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First snow

Black and white illustration of people dancing

Last Friday, it snowed properly for the first time. At least the first time this year, the first time since we moved to Brooklyn, and the first time ever for B. He’s still too little to make much of it, but it was fun taking him in to Prospect Park to stomp around a little, and to see the sledding and cross country skiers.

By the next day, the snow piled up on our neighbor’s wooden arbor had melted in to these swirling shapes, it looked like people dancing.

The snow’s gone for the most part, now it’s just frozen mud and slush puddles.

The holidays were more lonely than we had planned, but we got to have Christmas dinner with a new neighbor/friend. That was unexpected, and special, especially considering the circumstances.

B’s still out of daycare because of Omicron. It’s wonderful to spend all this time with him, but in terms of the personal and work plans I had for 2022, it’s pretty stressful.

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Cutting out the noise

in general I look at things now like “is this something I like or enjoy” “does this affect me in any way” “can I do something about this.” if 1 is false, and either 2 or 3 is false, I literally do not care. this excludes almost everything most people on here talk about

A private account I follow on Twitter put this out in the world, it is such a simple and useful framework for cutting down the noise. Not just on Twitter, anywhere. It’s so easy to get stressed / outraged / cynical / tired etc when there is so much to keep up with. Ignore it, keep the good vibes.

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4+ month update

It’s been a little over four months since B arrived. These are some of my experiences or things I’ve learned so far, plucked at random.

I’d say that the books, conversations, and classes prepared me pretty decently in theory, but the physical and emotional reality is almost impossible to prepare for. Being a parent has been much more visceral than I expected.

A woman walking in to James Turrell’s “Three Gems”

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“Who gets to be a revolutionary?”

“Who gets to be a revolutionary?”

Writer Dayna Evans asks this partway through her Eater article “The Women Erased From the Story of No-Knead Bread”. It’s a good question. Who gets top billing for a semi-simultaneous invention or a collective idea?

It reminds me of discovering Louise Brigham’s box furniture while doing some research on Gerrit Rietveld’s crate furniture.

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Failures, low moments

Came across this tweet from Marleigh Culver yesterday.

Wish people talked about project failures more often.

And it really struck a nerve. It’s why I’m mostly off Instagram. Though I love popping on every once in a while to see what good friends are up to, it’s too rosy in general. Twitter’s kind of the same, but with the added complication of often-unnecessary dunking when someone on purpose or accidentally shares a vulnerable moment.

We need more talk about low moments online in general, ideally, but it’s extremely hard. If it’s work related, it feels like overstepping a boundary (imaginary, or real like an NDA). Even when it isn’t work related, it can feel… messy? Messy’s not quite the right word, but something along those lines. Feelings and the way we perceive them can be so fleeting and of the moment, whereas sharing something online is just so permanent.

I’d like to get better about sharing the low moments. Someone who is excellent at sharing the good with the bad is Alice Bartlett, her Weaknotes are so worthwhile.

I’ve created the tag low moments to start collecting these posts in one place.

It was hard to know what to call the tag… “Failures” felt too harsh. I *absolutely* feel like a failure at times but want to avoid imposing that label on myself if I can avoid it. Who am I to say if something I’ve done constitutes a real failure? Maybe I can make that judgement in 10, 20 years down the line, but not in the moment. So “low moments” it is, for now.

Will try to start sharing more of these moments. And I’m fully expecting more with a baby coming soon! Gonna be a ride.

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Identity wrangling

A hand cupping some water from a stream

Cupping the water in Spicey Gill coming down from Ilkley Moor. Photo taken a year ago today.

“You are not your emotions.” Well you are, but you are not only your emotions. And you can choose not to be controlled by your emotions.

Life is made up of micro and macro decisions, and their consequences.

I chose to move back to the US, and now I am grappling with the reality of that decision, amongst other things. It has made life easier in some respects, and harder in others. Do I regret it? No. Will we be here forever? Magic eight ball says 🎱 “Concentrate and ask again”.

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You are your environment

SF has felt like a tech monoculture for the past 10 years. It’s one of the big reasons we were originally planning to be in / around NYC instead.

I’m sure there’s more to it, but it’s kinda hard to find in the current situation, especially in our neighborhood. The worst thing is the possibility of slipping in to it personally, becoming one-dimensional.

Been on my mind since a lot of the indoor things I usually love doing (reading and cooking are two of the biggies) aren’t ticking the boxes at the moment. It might not be the city, it’s probably more related to the move or the pandemic. Maybe I need to check out Oakland? I guess time will tell, I’ll try harder in the meantime. You are your environment.

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Feet on the ground, head in the sky

A stone stile covered in moss in Addingham, West Yorkshire

I’ve been going on a few walks from the front door, no more than one a day as prescribed to maintain sanity. It’s confusing though…

The guidance says, “You can also go for a walk or exercise outdoors if you stay more than 2 metres from others”, so a walk on a quiet public footpath should be OK. Problem is that you can’t predict how many people might be on a path before you get out there, and there are a lot of stiles and latches you have to touch to get over or through fences.

But it’s not like Main Street is any better. You have to step in to the middle of the road in order to maintain distance since the pavements are so narrow, and there are 4–5 times as many people walking there at any one time than out on the countryside paths.

It’s tough to know what to do, particularly with the police doing things like shaming people via drone cameras. I get it, we absolutely have to avoid throngs of people descending on beaches and beauty spots. But, ugh. Staying 100% inside feels actively unhealthy. Just never feel like I’m doing the right thing.

A bridge over a stream in Addingham, West Yorkshire

I’m carrying hand sanitiser and use it after each time I have to touch some apparatus. I’m planning to carry antimicrobial wipes from now on to open / close gates and get through stiles. Maybe it’ll help others too? Who knows. I’ll also spend some time coming up with more bodyweight exercise routines that I can do from “home” or a random park. Definitely one of those times you long for a garden.

The photos above are from a walk along Marchup Beck (see walk 8, the shorter version) with Sam and the photos below are from walk towards Addingham Moorside (see walk 6, the shortest version) with Gemma in London. It was a walk-and-talk over the phone, 10/10 would recommend. I got *hopelessly* lost once or twice, but it’s pretty straightforward to get back as long as you know where the middle of town is and keep the moor at your back. The walk included some stretches of the Dales Highway and the Millenium Way, I probably just needed to pay better attention to the signs.

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packing, selling, dissolving

Drawing of a dracaena

We’ve been slowly packing up for the past month, preparing to move thousands of miles away. It was exciting up until about two weeks ago. We knew it would be sad to leave the people we love, pack away our books, sell so many of our things. But we were looking forward to a big change.

Now it feels untethering. Reality feels very thin at the moment, and the process of moving amplifies that feeling. Home should be a grounding place, but it’s shifting under our feet. We’ve disassembled our workspaces, we’ve given away the chairs and sold the monitors. The umbrella plant that I got at the flower market when I first moved here, the dracaena I brought back from the dead, the lovely coffee table we’ve had since we first started living together. They’ll all be gone by tomorrow.

Drawing of a mid-century coffee table

I really don’t mind the downscaling. They’re just objects, and all of them are going to great homes. And we’re still going to move even if it gets delayed by current events, so it doesn’t make sense to hoard things for the sake of a few more weeks. But the *timing*. Things are dissolving and will be fluid for quite some time. I could really do with some solidity.

The worst part is that we may not get to say goodbye. We were planning to celebrate with the people we love. There’s an outside chance we’ll still be able to, but we don’t want to put friends in an uncomfortable or dangerous position.

What will happen will happen. And we’re pretty fortunate. It’s just sad, that’s all.

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“it is possible to imagine [a critical sensibility] in which social paranoia is not foundational”

The sore winner is a product of the hyper-surveilled and personalized world in which we all now live, one in which people feel both nebulously responsible for everything wrong while also feeling responsible for nothing at all.

From the Outline article “A decade of sore winners” by B.D. McClay. A lot of stuff in this article is spot-on. It also relates directly to the response I received from my Republican representative regarding the impeachment of President Trump.

One of my rep’s many dubious points was that Ukranian leaders publicly attacked candidate Trump in the press, and that this was evidence of Ukranian meddling in 2016 elections. Specifically, he linked to an article in The Hill by Ambassador Valeriy Chaly, Ukraine’s ambassador to the United States from 2015 to 2019. I read the article by Amb. Chaly, and all I can see is an opinion piece that fairly criticises statements made by a candidate for one of the most powerful positions in the world.

How do you make the mental leap necessary to conflate principled criticism with personal attack? Furthermore, how could anything in that article be considered meddling in an election? The vast majority of Chaly’s article is a recent history of events in Ukraine.

This is sore winner territory. Here’s how McClay illustrates it in their article:

Worse still than the idea that things are for you is the extension into identification: that these things literally are you. If someone writes books for teen girls, to criticize her books is to criticize teen girls. Expressing something other than support for Taylor Swift guarantees you a place in that special hell for women who don’t support other women. If you like superhero movies and video games, and somebody outlines the reasons they think superhero movies and video games are a waste of time, that’s an attack on you, personally, not a disagreement over aesthetics.

How do we get past this? More critical thinking taught in schools and beyond? More restrictions on social media? Surely it has to be a personal exercise but it seems like such a fundamental and widespread problem, almost a public mental health emergency (one of many).

It is impossible to imagine a critical sensibility that does not exist socially. But it is possible to imagine one in which social paranoia is not foundational, and in which social reception — of work, of ourselves — does not have to determine our reaction to each other.

It’s possible to imagine it, but it’s pretty difficult to picture without some sort of major overhaul in day-to-day life.