Habits are hard to break and start

Have you ever tried to break a habit? You know, quitting smoking, stop chewing your fingernails, things like that. Or how about trying to gain a new habit? Do you take your multivitamins every day? (I know all about the controversy about multivitamins, I’m just using this as an example.) Are you trying to start a writing habit? A reading habit?

Sometimes you need a little bit of a kick in the butt. Lift.do is such a website/application that will help you do that by providing you with reminders that you need to follow up with this habit or that process. For example, I have three habits currently in Lift.do:

  • Taking a daily multivitamin. Yes, multivitamins for the sake of trying to prevent Alzheimers or to reduce the risk of heart disease is probably not a good thing to do. However, the multivitamin I am taking has the same amount of Vitamin D that my doctor recommended. The fact that I get other items such as potassium and folic acid provide me with a buffer when my diet is not as good as it should be.
  • Becoming a better blogger. This is a course/habit that is trying to help people become a better blogger by understanding who they want to target as an audience and what that target audience wants/needs to hear.
  • Meditation. Each day is an audio file that goes through and helps you relax. Literally, that’s all it is, but it does have a very calming effect. I remember going through this process with my Gym teacher in Grade 2 and that relaxation technique came back quickly.

So, any day that I do at least 1 thing on my list Lift.do is happy, but gently prods me into doing more. The messages aren’t demanding, but very gentle and just subtle reminders that you need to do something.

 

New plans keep being added to the list of things that you can learn and some of them are very well thought out and very helpful. Others, not so much, but you can decide for yourself what you do or do not want to learn.

 


Penmanship

When I was growing up I used an HB pencil.  A yellow Staedtler HB pencil.  I bought a pack at the beginning of the school year and, if I was lucky, a had a couple left by the end of the school year.  (Although in Grade 2 a girl sitting behind me in math class was so mad at me for not letting her cheat that she stabbed me in the arm with her pencil and broke off the lead.  It’s still inside my left arm as I write this so technically I had a little bit of pencil left at the end of every school year.  It was just embedded in my arm.)  When I got a little older I discover the mechanical pencil.  A very simple, black, Pentel mechanical pencil.  I fell in love with that mechanical pencil.  It was precise, it was lightweight and it was expensive to keep buying it new leads because those itty bitty pencil leads kept breaking, gosh darn it.  We were also allowed to use pens.  Not just any pens, but Bic pens.  You had to be careful, however, because you couldn’t just erase pen, you had to use Liquid Paper to cover up the pen marks so that you could put the correct words in place.  And in high school I took Typing 10.  You had to stay in the class until at least the midterm exam and, if you exceeded 30 words a minute you could pass the course.  (In NAIT they made us take a typing course as well.  As soon as you hit 30 words a minute you could leave.  Ten minutes later I was out the door.  Thank goodness for high school.)

Putting words on paper was an art.  It was something special.

Then came technology and, in some cases things changed, but in other ways they have stayed the same.  My daughters still used HB pencils in school.  They migrated to mechanical pencils and Bic pens as well.  Liquid Paper?  Not so much because any long document was done on the computer, printed and then handed in.  Or it is done through Google docs and submitted to an email address.  The desire to write, the desire to see the words come out of the tip of the pen has gone.  Indeed, cursive writing is no longer being taught and my girls?  Well, to be honest I print/write neater than all of them.  Penmanship is not something that is taught nor desired.  The only time my girls use cursive writing is to sign their names to Christmas cards, birthday cards or the backs of cheques.  They text on their phones and type on a keyboard.

Penmanship does not fit into people’s lifestyle these days.  Well, let me rephrase that, for many people penmanship does not fit into their lifestyle.  For others, however, a fine writing instrument is actually something sought and desired.  (Please note that expensive and fine are not synonymous.)  I discovered a site called JetPens a number of years ago.  Much of their stock is actually imported from Japan and Germany where great care is taken in the creation of high quality writing instruments.  I started buying Japanese pens with different tips and different widths and different types of ink.  I discovered that I prefer pens in the 0.4 mm to 0.5 mm range.  Smoothly flowing ink with excellent control.  My current favourite is the Uniball Vision Needle which you can actually pick up at Staples.  My middle daughter, the one that wants to be an animator, prefers Copic markers in all of their 214 different colours (are there really that many colours?).  At $6.15 a marker (on sale) she doesn’t have most of the colours.

Some people can’t see the difference or don’t care about the difference.  Others look at the quality of the ink, the richness of the colour and realize that there is a difference.  While you can get a lot of pens that dribble out black ink on a piece of paper, the difference in the smoothness of the ink, the sharpness of the lines and the overall quality of the result is phenomenal between a cheap ($0.25) and and inexpensive ($1.99) pen.  The same goes with markers.  More important with markers as the richness in the colour and the vibrancy of the end result can significantly alter the emotional impact of a work of art.

This is very synonymous with developing applications.  Two people can each independently build a system that meets all of the requirements and yet the applications will look and behave so radically different.  We all have areas of expertise and those come out in the design of our apps, which is why a well rounded team is required to build a well rounded application.  But it is more than just a team effort, it is about caring about the end product.  When writing it is penmanship, but when building applications it is craftsmanship and shouldn’t we all want to be craftsmen?