September 28, 2023

The change of the seasons

The tree in our front yard starts turning yellow in late August. By the end of September, it has shed almost all of its leaves, leaving a dusting of golden arrowheads across our driveway and on the front windshield of our car. The leaves are not to be tamed; they defy raking and sweeping, leaving a trail of flaxen debris on the yard and onto the street. They dance in the wind.

The pool becomes mostly-unusable in mid-September; having a solar heater means that the water gets too cold to swim in once the nighttime temperatures start dipping into the single digits. We have our last hurrah in the pool over Labor Day weekend, enjoying the sunshine and the company of friends. By the end of September, the pool is closed for the season, a taut pool cover taking up the space in our backyard where the water once glistened.

I wear a sweater in the morning when I go to drop Z off at daycare. The air is brisk, often gusting, and I need long sleeves to protect my arms from the chill. It is not quite cold enough for a jacket, but there is a crispness outside that makes me shiver from time to time. By the afternoon, the temperatures have risen and the sun has emerged; I walk around in a t-shirt again, marvelling at the slowly-changing colors of the neighborhood. The cold gives way to warmth. Overnight, the cold returns.

Work has gotten busier, everyone returning from their summer breaks and ready to jump into back into their projects. I listen to Cleo Sol when I am working and drink tea, keeping calm among the busy-ness of the season.

Autumn has arrived. Change is on its way.

A poem

Before Sleep
Elsa Gidlow

There is an autumn sadness upon me,
A sadness of bared trees,
And mist and delicate death of flowers.
There is an autumn sadness upon me,
A falling of leaves in my soul.

There is an autumn sadness upon me,
A dreamfulness in my heart,
And a wistful sense of longing.
There is faint moaning music
Like cries of departing birds.

There are trembling hands on my eyelids,
A dim foreknowledge of tears
And dreams, patterning ultimate slumber.
There is an autumn sadness upon me,
A falling of leaves in my soul.

This is the most delightful thing I’ve found on the internet in a while: the uncolouring book. You draw the lines; absolutely wonderful.

This celebration of hip-hop on its 50th anniversary by Wesley Morris is sublime. Some of the best writing about music and culture I’ve read in a long time:

Because it’s quite something, half a century in, to carry with you the suspicion that the thing you made might be valued more than the people you are. This is a continuum concern, of course: Every phase of Black artistic achievement treks through that cognitive-dissonance zone. The Negro spiritual is the other major American music whose existence floodlights a crime. But spirituals sought deliverance from this country’s original sin. Hip-hop doesn’t expect salvation. An alternate reality drives its craftspeople. Maybe nobody wants us to succeed. So we’ll deliver ourselves. Let’s build an empire from that. […]

For 50 years, the essential writing — fables, comedies, diaries; adventure, memoir, porn — about young Black life in this country has been happening in hip-hop. Songs about feelings, fantasies, dilemmas, confessions, fantasias. What else is Notorious B.I.G.’s Ready to Die” and its grueling, knowing, melodic re-creation of moral decay and sexual congress other than a triumph of literature? It is but one title on a shelf buckling with scores of comparable powerhouses. That’s one masterpiece set in New York.

I’ve been thinking a lot about individualism and collectivism a lot recently, and think there’s so much more we can do when we think and act collectively:

Individual responsibility is a big fat lie. We are told that the problems in our lives are solvable mostly by individual action. This lie has been repeated so often that it has soaked down into the cultural bedrock of much of the western world and so is almost an inescapable starting proposition.

Some of the best people I know were friends I made through work. The always excellent Mandy Brown on work friends:

Perhaps the challenge facing us now isn’t to avoid making work friends, but to inoculate those friendships against the capriciousness of both good job offers and investor brain worms. We don’t have to cut ourselves off from each other; we can take our work friends to-go.

Friendship is a form of purposive idleness.“

I love when people write about why they left private sector for government (even if it is for a short stint) because it often echoes the reasons I love working in the public sector.

Working, humanely:

Wage labor employment is a terrible system where workers are subject to the whims of legal entities that have immense amounts of money and legal obligations not to humans but to money (to increasing it, specifically). What the fuck are we doing, for real.

I’m starting to think our daughter is going to be left-handed, despite nobody in our family having the same disposition, so I’m always interested in reading stuff about left-handedness.

It feels like every day, the world is getting meaner and meaner. Maybe the loss of moral education is having a strong effect on us all:

Mere religious faith doesn’t always make people morally good, but living in a community, orienting your heart toward some transcendent love, basing your value system on concern for the underserved—those things tend to.

I’ve only once ever eaten at the Cheesecake Factory so I don’t have a nostalgia for it like others, but I know so many people who still love the restaurant because of the place it held in their childhoods:

Millennials who went to the Cheesecake Factory, especially for special occasions, associate it with good feelings. If the restaurant is where you spent your parents’ anniversary or your own birthday, then it’s going to be tethered to happiness. Under the warm, gauzy filter that nostalgia provides, it’s hard for Cheesecake Factory aficionados, especially ones hardened by adulthoods that were punctuated by various financial crises, the fallout from 9/11, climate change, and a pandemic, not to look back at the restaurant without some kind of wistful sentimentality. Going there now isn’t necessarily about creating new experiences; it is about chasing a feeling you felt there before.

I’m a huge fan of dining alone, especially at really nice places. I don’t do it that often anymore, but there’s a romance in taking a seat at the restaurant bar and relishing in a meal all by yourself:

Some of my best food memories revolve around shared meals, with many plates passed for many hours among many busy mouths. Foodways and folklore often revolve around the pleasure and ritual of eating with others, correctly noting the connection between sharing food and sharing love. But there’s a different kind of pleasure that comes from paying undivided attention to what’s going on on your plate or in your head. It’s a quieter satisfaction, but in a world with so much noise, sometimes more deeply felt.

Can a poem be too short? I argue that it can not; I share many short ones here on my Weekend Reading posts. A new anthology highlights the charms and drawbacks of very brief verse.

This is directly related to my (literal) tastes: Searching for America’s First Chicken Finger

I have no desire to travel to Antarctica but can see the appeal for others. This call to end all tourism to Antarctica is quite persuasive:

Antarctica doesn’t need ambassadors; it needs guardians. Putting this land off-limits would signify how fragile and important—almost sacred—it is. Putting it at risk to give deep-pocketed tourists a sense of awe is simply not worth it.

How to eat an orange.

Can we blame society’s decay on the W3Cs HTML standard for ordered lists?

Vanilla is a magical and intoxicating flavor, so I’m dismayed that the term has come to mean things that are basic and lacking spark. It’s time to reclaim the word, and the flavor:

Maybe this is vanilla’s trick, to elude us. As an ingredient, it can be deceptively reticent, seeming to cede the spotlight to the more forceful pleasures of sugar and cream. Yet it transfigures every flavor it encounters. It calms and contours, steadies and exalts. It is the spice with the Midas touch that makes more more.

Related: the Enslaved Teen Who Cracked Vanilla’s Secret.

I never forsook blogging (and with it, webrings and blogrolls and RSS) so I’m glad to see publications extol the virtues of the internet of people”:

Google’s rotting? Bring back the webring. Broadcasting to the entire world sucks? Fuck it, group chat. Facebook? Baby doll, it is easier than ever to build your own website, and you don’t even need to know the basics required to rip someone else’s code.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the web we’ve made and the we we used to have. This passage by Zach Mandeville says so much:

It’s not bad that we share what we do, as much as we do. It’s beautifully human. This need to share is something we’ve always had, now transposed to a digital space because humans are good at adaptation.

But it is awful how our experiences are commodified, contorted, cut up, and traded. That we cannot share with one another intentionally, but must make an offer to a company’s algorithm. That this algorithm organizes everything into a feed whose curation and shape is intended to draw out our most intense emotions, with the intention to make us vulnerable and easy to manipulate. It is bad that everything we share is picked up into an ad-driven feedback loop that sells an exaggerated version back to us, so that all that we love gradually becomes an inescapable, cynical cliché.

Related: we don’t need a new Twitter.

Are Any Words the Same in All Languages?

I won’t lie: I do like a restaurant with an open kitchen, especially when I’m seated at the counter watching the culinary machinations. I do wonder what we’ve changed now that we’ve moved away from dining experiences where the food was prepared behind closed doors to one where the cooking and preparation is part of the experience itself.

I haven’t looked at Wirecutter in ages; I used to depend on it before I made any purchase. What happened to it?

One win, 17,000 defeats - life as a Washington General.

I can’t believe I spent almost an hour reading about the mystery of the Bloomfield Bridge, but I’m glad I did.

To commemorate the fall: art from raked leaves, by Nikola Faller.

Leaves in a park raked to make a piece of abstract art by Nikola Faller

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