Mourning Resolutions

Through the wonder that is FaceBook, I just received word that a high school classmate of mine, one that I hadn’t talked to in years (but was a FaceBook friend), passed away yesterday. Sudden heart attack at the age of 30.

Shock is the right expression for how I feel. Then sadness, because even though we weren’t close by any stretch of the imagination, it is always sad when someone who brings joy and life to the world exits it, abruptly or not.

It got me thinking of the “resolutions” I’ve been trying to live by over the past few years in order to avoid the guilt sometimes associated when people are sick, in need, or dying, and to be a better friend. So here they are, in case situations like this make you wonder what could be done to not only ease future pain, but grab life today and hold on to it before it flits away.

  1. Keep Contact. Fred Rogers famously woke up at 5 AM every morning to have time for a number of things we rush to do, including writing correspondence to friends and fans. A few years ago I realized I was losing contact with people as I moved from place to place – always meaning to stay in touch but rarely doing so except for once or twice a year. So I started a list with reminder times on it (it’s actually part of my To-Do list). Every 30-50 days I am reminded to “Call X” (Which in reality might be a call, a text message, an email, a wall post, etc…). This helps me stay in touch when life gets busy, and avoids the pain of having to apologize for not reaching out “since last Christmas” or “since the reunion 2 years ago”. It’s not hard to do – It takes less than 5 minutes of my day, and to the people I reach out to, it can mean a lot.
  2. Times are rough when you’ve got too much “stuff”. One of my favorite Jimmy Buffett songs includes a paraphrasing of that line, which reminds me regularly to collect friendships and experiences, rather than material goods. It might be nice to have a big house full of cool things, but it means nothing if you don’t have anyone to share it with, romantically or platonically. Make the high points of your year visiting friends, versus big-ticket purchases.
  3. Never be afraid to reach out. In January 2013 I read a FaceBook post about a former student in dire emotional turmoil. Rough days had turned into rough months, and medical issues had further complicated life. I wrestled with the fact that my heart wanted so desperately to reach out to this woman – just to let her know that someone cared, that someone would listen; but my mind kept telling me “Don’t be creepy – you haven’t talked to her in years! You were just her Psychology professor – you don’t know her well enough!”.
    In the end my heart won, and I posted a comment. We exchanged a few messages, and I felt good knowing I’d reached out. A few months later she sent me a private message (in response to something I’d commented on) that included this sentence: “On one of the hardest days of my life you contacted me offering support, and I am forever blessed.”. I tear up every time I read that. Reach out – if you get rebuffed, swallow your pride and move on to reach out again. Because more often, you make a difference you’d never thought you could make.
  4. When it comes to death, never feel guilty about how you feel. I’ve lost people in my life that I’ve been very close with and felt very little. I’m sad, but I’m not devastated. On the other hand, I’ve lost people that I’ve only known a short while or haven’t talked to in years and it’s shocked me to my core. We don’t know what exactly resonates when we lose someone – and we shouldn’t be afraid to admit that. We all mourn in our own way, and our strength comes from using mourning to not only celebrate another’s life, but also better structure ours. Perhaps by making resolutions and keeping them.

I’m sure I have other resolutions, but those 4 seem most important today. My heart goes out to the family of my classmate, and to all those affected by her loss.

Amazon Raises Prime Price to $99 a Year

Just got an email from Amazon – they’re raising Prime’s Price to $99 a year. A far cry from the $149 that people had feared might happen, and in general for the level of service, I think $99 a year is reasonable. Hate any increase in price though, however small!

Dear Jon Westfall,

We are writing to provide you advance notice that the price of your Prime membership will be increasing. The annual rate will be $99 when your membership renews on April 19, 2014.

Even as fuel and transportation costs have increased, the price of Prime has remained the same for nine years. Since 2005, the number of items eligible for unlimited free Two-Day Shipping has grown from one million to over 20 million. We also added unlimited access to over 40,000 movies and TV episodes with Prime Instant Video and a selection of over 500,000 books to borrow from the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library.

For more information about your Prime membership, visit our Prime membership page.

Sincerely,

The Amazon Prime Team

Jon Rants About eBay Feedback

I’ve been on eBay for over 10 years, so forgive me if I rant like an old man here…

I received an email today from the seller of an item I recently won on eBay. It read…

Hey I saw the stylus was delivered today so I thought I’d see if you wanted to exchange positive feedback? I’m new so I could definitely use it, thanks =)

Equal sign smiley face aside, cranky old man Jon read this as…

Hey – you got the item. Leave me feedback before I’ll leave it for you.

Now call me crazy, but as soon as I pay for the item, I believe the seller should leave me feedback. I mean, I fulfilled my end of the agreement – I paid you money. I don’t have to do another damn thing to be considered a “good” buyer. This is especially true now that eBay only allows sellers to leave positive feedback.

When I get the item, and it looks good and I’m happy, I’ll leave you feedback because it’s what is expected. Now if you want to drop me an email a few weeks later and say “Hey, I hope you’re happy with the item. I left feedback for you earlier, and if you have the time, I’d appreciate it if you could leave some for me”, that’s fine. But don’t make it sound like a hostage swap – the buyer’s responsibility ends at payment. That is when feedback should be left!

A Victory for Paper

Just as I change bags often (i.e. the bag I just posted on last month is now on break for another bag), I also alternate between note taking methods ranging from full paper (Moleskine notebooks that I then scan into Evernote – and these are pre-Evernote-version Moleskines, although I have one of the new Evernote Moleskines to try) to augmented paper (i.e. a Livescribe Echo and more recently Sky pen) to full digital (Noteshelf on iPad). With the addition of the Sky pen for Christmas, I’ve gone back to paper this last week, and surprisingly I found something paper is better at.

Photo on 1-9-13 at 7.46 AM
LiveScribe Lined Journal + Sky Smartpen

Normally at the start of a semester my class rosters are all over the place. Students add, they drop, they change sections, etc… I usually resorted to looking at the list online and thinking “OK, who’s not here… who added… ???”. This week I actually took the time to write out each roster in my notebook (figuring that it would make roll quicker and would give me a chance to start learning names – with 56 names to write, it didn’t take too long). An additional unexpected benefit was that it’s now really easy to track changes. Cross out a name, add it in with a note, etc… Somehow I don’t see myself able to do this as easily in Noteshelf or Excel.

That being said, I have a Pengo Brushpen coming in the mail to try with Noteshelf & Sketchpad, so we’ll see if the paper notebook survives the next few weeks or if it goes out of rotation (Of course as with all my gadgets, it will rotate back in at some point, I’m sure!).

New Blogroll Entries

a person blogging
Flickr: kpwerker

I’ve just added two new blogs to my Blogroll, both former students of mine at Columbia. David Zhu shares insightful thoughts on “finance/economics, careers, education, US-China relations” as well as his own thoughts and musings. Elle Christine blogs about her life as a junior at Columbia, her travels, and her future as it shapes up.

It’s also with sadness that I’ve removed my link to Insignificant Thoughts, as Mr. Ferrari has decided to retire it. I’m sure he’ll be launching a new project soon, it’s not like him to not be creative by nature.

Enjoy reading great blog content, and supporting bloggers!

Thanksgiving Thank-Yous 2011

This past month many people I know have taken the time  each day on Facebook to post a status update listing something they were thankful for. In the same spirit, I figured I’d write one very long post in which I thank specific people who have made my life the enjoyable experience I have to look forward to every morning when I wake up. Since I suspect this will take some time, let’s get started… Continue reading “Thanksgiving Thank-Yous 2011”

Still Here!

Wow, this place gets really empty when I don’t pipe in my daily activities! About 2 months ago I turned jonwestfall.com back into full blog posts, without any republishing of my content from Thoughts Media. My pings.jonwestfall.com site is broken and I haven’t fixed that yet, and I’ve been bogged down with a writing project (Windows Phone 7 book), oh, and I also resurrected NerdNewz.com and have moved some of my content over there.

So in summation, I’m still here, and still plan on writing in this Blog, just as soon as I have some time Winking smile

Scan Directly From Your Office to Evernote

Many of us work in offices that have multifunction printers / scanners / copiers / faxes / latte machines (OK, maybe not the last part), and these machines typically support sending scans via e-mail as PDF attachments. This is great for those of us (like me) who are making a real effort to go paperless as much as possible. But it’s still a pain to get the email and file the paper away in it’s right place. So to speed things up, I hooked up my personal scanner (at home, a Lexmark) and the office scanner at work directly to Evernote via some crafty GMail filters. While this works best if you use Gmail for your e-mail, you could set this up even if you don’t use GMail primarily  by simply having your scans sent there. Here is the filter I set up:



What does the filter do? Well first it skips the inbox so that I don’t have to see the notes there. Then it marks as read so I don’t see it in my unread pile. Then it throws a Label on it that I call Evernoted so that I can keep track of these things if I ever want to. It then forwards it to my m.evernote.com address, which I’ve obscured. I have an Evernote notebook named “Incoming Notes” that is my default notebook. This is my “sorting space” that I use to sort notes out after a sync. Finally the filter never sends the e-mail to SPAM, because it’s not likely those two addresses will be spamming me anytime soon (since they’re both printers).

Pretty efficient, and there are other possibilities too. For example, a group of people could set up a shared evernote account and shared gmail account to make an impromptu document scan repository using Evernote’s public sharing of notebooks. Do you have a twist on this as well? Go ahead and leave it in the comments!