Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Mail Never Stops

I need your help. Well, maybe not you specifically, but someone's help.

The problem I have is that there's too much great content out right now that I want to read/watch/listen to that I can't do it all. And I can't convince the world to stop creating more stuff until I catch up. I feel like Newman.


I know there are things I'm just going to have to miss out on. I still haven't seen The Sopranos. I still haven't read Jim Collins' Good to Great and I'm not sure I ever will. I'm usually embarrassed when those "how many of these 100 classic books have you read?" posts start making the rounds on facebook because the answer is usually very few. I'm not sure why I let that bother me, especially after just writing that I try to just "like what I like" and not worry about anyone's opinion on it. 

I guess I feel a certain responsibility to have read some of those. I'm certainly not one to equate educational achievement with intelligence, but it can be a decent proxy for that. So I feel that as an educated person I "should" be reading the classics. The thing is, I have no interest in doing so.

So what do I spend my time on? Well, I'm glad you asked since I'd already written what's below before coming back to write this introduction.

155 shows on Netflix.

When my wife and I cut the cable cord a few years ago, I initially thought I'd watch a lot less television than I had previously. I remember growing up just flipping through channels, sometimes for up to 30 minutes looking for something to watch while I waited to watch what I actually wanted to watch. I figured with roughly 10 over-the-air channels (the major networks and some sub-channels, including one that just shows weather maps), my days of endlessly watching television might be over and I'd start to do something productive with that time.

That has not turned out to be the case. If anything, I watch more television now than I did with cable. Most of that stems from being able to watch what I want, when I want it. Sure, I may be a year or more behind the most current season of whatever show I'm watching, but as more and more people have started DVRing shows or streaming them online after they've aired, the idea that a television show is something for people to gather and talk about the next day is slowly fading away. Rarely do I hear conversations at work about a show that aired the night before. When the conversation turns to television, it's usually about catching up on a show on Netflix.

Having it on demand makes me more selective about what I watch, but it also provides me with the opportunity to watch more efficiently and intentionally than in the past. I spend far less time watching stuff I'm not interested in because I don't have to. I have immediate access to what I want.

My Netflix queue is impossibly long. Granted, some of those are shows for my son. As far as you know, I don't regularly watch "Curious George: Swing into Spring." But even accounting for his shows, there are probably 135 individual entries. And most of those are television series. I could spend the next month doing nothing but working through my Netflix queue and I'm not sure I'd finish. (The link is a story about a guy who wanted to see just how much he could watch on Netflix in a month. Now you're curious, aren't you?)

16 Podcasts

On my iPod right now there are 16 podcasts. Of those, three come out daily, nine come out weekly and the other four come out sporadically with some being 2-3 times a week and others being 2-3 times a month. I try to listen to all of them. Whether I'm in the car, at work, mowing the grass, taking the dog for a walk or even just sitting at home after everyone's gone to bed, I want to listen. Obviously I'm interested in the topics.

As you might guess, a good number of them are sports related, though I've sought out ones that try to take a big picture look at sports rather than daily recaps of what happened the night before. I first became interested in the NFL's concussion issues from a podcast long before "League of Denial" aired on PBS. Overall, I find this kind of analysis beneficial as it allows me to step back from the granular details that often get picked apart of sports radio and tv and to take a wide view of the issues surrounding the games I enjoy.

In addition to the sports podcasts, I've got a couple NPR podcasts and I allow myself one on politics just to give myself the chance to get a basic understanding of the political issues of the day. Most are 45 minutes to an hour, so I'm trying to fit roughly 14 hours of spoken audio entertainment into each week. When I had an hour commute to and from work, this was a little more manageable, but since I got a job closer to where I live, that's down to 12 minutes from driveway to parking lot.

There are some weeks when things just get busy and I end up missing a few of the daily podcasts for a day or two. The only problem with that is when I do jump back in, I end up missing the jokes referencing the episodes I missed. Yes, in the grand scheme of things, this isn't that big a deal, but as I mentioned earlier, I listen because I enjoy them, so I don't like missing episodes.

11 Books

This is the one area where I most need to make changes in my media consumption. I've currently got 11 books on my reading list and no clue when (or if) I'm going to get to them. Every year I commit to reading more books and have modest goals of reading 24 books a year - two per month. Every year I tell myself "this is the year you're finally going to do it." And for the last five, I can say I have only if you count children's books. As for books for adults that I read for pleasure, I haven't come close to meeting my goal.

Unlike what you likely think, I don't actually read all that many sports books. I'm currently reading a book called "Word Freak" about competitive Scrabble. Thinking back, I've spent a lot of time reading about psychology, decision making and how our minds are wired. I'm at least more aware of the theories of hour our minds work, though I'm not sure how much I've been able to incorporate into my life simply because so much of our brain activity is done on autopilot unless we take the time to stop and think and as you know, that takes energy and effort that we don't always have to give.

Here's the thing, though. Despite not reading as many books as I want, I do feel like I'm constantly reading. My twitter feed consists of a lot of writers who tweet out links to their articles, columns and news stories, not just of their own work, but work of other writers they find interesting. Just in the process of writing this section of the blog post, I've stopped twice to read articles of people I follow. So it's not as if I'm not reading, but I'm not reading the in depth levels of books that I sometimes feel like I should be doing.

 Now what?

At some point I'm going to eventually realize that I can't have it all. As my son gets older and more involved in his activities, I'll have less and less time to devote to my hobbies. He's still going to bed at 8 p.m. so I've got evenings to watch what I want. But there's going to come a time when he gets older and stays up later and I don't get run of the television. And I'll miss more and more stuff.

If there's one thing my wife has been telling me for years it's that it's ok to miss out on some things. I'm going to get there eventually. I'm just not there yet. And if I know my friends like I think I do, I'm about to get recommendations for other things I need to watch/read/listen to that will only add to my list.

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