July 20, 2023

Sounds of summer

The blue jays and the cardinals singing to each other as the sun begins to rise. The exuberant hellos” from neighbors as you pass them on your morning walk through the neighborhood. The ice clinking in your glass when you opt to deviate from your norm and decide to drink a cold, iced coffee instead of your usual americano. The splashing of water and laughter of children as they enjoy the backyard pool. The whoosh of the swing every time it flies by you because you pushed it really hard the last time and your little one is giggling with glee at going so high. The whirring of the air conditioner as the cold air comes through the vents to cool the house on the sunniest, hottest days. The music coming out of people’s cars as they drive by with their windows open—not always to your taste, but an aural variety to the urban landscape. The crackle of the flame as you put Adana-style kebabs on the grill in anticipation of a hearty and joyful dinner in just a few minutes. The clink of the spoon against the bowl as you scoop out whatever ice cream is left, before it all melts, from the heaping serving you scooped yourself just a few minutes before. The low hum of the night as you lay your head on the pillow after a busy, tiring, but delightful day, ready to do it all again tomorrow.

More and more these days, I’m making it a point to take out my AirPods and listen to the world as it rushes by.

A poem

Gwendolyn Brooks

And if sun comes
How shall we greet him?
Shall we not dread him,
Shall we not fear him
After so lengthy a
Session with shade?

Though we have wept for him,
Though we have prayed
All through the night-years–
What if we wake one shimmering morning to
Hear the fierce hammering
Of his firm knuckles
Hard on the door?

Shall we not shudder?–
Shall we not flee
Into the shelter, the dear thick shelter
Of the familiar
Propitious haze?

Sweet is it, sweet is it
To sleep in the coolness
Of snug unawareness.

The dark hangs heavily
Over the eyes.

I spend most of my waking hours thinking about parenting. All the others, I think about maintaining our house and all the little things I need to do to keep our home afloat. Loved this piece on how the housing market and individualization are at odds:

Taking care of property is a part-time (if not full-time) job, and I already have several of those.

But this is the cost of owning a (theoretically) appreciating asset: you have to maintain it. And depending on the age and complexity of that asset, that can mean spending time and money and anxiety on things you never even realized existed. The other day my partner started a sentence with When I was up in the middle of the night thinking about our drainage….” I have learned so much about septic tanks. Our bathroom was jankily and mysteriously plumbed by a hobbiest, probably at some point in the 1950s. The shower hasn’t worked for months.

If you think about it, houses are incredibly vulnerable: to the elements, to their age, to negligence, to animals and kids and pests and water and mold. They are complicated and secretive; the people who originally designed, built, and modified them are often not the people currently dealing with them. What I would give to talk to the person who plumbed that downstairs bathroom! I break my house just as often as the weather does.

I often worry about taking our young child out to restaurants and festivals and cultural institutions because I worry what others may think or feel about her being undeniably present in these spaces. Amil has it right, though—our children have a right to exist in public:

Who has a right to exist, to take up space without judgment or reproach? And if it’s not our kids, some of our most vulnerable, then how can we call ourselves a loving society?

Whether it’s on an airplane, in a restaurant, in an elevator, or on the subway or any other space that throws strangers of all kinds into tight quarters, there’s an underlying tension that seems to fill the space when kids are involved. There’s an unspoken feeling that they should blend into the background, keep quiet, be still, and find a way to disappear in order to be accepted into a public space. But while you’re sighing or eye-rolling or just silently but obviously bracing yourself, trust that no one is more tense than the parents of these kids. We’re on edge, hoping desperately that they’ll be on good behavior, that they’ll be mindful of their words and actions, that they’ll find a way to be the best version of themselves and draw as little attention as possible to both them and us.

I don’t watch or follow sports much now that we have a small child, but I still make time for a little baseball from time to time. Loved this piece on how baseball is transforming to keep its relevance and keep people interested.

A fantastic piece on how people eat in Antarctica: the last egg.

Maybe I have the yips? It’s a good metaphor for how life is going for me right now. And Jason captures it well when he thinks about his life too:

I think I might have the yips — not for a sport but for my life. I feel like I have forgotten how to naturally be myself. My preferences, what I enjoy doing, what I think about certain things, how I feel, how I feel about how I feel — it all feels forced right now, overthinking and second-guessing galore. What Would Jason Do? The hell if I know…but I do know that if you’re asking yourself what you would do in a certain situation instead of just doing it, you’ve already lost.

I have heard nothing but great things about Jenny Odell’s book Saving Time and I’m definitely putting it on my list of holds at the library. This extract of her Letter To Future makes me want to read the book even more:

The philosopher Hannah Arendt, someone speaking to us from her own historical moment, wrote that we each inhabit a non-time,” a gap between the past and the future that only exists if we can hold it open with our imagination. In contrast to foregone conclusions, the non-time is full of freshness and uncertainty, qualities that make it the domain of action. As she pointed out, this made it fundamentally impossible to pass down through the generations as advice. Instead, the gap of non-time could only be indicated,” like an empty space: Each new generation, indeed every new human being as he inserts himself between an infinite past and an infinite future, must discover and ploddingly pave it anew.”

I’ve been reading Mandy’s blog for over a decade now, so I’m so happy to hear she just hit fifteen years of blogging. As someone who has been blogging for over 25 years now, I feel this observation is resonant:

Maybe that’s a good way to think about blogging, too. The new stuff sits next to the old but doesn’t supplant it, doesn’t shove it out of the way. Each new post lays atop the next like sediment, and all the old layers remain exposed for you to meander through, with their mediocre sentences and lapsed claims, all the sloppy thinking ever on display. It’s a great exercise in humility, keeping a blog for this many years. But in exchange for the keen awareness of how far I still have to go as a writer, I have the space to keep going. I have the home to keep coming back to. And I will. I will return, again and again.

Another gem by Heather Havrilesky: Most vacation trips are a long series of obstacles and snags, punctuated only occasionally by truly relaxing moments.”

I don’t watch a lot of tennis these days, but this visual essay on tennis clay courts was a reminder of why I love the sport:

A tennis match on clay keeps no secrets. The red canvas is clean to start. Then, with each step, slide and bounce of the ball, two players paint the story. Over several hours, tennis becomes a form of abstract expressionism.

On podcasts and podcast listening:

Though podcasts are not an ideal medium for conveying information, they are ideal for the transmission of patterns of speech and thought. We’re not particularly good at learning facts by listening, but we are good at modeling the tone, cadence, and form of speech we listen to, especially if it is as unstructured and informal as a conversation.

Thoroughly enjoying some lofi air traffic control, live air traffic control radio mixed with lofi hip hop.

I used to be one of those people that traveled everywhere with just a carry-on, but now, especially after having a kid, I’m more likely to check baggage simply for the convenience of having what I need when I need it:

Packing your clever little carry-on is an awful lot of planning, an awful lot of work, and an awful lot of compromise — that is, it’s awful. And while it’s certainly cheaper, in dollar amounts, to pack a carry-on, you pay for it elsewhere: in setting out your little outfits, editing down your necessities, leaving your toiletries behind and breaking out, having to buy stuff you didn’t pack, ironing out the wrinkles you’ve pressed into your formal wear, and… well, it’s not like those packing cubes are free, are they? The question is not whether you’re going to pay — it’s how.

Speaking of travel, this is one fascinatingly well-written case against it:

The single most important fact about tourism is this: we already know what we will be like when we return. A vacation is not like immigrating to a foreign country, or matriculating at a university, or starting a new job, or falling in love. We embark on those pursuits with the trepidation of one who enters a tunnel not knowing who she will be when she walks out. The traveller departs confident that she will come back with the same basic interests, political beliefs, and living arrangements. Travel is a boomerang. It drops you right where you started.

The grinders who saved a college golf team.

We’re strawberry fans in this household—we especially savor the batches of fresh-picked berries we get from the local farm every summer—so I’m very intrigued by this new wave of designer” strawberries.

How a dose of MDMA transformed a white supremacist.

Rock-paper-scissors is more complex than you think:

In other words, at first glance rock-paper-scissors appears to be a guessing game, with victory going to the player who can outguess his opponent; at second glance, it appears to be purely arbitrary; and at third glance, the original supposition is justified. It is, in fact, a guessing game with victory going to the player who can outguess his opponent, but there are strategies to outguessing.”

I’m a notoriously slow replier to messages and emails, not because I don’t care, but because I care too much to reply quickly and would rather engage more deeply:

Apologizing for slow replies is a symptom of unrealistic demands in an always-on culture. Work is presumed to be the dominant force in our lives. Instead of making space for leisure and rest, we have to keep monitoring our communication channels, ready to drop everything at any time. Being reachable around the clock means living at the mercy of other people’s calendars. It’s a recipe for burnout. And it prizes shallow reactions over deep reflection. We wind up rushing to get things done instead of doing them well.

Once we’re past the hecticness and always-on-ness of parenting a toddler, I’m going to carve out more of my weekends for doing errands that force me out of the house, and ideally doing them with others:

Today, meanwhile, my to-do list is infinitely longer than it’s ever been, and yet real, out-of-the-house errands—afternoon cleared, sneakers and sunglasses on: the kind of errands my mom seemed to be running during my childhood—are harder to come by. I think this is true for many in my cohort, and I think it’s fundamentally changed the makeup of our calendars, particularly our weekends.

Why do movies feel so different now?

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