NaNoWriMo (my way)

I was reading the most recent newsletter from Shawn Blanc about posting every day during November and it inspired me to do the same. This is a total wimp-out version of NaNoWriMo but let’s be honest – I’m not writing a novel. Not in November 2019. Not ever.

But! But, I’ll be publishing something here every day. Sometimes, I can’t get enough of writing, and sometimes I feel like I don’t have much to say, but there’s nothing like the feeling of having written. More of that please.

So with that, let’s kick this month of writing off.

P.S. I may not actually post every day. The goal is to post 30 times in November. Life getting in the way and all that.

Keep Your Eyes Open

This photo is undoubtedly one of the coolest, most impactful photos I’ve ever taken. I love it. I took it when I was in Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany last week. I’d never been to Europe before and it was really cool to get a firsthand view of the juxtaposition of modern life going on in and around these practically ancient towns. Pretty wild.

Anyway, that photo isn’t my favorite from the trip. My favorite actually came when I turned around and faced away from this incredible, historic cathedral.

What’s the significance in that? I’m not really sure. But I feel like there’s a lesson in that. It’s something I want to spend some time thinking about.

What Are Toes For?

The other day, my daughter (8) asked me why people have toes. I explained to her that

“Toes help you balance. You wouldn’t be able to walk well without them.”

I didn’t Google it, but that’s always what I’d heard.

Is that right? Who even decides that as a parent, you get to instill a whole bunch of ideas in your kids that might not even be right? Anyway, I digress.

She says back to me:

“that’s true, if you didn’t have toes, it would be really hard to do a pirouette”

Something about that struck me. If doing a pirouette is the first thing that comes to mind for her, we must be doing something right…

Tim Ferriss vs. Dr. Peter Attia

I was recently listening to an incredible episode of the Tim Ferris show and stopped dead in my tracks when Tim said this:

In fact, I would say for the vast majority of my adolescence and certainly throughout high school and college, I somehow came to the conclusion that I was just not designed to be happy. That evolution did not optimize for happiness, and I just did not have the code for happy and that was okay. That I would be an instrument of competition, I would learn to be good at various things that were valued at colleges and then by the business world and so on, and that it was not worth trying to be happy, or to not just love myself, but really have a high opinion of myself.

In fact, that was self-indulgent and that I would just focus on being the best competitor possible, and hopefully turning that into something that was not only of value to me to that I was rewarded for, but that would help other people, and that perhaps I would find some joy in the joy of other people, but that was the extent of it.

Man, that’s almost too real.

Your Two-Tap Mental Health Assessment

I was recently sending a message on my phone and couldn’t find an emoji I expected to be in my “frequently used” list. There were a bunch of really snarky little characters in there and it made me wonder how closely that list tracks with how I was feeling mentally and emotionally.

Does your list resemble what you want to be putting out into the world? Does it align with what you think you’re putting out into the world?

Take a minute to check it out and reflect on that. For accountability’s sake, here’s mine:

The Shutdown Drags On

This NYT article about federal workers scrambling to make ends meet is full of disgusting anecdotes. There are several things you could pull-quote, but here’s one for instance:

Across the country, idled federal workers and contractors are taking up last-resort jobs with ride-hailing services and delivery apps. They are flooding school districts with applications to become substitute teachers. They are taking babysitting gigs, working shifts at local gyms and auditioning for yoga-instructor slots.

Babysitting? Seriously? These are real people, with educations, families to support, and bills to pay. It’s unthinkable that these people would be caught in this kind of political tug-of-war.

After a recent insurance change at work, I’ve had to self-pay for a number of small medical bills and even that is stressful. What these people are going through isn’t a theoretical exercise. They’re going to work every day and not being paid for it. How does anyone see this as a reasonable scenario? It’s an embarrassment on a national level, and those who are complicit in it deserve to be voted out of office.

Howdy ?

Why now? Who the hell starts a blog in 2019? Writing has long been something I enjoy doing, but for a while now, I’ve been feeling like I have something to say, but nowhere to say it. I don’t know if any of these words will find an audience outside my circle of friends, but honestly, this is as much for me as it is anyone else.

More than anything, I just want to have an online home. I’ve been wanting to have a place for the things that come to mind but I don’t want to give to someone like Facebook or whatever. This isn’t some anti-corporate manifesto (though I do think they’re a categorically terrible company) but I want something that’s mine.

So what’s with the domain name? I don’t know. I like coffee? I guess that’s kinda personal too. I’m a fan of silly things that are silly without any real agenda. I’ve had the idea to have a ridiculous domain name ever since Reply All had their silly-domainsas-ads campaign Hover. Side note: podcast ads work! There are so many good, insane TLDs available now. I settled on coffee. Why not? It’s very me.

So anyway, thanks for coming by. I hope you’ll stay. Maybe even subscribe and follow along? Either way, I’m raising my coffee mug to you for stopping by. Cheers.

The Value of the Different

You know it the moment you walk out the front door into that familiar cone of silence. When your breath hangs heavy in the air and the cold stings your cheeks. Like a recording studio full of oriental rugs, a foot of snow on the ground makes for an interesting soundscape. There’s no rustle of leaves. No sounds of wildlife. No echoing of car engines traveling up and down neighboring streets. Just soft silence. It’s a jarring shift in perspective – even out here on the fringes of city life.

As the day winds on, the air will fill with the throaty sound of kids having snowball fights, the throaty drone of snowblowers up and down the hill, of shovels clanging on concrete or on chunks of ice. But for now, it’s silent.

Winter is here and it won’t be ignored.

With all the crazy snow we got this weekend, this ended up being far from the usual Sunday. I spent a bit of the afternoon digging out the car of a guy who got stuck in an honest-to-goodness snow drift. And when I say that, I mean it – he was embedded in a drift that was easily four feet high. Turns out his name is Randy and he lives up the street. A woman who lives nearby had been trying to help him out for a while. She just moved in recently and lives just a few doors away. Her name is Judy. We got the car unstuck but the snow was so bad, he’d leave his car in my driveway for a few hours until the plow made it down our street. Satisfied that his car was safely tucked away, Randy threw his shovel over his shoulder and walked home.

The guy across the street is selling his house and was planning to hold an open house that afternoon. Rather than watching him shovel a foot of snow from his driveway, I cleared it for him. As a thank-you, he brought us a tray of brownies and hung around on the porch. We stood there in our winter coveralls for a few minutes of small talk. He admitted that he didn’t know mine or my wife’s name. This guy has lived across the street for ten years and he didn’t know my name. Maybe that says more about my social skills than anything else, but how can he live so close for so long and not know my name? We’ve nodded at each other in passing a million times, but never really stopped to talk.

The list goes on. Businesses were closing early, or not opening at all. People threw away their plans and instead opted for an afternoon of building snow forts with their kids and mugs of hot cocoa.

What is it about things like snowstorms that shak up your life? Why does it make for these new interactions? It’s something to think on. If all it takes is a curveball in the schedule, maybe we could all find more excuses to shake it up. I know I could use it. Perhaps we’ll find a way to make it happen without waiting around for a snowstorm that shuts down the city, though.

Zen and the Art of Snowblowing

Snow on evergreen branch

With Winter in full swing, we got a legitimate amount of snow this weekend. it’s never as much as they say it’ll be, but we got a lot of snow. I mean, a lot. All told, I think we got about a foot.

I love using my snowblower. I mean, I really love using my snowblower. It’s one of those oversized, dual-stage machines that’s really suited for a much worse climate than we live in. The kind that has optional accessories like a voting-booth-style hood you can walk inside of, heated grips, and a headlight. It was a bit of a statement of machismo when I bought it.

This is my snowblower. There are many like it, but this one is mine.

In fact, it’s so overpowered I rarely even use the thing. Most of the time, I look outside at your typical midwestern dusting of snow, sip my coffee, shrug my shoulders and say, “Meh. It’ll melt. I’m not even taking it out for this kind of snow.”

This weekend, though… This weekend, the snow showed up.

So I didn’t just take the opportunity to clear my driveway – no, I cleared our driveway, the neighbor’s across the street, the guy next door, and a bunch of the surrounding sidewalks. I needed to let that big red monster breathe.

I love activities like snowblowing (blowing snow? throwing snow? – I may need a style guide). Honesty, I savor opportunities to use it. It’s exactly the kind of mindless work I love. There’s no strategy, there’s no thinking involved. It’s just me and the back and forth. Clear a line, Turn around. Turn around again.

Those close to me know my love for this kind of thing. It’s the same reason I love washing dishes, painting a room, cutting the grass, etc. Just let your brain turn off and do the thing until it’s done.

  • Clear a line
  • Turn around
  • Clear another