April 23, 2021

Five nice things

Five nice things that passed through my mind this morning as I sat in front of my iPad and started to type:

  1. We have a magnolia tree in our front yard, and every year, it blossoms in a burst of pinks and whites that brings so much color to the front of our home. I can see the tree from the window of my office (now: baby’s playroom) and love the vibrancy it brings to my day. The blossoms are short-lived, but the few days they erupt on the tree each year are days that I cherish and treasure. Sure, the blossoms have turned brown now after the recent snow and deep freeze, but I feel lucky to have been able to see the tree in full splendor for a few days, and delight in its visual celebration of life.
  2. Our cat turned five years old this past week. It’s hard to believe she has been in our lives for that long, and incredible to see just how attached I’ve become to her after never having a pet before and being sceptical of getting one in the first place. Cleo still spends her nights sleeping on my legs—I worry when I wake in the middle of the night and she isn’t there—and her days underfoot (and often, like now as I type, on my keyboard) trying to get us to pet her or feed her; she still knows how to get our attention, and no matter how busy we are, we still love to give her the attention she craves.
  3. Having a baby is a busy time, and so I am thankful for a few places in town that are always there to help with feeding us when we need the respite. Grace, one of our favorite restaurants prior to the pandemic, has a pantry service that delivers groceries, meal kits, and pre-prepared meals to our door many Sundays. We indulge in the David’s Sunday dinners from time to time. At the Saturday outdoor market, we get bread and viennoiseries from our favorite baker, Seth. I am grateful to them and the countless other places that bring us food on those occasions when cooking just isn’t in the cards.
  4. I’ve always preferred scripted drama and comedy to reality television, but there is something so charming and joyful about The Great British Bake Off that makes it one of my favorite things to watch on TV. The format is delightfully low-stakes: there is tension in the challenges, but everyone is rooting for each other to do well instead of trying to cut down other competitors. The contestants are adorable, and the fact that they all help each other and seem to genuinely like each other makes the competition feel like a family affair. When I’m looking for some joy on the television, I can count on it coming from GBBO.
  5. This pandemic has been hard for so many of us. I am lucky to have been able to spend it with my incredible wife and adorable daughter. My family is healthy and happy, and being off on parental leave over the past year has meant that I have been able to relish the love and laughter of my family with my full attention and being. The pandemic was isolating, and I miss seeing friends and extended family, but I am buoyed every day through it all: every day I celebrate being able to spend my days with my wife and my daughter, and celebrate being surrounded by immense love every minute of my day. I am so lucky, and so grateful.

A poem

a brief meditation on breath
Yesenia Montilla

i have diver’s lungs from holding my
breath for so long. i promise you
i am not trying to break a record
sometimes i just forget to
exhale. my shoulders held tightly
near my neck, i am a ball of tense
living, a tumbleweed with steel-toed
boots. i can’t remember the last time
i felt light as dandelion. i can’t remember
the last time i took the sweetness in
& my diaphragm expanded into song.
they tell me breathing is everything,
meaning if i breathe right i can live to be
ancient. i’ll grow a soft furry tail or be
telekinetic something powerful enough
to heal the world. i swear i thought
the last time i’d think of death with breath
was that balmy day in july when the cops
became a raging fire & sucked the breath
out of Garner; but yesterday i walked
38 blocks to my father’s house with a mask
over my nose & mouth, the sweat dripping
off my chin only to get caught in fabric & pool up
like rain. & i inhaled small spurts of me, little
particles of my dna. i took into body my own self
& thought i’d die from so much exposure
to my own bereavement—they’re saying
this virus takes your breath away, not
like a mother’s love or like a good kiss
from your lover’s soft mouth but like the police
it can kill you fast or slow; dealer’s choice.
a pallbearer carrying your body without a casket.
they say it’s so contagious it could be quite
breathtaking. so persistent it might as well
be breathing                      down your neck—

Return the National Parks to the Tribes:

We live in a time of historical reconsideration, as more and more people recognize that the sins of the past still haunt the present. For Native Americans, there can be no better remedy for the theft of land than land. And for us, no lands are as spiritually significant as the national parks. They should be returned to us. Indians should tend—and protect and preserve—these favored gardens again.

Private Schools Have Become Truly Obscene:

Parents at elite private schools sometimes grumble about taking nothing from public schools yet having to support them via their tax dollars. But the reverse proposition is a more compelling argument. Why should public-school parents—why should anyone—be expected to support private schools? Exeter has 1,100 students and a $1.3 billion endowment. Andover, which has 1,150 students, is on track to take in $400 million in its current capital campaign. And all of this cash, glorious cash, comes pouring into the countinghouse 100 percent tax-free.

How to Stay Young Forever:

Once you’ve allowed your age to humble and humiliate you, a piece of you grows up permanently — which also means that a piece of you stays permanently young. Suddenly, you can see the glorious, delicious world through clear eyes for the first time.

three in the morning:

Of course three am does not only happen at three in the actual morning. Three am happens at midnight, and at nine pm, and in the middle of the afternoon. It happens at ten in the morning sometimes, and it happens in the long late blue hour in the summer when the day refuses to give up into evening. Three am can happen at any time when the borders between thought and action, between wanting and having, between knowing something is a bad idea and doing it anyway, get porous, when everything rises out of mundanity to the lawlessness and knife-clean choices of crisis. Three am is when feelings overtake facts and time huddles like a monster under the bed. It is the nervous embrace of a temporary mercy.


When I say I have a crush on you, what I’m saying is that I’m in love with the distance between us. I’m not in love with you: I don’t even know you. I’m in love with the escape that fantasizing about you promises. Poisoned, stung, bitten and bridled. The promise of being ground down until I disappear.

There’s a Name for the Blah You’re Feeling: It’s Called Languishing:

Languishing is a sense of stagnation and emptiness. It feels like you’re muddling through your days, looking at your life through a foggy windshield. And it might be the dominant emotion of 2021.

Genre Is Disappearing. What Comes Next?:

Often, nonmusical components—our aesthetic expectations—are tangled up in discriminatory ideologies. In the earliest days of the recording industry, genre was frequently determined by race, and more than a century later the repercussions of that choice—who gets to make what kind of song—are still profoundly felt.

The Return of My Garbage Self:

Has Dr. Fauci addressed whether this whole experience is going to confer immunity against the sulk and the pity-party and the little diaper baby breakdown where I am the baby in the diaper, where I am the plastic bag trembling in the wind?

What of the meltdown and the freakout in the post-pandemic age?

The Chatham House Should Not Rule:

The Chatham House Rule, as a default practice with no option of attribution, privileges the needs of those who are not willing to have their views be attributed over people who benefit from attribution and credit.

A Case Against Killing Your Darlings:

I want any novel I write to be full of darlings. If possible, all darlings. I don’t want any published novel of mine to include a single line that bores me, that hasn’t been shaped, pressed, and attentively loved into the most truthful, living version of itself.

Canada’s public health data meltdown:

Ours is a dumb system of pen-and-paper and Excel spreadsheets, in a world quickly heading towards smart systems of big data analytics, machine learning and blockchain. It’s unclear how Ottawa will be able to issue vaccine passports, even if it wants to.

At the core of the omnishambles is a simple fact that Canada has no national public health information system, but 13 different regional ones. Many of those regional systems have smaller, disconnected, systems within: Like a Russian nesting doll of antiquated technology.

when everyone is a motivational speaker:

People think of themselves as the star of their own show and their friends and followers are their audience. The result is that many more people are giving speeches on Instagram, even if it’s just to a hundred of their friends and family members. It sometimes feels like everyone is a motivational speaker or self-help expert.

My Dream of the Great Unbundling:

If we’re going to live together, the giants and me, I’d like to ask them something. Humbly. If you’re a product manager working on a feed or search interface inside of a giant tech company, you have access to hundreds of billions of hours of human attention. Could you help your users spend one hour a year learning about what’s coming for the world, climate-wise, with a small dose of civics to go with it?

And a few more:

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