Winter owl updates


Here are some blind contour drawings of the two owls that are living in the box in the backyard.

A while back, I bought a cheap Gosky spotting scope with a smartphone adapter that let me take photos with my old iPhone SE. I keep it on the desk in my studio pointed at the box, but up until a week or so ago, I had to go out there to take photos manually or run the phone’s timelapse function.

It occurred to me what I really needed was a 24/7 stream of the box. That led me to AlfredCamera, an iOS app that turns your old iPhone into a security camera. It’s a little buggy, and the image quality isn’t the best, but having 24/7 coverage with motion sensing and a low-light filter and the ability to play back footage has meant that I’ve gotten to witness all sorts of owl behavior I wouldn’t get to see otherwise.

The most adorable moments are when they’re perched in the box side-by-side, getting ready for their night of murder. Watching them try to squeeze into the opening is a great source of comedy:

As for whether they stick around or not, we’ll just have to see.

If they do stick around, they often mate by the end of the month. Mama will lay eggs in March, at which point Papa will move about 14-20 feet away from the box to keep an eye on things. Once the owlets hatch, Papa will move closer, about 7-10 feet away, and in June the owlets will fledge.

You can see owl updates on Twitter or in my Instagram stories.

Austin Kleon

02 Feb 2023 at 16:55

Reading recklessly

one of my Austin Public Library hauls

Adam Sternbergh has started a newsletter, and his first dispatches concern his “Year of Reading Recklessly,” brought about by a sense of dissatisfaction looking at his year-end list.

“My reading life had become a grim slog,” he writes. “My TBR pile — ever higher, ever teetering, ever chastising — had become my enemy and jailer, not my conspirator and friend.”

(Unfortunately, I can relate!)

To spice things up, Adam set himself new goals: “Browse more. Purchase impulsively. Let books surprise me. Give myself a chance to stumble on something revelatory.”

He sprinkled some tips amongst his list of recent shelf discoveries:

Lesson 1: A.B.B. Always. Be. Browsing.

Lesson 2: Books make the best souvenirs.

Lesson 3: When critical consensus and your personal proclivities align, act.

Lesson 4, 5, 6: Very short books are a great way to leaven your reading routine and let you take risks you might not otherwise take. Also, trust staff picks. Also, if you set a reading goal, cheat with abandon.

You can read more over at Substack.

I love this idea of reading recklessly. I can point to two things have helped me: Kindle sample chapters and weekly visits to the library.

Austin Kleon

30 Jan 2023 at 22:23

The 30-minute noticing workout

Here is a slide from my friend Bill Keaggy’s TEDx talk, “How to Find Attention, Mindfulness, and Creativity in the Ordinary.”

After going through some of his own creative work — I highly recommend his books 50 Sad Chairs and Milk, Eggs, Vodka — and the work of others, Bill suggests a very simple 30-minute workout for everyone:

Walk around. Pay attention. Take pictures.

Bill says there’s two ways to pay attention while you’re walking:

  1. “Ambient noticing” — you’re just soaking in everything, taking in the big picture, and letting things come at you
  2. “Purposeful attention” — you have a goal of seeking out specific things, such as colors, signs, sad chairs, etc.

I recommend watching the whole talk:

I was struck by how much Bill’s talk aligns with the work of another friend of mine, Rob Walker. Not just the stuff in Rob’s book, The Art of Noticing and excellent newsletter of the same name, but also his work with Joshua Glenn on Significant Objects, and most recently, Lost Objects.

When Bill talks about his photos of sad chairs, he says, “Chairs are just chairs. They’re not very moving… So you need to add a layer of story. And just a little is enough.”

This is almost exactly the way the Objects projects operate — by adding a “layer of story” to objects, we give them significance, maybe even value, and we cause people to pay attention to them.

(I’m sometimes shocked when friends of mine aren’t friends with each other, as if the connection between them — my brain — is somehow actually real and in the world.)

A spread from 50 Sad Chairs

Bill’s talk also made me think about the different ways we can pull meaning out of our collections of images, including at least:

  1. Juxtaposition, by assembling a gallery of images in multiple next to each other
  2. Addition, by way of annotation — adding text below or drawing directly on the image
  3. Subtraction, cutting up the images, or removing elements (see: my de-signs, which Bill kindly mentions
A spread from Keep Going

As you know if you read me with any regularity, I am a huge believer in the benefits — religion? — of walking. (And I chuckle sometimes thinking about the nominative determinism of Rob’s last name.)

Bill and I actually got to have lunch yesterday and instead of shopping or going to a museum, we took a nice 30-minute stroll down the Shoal Creek Book Walk and east across the hike and bike trail back to his hotel. It was a convivial echo of Wednesday evening when I took the same walk solo to clear my mind (and avoid rush hour traffic) before meeting John Hendrickson at the same hotel.

While I am writing about my friends, let me share something my friend Marty Butler shared with me on one of our recent bike rides.

This is what Luigi Ferrucci, the scientific director at the National Institute on Aging, suggests for achieving longevity:

“Just walking outside,” makes an enormous difference, Ferrucci said.

“If I had a jewel to give to people who want to live long and well, I would tell them to get up early in the morning and go out,” Ferrucci said. “That is really the best gift that you can give yourself if you want to achieve longevity.”

Get out now!” Pay attention. Take pictures.

Filed under: walking

Austin Kleon

29 Jan 2023 at 16:57

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