Betterment Quest Inventory

You embark on a long journey. The road is long and twisty and you’re not really sure where it will lead you. There could be Monsters! Magic! Mayhem! What do you take? What items do you hold dear as you go forth into uncharted lands searching for unimaginable adventure?!

Thank you strange man in a cave.

Thank you strange man in a cave.

Ok. Well I’m not fighting monsters. Maybe metaphysical monsters, but that’s a metaphor I’ll not put my readership through… yet. It might happen, let’s be honest. But today you are freed from a metaphorical fiction adventure and I’ll instead focus on what kind of tools I use to aid me in sucking less at life.

Radiolab

rl_logo_orange

I just hopped on the podcast bandwagon after continuously hearing the medium mentioned by my trendier (and nerdier) friends.  For long time talk radio lovers, this “new” fad is really much of the old. In fact, the show to which I am helplessly hooked comes from WNYC, New York Public Radio.

Radiolab lives mostly in the arena of science, but I always hesitate to describe it as such because for so many of us the word “science” conjures the wretches memorization of the periodic table, dissecting earth worms or doing force equations. Trust me: Radiolab is not school! The show embodies the joy of discovery and pokes an investigative eye at the entire sphere of human thought one segment at a time.

To my readers out there who habitually go home and spend a few hours a night soaking in reality television (for shame) or cartoons (I may do this), do yourself a favor and put some Radiolab on your phone or mp3 player, go for a stroll in this lovely spring weather and chew on some deep thoughts.

My Running Shoes

In NYC you can jog wearing anything, because you're never the craziest looking person in sight.

In NYC you can jog wearing anything, because you’re never the craziest looking person in sight.

Running the base of my exercise pyramid. From it all other things flow. My recent love affair with strapping on cushiony shoes, donning my utterly unflattering workout sweats and moving quickly to no place in particular while sweating like pig did not come naturally. Previously my response should anyone ask me, “Do you run?” would be “Only when chased.” Running is stupid.

And I love it. I think one of the reasons I took to jogging outside was the simple novelty of being outside! A life working in the theater often means hours upon hours upon days upon days upon months upon eternity within these dark, dusty tombs called theaters. Theaters have no windows, because an amazingly important aspect of the art form is the ability to control light (and darkness). Windows cause trouble. However, I am sure that those reading who work most jobs can commiserate with the feeling that you never see the outside. NYC can be especially bad with it’s deep, cavernous buildings strung together by endless tunnels of subways. I feel like I can go weeks without ever seeing the sun.

Jogging started as little escapes to the outer world. Escapes into sunlight. Escapes into the mildly fresh air (I do live in NY). And from a fitness standpoint, it was an easy task to make a habit. When I started this whole exercise thing as a tubbier man with tar coated lungs, running started to feel like living hell after about fifteen minutes. So I’d make it that far and call it a day. Slowly the number bumped up to a thirty minute run. Now every few days I try to bump it even further up. Two days ago I went for an hour long jog.

And while Dylan of several months back would have considered running for an hour straight some form of horrific corporal punishment, the Dylan of today actually enjoys it. Running is relaxing. It takes me away from the day to day troubles of life and allows me to just focus on the rhythm of my movement. I can zone out to music or (more often lately) plug in some Radiolab and delve into the universe while enjoying the sunlight and getting in better shape.

Now my daily run is one of my favorite parts of my day. Weird.

My Journal

My Journal  = Realizing how boring my memoirs will be

My Journal = Realizing how boring my memoirs will be

I have discussed my journal before, so I won’t spend too much time on it here. At the base level, my journal is simply a scratchpad for my thoughts. It is a place for me to collect and organized the endless fireworks going on in my cortex. I have known many people for whom such a device would be unneeded: there thoughts are inherently collected, organized, formalized, and footnoted. Mine aren’t. My thoughts are the dull roar of a thousand psychopaths screaming not simply their most desperate desires, but also pie recipes and bold faced lies about the Dewey decimal system.

Beyond taming the angry phantoms in my brain, the idea of chronicling my life and thoughts is a cool idea to me. While the idea of a journal might seem a little old fashioned in the world of Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter and WordPress, there is something about a journal that the internet can’t truly give. Privacy. When something is on the internet, it is always being perceived by an audience. Sometimes it can be very interesting to look back on the thoughts you wrote down only for yourself.

For me, I simply enjoy the freedom of writing whatever comes to my mind. I am sure a few people reading this are confidant that this blog consists of entirely me writing whatever comes to my mind, but you’d be surprised how much editing work I put forth for my astonishing readership of five people. For example, the original draft of this post had the word “penis” in it thirty-seven times and “twattery” five times. You’re welcome (or I apologize?).

MIT Opencourseware

Creative-Online-Education-MIT-OpenCourseWare

“Online classes don’t work for me” – “I do so much better in a classroom” – “The internet is almost exclusively tentacle porn”

These are things I’ve heard over and over again. These are things I’ve personally said. And these are things that really are true, for most of us. The tentacle porn thing is true for all of us.

Regardless, we all need to get over it. Because there’s SO MUCH KNOWLEDGE on the internet. And yes, I use Wikipedia too, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. More and more, groups are pushing forth in an attempt to bring knowledge to the masses, for free. To live in such an exciting time for the flow of free information and not at least dip your feet in the current seems a shame.

I have been slowly trying to work through classes on MIT Opencourseware, one of the many Opencourseware initiatives springing up across the interwebs, and have been enjoying it immensely, even though the material is forcing me to use parts of my brain that I have let atrophy significantly in the past years. The MIT courses are filled with full video lectures, reading materials, homework problems. To those of you who think this all sounds suspiciously like school, I suppose you’re right. But the point isn’t to get a grade (there are none), it’s to expand your mind. What skills do you want to learn? What fun things do you wish you knew more about?

Check out the OCW Consortium which has a grand array of classes from a number of universities. Or for those of you who want something less formal, check out iTunes U: A segment of the iTunes store (that you probably already have on your computer) from which you can download hundreds upon hundreds of classes from names such as Stanford, Harvard, Oxford, Yale, National Geographic, and TED. And they’re FREE! You can put them on your iPhone and eat knowledge from the greatest learning institutions in all of human existence during your subway ride. Plop down from work and have the greatest teachers on the planet give you a little refresher on the mechanics of the universe or the creative process or do a rough outline of time itself while you eat potato chips on your couch!

Or  you could watch that episode of How I Met Your Mother that you’ve already seen five times.

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