Thoughts for the week’s end

Last week was the 15th of this series, which I’m still finding interesting and in some ways therapeutic. I don’t have any kind of auto-tweet thing setup, and I often have Twitter blocked on my laptop, so I usually end up tweeting the link each week via my mobile browser.

Last week for the first time, I was able to type “Thoughts” and use auto suggest to finish the rest of the title. 😂

I spent quite a bit of time over the last couple weeks trying to think of the right clever way to implement a simple solution on a project.

Yesterday I had the epiphany that the project needed a more complex solution and all of a sudden the approach became obvious and relatively simple to implement.

Going into the weekend feeling pretty good.

When we were in Sweden last year we noticed (it was pretty obvious) lamps in just about every window in every place we stayed in that wasn’t a hotel.

At the time I found this Quora answer that seemed plausible. In a nutshell, houses in villages used to be closer together and farm land was shared surrounding the town. Over time, things were partitioned differently and the houses were moved away from each other onto their own plots of land. As a way of letting your neighbors know you were still there, you lit lamps in the window.

After spending some time trying to find historical sourcing for that, I’m not so certain it’s correct. But window lamp culture is definitely a thing in Sweden, and it’s not completely restricted to the darker times of the year.

Either way, correct or not, I kind of like the first explanation:

“wouldn’t you like to see lights twinkling through the winter darkness in the windows of those people who used to be your close neighbors? And wouldn’t you do the same for them?”

Alan Waller, on Quora

Not too long after we got back from Sweden, we rearranged some furniture and ended up putting a lamp in one of our front windows. It fits well and feels nice to have on.

This week, I realized that I like the way it fits even more now that we need to be physically distant from each other. It can be a quiet sign to the neighborhood that we’re all still here.

The split of land from communal to individual in Sweden appears to be the called the “Storskifte” or “Great Partition“, though as with everything, it seems that the actual history around things in Sweden is published in Swedish so I have some other learning to do before I get there. 😂

Om’s blog has been really nice lately.

Anne’s newsletter has been really nice lately.

One draft post I never seem to be getting to is the world of weekly notes that are out there and I had no idea existed until the last few months.

A fun thing about the weather in eastern Washington is how the temperature will swing wildly over hills and around corners.

On Wednesday, the temperature at the Pullman airport was 61. The Dark Sky app told me it was 64 in my area. The thermometer in the shade on our deck said 67. And the sunlit bedroom indoors, even with all of the windows open, was in the low 70s.

The house is getting the deep breath it’s been needing. I took two of my three walks yesterday in a t-shirt and will probably do the same today. We shared drinks over video with friends yesterday and we’ll share drinks over video with friends today.

Spring is great. If only we could meet each other in person! 🍻

Thoughts for the week’s end

Hello, April. May it start being spring soon? 🌨

A coffee grinder operating at its best is so wonderful. That the espresso started actually being espresso again was great by itself, but I dialed in a new grind for the chemex this week and it just tastes so good.

There were a few days last week where I was able to wear a t-shirt for our mid-day walks. That was fun while it lasted. Now it’s back to a bit of winter with some short bouts of light jacket. Supposedly it will be in the 60s by the end of next week. If so, the house windows are going to be wide. freaking. open.

We felt an earthquake! It was a 6.5 with an epicenter in the middle of Idaho, just about 300km from Pullman. A long way from us, but it made itself known. I felt my chair rolling back and forth as if the house was shaking and I couldn’t figure out what could be causing it. I looked over at the plant next to my desk and the leaves were waving. It’s funny how long the delay in my brain lasted before I realized what was going on.

I was very happy today to look closer and see that Shake Creek happens to run right by the epicenter. 😂

My last issue of High Country News arrived this month and I was on the fence as to whether I would subscribe again. I really like the work that they do, but I wasn’t making the time to read it and my unread stack is pretty high.

This week they published a very in-depth report, “Land-Grab Universities“, which explores how “expropriated Indigenous land is the foundation of the land-grant university system.”

I’m grabbing this quote from the article only because I’m familiar with WSU and some of the tribes mentioned:

“Meanwhile, Washington has retained nearly 80% of the original grant to fund Washington State University. No money was paid by the federal government to the Coeur d’Alene, Colville, Shoalwater Bay and Chehalis tribes for land supporting WSU. The Makah, Puget Sound Salish, Chemakuan, S’Klallam, Umatilla and Yakama received a combined $2,700 for their land cessions. In fiscal year 2019, the remaining lands generated $4.5 million for WSU, mostly from timber harvest”

HCN, Land-Grab Universities

The journalists dig down to the individual parcel level and show pictures of the current land, how much the federal government originally paid for it, and how much revenue it has brought in for each university. It’s really fascinating reporting.

This doesn’t change my mind on the land-grant mission. The work that land-grant institutions do is important and how they share that work with the community can be critical in many areas. I hope reporting like this is embraced by each land-grant institution as a way to start coming to terms with what it means and what reparations can be made.

Note: I also renewed my subscription to HCN.

I haven’t done a picture in one of these yet!

The empty streets, parking spots, and sidewalks of downtown Pullman, just after what would normally be rush hour.

Michelle and I have walked through downtown Pullman a handful of times around 6 or 6:30pm over the last week. It’s amazing how empty it is. Normally there would be a decent stream of cars coming down the one-way Main Street with plenty still parked on the sides. Now it feels like Christmas morning or something.

The bicycle shop that you can see in this photo was featured in the local paper the other day. Bike shops remain essential businesses under Washington State’s current guidelines. I appreciated the sign the owner was wearing around his neck telling customers to please keep a 6ft distance.

Hang in there and enjoy the weekend as best as it can be enjoyed. 🤗

Thoughts for the week’s end

Song number one is not a fuck you song
I’ll save that thought until later on
You want to know if there’s something wrong?
It’s nothing
It’s nothing

Fugazi, Song Number One

I’m not sure how I made it this far without listening to Fugazi, and maybe I’m forgetting something, but I think I did.

This week I listened to their first few albums and had a blast. Music like this always brings back the best memories of playing in rock and roll bands. Sometimes I’m not sure I had a great reason for stopping. I know my day job “demanded” a lot—I worked too much and got paid too little. Was it that I was broke and tired of driving my crappy car into the city every week for rehearsal? Of all the things I wrote about, why don’t I ever explain that!?

And how on earth is the Myspace page still up! There’s a throwback photo for you. 😂

Jeff posted about his comfort meal—grilled cheese and tomato soup with hard-boiled eggs—and asked for others’.

I’ve been thinking all week about my answer. There are a lot of great foods, but nothing that really pops into my brain as “comfort”. That said, I have a lot of great memories around grilled cheese and tomato soup (without the egg, which I should definitely try).

There’s a good chance Michelle and I made that for dinner at least 3 times a week when we first met. It was one of our meals of choice while hosteling in Ireland and is always a right answer. Once for St. Patrick’s Day we actually ordered Brennans bread and Knorr tomato soup mix from Ireland so that we could actually recreate the experience.

The photos I had on Instagram from that day are now on, which is nice. One perfect meal, which is absolutely comforting, is:

I very much enjoyed Om’s post, “Dealing with not knowing“. Please go read it and I will also steal a quote from Edvard Munch that he used:

I was walking along the road with two friends – the sun was setting – suddenly the sky turned blood red – I paused, feeling exhausted, and leaned on the fence – there was blood and tongues of fire above the blue-black fjord and the city – my friends walked on, and I stood there trembling with anxiety – and I sensed an infinite scream passing through nature.

Edvard Munch, on why he painted the Scream

I am never going to look at that painting the same way again.

I’ve done well this week at maintaining focus. Last week’s “find a single focus” has started working pretty well.

First, I’ve paid a lot of attention to the way I think things should go and the way that things do go.

One example is that I often think I should start working by 8am in order to have a productive day and wrap things up by 5pm. But in reality, I’m never ready to sit and start working at 8am. I’d also like to be a bit more mindful to how the day begins. After accepting that, I moved how I thought about my schedule around and the days have started much nicer.

So thumbs up to accepting the reality of a 9am start when that’s when you start every day.

And second, I tricked my brain! Last week’s bookmark moving has completely paid off. Instead of reactionary visits to COVID dashboards and news sites, I have to go hunting for them. This usually causes me to just turn back to what I was doing, which is a welcome change.

Happy Friday—it’s pizza night. Stay safe and home. 🍕

Thoughts for the week’s end

“Find a single focus.”

Is what I wrote down on a few pieces of paper this week. Sometimes in large text! The repetition is starting to work. I’ve been closer to focused as the week goes on, but there is also just a lot going on!

The News and our collective reactions to The News has been the most detrimental to my focus and I changed a few things that have made an immediate impact.

  • I moved the Twitter icon to a different area of the screen on my phone. This causes me to hesitate before opening and I think reduced the number of times I went through with it.
  • I removed the app icons for The Guardian, The Washington Post, and The NY Times from one of the main screens (Android) so that now if I want to look at them I have to go hunting among all of the other apps. This process reminds me that it’s okay to avoid them for periods of the day and I usually stop.
  • I removed my COVID-19 and Regular Reads bookmark folders from the bookmarks toolbar. I was using those as quick shortcuts to various graphs and news sites. Because they were quick shortcuts, I… drum roll… quickly visited them!—frequently. Now that they are off screen, I am visiting them much less.
  • I re-added Twitter to my block list, something I first tried in January. This makes it harder for me to visit Twitter and reduces the amount of time I spend on it.

These are all strategies that help delay the delivery of updates. Just because things are happening in the world doesn’t mean I need to know them now. There’s nothing actionable I can do anyway!

I am grateful the population density of Pullman means daily walks outside can still happen in a responsible way without much effort.

We’ve been averaging 3 or so walks around the neighborhood each day. Luckily we have a nice (quaint?) primitive trail system a couple blocks away that can get us off pavement for a bit.

I only knew part of the Dry Fork Creek Natural Area’s backstory until I looked up that article just now. So great!

When I walked downtown to drop off our city bill the other day, the neighborhood seemed super quiet, which is a weird thing to think about a neighborhood that is already super quiet. I don’t doubt I’m projecting.

The espresso machine is fixed! Except it wasn’t the espresso machine.

Michelle cleaned the machine and replaced the silicone ring. We tried a thousand different grind settings, watched videos on proper tamping, started deciding there was just no hope, etc, etc…

Then, I decided to try and clean the grinder just in case there was something going on with that. I made it sparkle, but we still had bad coffee. And at some point, all of the coffee started tasting like garbage—except for the moka pot, which is proving to be exceptionally resilient.

And then! I finally looked up some troubleshooting info on Baratza’s website and saw that the plastic around our ring burr was in fact missing a few pieces. This explained the unknown plastic pieces I saw when I opened up the grinder. 🙂

These missing plastic pieces were causing (I think) the ring burr to be very unstable. This meant that it wobbled or otherwise moved around while the machine was grinding and the grind came out coarser than normal and super inconsistent.

I ordered a new ring burr from Baratza, received it a couple days later, and voila—beautiful, fine grinds. And espresso is back!

Baratza sets an excellent example. They make great grinders. Every piece of the grinder can be ordered on the web. And they included a “Don’t Dump It – Fix It!” sticker with the shipment that is going on the laptop. 🙌🏻

I enjoy Björk so much.

This week I found myself working chronologically through all of her standard albums, ignoring the live and remix releases.

Often, I’ll get my fix just by listening to Post. Army of Me is such a great opening track. I also find myself at Debut again and again—once again, Human Behavior is such a great opening track.

I’ve realized this week that I absolutely love Homogenic. There’s so many layers and the album just feels good all the way through.

When listening to Vespertine, I remembered that I somehow ended up listened to it while looking out the airplane window over Iceland one time and it was an almost magical soundscape. The next time I flew over Iceland I was very excited for the repeat.

I decided this time around that Medulla is the strangest album—though I really enjoy Who Is It and Triumph of a Heart.

Volta is a lot more fun than I remember and I’d like to hear her redo “Declare Independence” with a heavy metal backing band for some odd reason.

Biophilia is calming—there’s a perfect track for this era, “Virus”.

Vulnerica is excellent for brain getting work done.

And I’m not sure what to think of Utopia, it is getting late, but it feels similarly calming to Biophilia.

Anyhow. One day I’ll give her the same treatment I did Steve Earle 8 years ago. I need to revisit that post and fix all the Rdio links.

The first day of Spring came this week, the earliest it’s arrived in 124 days. We were lucky to have sun and I was lucky enough to go for a walk outside in a t-shirt.

I hope anyone reading this is doing well!


Thoughts for the week’s end

More than anything right now I want it to be warm enough that we can open all of the windows and the house can just take a nice deep breath.

I have worn my light jacket more than my heavy jacket in the last week while walking around the neighborhood and I’ve started using it as a relative happiness measure. Spring is almost here!

My favorite part about this jacket (or “technical hoodie”) is how I wasn’t even looking for one, but it was 50% off on a clearance rack, fits perfect, and is exactly what I need for non-rainy fall and spring days.

Of course somehow I’ve also found myself wearing a heavier hoodie over a long sleeve t-shirt when at home this week, which makes no sense at all.

I didn’t mention last week that I do realize people all over the world use a moka pot every day without a recipe. Dump pre-ground coffee into the basket until it’s kind of full, fill the base with water, screw the top on and put it on the stove.

I have no idea how this works for other people! I’ve failed miserably every time I try to be nonchalant about it. So I’m okay having a “recipe”. 😂

Tweeting is to talking what polling is to voting.

I really enjoyed Jill Lepore’s commentary in The New Yorker this week, “The Problems Inherent in Political Polling“.

Max von Sydow passed away. I didn’t recognize his name at first, but when I saw his face, I immediately remembered him (among many other roles) as Karl Oskar from The Emigrants, a movie that follows a 19th century Swedish family during their preparation for emigration to the United States. I read the book during our trip to Sweden last year and had a lot of fun using it as an imaginary gateway into what things may have been like.

I have a whole separate draft post recording how I’ve been processing COVID-19, so I’ll leave most of it out of here. But of course there are words to say.

Even though our county does not yet have a confirmed case (is it possible to confirm what you don’t test?), we are taking the approach of participating in social distancing. It seems to be the best thing to do early—even before you are at risk—to help the community at large. It worked in St. Louis in 1918.

That SARS-COV-2 appears to often be spread by people who do not show any symptoms helps solidify that as the right decision. Even as relatively low-risk carriers, we could increase the risk to our community.

Which means… tonight we had our first ever remote book club via Zoom! It worked out really, really well—much better than I expected. Still great people, still great conversation.

One thing I started to pick up on is how interesting it is to see everyone’s face at once. When you’re sitting around a table or on a couple of couches, you’re often turning your head to look at who is talking and not catching all of the reactions. I’m not sure which is better, because in person reactions are definitely more… personal? But it’s pretty cool.

Our book was Malcolm Gladwell’s Talking to Strangers. It was an interesting and quick read, though I’m always wary of reading his books. I feel like a statistic repeater when I’m done.

“Did you know?”, “Did you know?”.

And then I’m not sure if I really know or if I’m just repeating statistics. Which is actually great for the thesis of the book because when I read Gladwell, I default to accepting that he’s writing the truth.

It was still a fun read and we had some great discussion around almost every chapter. So I’m happy to have read it, but I’m still wary of Gladwell. 😂

Today Happy Prime will have its first ever Friday lunch online instead of meeting downtown. It will be a bummer not to hang out in person, but I’m also interested to see how it goes.

Happy Friday! 🍻