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Each year I get a few weeks of vacation, so I'm trying to figure out how to use them in 2017.
I still hold out hope that somewhere there is a city or country that I will visit, and the good people there will make sense to me and I to them. I will get off the plane and think, "Oh...
is where I belong.
is where I fit in. I have been looking for this place all my life."
People who read travel magazines and throw dartboards at a map are trying to find this place, too.
A word which I have previously only associated with very young children has recently entered my thoughts.
is exactly how I feel when I'm surrounded by people at work or at a party. It's how I feel in traffic, it's how I feel when I'm talking to one especially demonstrative and talkative person.
I also just get overstimulated thinking about a bug on the sidewalk, thinking, isn't it unfair that this bug will never in his life see an episode of Seinfeld, and how is that bug alive and what is his experience like -- what's up with life anyway?
The only entry I actually remember from last month was one I found really funny at the time. I pretended to be surprised and confused about why people didn't like it when I pointed out their many flaws.
I went back to have another look at it and I found that I made the humor a bit too dry. It just sounded kind of bitter, as if it was something I'd written just after a bad fight with a friend, when in fact I was probably giggling when I wrote it.
Editing is definitely at least as important as writing.
I want answers!
I want answers so much it hurts. I read to get answers, I listen to music to get answers, I look up at the stars to get answers, I go for long walks to get answers. I sit on a bench and watch people interacting with each other and their environment for answers.
What question am I trying to answer? I don't know.
How do I plan to find out by staring at clouds and people and birds? I don't know that either.
Would I accept the answer if I heard it? I don't know that either.
Spring is here, and the forest will be explored.
Animals wake up hungry in the springtime, and we clapped our hands to frighten them. We recommend this song for forest walks:
*clap! clap! clap-clap-clap!*
We're walkin' through the forest!
(Walkin' through the forest, yeah!)
Watch out, now! Walkin'!
All you bears stay in your lairs,
All you bees, stay in your trees,
All you deer, get out of here,
All you squirrels, stay away from our girls,
And all you chipmunks come out and party with us, now
I'm old enough now that I am coming up against the problem that there are people out there who are both younger than I am and wiser than I am.
Things that require humility are, by their nature, I suppose, humiliating, and it has required an uncomfortable shift in thinking to overcome my resistance to the fact that I can learn things from younger people, and that a person who is younger than I am can be a role model.
One of these younger people has taught me that resistance is something to be followed and pursued rather than avoided.
I honestly remember, when I was much younger, thinking this:
"Why are adults so weird? Why don't they know how to treat kids? I remember what it was like to be very young, I
, and I know what it is to be a child expected to function among adults, and I know how hard it is, so why don't they? When I'm an adult, I won't forget."
Now kids might as well be a different species. I don't remember being a child, or what it's like to be or feel or think as one. I don't know what happened.
Natalie and I were sitting on a bench somewhere, probably finishing our lunch. Out of nowhere, she said, "If I ever left, you would miss me!"
She was right, and I told her so.
We were never more than friends, but I guess she wanted to make sure that she occupied the space in my life she thought she did, or maybe she was feeling ignored, or maybe she was just feeling insecure and wanted some reassurance.
That was a very human thing of her to do, and I loved and love her for it. Natalie, I
I don't need to climb Mount Everest.
If you told me you would pay all expenses for travel and sherpas, etc... I would say "No thank you."
I know what it is to be cold, and even to be
I know physical and mental and emotional exhaustion. (Not all at once, but separately.)
I know what being up high feels like.
I know how it feels to work hard and achieve something.
If I take all of these things and combine them mentally, I more or less get the idea, then have a cup of tea at home.
If you feel an urge to make a comment on someone else's body, please resist. It is never appropriate. Comment on achievements, on aspirations, on ideas.
I introduced a friend (who is also vegan) to another friend's mother, and this is what she heard:
"You're so skinny! Why are you so skinny? We need to give you some cake! Do you have
or something? Have you been in a coma until recently? Here, eat this piece of candy I've been carrying around in my purse! Go on,
We all felt bad for everyone involved in this conversation.
It's not nice to use someone as a negative example, as in, you look at their situation and think, "I am grateful to this person for giving me the perfect example of what
to do in life," and the people you use in this way would no doubt be crushed if they found out.
if you do this, it's likely that your negative example has traits you see and dislike in yourself, and by working on them, you can possibly work to serve as a
example for them, and you can both improve. That's what I hope.
When I was much younger, a free and low-effort source of entertainment was saying things that would wind my younger brother up.
Whether or not the things I said were true was completely beside the point, as was whether or not they were amusing or hurtful or whatever else. The point was that I could say something that would turn him into a red-faced, sputtering human fireworks show which I could then sit back and enjoy.
What made me think of this is the level of political discourse in our country. Asshole older brothers seem to be everywhere.
When I inevitably start my own religion, one of the main tenets will be a reminder to followers that the scope of what counts as "my business" is extremely narrow. This is a rule that seems to be missing from many of the world's major faiths, and it's one that could spare us a all a lot of trouble if it were actually observed.
I was about to say that I will also mandate robes in my religion, then I remembered it's none of my business what you wear. It's also none of my business whether you join my religion.
Say I find you attractive.
What obligations does this place you under, re: me?
What if I take the extra step and tell you that I find you attractive? Now what are your obligations towards me? What goodies are you obliged to provide me in exchange for this announcement?
It's 2017 and people are still debating this. You might say, "No, nobody is debating that!" but that's just nobody you
. Outside our bubbles, there are lots of debates.
People are still debating a lot of things I would have thought we'd have all agreed on by now. It's depressing.
My landlord does this thing when he's talking to me where he seems to be carefully watching my face to see how I react to what he's saying.
The thing is, he does it when he says things like "I've been thinking of selling some of my used furniture," which doesn't really get
sort of reaction from me, but when he's looking at me like that I feel that I
react somehow, so I act really happy for him about his impending furniture sale.
I wonder if he's watching my reaction because I'm reacting so strangely.
As a child, I found adults' attitudes to religion perplexing. My young jeremiad went thusly:
"There is, you say, a wrathful deity who rules over us all and demands that we sing to him and tell him how great he is for one hour every week on pain of eternal damnation.
"You use that time to nap, chat about sports, show off your new hat, make faces at and feed oat cereal to your baby... why aren't you slightly more freaked out? Why aren't you taking this grave situation more seriously? You're adults, you're supposed to be keeping us
Someone at this conference recommended a brewery, so after today's session was finished we all headed over.
A change in legislation and agricultural subsidies have resulted in an explosion of breweries and distilleries in New York State, but not all of them are good.
My tasting notes for the flagship ale of this brewery, whose identify I will protect, follow:
APPEARANCE: Pale yellow
SMELL: Yeast, hops
TASTE: Salt is the primary flavor, followed by subtle notes of dish soap
MOUTHFEEL: Light and pleasant, but marred by the flavor
OVERALL: 2/5, not especially nice
(I still had two of them.)
There's nothing I like more than a conference. I like getting free food and staying in a hotel, I like meeting nice people from all over the country who are enthusiastic about work in the same way that I am.
This afternoon I had a chat about the JSON format with a guy named Jason, and I threw a pretzel at a lady from Michigan who appeared out of nowhere and told me to try to throw a mini-pretzel into her mouth.
This is Conference Life, which exists in a fragile bubble that separates us, momentarily, from Real Life.
Oh... I am infatuated.
I am infatuated with a lady from Michigan.
I don't become infatuated that often, do I? I feel like it's sort of rare.
What a feeling! What a bad feeling it is! I don't like it at all! I feel light and happy and sad, and I want to improve myself. I want to hit the gym and the library at the same time.
I hope this infatuation goes away soon.
Lady from Michigan, please get out of my thoughts!
(*head in hand*)
(*stupid smile and faraway look*)
(*lady from michigan, you are so wonderful*)
"Sometimes a guy will travel across the country to find a lady, and the reaction to this differs."
"Sometimes it's 'how romantic!' and sometimes it's 'he's obsessed! what a creep! a stalker!'"
"What's the difference?"
"The difference is in whether or not the behavior is welcome, I guess."
"I don't think it would be welcome in my case..." (even though she made a point of sitting next to me at lunch twice and spent a good amount of time talking to me and we had some really quality eye contact...)
"It helps if the guy is attractive, too."
In my imagination, the lady from Michigan is at the end of the bed, crying softly. I have said or done something monstrously inconsiderate, and I curse the day I was born that I should have hurt the feelings of this delicate and sensitive creature. Doesn't she deserve better?
Oh, sweet lady from Michigan, I am so sorry. I don't know the right words to make it all better. We should be in one state, but now we are as two peninsulas separated by a five-mile strait, much like Michigan itself. I am the lower peninsula. The
One of my friends from college lives in the town where we're having this conference, and tonight he took me out to dinner. We went to a really good Szechuan place (my dish was 50% dried red chiles and they used real Szechuan peppercorns -- it was amazing).
It's been almost ten years since we've seen each other, and we don't have much in common any more, so our conversation kind of involved getting to know each other all over again. In these cases your shared history makes it only slightly easier than going through the process with a total stranger.
The conference is over, and Lady from Michigan is back in Michigan, which is her home, and I wish her nothing but the best. I will not see or hear from her again.
My main takeaway from that brief but powerful infatuation is that my heart is not yet withered up like an old raisin, and I am still capable of feeling warm and tender human emotions.
If you didn't know that this was in doubt, you should know that it is always in doubt, because I sometimes wonder whether certain feelings follow a "use it or lose it" model.
We have a variety of personalities at work, and today I somehow agreed to have lunch with the loudest and most boisterous group. When I did speak, it was with one or two other people, whereas most of the conversation was from one person addressing the entire group, and the entire group all shouting something in reply at once.
It was only thirty minutes, but it felt like much longer, and afterwards I felt like I had just gotten back from a good workout. I am not cut out for boisterous lunches. They drain the blood right out of me.
If I were trapped on an island with nothing but a tube of toothpaste, first I would brush my teeth. (If I did not have access to a toothbrush, a bristly weed or stick would do the job.)
Then I would lay out some toothpaste on a leaf or twig. The appealing smell and sweet taste would lure animals.
"O javelina," I would say, "Do you know of any good restaurants on this island?"
"There's Bella Italia," the javelina might say, and I would say "Anything else?"
Finally, after dinner, I would brush my teeth again before going to bed.
Today, April 26th, is both International Intellectual Property Day and (in the United States) National Pretzel Day. These are two topics in which I have, respectively, a professional and personal interest, and as it is 9:00 pm I have three more hours to find a way to mark the occasion by combining them.
How is intellectual property like a pretzel? People are indifferent to the complexities of both. Those who think pretzels are just salty breadsticks are missing out out a world of flavor, and people who ignore IP will quickly change their tunes if they ever create something.
Motivation follows action.
If I am lying in bed at six in the evening, paralyzed by dread and despair, the right thing to do is not to wait until I feel like doing something, but to
myself to do something, because that is the only way I'm ever going to feel like doing anything.
I wish I had learned this earlier, because I would have spent less time in bed.
Right now, for instance, I am forcing myself to write about forcing myself to do things, and you can see for yourself how much good it has done me.
My new apartment has a small porch, and for the first time ever I am sitting out on it with a glass of wine, enjoying the evening breeze and the darkening sky and the songs of birds getting ready to go to sleep.
This, sitting outdoors, reading and writing with a drink, has been a fantasy of mine for something like ten years, and it is exactly as delicious as I always imagined it would be.
Experiencing pleasure where I was expecting a let-down is a pleasant surprise, sure, but I can also come out here whenever I want.
I know dreams are boring, but listen:
I was in heaven -- the most beautiful apartment. It had a waterfall and stunning views.
My landlord was showing me around, and I heard a man screaming that he was being held in this place against his will. He came out to confront my landlord.
"Oh, Steamed Dumpling, uh, this is Steamed Dumpling," he said, introducing me to the crazy man, who was
"Don't ask me any questions!" said crazy Steamed Dumpling. "I want to get out of here!"
Deeply uncomfortable, I considered moving out of heaven to get away from myself.
I have been living for 38 years and actually paying attention for about half that time, carefully compiling my "worst of" list of facts about life.
I'll spare you the suspense and jump directly to #1, which is the fact that we have a deep capacity for love and caring about other people, and that we are utterly powerless to do anything about the fact that horrible and painful things are going to happen to them (this inevitability is fact #2).
This is also my main reason for not wanting to have kids -- this powerlessness would utterly break my heart.
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