Bad Art Ideas: Toilet Seat Wreath

I’m all for abstract art but I think there has to be a limit. For me, that limit is a Christmas wreath made from a toilet seat. 

Don’t get me wrong, there are far worse holiday offenses out there like adults dressing up like pink bunnies, putting out cookies for fat reverse burglars and the worst offense – putting up Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving.

The toilet seat wreath, however, still ought to be considered at least a minor offender.  For one thing, it’s too obvious. It’s basically already a wreath. All you’re doing is hot gluing tacky things to it.

I get it, people think it’s funny to put something associated with defecation on their door or wall. Who wouldn’t want to be known for that? But just like bad posts on social media could cost you a future job, bad decorations at Christmas can cost you the respect of, well, everyone.

No, no, no and once again – NO!

I Willed Myself To Write This Post

As with most self-help texts (that’s another term for a book, not a short message you type out on your phone and send to your friends without fixing the mistakes autocorrect caused) out there, the meat of Benjamin Hardy’s book Willpower Doesn’t Work could probably be condensed to about 20 pages without impacting the message one bit. In fact, I think 20 pages is being generous.

The thrust of the book is that rather than trying to will yourself to do what needs to be done, you must customize and control your environment so you’re predisposed to accomplish your goals.

There’s nothing new in the book that anyone who’s researched productivity in the least doesn’t know. Get off your computer, turn off your phone and give yourself a deadline are some of the tired but useful pieces of advice found in the book’s pages.

There are also the obligatory nods to the evolution theory that are found in most how-to, self-help, cooking, travel and car repair books. Usually something along the line of your ancient ancestors needed to process “danger” when a sabertooth attacked so that’s why your brain’s the way it is and this book taps into that. Nonsense, of course, but it seems to sell.

So why am I reading a book that I don’t seem to think much of? Maybe I’m a sucker for book titles. I like the fairy tale idea that a book has some nugget of knowledge that all the other books (and internet sites) don’t. I know willpower doesn’t work because I’ve experienced it’s failure time and again. So maybe this book has a just as simplistic method that does work but with minimal effort on my part.

It doesn’t. But any book that attempts to nullify one paradigm of productivity probably has a recommedation for another one. And in reading about that different paradigm, you might find a point of view you hadn’t thought of (or had at least forgotten about) before.

Sometimes you just need a gentle reminder to turn off your computer because you’ve fallen back into the habit of staring at it for twelve hours a day. And it’s not bad advice to turn off your phone and set deadlines.

Most books (including this one) carry a bit of advice and then fill in the remaining pages with stories and anecdotes. If you want inspiration, read through them. Otherwise, scanning the headlines and speed reading through it gets you just as much out of it.

Something New

I have plenty of activities to keep me busy each day. But that doesn’t keep me from trying new things.

I like trying new activities and learning new skills. It potentially gives me new things to put in my ever revolving lineup of hobbies. At the very least it gives me one more thing to identify with. So far I can claim writer, poet, musician, programmer, geographer, cartographer, political scientist, photographer, mechanic, martial artist, hunter, Olympic (style) weight lifter, business owner, web designer, electrician and artist.

All of the above activities I’ve either done professionally, in an organized and/or official manner or on a scale large enough to significantly differentiate myself from the majority of people.

Recently, I decided to add to my art repertoire by trying my hand at acrylic painting and mixed media art.  Maybe I should focus on trying to hone existing skills but sometimes you just have to widen the hole rather than dig it deeper.

I’ve only done a handful of paintings so far. Although I like the results, I’m sure in a few months, after doing more of it, I’ll look back and recognize how simplistic and unrefined they are. But you have to start somewhere.

I don’t need to be the next Rembrandt. I just want to create things that are pleasing to look at and give me another outlet for creation.

As I refine my eye for color and feel for acrylic, I’ll keep posting what I make so the progression (hopefully not regression) can be seen and monitored.

Meeting Creep

I can count on my fingers the number of times I’ve been in a meeting that stayed on topic and ended on time.

I found myself in a meeting this afternoon that did not meet the above parameters. Even when it was on topic it was excruciatingly inefficient. People repeat themselves and repeat themselves and repeat themselves. It’s as though they don’t believe that you heard them the first time so they’re going to make sure you do.

Or maybe my other theory of meetings is more accurate: people love meetings so they can hear their own voice in a group setting. Personally, I try not to talk in meetings unless absolutely necessary. Otherwise, the pain is prolonged.

Don’t get me wrong, meetings are useless and should be banned. Don’t get me wrong, meetings have their place. Sometimes they’re even necessary. I just think they need to be constrained to the following criteria:

  1. Don’t schedule meetings. They’re generally a waste of time. At the very least, ask yourself if the meeting is needed. Can you accomplish the same outcome with a well crafted email? Or even a poorly crafted email. I’m not picky, just don’t make me go to a meeting.
  2. No meeting should ever last longer than 30 minutes. If you can’t get the work done in that amount of time, then you need time management training.
  3. Meetings should only be held in the late afternoon. Meetings disrupt the work day. It can be very difficult to get back into the swing of things after a boring meeting. At least a late afternoon meeting only disrupts the late afternoon which is a less than productive time of day for most employees anyway.
  4. All meetings should ascribe to the DRY principle. Do not Repeat Yourself. Anyone caught repeating a point they already made should be told to sit in the corner. If people didn’t get your point the first time, that means it was stupid or totally irrelevant.
  5. Meetings should have an extremely narrow topic.
  6. Meetings should never get off topic. This is known (by me) as meeting creep. Nobody cares if everyone in your department got new chairs, you got a new phone, your dog died or you’ve lost weight. All of that and more can wait until your next google chat exchange with your friend two cubicles from yours.
  7. Two people should not dominate the meeting unless doing so will get the meeting over much quicker. Two people talking is called a conversation which can be done over the phone or via email. Don’t subject others to your own conversations. We just don’t care that much.
  8. Finally, the next meeting should never be scheduled during the current meeting. There should be a federally mandated waiting period between the current meeting and the scheduling of a new one. This is also known as a cooling off period during which people can reconsider if another meeting is actually needed. It usually isn’t.

Follow the above rules and you’ll have much happier meeting attendies. If you’re the attendie, try handing the rules list to the meeting organizer. It probably won’t do any good but it’ll make you feel better.

In a future post I hope to provide you with a meeting survival kit in case you do find yourself in a “creepy” meeting that’s gone on too long and doesn’t look like there’s an end in sight. Until then, avoidance is your best defense.

Don’t Be An Idiot

This morning I got an email from the Risk Management department where I work. The email was a list of bullet points about how to walk safely during the winter months. The tips were common sense and should beknown and understood without an “expert” reminding you about it.

I usually just delete “don’t be an idiot” emails like this without reading them closely. But this time, for whatever reason, I read allthe way to the end. I’m glad I did. Otherwise, I would have missed the absolute gem that was the last bullet point. It read:

  • “When going for a walk in winter weather, carry a small bag of sand or non-clumping cat litter to place on an icy spot that you have towalk on. This will help give you traction and help avoid a fall.”

I can just imagine someone carefully inspecting the ground before each step they take and sprinkling kitty litter on the path just to make sure it’s safe. Or maybe, there’s a more efficient way of doing this. Hence the sketch above.

I Don’t Want To Write This

A few months ago I set a goal to post something, anything really, to this blog every weekday. Some days this is a photograph or a drawing or a poem that I wrote. Other days I have the time to buckle down and put something together with a little more substance.

Lately, however, I’ve been so busy that I don’t have time to get my brain into “creation mode“. Works keeps me glued to problems and projects during the day and family responsibilities keep me cranking away until it’s time for bed.

This stinks because I’m one who writes about being creative, not getting stuck for ideas and inspiration and how to motivate yourself. I’ll get back into the swing of things but I thought it would be good here to openly admit that sometimes I stink at taking my own advice.

I need a reset. I’m not sure what form that will take but I hope it happens soon. Maybe I just need to go back and read some of my own blog posts