April 17, 2024

There are mountains

The hotel room has a large wall of windows, floor to ceiling, stretching from one corner of the room to the other. It lets in the light in the morning and wakes us up with a wash of brightness that sets the mood for the day.

Outside the window, there are mountains.

We can see the snowy peaks of mountains rising up above the buildings, providing a majestic backdrop to the city that can’t be ignored. The mountains define the view from the hotel window; they remind me that the world is large, that there is much to explore outside the hotel room walls. Even on the few rainy days we have, the mountains make me want to head outside and look up.

The street is lined with high-end furniture stores, most of which are closed by the time we get to the neighborhood to have a drink at a local wine bar. Cars whip by at a relatively fast speed, but the view down the road slows me down.

In the horizon, there are mountains.

Perfectly framed between the mid-rise buildings that line the street are two summits chiseling the sky. The white lines painted on the road guide my eyes towards the heights, but my feet too. I am drawn to them, and walk slowly along the sidewalk in their direction. The mountains define the view down the street; they remind me that there are bigger things than furniture and wine bars, that there is much to find awe in beyond our daily comforts. The peaks disappear when we turn the corner, but they linger in my mind.

I walk along the seawall, the ocean beside me on one side, a good friend I haven’t seen in months on the other. We talk about the things delighting us in life, the things frustrating us, the things we don’t quite know; next to us, the water rushes by, heading through the inlet out into the open sea.

Beyond the water, there are mountains.

There are no buildings obscuring my view of them, just a vast and open body of water that runs to the feet of the mountain range, crashing up against the shore somewhere in the distance, beyond my view. The range rises into the sky like a wall with pickets pointing towards the heavens, a frame in which to fit the sea and the clouds all in one place. The mountains shape our conversation; we speak openly about aspirations, about reaching towards new heights, about embracing life and all it brings.

I catch a glimpse from the airplane window as we depart. Below us, there are mountains.

I shall see them again, soon.

A poem

Perhaps the World Ends Here
Joy Harjo

The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live.

The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table. So it has been since creation, and it will go on.

We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies teethe at the corners. They scrape their knees under it.

It is here that children are given instructions on what it means to be human. We make men at it, we make women.

At this table we gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts of lovers.

Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms around our children. They laugh with us at our poor falling-down selves and as we put ourselves back together once again at the table.

This table has been a house in the rain, an umbrella in the sun.

Wars have begun and ended at this table. It is a place to hide in the shadow of terror. A place to celebrate the terrible victory.

We have given birth on this table, and have prepared our parents for burial here.

At this table we sing with joy, with sorrow. We pray of suffering and remorse. We give thanks.

Perhaps the world will end at the kitchen table, while we are laughing and crying, eating of the last sweet bite.

Really fascinating and frightening look at what a smartphone-mediated life means for children and adolescents. Was particularly struck by this differentiation between online and real-world” interaction:

First, real-world interactions are embodied, meaning that we use our hands and facial expressions to communicate, and we learn to respond to the body language of others. Virtual interactions, in contrast, mostly rely on language alone. No matter how many emojis are offered as compensation, the elimination of communication channels for which we have eons of evolutionary programming is likely to produce adults who are less comfortable and less skilled at interacting in person.

Second, real-world interactions are synchronous; they happen at the same time. As a result, we learn subtle cues about timing and conversational turn taking. Synchronous interactions make us feel closer to the other person because that’s what getting in sync” does. Texts, posts, and many other virtual interactions lack synchrony. There is less real laughter, more room for misinterpretation, and more stress after a comment that gets no immediate response.

Third, real-world interactions primarily involve one‐to‐one communication, or sometimes one-to-several. But many virtual communications are broadcast to a potentially huge audience. Online, each person can engage in dozens of asynchronous interactions in parallel, which interferes with the depth achieved in all of them. The sender’s motivations are different, too: With a large audience, one’s reputation is always on the line; an error or poor performance can damage social standing with large numbers of peers. These communications thus tend to be more performative and anxiety-inducing than one-to-one conversations.

Finally, real-world interactions usually take place within communities that have a high bar for entry and exit, so people are strongly motivated to invest in relationships and repair rifts when they happen. But in many virtual networks, people can easily block others or quit when they are displeased. Relationships within such networks are usually more disposable.

Really interesting short post by Mandy Brown on hedge words” in language. Was particularly taken with this short observation:

The move toward inquiry values the opportunity to learn over the desire to validate one’s existing—and necessarily incomplete—knowledge. That is, inquiry is a dynamic, active movement, unlike the stuckness and stagnancy that a decree evokes. Inquiry is an open door; decree, a closed one.

This article is not only the reason I will probably never go on a cruise in my whole life, but is also one of the best pieces of travel writing I have ever read.

The slow writer embraces the protracted and unpredictable timeline, seeing it not as fraught or frustrating but an opportunity for openness and discovery.”

A really in-depth look at the Trudeau government—including snippets from an interview with the Prime Minister himself— by Justin Ling. Some good passages about the frustrations of the public service, too:

One former civil servant, who worked on high-profile technology files across multiple departments, said the bureaucracy was suffocating—“nothing could move forward,” they told me. A vast network of problems conspires to frustrate actual innovation: too many teams working on the same files, an obsession with image over application, petty competition for resources, a lack of information sharing, buck passing, silos between teams. The mismanagement is so dire, they said, that civil servants often work on technology projects in secret, afraid of telling their superiors lest they get mired in approvals and meddling.

Sandra Boynton books are a favorite in our household. Who would have thought she’d be such a hoot when being interviewed too?

The ways of fictive 2D bipedal hippos are notoriously mysterious. I think it’s a risky—and probably even misguided—business to think of any group as a collection of identical individuals. Well, OK, with the possible exception of mosquitoes; in my experience, they seem unnervingly similar to each other, aside from the luxuriant eyelashes on the lucky few. But that’s a different story altogether.

The magic of the blackboard:

Socrates believed the way to do philosophy was by dialogue. Two people proceed by question-and-answer, with an exchange of contradiction and confirmation. When we’re battling it out at the blackboard, it’s the same thing,” says Fink. The difference is that we can actually see the argument that we’re having, chalked up on the board.”

I have a great relationship with my parents, but was really interested in this piece on parents being overly involved in their adult children’s lives.

Do people swear more now?

I would love to visit the Rabbit Hole, a museum where picture books have come to life:

Did you ever have to make a shoe box diorama about your favorite book? If so, you might remember classmates who constructed move-in ready mini kingdoms kitted out with gingham curtains, clothespin people and actual pieces of spaghetti.

The main floor of the Rabbit Hole consists of 40 book-themed dioramas blown up to life-size and arranged, Ikea showroom-style, in a space the size of two hockey rinks.

A wonderful way of thinking about delight in everyday life:

I am in a phase of life where I am resetting expectations about how grand things should feel. Who’s to say that dozens of tiny crescent-shadows are less magnificent than gazing upward to see the sun’s flames lick the edges of the moon?

Not me. I’ll take the cosmic where I can get it.

Speaking of delight: One Minute Park allows you to visit parks from around the world for one minute each.

I know all of you reading this don’t need much extolling about libraries (we all love them here), but this piece on the coming enshittification of libraries is deeply distributing. Will be writing to my public library system to see what they are doing.

An interesting proposal: Publications should suspend their paywalls for all 2024 election coverage and all information that is beneficial to voters. Democracy does not die in darkness–it dies behind paywalls.”

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