Monday, January 5, 2009

On Irony

A friend and I were just chatting on ICQ a few minutes ago, and she asked me if I'd made any New Years' Resolutions this year. I told her I hadn't yet, and hadn't really planned to do so. When she asked why, I told her that I didn't really feel like changing anything, and that life is going well enough so, as the saying goes, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it".

Of course, I was lying through my (virtual) teeth. I'd made one vow: a vow of Minimalism.

The concept of Minimalism (or rather our interpretation of it) was the basis for our former hacking collective, The Thugs. My cohorts and I were always trying to wring maximum performance out of older computer hardware, software, hell, even vehicles, using a variety of tricks, hacks, and the odd sacrifice to the computer gods. Our motto became "Doing More with Less", at first because we couldn't (as poor students) afford newer computer hardware, then because we wouldn't accept planned obsolescence or the Consumerist idea of "Better Living Through Constant Upgrading" ... a sentiment that was becoming more and more prevalent as more "normal" people were buying computers for some manufactured need.

Of course, over time our older hardware would start to fail. We were kept in near-constant supply of replacement parts (or even whole systems) whenever one of our friends on the upgrade treadmill upgraded ("Here, CJ, take this useless piece of junk, it's already a year old!"), allowing us to continue doing more with less - and with the addition of more systems it gave us "more less", more or less...

So, back on track... I gave it some thought for a few weeks, and decided to take our motto to heart once again, to "do more with less" and once again embrace our interpretation of Minimalism. As such, I've been eliminating a lot of things from my life over the last little while, for various reasons.

One of the first things to go were my Shaw digital cable and high-speed internet service - I wasn't watching much TV apart from soccer and Newsworld, and the internet was proving to be too much of a distraction (damned Wikipedia). The money it was costing me every month could be put to better use, say, toward my planned trip to Europe next year, and the time saved has freed me up for more important things (some of which will appear here on C & S once summer hits). A side "benefit" - I also drink less beer when I'm not watching soccer...

The next change was more recent - after reading one of my recent posts, one of my readers asked if I were willing to donate a few older computers to the computer lab they were setting up. Of course, having more computers than my house has power outlets, I agreed - provided they come pick them up as I have no running vehicle. Managed to get rid of a cluster of about twenty-or-so Linux PCs (complete with monitors and keyboards), a few VT-100 terminals, and my last few PC laptops, which freed up a lot of room in the lab. It will also cut down dramatically the amounts of time, attention, and money spent on projects of questionable intent and/or value, freeing me up for more worthwhile projects. I also found out the lab has a floor!

The third change will be to cut down on my spending, especially concerning impulse purchases and ill-conceived/ill-needed projects. I've been blowing a lot of money on eBay and the used market for things I could (or probably should) live without. Again, the money saved can go towards my trip, or to other more worthwhile projects.

Lastly, I'm putting my time savings to good use. I've enjoyed blogging more in the past couple months, I've been able to collaborate on a couple of different projects with some new friends, reconnected with some old ones, been cooking a lot more, and have even dragged out the drafting table (and an old AutoCAD setup) so I can start designing my next few projects: new kitchen cabinets, entertainment system, and a wet bar!

"What the Hell does this have to do with irony?" you may ask.

Well, hold your damned horses, I was getting to that. Jeez!

The whole experience has been interesting so far. It has required a few major shake-ups in my routine, as well as a lot of willpower to keep from falling back into the old ways. It feels weird not having a TV or video game console in my living room, but I only moved them out of there a week ago. The internet seems painstakingly slow on a 56K modem connection after years of having a cable modem, and it's weird going to grab cookies from the cupboard, then remembering I bought apples instead. These feelings will pass once I develop a new, more productive routine. It'll be tough, but it'll be worth it.

Living Minimal can take Maximal effort.