and let the glue dry without my fingerprints working their way into the plastic (as it did so many times before). I bought the officially color-schemed paint, more or less, and special brushes. I even bought some paint thinner (interesting side note–it came in an empty beer bottle–it’s a Hong Kong thing).
The instructions had about 35 pieces or so and 35 steps. By step 5 I knew this just wasn’t going to work.
The youngest was already bored and the oldest was doing his best to feign interest. We got the little pilot into his seat and let it dry while we started working on the fuselage, but by the time we got to the wings the youngest was on the floor playing with his LEGOs and the oldest was berating me with “what’s it do? what’s it do?” to which my answer of “nothing” didn’t quite satisfy him.
I eventually got the planes done and let the glue dry for a few hours before uncracking the paint. This is where the kids were a bit more excited. I guess the fact that they could see the results of what they were doing, i.e. colors on the plane, meant they were far more interested in doing it. They started with the green and began slopping it on the models (slopping is the only proper word). I was a bit annoyed as I realized that these planes would soon look like my airplanes when I was six years old.
But then I figured it out–they’re supposed to look that way. It’s supposed to look like a six year old did it. They are supposed to have fun in the process of building it and, if they even care, feel a bit annoyed that it doesn’t look like the box when done. That’s how they learn, that’s how they strive to get better.
So I quickly gave up on trying to match the specific ‘blotches’ of camouflage on the wings. Son #2 decided that the entire plane should be brown and son #1 was just doing ‘the outside bits’ in green. When finished, it looked like a mess, but the boys were both extremely happy with them. Son #2 even decided to add a bit of Glitter Glue to his “so it would be easier to see in the sky”. The planes now hang over their beds, awaiting the other members of the squadron that will come later in life.
Sometimes letting them do something ‘wrong’ is the best way to get it ‘right’ I guess.