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01/01 Direct Link
A Russian friend once shared an observation with me: what cheers Russians up is that the worst in life is yet to come, so today is not so bad. She found that what cheers Americans up is that we have hope that the future will be better, so we can bear the problems of today. It was a casual drunken remark, but I still think about it.

I go back and forth between these different ways of thinking about the future. For 2017 I am leaning towards "It can only get worse, so I'm going to enjoy my day off."

01/02 Direct Link
The January snow covers every interesting feature and makes the landscape a smooth, white surface.

After a few more months, we will forget there is anything underneath, and we will begin to imagine that we live in a pure ice world, with clear crystal ice going all the way down for miles, and clear crystal mountains of ice rising above us all around, and because the sun never shines we can start to imagine the sky is just made of ice as well and here we are in the middle, taking our warmth when and how we can get it.

01/03 Direct Link
I moved into a new apartment in November, and I'm still getting used to it.

My previous apartment had silent radiant heat in the floors, and this place has an ancient forced air furnace. During the day I don't notice the sound too much, but at night I find it starts with a roar, as if we're taking off for the moon. This wakes me up. Then it makes a sound as if a thousand damned souls are screaming outside my bedroom door, which thus far in my tenancy has severely alarmed me 100% of the times I've heard it.

01/04 Direct Link
I feel completely inadequate to the task of "furnishing" this apartment. I've been here for a month and I'm paralyzed by the thought of purchasing curtains. I have some sort of U-shaped thing above the window... is that where the curtain will go? This is my first question.

I went online and found the options staggering. Why can't they just call a "valence" a "mini top-curtain" so I don't have to look it up every time? All I care is that my neighbors don't see me in my pajamas, so I might just tape newspaper to the windows.

01/05 Direct Link
Someone I know actually used "NOT!" unironically, and I was embarrassed for him. We are around the same age, and we lived through the 90s when it was fashionable to intentionally make an incorrect statement, and then negate it (after an artful pause) by shouting "NOT!", often in a sort of raspy or gravelly voice.

We should give "NOT!" back to the 90s and let them keep it, and here is why: the concept of an objective reality is slippery and suspect enough these days. Let's be radical by seeking and telling the truth, even if it makes us uncomfortable.

01/06 Direct Link
The green shirt is the shirt of shame.

If I have over-indulged in holiday treats and cocktails, and if I feel I have added new folds and features to my body, they can be hidden in the green shirt's capacious billows. I can stand atop a ship and put my arms out and the green shirt will catch the wind and sail us to the nearest harbor. It's really big.

After an abstemious January week of steamed vegetables and exercise, after the excess dump has been dissolved and exhaled, the green shirt can be put away until next year.

01/07 Direct Link
Lizzie, the liquid soap comes in a sort of foil pouch.

Aye.

Well, said foil pouch claims on the back we can recycle it by putting it on our cat as a sort of saddle, but I can't tell whether it's in earnest.

(*spits thoughtfully*) I read in a book that cats need constant mental stimulation, so do it.

Very well. Here kitty! Try the saddle!

Rowwwww ... roooooowwww!

Lizzie, she doesn't want the saddle.

Back her into a corner so she can't escape, then.

Row-wowwwwww!

Lizzie, I'm frankly questionin' book, foil pouch, and your own judgment right about now.

01/08 Direct Link
A new co-worker came over to ask me a question, and as I was answering it, she couldn't stop yawning. I joked that yes, it really was a boring answer.

She explained that she had three young boys at home, ages two, four, and six, and my response to this was an immediate "Oh no!" with the exact same tone of voice and facial expression I would have used if she'd told me her house had burned down.

This did throw her off a bit, but she continued. All of them were sick and she didn't get any sleep.

01/09 Direct Link
One way to separate two pieces of clay that have stuck together is to pull around the middle point where they meet. They're really stuck together, so both are going to lose some of their own substance, but they're also going to gain something from the other piece, and both will end up "richer" and more interesting.

Another way is to slice them on either side of the middle, and throw the excess part away. This way neither of them gains anything, and they're both damaged and diminished in the process. Welcome to "Weird Clay Tips," please like and subscribe.

01/10 Direct Link
If you haven't already noticed, life is weird. We often see or experience things that we can't immediately explain, and these things can haunt our thoughts. We want answers. Why was there an unwrapped, uneaten candy bar in the sink of the third floor men's bathroom at work?

Ideally, imagination can serve as a kind of "release valve" for situations like this. I can use my imagination to come up with a plausible explanation and get on with my life rather than obsessing over it. Unfortunately, I obsess about these imaginary scenarios, which sometimes leads into an hour-long daydream.

01/11 Direct Link
Chad had wanted to give up candy for 2017, but in a moment of weakness he bought a Choco Crunch. Fine, the last one.

He will stare at himself in the mirror of the third floor men's bathroom and think "I hate you" as he eats it. He expects the setting and the staring and the hating will take all pleasure out of the experience.

As he unwraps it, as he looks into his own eyes, he realizes he has a choice. He doesn't have to do it. He drops the bar in the sink and walks out the door.

01/12 Direct Link
"I have a little 'problem' that needs to be 'dealt with.' I hear you're a person who takes care of problems."

"Oui, I do that thing."

"I have an employee ready to blow the whistle on my corporate malfeasance and I want him ELIMINATED."

"If you accept my terms, leave an unwrapped Choco Crunch in the third floor men's bathroom. If I find it, your problem will disappear. If not..."

*click*

---

But my employer didn't count on me getting there first. In an effort to freshen up the bathroom, I discarded the Choco Crunch. The whistleblower testified, and justice prevailed.

01/13 Direct Link
Mary's the prettiest girl in the office, gosh!

I saved up and bought her this Choco Crunch. I'm going to take it here into the third floor men's bathroom to go over the plan.

The plan is to unwrap the candy bar here in the bathroom, check.

Then I will take it to her desk and present it to her (she will remark upon how considerate I was to unwrap it first) and bite down with her beautiful sparkly teeth...

But I don't want to ruin her sparkly teeth... to sully them with cavities... stupid, stupid, augh, I am useless...

01/14 Direct Link
A young mother was trying to get out of the grocery store with her son, who was sitting in the front basket of their shopping cart. He was holding a large chocolate bar out in front of himself and was pretending to steer with it.

The mother put her arms out to lift him.

"Are you ready to go?"

His small brow furrowed. Without taking his eyes off the road, and in a tone of voice that was mature for his years, he replied,

"I'm busy,"

and continued his work, apparently steering a treacherous racing course in his motionless cart.

01/15 Direct Link
On a walk today I saw a boy around 10 years old. His mother had probably told him to stop playing video games and get out of the house for fifteen goddamn minutes, so he was aimlessly wandering around his driveway.

He found a stick and began to stab a snowbank with it. Bored at first, he genuinely got interested when he realized how much the stick could bend without breaking, and he took it into his hands and began to flex and release it to observe its springiness. Watching him, I became fascinated by the springiness of sticks, too.

01/16 Direct Link
Part of my job involves teaching people about computer topics, and today I had a woman who was having a very hard time. She told me about her bitterness at being asked to do a job that involved computers, and at first she accused me of doing everything wrong.

As we went on, and as I insisted that she do everything herself while I watched, she began to learn, and she found it exciting. We learned more. She melted, and at the end she was clapping and offering to bring me cookies. On some days, I really like my job.

01/17 Direct Link
This evening, after a dinner of soup and a very nice roll, I sat in my reading chair and closed my eyes and decided to intentionally appreciate the feeling of being warm and comfortable and well-fed on a snowy night.

I brought to mind times I was cold or hungry or uncomfortable, and considered the contrasts between those times and that moment.

I hoped that the moment of appreciation would somehow be preserved in my memory, and I could exchange it for some comfort in a difficult time, even though I know very well that isn't how it works.

01/18 Direct Link
My brother explained emoji to me.

Prior to this explanation, I had been calling them "emoticons" like an elderly rube, and I was just using one at a time to punctuate a sentence.

He taught me how to use the search feature, and how to do a free association with pictures to convey an emotion, a mood, or even a complex thought.

He showed me some examples from his own correspondence. I like how sometimes you have to look at the pictures in context and tease out the meaning, like struggling through a language you didn't realize you could read.

01/19 Direct Link
I don't know how to talk about politics in a way that doesn't make everyone freak out and feel worse. When I was younger, I didn't care; I said what felt good, and I relished the hurt feelings of the people who opposed me, but now realize how unhelpful that is to everyone.

There are people who benefit when we squabble and are distracted and call each other names, and those same people benefit when we feel helpless and hopeless enough that we do nothing in between elections.

* Broken heart
* Broken heart
* Crying face
* Crying cat face
* Cloud
* Lightning Bolt

01/20 Direct Link
My goal recently has been to try to see subjects from every possible point of view, and to be as aware of my blind spots as humanly possible, and to try to really understand the multi-faceted issues our world faces in all their fascinating facets.

I'm not going to tell you that I've done a terribly good job at it, but as goals go I think it's a good one, and not, as some would say, a way to drive yourself crazy or a weakness that comes from having no firm moral foundation upon which to fix my opinions.

01/21 Direct Link
So I'm interested in ideologies and the assumptions and value sets and worldviews that lie behind them.

What has kept me up lately, and what I don't pretend to understand is what is happening today.

When someone claims to represent your ideology but actually represents nothing of the sort, what causes people who hold that ideology to accept and embrace that person, shifting their ideology in the process? They aren't even ideologues any more, so what are they? Opportunists? Or is ideology not even the issue, and people just like to feel as if they've won? I'm out of touch.

01/22 Direct Link
In the past two days I believe I wrote 200 words with zero content, and I am sorry. I did it because I was trying to be sensitive, and I was trying not to say what I really thought because I didn't want to upset anyone.

Trump is bad. Not only is he bad, but he has bad advisors and a bad cabinet, and I'm as sure as I'm sure of anything that they are going to do bad things. Trump should not be president.

That's what I really think, and what I should have said in the first place.

01/23 Direct Link
The internet is asking whether it is OK to punch a Nazi, and the answer is no, at least not when the Nazi in question is just standing on the street speaking into a microphone.

In ordinary times everyone, regardless of their political leanings, will ignore a Nazi. That's the best response. These are not ordinary times, and a percentage of our population seems to be enjoying a flirtation with fascism, but that doesn't change the fact that we need to categorically denounce violence against those with different views, even when those views are painful to hear. Don't punch anyone.

01/24 Direct Link
When my washer and dryer finish their tasks, they play a pleasant and chirpy little tune. I found the song delightful the first time I heard it.

My brother found the song online... it's something by Schubert about a fish, and I found my delight grow, because the washer and dryer song had taken on an air of legitimacy. I no longer take the clothes out before the performance is finished, and I clap respectfully at its completion. The end of the wash cycle is a true cultural event, and the springtime freshness of my socks is a nice bonus.

01/25 Direct Link
I remember when George W. was elected for the first time a bunch of people appeared on TV telling us the time was ripe for a theocracy and they were going to make sure their vengeful God would be in every school and home whether we liked it or not.

After a while they just sort of went away again, because it turned out there weren't actually that many of them and they didn't know how to put their plan into action, and anyway most people didn't want them to. Maybe that's what is happening now, only with Neo-Nazis.

01/26 Direct Link
My new alarm clock wakes me up with the sound of a group of birds singing. It's pretty rad, and a definite improvement over the klaxon.

I sometimes wonder whether they are actual recordings of birds, or whether we have a guy on the sound stage with a bird whistle, or whether they were made on a computer.

What kind of bird was it, then, and what was it saying, or if it was a guy how did he feel about recording bird sounds for an alarm clock, and if it's a computer bird simulation, why is that a thing?

01/27 Direct Link
Today I am interested in bottlenecks.

There's something that has to go through a process, a lot of something, and it goes through the process until...

It reaches a stage where it has to slow down. There is not a barrier, but a narrowing, a constricting, but also, maybe, a focusing.

There's so much I want to say and get out, but it comes out in irregular drips and it frustrates me so much I want to scream, but no amount of screaming or pacing or jumping or running makes it go any faster. I want to learn to write.

01/28 Direct Link
I am getting to know the alarm clock birds.

First, one swoops in from the left and opens my curtain to reveal a dark winter morning. I've decided he is green, and he makes a pretty standard bird noise.

The next one says something that I've decided sounds like "good mor-ning to you." That bird enters from above and perches on my curtain rod. She is blue.

A red bird joins us from the right and makes a sort of "twee-weeeee!" noise. I wonder if my neighbor appreciates the joy of these loud birds at 6:30 a.m.

01/29 Direct Link
It is my goal not to write about politics for the rest of the year here. I don't want to write about politics. That's why I skipped November and December, because I knew I would only write about politics, and I would say things I would regret, but I thought "January is here, let's do this," and I think overall I failed in my goal, but sometimes it's all I can think about, OK, and it's either write about politics or go to bed with the cold empty feeling that you didn't fill in your little box for the day.

01/30 Direct Link
It's fourteen degrees outside, and with the wind chill it feels like four. Also, it's six o'clock and completely dark out, and it's snowing, and the sidewalks are slippery.

There are things I have to do out there, but I refuse to do them. Instead, I am going to pull out the big green blanket and wrap myself in it and lie down on the couch and read a book to escape from reality for a little while. I will claim the area of this couch (though not the airspace above it) as my empire for the next two hours.

01/31 Direct Link
As for not writing about politics, I think it's easy not to write about politics. If we were debating the capital gains tax or a transportation bill, I could easily stay out of it, but it's less that and more, "it seems our cherished republic is facing an existential threat from within," which is not the same as politics. It's harder to avoid writing and thinking about that topic, let's face it.

"I don't hate anyone" seems like a good place to start. And people on one side will say "but why do you support..." and we could start talking.