Category Archives: Minimalism

Proper Table Arrangement Is Just Grilled Octopus




A friend wrote me, asking if I’d write an outline of a column for him. As I always do, I asked him if there was a word limit. I never get writer’s block, no matter how often my friends and family pray that I might experience a prolonged bout of it.

“Wouldn’t you rather know the topic?” he asked, evidently forgetting that decorum is a just a fancy Latin word denoting “silly things bored people do.”

I emailed back, saying, “No, I just want to be able to say a lot of extraneous things, and preferably with a smirk while I do.” Being this sort of Rainman with words is what makes me so competent when commenting on politics, even if I must interrupt the pastor’s sermon in order to do so.

My friend replied to let me know the topic: “How to Properly Set a Table.”

I took a day to consider my opinion. As you probably know, that’s not true. My fingers were typing before I even realized it.

The first thing you need to consider when properly setting a table is whether human beings will be dining there. Second, are said potential diners from states where terms such as ‘uncle-brother’ can be used without explanation? Fourth, it’s important to enumerate things correctly, as evidenced by this sentence.

It’s important that you read the correct etiquette books, or watch videos on one of the popular websites dedicated to the nuances of snobbery. Take notes regarding placemat orientation, utensil quantity and alignment, and spacing. Consult several sources and note the areas wherein they disagree.

Next, rip up the notes you took and snort derisively to yourself. Throw away your placemats, which are diabolically related to their evil cousin, the coaster. Your table isn’t constructed of compressed silk. The best expert is experience and usage, not someone blathering on even more than I do.

The best way to set a table properly is to do it in whatever arrangement you wish to, especially one geared to your individual table, chairs, dishes, and personal whim. If you prefer everything off-center, mismatched and placed, don’t look to someone who finds this sort of thing to be important. Simply give yourself permission to ignore all baseless social rules as you see fit.

All etiquette is imagined. It’s also geared toward the insistence of mastery and expertise. The type of person who cringes when the cutlery is misplaced needs to be forced to dig a ditch in Alaska. They’re the same people who erroneously think that grammar is ordained by direct order from the heavens to them. In short, they are joy vacuums. If a family member criticizes your table, take time to make their next visit cause them to have a seizure as they clutch their pearls.

“But a properly set table is so beautiful!” some will insist. It’s true, it might be a beautiful table. But it’s equally true being free of people who insist on this sort of correctness will make your life beautiful. Everyone should learn how to set a table more or less to general expectations. Like everything else, though, perfectionism in this realm is a symptom of a disease that’s difficult to diagnose but easy to recognize when it starts.

Social dining should always be geared toward the gathering of people sharing in food, presence, and conversation. All else is vanity and immaterial to enjoying life.

All of us are distinct spirits. Aesthetics is an arbitrary and subjective concept. If you want to place a pile of silverware in the middle of the table, surrounded by 13 different sets of dishes, revel in your choice.

You should take a moment and wonder how many times in my life I have deliberately rearranged a ‘properly’ placed table. It never fails to amuse, even if the Vatican frowned upon my efforts. I’ve been known to ADD utensils from my own collection, hoping that someone loses his or her mind over it once they notice. The cheap utensils from Dollar General yield the best screams. (Note: Dollar General isn’t paying me to mention them, although I will accept any reward they offer.)

I used a picture of grilled octopus as a counterpunch to my words. That we live in a world where deranged people think that serving grilled octopus is acceptable yet throw their silverware across the room when placed a millimeter out of reach is an argument in my favor.

In response to my friend’s request to answer the question, “How To Properly Set a Table”: It’s a trick question. Only your answer counts. You just didn’t know it. Until now. You’re welcome, friends.


Note: this is an older post. Seeing Netflix and a few other sites adopt an idea I’ve had forever makes me smile – as I recommended exactly this course of action several years ago in this blog post.

I’m going to start a website called “YesOrNo.” It will cover websites, restaurants, vehicles, tourists spots, movies, music and anything under the sun. It will be a testament to minimalism and focus in a world of too many options. If you are neutral to the website, movie, or restaurant, you don’t vote. No fence-sitting is allowed.

Instead of being weighed down by too many details, there are only going to be 2 options: “yes” or “no.” No comments. No categories to obfuscate the response. No Yelp-like lawsuits alleging vote-fixing or reviews. Studies have shown that too many options reduces our happiness and satisfaction.

Users will need to learn to be discerning with their votes. There will be neutral option. Either you vote or you don’t – but you’re going to need to decide between “yes” or “no.”

There will be technical issues to address governing how to identify participants and/or lessen abuse of voting. That’s true of any website or business idea. Clever, motivated people combined with technology should eliminate all the major hurdles.

With a social element, users can choose to add “trusted voters” to their logins so that they can refine their trusted opinions over time. This will allow you to ask the website to recommend a new place or experience to you, based on input from you and others who are similarly minded. In my scenario, however, the data will be limited to tallying without superfluous detail.


Unlike Angie’s List, users won’t be expected to pay – as such services exclude much of the population. It does tend to cause an uptick in the “crazies” noticing your website, but again, technology can overcome most of the stupidity that will ensue.


It’s so strange to see Tinder doing well. I’ve joked about for a long time, especially after an old-school website called “checkthegrid” died. On my old blog I had this idea designed, with screenshots and graphs. Like most people, though, my enthusiasm usually sputters at the implementation of an idea.



At it’s heart, the website would be simple categories, with “green” indicating “yes,” and “red” equating to “no.”


Words to Light a Candle By




My definition of minimalism.



…and then it’s over. Just ask someone old enough to have felt the years sneak past.



But you would think that in so knowing, we’d be more patient and forgiving with everyone else; we are all fairly creative with the breadth of our stupidity.






We don’t have to put batteries in the megaphone, though.



(I hate the female candidate, so let’s vote for the guy who thinks women are for his amusement.) (The current healthcare system isn’t perfect so let’s cancel coverage for millions who need it.)


Life Is a Hotel Resort


If you can imagine that your entire life is just a short stay in a resort hotel, you will be less likely to clutter and hoard your life – even with “valuable” keepsakes. Living like you live in a hotel resort requires you to live deliberately.

If you have strong religious beliefs, it should be easier, in theory, to put this into practice, as you are a soul housed in a bag of dust, waiting for your metamorphosis back into dust. Piling up stuff isn’t your focus in life, or shouldn’t be.

If you can imagine that random natural events can easily wipe your hotel room off the map, it will be easier to realize that your focus needs to change. You can simply go to another hotel resort and have a similar experience. Even though a real hotel resort stay is short in duration, it is the attitude of not being attached to the stuff that allows you to enjoy yourself. Imagine being able to carry that attitude into your everyday life. You might argue that hotel resorts are expensive and that is usually true. But weighed against the total cost of your house, car and all your amassed stuff, the cost isn’t as comparatively high as you first imagined. Keeping all this dumb stuff is expensive too, both in terms of what is spent and more importantly, how much of your life is wasted moving it, cleaning it and worrying about it.

If you go to a friend’s house and look around, you’ll note that in most cases the hidden stuff is actually quite a bit more than you will realize. You’ll also note that most of the things that the friend holds dear are nowhere in sight. They are piled in a drawer, in a closet, in the attic, or in a closed room, out of sight. If they aren’t  routinely seen or touched, are they then really meaningful to the owner? I know that you are going to argue that not all people are guilty of this; again, you would be right. But I think you would nod your head in agreement in general with the tendency. Our homes should be exclusively focused toward our comfort and enjoyment without much thought toward presentation for other people’s eyes. I’m convinced hoarding would decrease if we all did this and it would probably allow more people to be less stressed in their lives.

In a hotel resort, you want to be comfortable, having “just enough” to enjoy yourself and time spent there. You don’t own it – but you don’t mistreat it, either. At your house, you buy carpet that you don’t really like or even want, which you then have to maintain, usually at greater exposure to hidden dirt and allergens. You become more worried about the spot on the carpet than on whether you wanted the stuff in the first place. Your focus then turns to concern about the presentational resale value of it and whether it would affect your imaginary future potential to sell the house based on the presence and style of carpet.

At at hotel resort, you don’t have a closet full of “extra” towels. You have enough. You don’t have separate dishes for special occasions – each meal is a special treat in itself. Why isn’t this the case at home? I could go on with a hundred examples of this sort of foolishness. But it is our mindset almost without consideration.

Not Enough Time

u dont have enogh time dont u have the same amount as everyone else who succeeds

“I don’t have enough time.”

“I’m too busy.”

Perhaps valid justifications for not doing things. It’s your life, after all. You don’t owe anyone an explanation unless you want to provide one.

However, each of us has exactly the same number of hours per day. You do have time – it’s just that you have opted to not use it in certain ways, whether you’ve consciously chosen how to spend your days or your life has incrementally pushed you into a fast-paced routine.

All of our minutes are extinguished based on the decisions we’ve made and continue to make. Whether you spend your time watching television, reading, or in the mountains hiking, time is yours to spend.

If your life is complicated and too fast, make it simpler and slow it down.

Sacrifice money for free time. Give up bigger houses (or any house at all) for smaller spaces. Stop doing things that aren’t worth your time.

I know what you are thinking: it’s impossible. It’s not. The first step is realizing that frenetic activity is no substitute for a pleasurable life, one filled with the things that you find a fair trade in exchange for your life’s moments.


It’s All Dandelions


I was asked to modify one of my earliest blog posts to amplify the message and remove the extraneous parts. I jokingly replied, “You mean, you want me to weed my garden?”

I just discovered a cleverly hidden truth, another one of those sublime subtleties that are later regarded as being more obvious than a house cat sleeping under your living room rug: Our entire lives are dandelions. You can tear life up by the roots or relish the power of the spreading bloom.

Depending on who you ask, a dandelion is either a useful and beautiful flower – or a hideous, annoying weed. If your goal is a nicely coiffed lawn devoid of any spontaneity or color, dandelions are a plague. If, however, you want vibrant color, a naturally-enriching plant that can be eaten, used to make rubber or distilled into wine or even coffee, dandelions are a cheap and lovely way to dot your lawn.

Life is a dandelion. Whether you believe life to be full of weeds or a masterpiece of wonder, you are correct. It’s all dandelions, residing in the eye of the beholder.

May you choose flowers!

“When you look at a field of dandelions, you can choose to either see a field of weeds or 1,004 wishes.” -X

“May all your dandelion wishes come true!”

Life Is A Shared Cup of Coffee

they put down their cups and walked away to dieEach of them enjoyed their drinks, laughing and sharing time together. Some had coffee, some juice, and others opted for the simplicity of cool water.

One by one, each of them sipped the last swallow of their beverages (or were called away unexpectedly), said their respective “See-you-laters,” and departed.

Wouldn’t it be a better world if we could live some of our lives in the same way -enjoying one another in common experiences?

We all individually put down our cups and leave this place. Some of us finish our coffee while others don’t. But we all put down our cup, not knowing if it will be our last.

they put down their cups and walked away to die

Vacation Photos

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These pictures embody my ideal for vacation. The location is a backdrop for featuring interesting things and people. They don’t have to be weird – but it helps.

First and foremost, I LOVE pictures. I have gigabytes.

I enjoy even vacation photos for places I’ve never been. They are interesting. People should share and post more of them, more often.

Having said that, the modern age has given us the internet. No longer are we tied to large books in libraries and bookstores. If I have an urge to see pictures of the Vatican, even from 9 different angles I can go to Flickr or use google images to find pictures of nothing else but my interests. Usually in extremely high resolution. It is rare to find a personal picture that someone has taken that doesn’t have one hundred equivalents already in books or on the internet.

Part of my point is that I have no emotional connection to the photos I’m searching and looking at. They are high quality, technical and convey exactly what they are supposed to.

2009 10 las vegas (8)The above picture is of the Bellagio Resort in Las Vegas. It was a great experience feeling the cool mist of the fountains, hear the roar of the jets, listening to the “oohs” and “ahhs” of the onlookers. But this picture is almost meaningless outside the framework of my personal experience – and it almost certainly won’t hold value once I’ve passed on.

On the other hand, if a friend or family member takes enough time to post pictures online, I am going to look at them, probably more closely than most people will. Some part of me thinks that the time spent posting them means they might be worthwhile.

However, I am usually disappointed to find a lot of vacation pictures containing no people, much less people I know. Stunning vistas and landmarks are indeed eye-catching and interesting, but only in a minimal way compared to looking at familiar people within that framework. It establishes a connection between me and the places they have visited.

las vegas_121

Las Vegas, The Mirage as a backdrop.  Everyone knows “where” it was taken, but also can have an emotional connection to the person in it.

Let’s be honest. Pictures can and do distort our appearance. Usually, though, it’s not the camera we are lamenting – it is our perception of self. Allowing this to get between us and great vacation pictures is just not the same. Most vacations pictures should have people in them. It catalogs a place and time, how a person looks, their dress, demeanor, etc. It tells a story.

I’d prefer lesser-quality pictures if they contain people I know.  Everyone wants to see pictures of their friends and loved ones enjoying their lives. They already know what we look like, alleged warts and bad hair.

When the winter of your life is upon you, you will wish you have taken more pictures of yourself, your friends, family and loved ones. Even while on vacation. Pictures taken but not shared and enjoyed are missing part of their value.

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I took this one to remind me of the ongoing and perpetual work in progress that we experience in Vegas. The construction in the background, the high voltage lines that one “forgets” that are there to keep the city going 24 hours a day. (You literally can’t visit the same Vegas twice…)

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The above picture is one of my friend and taxi driver in Cancun, Mexico, from one of the 2 trips I made there. At the end of the vacation, he offered to have me return and actually stay with his family. He enjoyed the tips, of course, but he also enjoyed my crazy Spanish and sense of humor. Unfortunately, I’ve forgotten his name and no longer have the journal from my trip. But I will never forget how joyful he was doing his job and his sense of humor and appreciation for tourists. He was a rarity – one that I found to be more memorable than the sunrise vistas so commonly associated with trips to Mexico. The person trumped the scenery.

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The last picture is one of the scenery from the resort beach. It’s low quality, taken with a point-and-shoot film camera. I took a lot of pictures, most of which I no longer have. But this grainy image allows me to remember the coffee, the smell of sand and salt, as well as the sense of adventure in other places. Almost all the pictures I kept are ones featuring people.