Category: journals

journal – reading update

I praised the Serial Reader app last month, thinking at the time it would be a fun & significant boost to my reading time. But following Dorian Gray, I started and abandoned several others that just weren’t for me. As I dug deeper into the titles, I felt like I was grasping for something good, instead of picking from the (long) list of books on my existing “to-read” list. I tried a couple that were on my list, like Little Women, and Middlemarch, but didn’t enjoy either of them. So, although it’s clever, I decided Serial Reader isn’t for me, after all.

But the strict daily reading time still seemed good, so I’ve been trying simply sticking to that habit, with the help of the iOS app Streaks. It’s a simple daily reminder app that’s meant to keep you from “breaking the chain”, maintaining regular daily habits. I’ve tried it before, but eventually rebelled against what came to feel like tyrannical nagging. So far this time, however, for reminding me to stay on something I enjoy, it’s been going great. That’s 17 days in a row, since I’m counting. The books I’ve read this way have admittedly been quick and light: the first two omnibus editions of an anime my daughter recommended: Vinland Saga. I may continue graphic novels for this daily habit for a while; I have Watchmen sitting over there on the shelf.

On another front, I admit defeat, for the third and final time, at trying to get through Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall. I want to love this book, and the second (Bring Up the Bodies) which is also on my shelf, and the third which is due out next year, but it’s just not happening. I pride myself on being undaunted by tougher prose: The Odyssey, Don Quixote, some of the deeper Tolkien, including his Beowulf, but I find Mantel’s style a slog too far. The setting is too foreign, the characters too numerous, and the pronouns too ambiguous. I’m pretty bummed by this concession, but also looking forward to starting a book I’ll look forward to each night.

journal – Fort Worth

I write this from the FW side of DFW, from a slightly below-average Hampton Inn that was at least “free” with Hilton points. We came up yesterday to drop the daughter off at UNT after Spring Break, thinking to split the driving up a bit and make a little day-trip of it. We had a handful of random things to do & see, which turned out about as I expected: some pretty cool, some less so. The stop at an area art-supply store (Asel) was a big hit, as they had all kinds of things she was excited about, especially a rack with hangers of large sheets of handmade papers. Sundance Square was so-so; cool area but full of chain shops not at all different from what’s at the Domain in Austin.

We ate at a fancy-looking Actual-Mex (not Tex-Mex) place, but the loud couple next to our table put a serious dent in the experience for me. When we left, the woman had switched from threatening her tiny daughter that the Easter Bunny wouldn’t come if she didn’t sit still and moved on to chewing out the waiter about the service, even though they go there “all the time”.

A brewery was next on our loose agenda, but it turns out longtime favorite Rahr & Sons isn’t a brewpub situation; they’re only open on 2 days, for a couple hours each. So we went to Collective, where I found a bunch of sour and “funky” beers and not a single one I even liked well enough to get a crowler of. Oh, well. Then a few more errands, including a Half-Price Books stop with no treasures that we found. We spent the rest of the evening watching Ghostbusters in the hotel room.

Well, that all sounds less than great, ha ha. But it’s okay. Breakfast out this morning, drop off the daughter, and another trip down 35. Bought some new (to me) music for the drive: Invitation by Filthy Friends, the supergroup that includes Corin Tucker, Peter Buck, a King Crimson dude, and others. Plus, here I am finally writing something here as I’ve been meaning to.

journal – weekend end

Sunday evening of a pretty-good, not-bad weekend. I’m not sure if I’m following through better on my to-do list lately, or if I’m sandbagging more accurately, but either way it’s nice to feel like I did some stuff I wanted to, and not end the weekend with half a dozen things hanging out, unchecked-off. Not that that’s a big deal, either. But crossing off the last thing on the list is nice.

I don’t recall where I recently came across Jen Myers’ blog, someone from Micro.blog I think, but I really liked her idea of a simple, chronological media log, so I stole it. I like that it’s just a simple list, adorned only with a simple key. Though I couldn’t resist using emoji instead of plain letters for that, I am resisting links to anywhere, reviews, or stars. It’s there. If you come across it and wonder about anything or want to tell me about it, then please do.

Spent some time today loosely planning a trip to Montana this summer. We’re going for a nephew’s wedding, but weren’t sure how much more to make of it. We love Yellowstone, which is near where the wedding will be, so we considered making it a whole big trip: stay somewhere in the park, the whole deal. But instead we’re planning to take it easier than that, just staying in Red Lodge and Billings for a few nights. More relaxing and retreating than go-go sightseeing, and I’m looking forward to it.

journal – MLS 2 ATX

I don’t usually drink on Tuesday evenings, though then again I don’t usually start drinking at 2:30, even on weekends. But today was a special occasion – the official official announcement that Major League Soccer (MLS), the top soccer league in the country, is coming at last to my hometown of Austin, Texas. It’s been a long road, littered with the roadkill of multiple previous lower-league attempts (RIP, “Aztex”, a truly terrible name that we nevertheless supported wholeheartedly during its two brief incarnations). It was always clear that we wouldn’t get a top-flight team here until some rich person came to town and decided that’s what they wanted, and sure enough, here he is. It’s a couple more years until we’ll get to see them on the field, but that’s all right. I’ve been waiting, and I can keep waiting. I heard the league commissioner, the owner, and Austin’s mayor – plus gloriously ridiculous Alexi Lalas, as well – say this was going to happen, and though that doesn’t really seem like it could be real, it seems more like a dream or something I’d watch happen on a livestream from some other city, this swag on the table came from somewhere. I mean, someone was giving away Heineken (until thank god it ran out and they let us have non-MLS-sponsor but tastier beer, e.g., 512 Oatmeal Stout) all afternoon. So here’s to it actually, for real, can-you-believe-it happening. 🍺 ⚽️

journal – nearly back to normal

We’re taking our daughter back to college today. She had an eventful winter break, featuring a ten-day study-abroad trip in Germany, with an added few days in Vienna for fun with a friend who also went. It’s been exciting, for us vicariously as well, but I’m also glad to return to normal, such as it is. Though my wife also starts a new job next week, so maybe I shouldn’t count my normal-returns before they’re hatched. Thankful that these are good things that are interrupting that normalcy. This year is getting off to a good start and I’m feeling pretty optimistic about what it holds for us. Though I’m superstitious enough about jinxing myself that it’s taking real effort to not delete that before publishing this, ha ha.

journal – what you had for lunch

Did some thinking this morning about what I want to do here, in my morning pages writing (a practice I’ve found to be valuable; I should write about that sometime). I was trying to understand a justification, a why, for this urge to write more personally and at more length. And the old “who cares what you had for lunch?” question came to mind.

One effect of that attitude was to dismissively discourage people from sharing anything mundane or non-fabulous. And another, further effect is the tendency to only post the good stuff, the living-my-best-life stuff. The artfully composed and beautifully filtered Instagram pictures of an amazing lunch. Now you’ve answered the question of who cares about what you had for lunch, because look at it, it’s a masterpiece!

But then people do look at it, among the dozens of other jealousy-inducing pictures of fantastic meals in their feed. And maybe they start feeling a little bad about their own plain, non-amazing meals. Which they’re certainly not going to share on social media now, it would be embarrassing. Next week, on vacation in Hawaii, there might be an Instagram-worthy lunch, but not today.

So the tendency drives what’s published to ever more rarified heights, while also keeping people from sharing their more genuine lives. But on the other hand, would I follow a random person who posted boring pictures of uninteresting lunches? No, probably not. It’s no strategy to increase social media “engagement” or grow followers or go viral, that’s for sure. But why do those have to always be everyone’s goals?

Because what I realized is that I would like to see my friends, the people I actually know, post more about their lives. Not every meal, not even every lunch, but the occasional boring, mundane glimpse would be great.

journal – try-hard losers

I’ve been thinking I’d like to write more, and more personally, here on my blog. I like Micro.blog, and I like having my tweets (most of them) originate here. But it’s still only been just tweet-style stuff: links with an excerpt, or a joke or pithy comment. I have some hang-up about opening up too much, but lately, at least, I’ve become so tired of nobody ever doing it that I guess it’s kind of getting to me.

I also have come to feel like writing anything online is a big effort, that requires a lot of work and planning and thought and polish. And the other side of that coin is how it may or may not be received – who and how many read it, like it, comment, retweet, etc. Which for me, somewhat to my dismay, is rarely ever many folks. So there’s high effort on one side, and low reward on the other. The result of that calculus is unsurprising: silence.

After hearing her on a recent Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me, I listened to an old comedy album by Maeve Higgins on Spotify. It was odd and not super funny, but it had its moments. She admits right up front that her style is more rambling storyteller than punchline-joke-deliverer, and that’s accurate. But a turn of phrase in one of her stories stuck with me. She said that she and her sister used to think people who used potpourri were “try-hard losers”, and they laughed at them behind their backs.

I think the barb of the comment was directed at herself and her sister much more than it was at potpourri people. And it’s kind of muddled to me so I’m sure it will be to anyone who comes across this (I mean, talk about rambling), but something about that scoffing aloofism resonated with how jaded I feel – and think many of us have become – in particular as members of the online “communities” we’re in.

So. I’ve disconnected automatic crossposting to Twitter of everything I write here (or I think I have, anyway); going to try to get back to being a try-hard loser for a while.

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