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The night we met

 

I sat behind a card table in the entryway of the Akins’ home. Hayride night. I had name tag duty.

The night was cool. Every time another family showed up, bumping their way in, with Mom holding a baby and Dad carrying a casserole dish and kids shuffling around, the cool air would sneak in, too and bring the sweet sharp tang of fall into the stuffy foyer.

It was pretty big, as foyers go, but with a couple of girls behind a table and a few more standing there to keep them company and a steady stream of families coming and going, it got stuffy.

It was a good night and I was in a good spot.

Hayrides, a bonfire, lots of food. There would certainly be some kind of drama. My friends were there. It was a magic combination — the comfort of knowing what to expect and the excitement of not knowing exactly what might happen. And I was in such a good spot, right at the door, seeing everyone who came through. Finger on the pulse, baby.

People came in, familiar and new. I knew a lot of the faces. There were smiles and greetings. I loved how easy it was to interact with people when I had a job, a purpose.

And then he walked in and I swear it was like those movies when everything goes slow motion, all the other voices and all the other faces fading to background, blurry and indistinguishable.

I know it wasn’t really like that.

I replayed the memory over and over, so many times that the memory became its own entity, separate from the actual event.


There were two basic boy-types available to me in the homeschool group: the nerdy, academic type who wore button-up shirts, spouted Civil War facts, and make jokes about the periodic table. They were fine and I was friends with some of them but I didn’t think any of them were cute.

The other kind of boy was the all-Americana sportsy type. They were sometimes funny, and sometimes cute, but not interesting and never surprising.

When I saw him walk in, he wasn’t either one of those things and I felt like, maybe, Here’s somebody different, here’s somebody new, here’s somebody I could talk to for a long time without getting bored.

Did he talk to me? Did I talk to him? I have no idea.

I don’t remember many details. I just remember this as the night when the plane of my existence tilted a little because I saw someone who seemed like they might help me clear a path to a different place.

The post The night we met appeared first on annie mueller .

annie mueller

10 Aug 2022 at 11:38
#

San Diego model train museum. So many landscapes. Some really nice bridges and little details everywhere.

Manton Reece

10 Aug 2022 at 02:09

Rejoining the battle of the ereaders.

 As I said earlier, I’m starting to consider reverting to Kindle after several years of having switched to Kobo. At the time of that switch, the selling points were (in no particular order): the warm lights, native Pocket support, native Overdrive support (at the time, Kobo and Overdrive were owned by the same company), not being Amazon, and being able to link my purchases to support Powell’s City of Books.

What’s soured me somewhat is an increasing issue of Overdrive loans not being seen by my Kobo, and an inability on the part of either Kobo or Overdrive either to adequately explain why or to exhibit any indication that they consider it to be a problem in need of a solution; and my general dissatisfaction with the build quality of the Clara HD as compared to any Kindle I’ve ever owned (Kobo devices feel like plastic toys in comparison).

One very clear sticking point in this reconsideration is that Kindle still doesn’t have any native support for a read-it-later service. Sending articles to read on my Kobo is part of my daily routine, and it’s nowhere near as simple to do the same for Kindle. Given that one of the things I’ve had going on this year is trying to simplify and streamline things, this isn’t an inconsequential difference.

I’ve been looking at Instapaper again, which does have a built-in process for sending a digest of unread saved articles to your Kindle on a daily or weekly basis, but I’m not entirely sold on the digest model over the individual article model. There’s supposed to be a way in the iOS/iPadOS apps to send any given individual article to your Kindle, but it isn’t working. In addition, unlike the native Kobo/Pocket integration, finishing an article on a Kindle, of course, won’t automatically archive it for you on Instapaper (or anywhere else); that would have to be an extra, manual step over on Instapaper itself.

That’s not a deal-breaker for me, per se, but what would make it all easier to swallow is if I could save articles to Instapaper and Kindle simultaneously, and ignore the Instapaper digest process altogether. Unfortunately, while you can save articles to Kindle through the iOS/iPadOS share sheet there’s no way to make use of that action in a Siri Shortcut, which would enable you to send an article to both places in a single tap. It’s not clear to me why Amazon refrained from opening such actions to the Shortcuts process, but it is what it is.

Whatever the case, apparently with a trade-in of an old device that’s still in good working order, I could get $25 credit and then 20% off a newer model (my old one doesn’t have the wam light, making it not an option for regular use), which together brings the price of the current Paperwhite down pretty reasonably.

What easily would cinch, or clinch, moving back to Kindle would be if they announced native support for a read-it-later service. In the meantime, I am experimenting with various processes using my old Paperwhite, to see if there’s something sufficiently workable. It’s just too bad I wasn’t looking into all this prior to Prime Day, when I assume there were Kindle sales happening.

Bix Dot Blog

10 Aug 2022 at 00:32

The Milky Way, the Pond, and the Meaning of Life: Thoreau on Solitude, Sympathy, and the Salve for Melancholy

 

“There can be no very black melancholy to him who lives in the midst of Nature and has his senses still.”


“These are the times in life — when nothing happens — but in quietness the soul expands,” the artist Rockwell Kent wrote as he was finding himself on the solitary shores of Alaska, contemplating the relationship between wilderness, solitude, and creativity while immersed in the writings of the Transcendentalist philosopher and poet Henry David Thoreau (July 12, 1817–May 6, 1862).

Since its publication on August 9, 1854, Thoreau’s Walden (public library | public domain) has gone on to inspire generations with its purehearted ethos, its prayerful passion for the living world, and its singular lens on how human nature is annealed by communion with the rest of nature.

Henry David Thoreau (Daguerreotype by Benjamin D. Maxham, 1856)

In one of the boldest and most shimmering passages in all of literature, Thoreau writes:

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.

Solitary by nature, Thoreau let solitude nurture him in the cabin he built for a total of $28.12½ on the shore of a small lake in New England, where his nearest neighbor was a mile away and all about he could see only hilltops. He writes:

It is as solitary where I live as on the prairies. It is as much Asia or Africa as New England. I have, as it were, my own sun and moon and stars, and a little world all to myself.

[…]

I find it wholesome to be alone the greater part of the time. To be in company, even with the best, is soon wearisome and dissipating. I love to be alone. I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude. We are for the most part more lonely when we go [out among others] than when we stay in our chambers.

Spring Moon at Ninomiya Beach, 1931 — one of Hasui Kawase’s stunning vintage Japanese woodblocks. (Available as a print.)

Nearly a century later, Rilke channeled the underlying elemental truth in his observing that “there is only one solitude, and it is large and not easy to bear” as he reckoned with the relationship between solitude, intimacy, and creativity, concluding: “People are drawn to the easy and to the easiest side of the easy. But it is clear that we must hold ourselves to the difficult.”

And yet on the other side of the difficult, once we cease trying to control life out of loneliness and instead surrender to the elemental solitude — there lies an ease with an edge of ecstasy. That is what Thoreau discovered at Walden. In one of the most transcendent passages from the book — an exquisite specimen of the unphotographable — he writes under the heading “Solitude”:

This is a delicious evening, when the whole body is one sense, and imbibes delight through every pore. I go and come with a strange liberty in Nature, a part of herself. As I walk along the stony shore of the pond in my shirt sleeves, though it is cool as well as cloudy and windy, and I see nothing special to attract me, all the elements are unusually congenial to me. The bullfrogs trump to usher in the night, and the note of the whippoorwill is borne on the rippling wind from over the water. Sympathy with the fluttering alder and poplar leaves almost takes away my breath; yet, like the lake, my serenity is rippled but not ruffled.

[…]

There is commonly sufficient space about us. Our horizon is never quite at our elbows. The thick wood is not just at our door, nor the pond, but somewhat is always clearing, familiar and worn by us, appropriated and fenced in some way, and reclaimed from Nature. For what reason have I this vast range and circuit, some square miles of unfrequented forest, for my privacy, abandoned to me by men?

Solitude by Maria Popova. (Available as a print.)

Two generations later, Hermann Hesse would arrive at his own answer, which might be the universal answer: “Solitude is not chosen, any more than destiny is chosen,” Hesse wrote as he contemplated solitude, the courage to be yourself, and how to find your destiny. “Solitude comes to us if we have within us the magic stone that attracts destiny.”

Solitude chose Thoreau as much as he chose it, for in it he found a remedy for the most somber recesses of his destiny: his frequent spells of depression, for which, in the epochs before medication, he knew no better medicine than unpeopled time in nature:

The most sweet and tender, the most innocent and encouraging society may be found in any natural object, even for the poor misanthrope and most melancholy man. There can be no very black melancholy to him who lives in the midst of Nature and has his senses still.

Part of the Milky Way, from a study made between 1874 and 1876
One of Étienne Léopold Trouvelot’s nineteenth-century astronomical drawings, observed through the era’s most powerful telescope. (Available as a print and as stationery cards, benefitting The Nature Conservancy.)

From the the personal he pivots to the universal, from the creaturely to the cosmic:

This whole earth which we inhabit is but a point in space. How far apart, think you, dwell the two most distant inhabitants of yonder star, the breadth of whose disk cannot be appreciated by our instruments? Why should I feel lonely? is not our planet in the Milky Way? This… to me not to be the most important question. What sort of space is that which separates a man* from his fellows and makes him solitary? I have found that no exertion of the legs can bring two minds much nearer to one another.

This may be the most haunting and most transcendent discovery for any of us who seek and savor those long salutary solitudes under branch and cloud: the realization that the price of consciousness is loneliness, for infinite space and infinite incomprehension exists between any two minds and their singular umwelts. Life may be the art of bridging lonelinesses, but we are born into the one great solitude and die into it. The value of the space between the bookends is what we might call love. Or art.

Illustration by Maurice Sendak from Open House for Butterflies by Ruth Krauss.

Complement these fragments of the altogether soul-slaking Walden — which includes Thoreau’s abiding wisdom on the courage to define your own success, even against the tide of convention — with May Sarton on solitude as the seedbed of self-discovery and the cure for despair, Kahlil Gibran on silence, solitude, and the courage to know yourself, and Buddhist scholar Stephen Batchelor on the art of solitude as contemplative and creative practice, then revisit Thoreau on nature as prayer, knowing vs. seeing, and what it means to be awake.


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Brain Pickings

09 Aug 2022 at 16:26

Fossil records and paper trails

 
Trilobites at the HMNS

We took the kids to the Houston Museum of Natural Science this weekend, and afterwards, I tweeted this thread:

The more I’ve gone over it in my mind, the more absurd and funnier it gets. Here is an institution dedicated to what we can learn from seeing physical objects in the fossil record in person… and they’ve gone “paperless” — no paper trail! (I should note, however, that they do print admission tickets so you can prove that you’ve paid to get in.)

Petrified wood at the HMNS

I have also been meditating on my own absurdities concerning my life in paper. For example, my diaries are an attempt to make my own paper trail in an increasingly paperless world. My own “paper of the past.” My own fossil record.

But these archives are mostly for the short term, the short past: they’re to trace my own patterns, remember what I did last week, last month, last year, last decade. I am under no delusions that they will last, although they’ll probably last a lot longer than the hard drive I bought last month.

Meanwhile, I’ve stopped carrying a pocket notebook because I am in love with Apple Notes — the simple “notebook” on my phone that syncs across all my devices. I have files going for the newsletter, new books, shopping lists, etc. I am aware that these artifacts will mostly be lost, probably in the close future. They are the equivalent of “scratch” paper that will be tossed in the recycling later.

One final reach: The big news yesterday was that the FBI had searched the former president’s house to retrieve records he’d illegally removed from The White House. (Previously, he’d flushed paper down the toilet.) To a paper junkie like me, it is thrilling that paper can still, potentially, bring you down.

Like a good American, I have my pet conspiracy theories, and I wonder if the move to “paperless” is an attempt to rob us of our paper trails, the proof that things really happened the way we remember them happening.

So, I keep my paper trails going.

(Paper is a wonderful technology.)

Austin Kleon

09 Aug 2022 at 14:59

The Week #110

 
  • The biggest news this week is the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022. This is basically a bit watered-down version of Build Back Better, but without the social benefits. Words can't express how happy I am that the US is finally doing something about climate change. 370 billion USD is a lot of money. This bill was the strongest climate change bill ever in the US. My hope is that it's just the start and we can build upon it more and more.

    It's funny how just 3 weeks ago it felt like all hope was lost in the US...generally...but especially in regards to climate change...and now we have a fighting chance. I think it is worth calling out that it was Democrats who gave us a shot at saving the planet, because every Republican voted no. Worse than no, they removed a $35 price-cap on insulin that would've helped type-1 diabetics stop getting gauged by the pharmaceutical companies. 
  • We watched Lightyear, the movie about the real buzz lightyear – not the toy. I wanted to see it in theaters in English. However our usual theater in Tsujido only had it in Japanese. I'd need to visit Minatomirai/central-Yokohama to watch it in English. That's when I saw it was $20 USD on iTunes on my AppleTV. Even with the horrible exchange rate, that worked out to the cost of just me and Leo going to the movies, so we bought it. It was really good – I quite enjoyed it.
  • I got a battery powered pressure washer and started using it around the house. First on the balcony outside office and the results are great! Once confirming it wouldn't mess up our siding in a non-visible location, I started using it on the north side of the house, which has gotten a bit dirty / green with a field being right there. I need to get a latter so I can get the second floor as well...
  • We had an issue with leaf-miners green beans in the garden. You can tell because they leave these white lines through the leafs as the eat the inside of them. Rather than get some chemical pesticide I tried using neem oil instead, as it's organic and since I'd rather not digest *icides if I can avoid it. Since spraying the neem, I haven't seen any new leafs with leaf-miners and a week later it's looking fuller and greener than ever.

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James Van Dyne

08 Aug 2022 at 22:40
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