Day five

Weekends can be tricky! But the streak must go on.

There aren’t any tweets in my Notes file today, but this might’ve been a good self-deprecating thought, whether or not it’s original:

Y’know, for someone who likes to avoid conflict, I sure do enjoy replaying every one in my head over and over again.

Photo projects, like figuring out how to recover and host and categorize 15+ years of images from across multiple social networks, are a bit of a cobbler’s children problem for me.

My mom is a photographer, and did portraits and parties for years, but our own family photo archives included a few key albums and the rest flowed through cardboard boxes and closets and offices and filing cabinets from house to house to house.

There were blue boxes of slides, piles and piles of negatives, contact sheets, black and white 8x10s from the early years when our laundry room doubled as a darkroom, and boxes on boxes on boxes of proofs.

So here I am, the cobbler’s child, going through my own digital boxes, trying to track down file names in years-old “to print” folders that have been carried from camera to card to iMac to Flickr to Dropbox to Drive to iMac to send off into some consumer-facing cloud printing system.

A couple years back, in a previous Flickr-panic, I started backing everything up in Google Photos, but not at full resolution.

So, here’s a fun file, one of the oldest that I know I took that’s in our online archives:

It’s a scene from the road on the way back from the job in New Mexico where I met my wife. It’s probably from June 2001, and I think it’s Texas.

That was definitely taken with a film camera. I don’t think I was push processing color then, but who knows, maybe it was some 800 speed stuff. Printed as a proof at Spectra on Avenue A (?) soon after, and scanned on my really crappy flatbed scanner at the time (thanks mom, it was great), as evidenced by the vertical magenta stripe about a third of the way in.

That stripe, in turn, was one of the reasons I started messing around with Photoshop (also thanks mom!), so it’s hard to know for sure how much goofiness I added with filters there.

It must have made its way to Flickr at some point, but this one is old enough it could be on Photo.net, where I would post a few things around 2001-2002. (I continue to be amazed this site still exists.)

And after that? Did it travel from hard drive to CD to hard drive to USB stick to hard drive to Google Photos? Or is this a copy that was resized (smaller) to upload via 56K baud modem?

I have no idea.

Day four

Me: Has a stubborn cold throughout holiday season.

Also me: Stubbornly consumes a large percentage of the gluten, sugar, and dairy laden holiday foods in the house.

Every time I’ve opened Twitter on my desktop this week, it’s 90 percent people dunking on people and 10 percent AOC dancing. Guess which I prefer?

I’m allowing myself a really limited amount of faves when I open Twitter on desktop. (I usually fave a LOT of tweets.) Kinda feel like cutting it back to one a day and really making a conscious choice about it ugh.

Please enjoy this selfie from the streets of Montreal last August, with a notably full beard, after going almost straight from the family beach vacation to the all-team work meetup.

I’ve been thinking about what to do with all the family photos we have on Flickr and Facebook. More on that another day.

Day two

Back to work means back at my laptop all day, with too easy access to Twitter and Facebook and all the rest, but it was great to spend a bunch of focused time catching up on email and other research after the holidays.

WordPress.com has TV commercials now, which is both wild and refreshing:

Meanwhile, here are today’s tweets I would’ve sent from my phone:

This is the most Monday Wednesday ever.

The old Toys R Us jingle in my head like a dirge.

I want to program my keyboard to give me a nice little electric shock every time I rattle the letters “F A C E” into it.

Well, that was upbeat!

Here’s one from the archives: December 2003, making the annual batch of arancini in my wife’s grandmother’s kitchen in Caracas. The boxer is Petunia (rest in slobber).

Day one

It’s the first day of the year 2019, and for Reasons, I have deleted Facebook, FB Messenger, and Twitter from my phone in recent days.

It hasn’t been entirely unpleasant! But also, I have found myself jusssssst the slightest bit thirsty for the incessant flow of information a ridiculously powerful piece of glass in my hand has to offer.

The good news: I’ve spent less time staring at my phone. And when I am, I’m playing lots of chess. Although my rating has collapsed in the last couple days of this winter break.

Today, on my first full day since 2007 without Twitter available on a phone in my hand almost continuously, I couldn’t resist jotting down some tweets.

I’m still writing representative democracy on all my checks.

Red sky at morning, sailors take warning. Red sky at night, c’mon already Mueller.

I really should’ve waited until my holds came in at the library before taking twitter off my phone.

Staring at my phone and swiping back and forth between screens of apps can give you a little burst of dopamine if you do it fast enough.

Real talk: I spent like three hours playing EA Skate 3 today.

Here is a picture of the dog on or about Christmas Eve. Happy New Year!

Family road trip, Summer 2018

Determined to leave the house, the neighborhood, and the state, we planned a short road trip last week. North or South? West? (There isn’t much East of here.) We considered a “waterfalls of West Virginia” trip. We abandoned a camping plan earlier in the summer. We stepped back from other long-drive plans.

We decided to go North. To Amish Country, Watkins Glen, and the Corning Museum of Glass. Oh, and to stay in a tiny house.

DAY ONE

We left the dog and the house and the garden behind, told them all to be good, and took off up Route 15, across the Potomac, retracing our usual path past Cunningham Falls, into the territory in Central Pennsylvania we first drove through on our pre-move trips from Rochester to check out Loudoun County, nine years ago this summer.

Google things like “Amish tour Lancaster” and you end up finding some relatively commercial (I mean, commercial for the Amish is not that much) villages, and some nice farm tour options. The Old Windmill Farm site had pictures of people feeding cows and there were pigs that looked like fun, so that’s where we headed.

The farm tour was so much fun. Yes, we fed the calves from bottles. Yes, the pigs went down a slide. Yes, we held baby chicks, and then their mother gathered them under her wings, just like the song we used to sing the kids when they were babies themselves. Yes, we pet Tim the giant mule. Yes, we fed goats and chickens from our hands. Yes, we held baby bunnies, and yes, the barn cat came when we called and soaked up all the scratches.

Q: “How long did it take to train them to do that?”
A: “About an hour.”

The farmer talked about how they had wound down their dairy operation from a 50-cow spot in a co-op to just what they needed for their family and a little casual raw milk sale here and there. He talked about how his grandfather used to grow tobacco, and now they grow corn and soy, mostly for feed. We learned about how and why they ferment some hay and alfalfa, too.

Q: “How do you stop the chickens from sitting on their eggs?”
A: “Oh, these are bad mothers.”

And then through the craft shack (allllllmost a gift shop, tbqh) and the garden, where the kids helped harvest some potatoes, and we talked about the dry weather and the bugs and all the challenges of Growing Vegetables. 

And then we shared a whoopie pie. When in Rome. Er, Pennsylvania.

We passed through downtown Strasburg, not to be confused with Stroudsburg, which I did! (Ask me about the time I was stranded in the latter for a few hours after working on a student film all night.)

We spent the night in a tiny house.

Tiny House. Prius for reference.

Literally! Like, you’ve heard of Tiny Houses™? We took this from Pinterest to real life, staying at a place that looks like it transitioned from trailer park to Tiny Estates not too long ago. (Thanks to Certifikid!) The kids had fun going up and down the precarious “stairs” to the loft bed, and we enjoyed a few rounds of cornhole and ladder toss and giant jenga in the common area. (It was really nice.)

DAY TWO

Expecting rain in the morning, we decided to head for Corning and spend the afternoon at the glass museum. We crossed the Susquehanna a dozen or so times, ate our tiny-house-toasted sandwiches in a fast food parking lot, and the sun came out for the final miles into Corning. Which is… nicer than I remember?

Maybe it doesn’t help my memory that my previous time in Corning was in the absolute dead of Central New York winter, and it wasn’t my all-time favorite newsroom visit. Because, reasons.

But. But! Not only did Corning look lovely in the summer sun, the Corning Museum of Glass was a complete revelation.

Huge, bright, airy, and the first place they send you is a contemporary art wing which was more relatable and timely and evocative and aesthetically comprehensible than anything I’ve seen at the MOCA in Chicago or (uh, a long time ago) at the Whitney in New York.

Also, glass breaking demonstrations. And glass blowing. And fire. So much fire! And glass. So much glass.

This was a highlight. Dude’s name is Jared, and he was pretty casual. I have a pic of him actually blowing glass, but this was way cooler.

After a few hours, the kids were glassed out, so we mounted up the Prius and headed north to Watkins Glen. After discovering our upstairs-from-a-deli Airbnb was almost as goth as that one chandelier with the crows, we decided a walk and some fresh air was in order. TO THE LAKE!

Also, there was some much needed ice cream, and a country-adjacent live band in a park. Hello, small town America, alive and well in Watkins Glen. (Later, we would look up the 2016 election results for Schuyler County.)

HI IT’S A LITTLE WINDY MAYBE WE SHOULD BACK AWAY FROM THE WATER AND DEFINITELY NOT GO WALKING ON THE ROCKS OK LET’S NOT DO THAT THING OK.
I knew a few songs. We kept our distance, let the kids run around, and I danced a little with my ice cream.

DAY THREE

A short prelude to our day in Watkins Glen State Park: In July 2008 (not a typo), while living in Rochester, New York, we brought our toddler down to Watkins Glen to hike the gorge and camp for the night. Here’s how it went: We all got wet on the hike, then it rained at dinnertime and I cooked our boil-in-bag rice and Indian food on our single burner camp stove in the rain, then I did laps around the campground loop getting the toddler to sleep, then she coughed once and woke up crying, and we packed up the tent and drove the two hours home with our sick kid to sleep in our own bed.

But the pictures from the gorge hike in 2008 are still fun. So we decided to recreate one of our favorites along the path.

July 2008, Gorgeous in the Gorges, birth of several variants of the nickname “Gorges McGorgeous”
2018, grown.

If you’ve never been, it’s worth the trip. I hesitate to even call it a “hike” because it’s pretty easy.

dat gorge light doe
it’s hard to get this capture wrong, tbqh

The hike was so easy, in fact, that we were pretty much done by the middle of the day, and needed something else to do, lest we get sucked into the orbit of the goth Airbnb. (In all honesty, it wasn’t that bad, and the crooked floors became sort of charming after a few hours of sleep.) 

After a break to pick up some sfogliatelle and cannoli at a neighborhood Italian bakery, we decided to check one more town off our list and took a quick ride over the hill to Ithaca, where we had spotted a science-themed mini golf option at a hands-on museum.

This hole was about centripetal force, I guess?

It was just about perfect. Back to Watkins Glen, one more walk to the lake, and we called it a night.

DAY FOUR

The day you drive all the way home isn’t supposed to be too adventurous, but we had seen enough of some parts of Route 15, and had eaten enough soggy sandwiches in fast food parking lots, so we decided to take a quick side trip about an hour our of our way to Hershey. Yes, that Hershey. 

If you’re a parent, you’ll understand what I mean when I say one of the highlights was the moment we executed a perfect tag team puke cleanup / potty run in the parking lot of the Chipotle across Chocolate Avenue (not a metaphor) from Hershey Park (also not a metaphor). [SHUDDER]

So we ate Chipotle instead of sandwiches, took a different route, and realized we were down the street from Tröegs brewery, so I made a quick run into the shop there. (Um, this place is huge? And nice? The only brewery I’ve been at this scale is Surly in Minneapolis.

Tröegs shop, the least impressive part of it, but we didn’t have time for a brewery tour and we had already eaten and the kids couldn’t really believe I was stopping for beer after everything that happened in the Chipotle parking lot.

And then we drove home, picked up the dog, and…

DAY FIVE

Just kidding, there’s no fifth day of the road trip, except that we took the kids to Arcade Fire, their first real rock concert. Did I mention we took them to Hamilton at the Kennedy Center a few days before this road trip? Hello, we are exhausted.

What to do when the World Cup is over, 2018 edition

DAB ON THE HATERS, PAUL POGBA, WORLD CUP WINNER (Photo RIA Novosti, probably Vladimir Pesnya, but I stole it from Twitter.)

In 2010, the first World Cup where I really paid attention to my own country’s team and cheered them on in a more-than-casual way, I was crushed after they lost to Ghana in the Round of 16, and I wrote this post about what to do next to keep paying attention to soccer, while being an American.

In 2014, apparently I was so out of touch with this blog that I wrote nothing the entire calendar year. I guess I was tweeting? Anyway, I certainly was crushed after the #USMNT’s loss to Belgium in the Round of 16, and I kept up with soccer, and both the American men and women’s teams in a big way, but didn’t leave any instructions here.

So we come to 2018.

The men’s World Cup is over. The United States failed to qualify, our family’s second team, Italy, also failed to qualify — bit of a rarity, there — and yet I’ve just spent four weeks with soccer on in the background of most of the parts of my daily life, at least two or three games a day, and of course on that one glorious first weekend of the tournament, the magical four-game day!

Why was it so much fun? Honestly, it felt like anyone could win every single game, maybe with the exception of England-Panama. Parity is real, and even though we didn’t get a new World Cup winner out of this tournament, I would take this French team (a.k.a Diaspora FC) over just about anyone else who came to play, maybe excepting Peru.

What now?

There are some easy answers. Here are five.

  1. Keep watching soccer. MLS and the NWSL are in full swing. Your local teams are probably easy to find, and there are games on FOX, ESPN, NBC Sports, and there are streaming options, too. Is the quality as high as Brazil-Belgium? Every now and then, sure! For a few minutes. Either way, it’s professional soccer, with stars like Zlatan and Marta and Alex Morgan and (sigh) Wayne Rooney and lots of fun. Honestly, if you live somewhere like Portland, Seattle, Atlanta, Orlando (!), Kansas City, or Columbus, you might be shocked to find amazing groups of supporters standing and singing for 90 minutes, complete with tifo and drums and all that comes with it.
  2. Keep watching soccer. The English Premier League starts in a few weeks. If you don’t have a favorite team, now is the time to pick one. In 2010, I picked Everton. Now, yes, I know, true Evertonians born in Merseyside will chuckle and say real Evertonians are born, they don’t just pick a favorite team, and I get that, but really, you’ll be fine. Pick an English team. It’s easy to find their games on television every Saturday morning between mid-August and mid-May. The week between Christmas and New Year’s is especially fun. Here’s a slightly outdated guide to… picking a guide… to picking an EPL team to support.
  3. Play soccer. My year or so playing in a co-ed indoor league on Wednesday nights was the most sports glory I have ever achieved (we won the league championship two sessions in a row, little thanks to me, the big slow guy in the back). For real, you can do it. If you’re my age, just make sure you have good health insurance and know when to say when. I played in an all-ages league where I was routinely smoked by kids half my age, but rumor has it the old man leagues are substantially more physical. Your mileage may vary.
  4. Play fantasy soccer. MLS and EPL both have really fun fantasy league systems. If you’ve ever played fantasy football or baseball or whatever, you know how this works. It’s a great way to suddenly care deeply about the performance of those two inexpensive midfielders from Watford or that one overachieving forward from Bournemouth.
  5. SUPPORT THE WORLD CUP WINNING UNITED STATES WOMEN’S NATIONAL TEAM. It’s always challenging to give this enough emphasis, but the United States is a three-time World Cup winner. Three times. Three!!! Our women’s team has — without exaggeration — driven the spread of soccer around the world at both the highest and lowest levels since their first win in 1999. The 2015 Women’s World Cup in Canada (we were lucky enough to see the US-Germany semifinal in Montreal!) was a turning point for parity in women’s soccer. England, Brazil, Japan, Germany, France, Canada — these teams are all powerhouses.

There’s always more you can do. Coach your kids’ soccer teams! Volunteer and get involved, don’t leave it to someone else. Join the American Outlaws. Find your local soccer bars and go to watch the games even when you can’t get there in person! Just as good: Find some other country’s soccer bars in your neighborhood and go get some culture! 

Go get some soccer.

Three books that changed my mind in the past three months

I’ve been trying to read more.

Books.

Not just staring at my phone.

Unless there’s a book on it!

I read a decent percentage of Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle that way.

A few years ago.

I didn’t finish the last book.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t spend a ton of time staring into a block of glass that’s permanently fused to your hand, as long as there’s a book on the screen.

But yeah, I’m trying to get back to books.

Six years ago I asked for book recommendations on Twitter, and revisited those more recently to provide a progress report.

These days I have a tall backlog of books in my To Read pile on Goodreads.

They come from the year-end lists, at places like NPR, sure, but also in email newsletters that I don’t remember signing up for.

If you read Robin Sloan’s books, or John Darnielle’s, maybe you signed up for a newsletter from Farrar, Straus and Giroux? I guess I did. Their list of “Favorite Books” of 2017 isn’t just a best-of-the-year list, it includes books they came back to last year, or read for the first time, or just wanted to share again.

It’s a good list. And thorough.

In 2017, according to the stuff I logged on Goodreads, I only finished around 20 books. And a few of those were Daredevil comic anthologies. And one of them was a Star Wars novel. (Canon, though. Or Legends, or whatever it’s called now.)

That’s not enough.

I set a higher goal for 2018, and immediately started the year by reading a cookbook.

That doesn’t sound too intellectual, right? But no, really, the Momofuku cookbook is something else. Yes, recipes. Yes, food from David Chang’s restaurants, but for someone who usually scrolls straight through all the preamble when I’m just looking for a different gluten-free waffles recipe on a tight Saturday morning deadline, I was completely drawn in by all the prose around the recipes, not just explaining the methods and techniques, but also the story of his restaurants (as of a bunch of years ago when this was published, so it’s only the first two or three) and moreso, of his cooking.

You should read it.

Even the section on hams.

So it’s a cookbook, and I’ve been making stuff from it, but the big thing it’s inspiring me to do?

Oh goodness for lack of a better term, to “take it and turn it.”

To improvise more. To change the recipe, or the project plan, or the life goal, by some increment that makes it exponentially more a reflection of me than some objective idea.

Ugh, I already mentioned Robin.

OK, so all his stuff is good, and you should subscribe to his newsletter, too, and you should throw your 89 cents, or whatever, at anything he offers you for 89 cents.

I read Sourdough last fall, mostly in airports on a short trip to Chicago.

It’s… about… bread.

Sort of.

You should read it if you like magic realism. And bread. And San Francisco — well, liking it is optional, but some familiarity with it will help. (I don’t think I like San Francisco anymore.)

Like a sourdough starter, Robin’s book will reflect your own ambitions.

Yes, sourdough starter can do that. Apparently.

Is it cheating to recommend a book wherein you know the author since Kindergarten? No. No, it is not. Roben’s prose in Hotel Scarface is a delight, as it was when we took Dr. Lavin’s AP English class together, senior year of high school.

So it’s a fast, fun, titillating read. About the cocaine business. Extra points if you grew up in or around Miami, as we did. Double extra points if it makes you wonder how much cocaine-related revenue funded Dade County Public Schools.

But the most impressive thing to me? He spent 20 years on this. I won’t spoil the backstory, but Roben has been reporting this out for-flipping-ever.

What’s your 20-year project?

No pressure.