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Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

Dear Apple, thank you for the recent software update. Unfortunately, there is now a problem with the spellcheck gremlins. You appear to be asking too much of them.

Case in point: If I wanted squiggly underlines beneath my homonyms, I would have turned on Grammar checking. I do not. I did not. So why do you (sometimes, periodically, unpredictably) “helpfully” point out that I have used “your” instead of “you’re”? Or “to” instead of “too.” I know, I did it on purpose. Yes, I am sure, and even if I’m wrong, it’s my mistake to make.

Please give your gremlins some time off, and leave my homonyms alone.*

* * *

* Drafted yesterday, edited today to be more polite. Because I’m mostly over it, and it’s not the gremlins’ fault. Probably.

Photo by Amador Loureiro on Unsplash

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I’m feeling Olden Timey today, so let’s take a trip down memory lane, to 1906 San Francisco. Sure, this video has been posted all over the internet, but this definitive version includes narration and historical details, with a new digital transfer to include the full video, sprockety edges and all.

Plus it’s just cool.

Funny how a simple video conversion can suddenly make the past feel quite present. And really, they were us, and someday we will be them. Let’s do history proud!

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Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

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Pretty Ok Day

Sometimes, there is only one question that matters: Did you quit today?

No, no I did not.

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Would the world be a better place if we added the words “I’m afraid that…” to many of our negative thoughts? As in, “I’m afraid that the vaccine is untested and will hurt me.” Or, “I’m afraid that my neighbor with the weird tattoo hates me because I’m different,” or “I’m afraid that Anders in accounting is undermining my promotion case,” or “I’m afraid that the people in charge don’t care about me.”

Adding those three words adds flexibility. It highlights worry but also makes room for the possibility that you may not be right about the danger. It isn’t fact, but possibility.

Anders may indeed have it out for you, but your neighbor probably doesn’t think about you at all.

I’m not unaware that there are real problems in the world, and many of them can be very personal. I was raised around a mix of people, some of whom were sweet hometown souls and some for whom intolerance was their bread and butter. It is true that some people are not good. And not all tattoos are harmless.

Still. This quote also rings true for me:

“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”

― Yoda, Jedi Master

* * *

Growing up as I did, an adopted, mixed-race but not obviously so child in a mostly rural mostly white area, gave me a certain perspective onto the good and the not so much.

My brother looks Black, he got the brunt of the in-your-face not good. I don’t, as much, so I got to see what lay behind the masks. It wasn’t always pretty, but it was always interesting.

What makes people tick? In my experience, the answer is often fear. We’re all scared of something.

Understanding that, about others and ourselves, can open a fascinating window into motivation, behavior, and connection.

* * *

Years ago, I went on vacation with a group. I didn’t necessarily agree with the politics of all present, but that’s fine. We were there for a good time, and most days, a good time was had.

The weather was warm but it rained on and off, and strong winds blew through even on the best afternoons. On snorkeling day, the boat that took us out was on the small side and the water was choppy with a chance of jellyfish.

The captain took us out into deeper water, pointing to a box of snorkels and masks as we slipped farther from shore. The woman next to me didn’t say much but when she spoke, her voice sounded thin and strained. 

The boat dropped anchor and most of the group immediately swam away. My seat-mate stayed near the ladder, tension visible in her short, choppy strokes and the way her breathing wasn’t quite level.

In that moment, our differences didn’t matter. The water was deep. Jellyfish swarmed nearby, and the boat cast an absurdly small shadow on a vast ocean. 

I reached out a hand and asked if she would swim with me. She laughed, half disbelief, half desperation. 

Then she reached back. 

* * *

It was years ago, but I remember that day every time I am tempted to fall into a knee-jerk reaction about someone. 

I’m half white, half Black, half American, half Canadian, half Star Wars, half Star Trek, half duck confit, half pork and sauerkraut. I’m Exhibit J for the argument that differences don’t have to mean disaster. 

I know that reaching out doesn’t always work. I’ve experienced the alternatives. (And thanks to the joys of social media and increasing polarization, it’s impossible to miss the bonfire of bad so often happening around us.) But I keep trying.

* * *

Like most people, I am best at remembering the foolish things I’ve done, the comments I wish I could take back, or the times I wish I’d done more.

But I also remember that moment in the water, when I was able to reach past our fears and help someone. I doubt she remembers, and that’s fine. In a fundamentally useful way, that moment humanized us both. We do not always see eye to eye, but we like each other far better than any algorithm says we should. 

I can still see the wide blue waters flowing around me, hear the slap of waves against the side of the boat. And feel the warmth of another’s hand looking for help and hope, and giving both back to me in return.

* * *

Photo by Yoann Boyer on Unsplash

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It’s June. June!* 

I’m in the mood to do new things. It’s also the beginning of the month, which, thanks to the “fresh start effect” is a great time to embark on new ventures.

“The fresh-start effect hinges on the idea that we don’t feel as perfect about our past as we’d like. We’re always striving to be better. And when we can wipe out all those failures and look at a clean slate, it makes us feel more capable and drives us forward.”

— Dr. Katherine Milkman

Behavioral nudges are my jam.

* * *

I actually did start a new project yesterday, and it felt good. Today I decided to think about said project while crossing off the residual items weighing down my list. That felt good too.

Now it’s time to dive in.

* * *

* * *

* I would have written about this yesterday but you know, Tuesdays.

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“…the simplest and most important thing of all: the world is difficult, and we are all breakable. So just be kind.”

― Caitlin Moran

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Photo by Chris Curry on Unsplash

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“Stories are for joining the past to the future. Stories are for those late hours in the night when you can’t remember how you got from where you were to where you are. Stories are for eternity, when memory is erased, when there is nothing to remember except the story.”

― Tim O’Brien, The Things They Carried

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Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

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The sun is out and while it’s not exactly warm, the world is bright and beautiful. I’m working on a number of project ideas and am about to help Mr Man dissect the fridge. 

(brief break for said dissection)

Yep, we need a new fridge. Or rather, the fridge needs a new compressor and it doesn’t make sense to replace that one thing. I shall now spend a not-insignificant amount of time imagining a world in which incentives for engineers are structured in ways that make designing modular, easy-to-repair systems the goal. 

So I’m a little sad today, because having to get rid of a mostly fine appliance is a damn shame.

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That said, I am also reading. I just finished Katherine Addison’s The Goblin Emperor. It’s a good book but not, like so many others, an easy one to ingest. I stuck with it and am glad I did. The language is challenging, any name or title under four syllables is rare, and the author does an astonishing job (I realized about 10% of the way in) of putting the reader in the place of the awkward, out-of-his-depth, confused main character. It adds an extra, internal dimension to the act of reading an external book. 

* * *

And here’s to my parents, who raised me with the belief that no day with a book is ever truly wasted.

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Photo by Rob Mulally on Unsplash

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As You Like

“If you always do what interests you, at least one person is pleased.”

— Katharine Hepburn
Photo by MI PHAM on Unsplash

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I may have a new favorite mug.

For no reason whatsoever, I decided that I would be much more productive if I had a new mug. When one is writing or slogging through the data mines or sailing with a letter of marque on the Great Internet Seas, a mug is a friendly, forthright, supportive companion. Choose right, and it’s a burst of good cheer on a cloudy day.

Sure, it’s a weird fixation, but it’s cheaper than drugs. And it works.

I got these mugs from Roy Kirkham in Staffordshire, England. The good: the colors are rich, the designs pretty, and the china delicate. The bad? Shipping. And duties. That said, I really like these. 

The one in the middle with the robin is my new favorite.

* * *

The ideas are bubbling up already!

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