Friday, December 27, 2019

Coffee for Christmas

For my wife's family, rather than everyone getting everyone presents, we have a gift exchange. We all send a list of things we'd like. I listed a whole bunch of things that were well under the cost limit--it's nice to get a bunch of stuff, you know?

When it came to it, I pretty much forgot what I'd asked for. There was a cylindrical-ish package and I was like "oh, it's that wine I asked for." Even though it clearly wasn't heavy enough to be a bottle of wine, I shook it to see if it would slosh.

It did not, because it was this:

The Aeropress coffee maker. I'd had my eye on this thing for, geez, probably a decade now, and even though it isn't that expensive, I'd never purchased one. I mean, the coffee I made in my French Press was pretty good (until I neglected to clean it and the mesh thing got moldy); the coffee I made in my coffee drip cone (bought for camping) was absolutely adequate. There was a lot of hype around the Aeropress, but I'm not exactly a coffee snob. I like what I like, and that covers a wide range of coffees that absolutely include "whatever's free at work."

That said, this really does make excellent coffee. My only complaint is that it doesn't make more at one time. It seems completely inconceivable that filling it with water up to the "2" marking is a cup. I fill it up to "4" and that still doesn't fill up either my Contigo travel mug or my larger Yeti travel mug. both of which just seem like a normal serving. So it's also "amazing" in the sense of being amazingly small. But whatever.

Maybe I drink "too much" coffee though. Whatever that might mean.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Merry Christmas

This Christmas, I got...

more laundry to do, apparently.

Littlest got sheets for her bed (along with wall clings) with characters from her favorite (-ish) show, PJ Masks, which she wants on her bed more or less immediately (fair enough), which means laundry must be done. Plus Middlest and Firstest got quite a few items of clothing, and the sooner they're washed the sooner they can be worn. So yeah, I got laundry for Christmas.
Littlest wasn't really ready to be awake yet, so she was crying on my lap while this was taken.
Also, relevant to the above photo:


I didn't get just laundry, of course. It was a really nice Christmas. We might have gotten too much stuff for the girls, really, and we were probably compensating for last year, when I didn't have a job. But the excitement was palpable, pretty much every gift was a hit, and we still had Second Christmas to look forward to at my in-laws!

All in all, a great Christmas, even if the video that I wanted to post caused me no end of difficulty and ultimately resulted in this post being delayed by 36 hours.


Tuesday, December 24, 2019

It's beginning to feel a bit like Christmas

Just in time, too!

With temperatures in the high thirties through low fifties the past several days, all the snow has melted, so no white Christmas for us. It's also been strange working in a field that isn't education--I'm not used to having to work any of the several days before Christmas, never mind on Christmas Eve!

I was also realizing last night as we were wrapping the last of the presents that I've hardly listened to any Christmas music this year. My wife put some on the radio on our way home from Thanksgiving, but that's about the only time I've heard the music of the season.

Still, it's clearly just about that time.

The presents have been piling up under the tree for weeks now, my wife picked up my mom yesterday to stay with us for several days, and I was seized by an unaccountable desire to cook a ham for dinner. At the same time, I was compelled to buy an industrial-sized package of cinnamon rolls for tomorrow morning (I've made them from scratch some years, but when I saw them in Costco for the purchasing, I decided that I could find better uses for my time).

I'm looking forward to seeing how everyone likes their gifts. I got my wife something she really wants and something else that I think will be a nice surprise. After doing a ton of research (probably almost nearly 15 minutes), I made an impulse buy at the bookstore for my mother, which I think she'll love. It's Sherrod Brown's book on 8 influential senators who sat in the desk he sits at--she loves Brown, in general she loves reading about current political figures, and she enjoys history, so this book is a real triple threat. I think the girls are going to love so many of the things we got for them and I'm getting excited to see their reactions tomorrow morning.

Also, I got this guy early, so I'm already a Christmas champion, my friends.


I think we would have waited until tomorrow to open him, but I already knew he was coming and, besides, we couldn't leave him in a box when he wants to break free.

Argreements

I had lunch the other day with a bunch of guys from work, most of whom I don't know very well. One of them is pretty loud and opinionated, and I thought more than a few of his opinions were uninformed and/or wrong-headed. There was a part of me that wanted to argue with him, but I also had the sense that it would be completely fruitless and annoying. It seems pretty clear that this guy already knows everything there is to know.

It did occur to me later that part of the reason this guy probably thinks that he's so smart is because nobody ever bothers to argue with him. And when they do, I'm sure he "wins" by wearing them out. Just a reminder for anyone who needs to hear it: just because people stop arguing with you doesn't mean you're right, and it doesn't mean that they don't think you're underinformed, an idiot, and/or a jackass.

***
I feel pretty confident in saying this because, on further reflection, it's entirely possible that I was this guy at some points in my past. For sure, I had ideas that I felt pretty strongly about and would happily argue until the other person came around to my way of thinking. I know I thought I was pretty smart, pretty clever, and absolutely correct. I mean they couldn't counter my arguments! Clearly my beliefs and opinions were unassailable, because they couldn't be assailed. I hope I didn't rub other people the way this guy was rubbing me, but if I'm being honest... well, it's not unlikely, even though I have a hard time thinking of myself that way.

In any case, I think--I hope--I'm a lot better at listening, at considering, at reconsidering than I was back then. I'm less inclined to have those passionate arguments these days, but I hope that when I do, it's a different spirit in which I have them, one that is open to learning something, to having my own mind changed, and perhaps one that might actually be more persuasive since, as they say, you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Sentimental Christmas

I suggested to my family that we go ahead and have Christmas tonight, December 23, so that all the wrapping paper and packaging can go out with the trash tomorrow.

I'm sentimental like that.

My idea was vetoed before it could come up for a vote.


The Year in Books: First Trimester

Thanks in large part to audiobooks (and the wide range of them that my local library offers) I consumed a lot of books this year -- Goodreads tells me it's 94 as of today, and I expect to add some more before the year concludes. My year broke down pretty neatly into three 4-month blocks: from January until early May I was staying home full-time with our daughter, which allowed for a lot listening time as I did things around the house or drove to pick up kids. From mid-May until the end of August I was training for a new career, which didn't leave nearly as much reading time. And then from September until now I've been working at my new job, which gives me about 45 minutes in the car each way to listen to books and podcasts, not to mention occasional walks during the work day.

Given that the list is so long, I thought I'd reflect back on the first third of 2019 for this post and save the other reading for later. 

Lois McMaster Bujold is an author that I've been aware of for decades, but only read a couple of her books, a standalone that I probably read 25 years ago and the first book in her fantasy series that starts with The Curse of Chalion, maybe 10 years ago. I wasn't consciously avoiding her, but hadn't sought her out. As I was looking for good fantasy from my library's audiobook downloads, I came across her work and decided to finally dive into her famous Vorkosigan saga. At the end of 2018 I went through the three books that tell the story of Miles Vorkosigan's mother, and between January and early March I read the other 11 books in the series. I really enjoyed them all--they're easy space opera reads that nonetheless have more meat to them than you'd expect. The characters are well-drawn and especially as they build over so many pages, growing individually with evolving relationships between them, she built to some really powerful moments, particularly in the later books. 

Enjoying those as much as I did--and also sometimes waiting for the next volume to be available from the library--pulled me into re-reading The Curse of Chalion and finally reading the rest of that series. Again, very good reads. I also enjoyed her Sharing Knife series. She's an excellent writer with really steady output over the years, and her recently-conferred Grandmaster status was well-deserved.

In late December 2018 I enjoyed Naomi Novik's Spinning Silver, and in January I also loved a different fairy tale retelling from her, Uprooted. Speaking of continuations, there were a few series that I continued in 2019 that I started earlier, reading the 2nd and 3rd books of Josiah Bancroft's excellent Books of Babel series in January and April, and I'm eagerly awaiting future volumes there. I continued Anna Smith-Spark's Empires of Dust with book 2 in February (and I'm reading the concluding volume now). 

I tried some new, independently-published books, largely because I got free copies, but they were nothing special, sad to say. Not bad just ho-hum. 

A couple series I started that were not ho-hum included Mark Lawrence's One Word Kill (Impossible Times #1) and Peter McLean's Priest of Bones, and I read the second book in each series later in the year. 

There wasn't much that wasn't fantasy or sci-fi during the first trimester, but what I did read was very good. I'd somehow never read The Diary of Anne Frank, but it was part of the curriculum for a teaching job I applied for, which was enough prompting to get me to read it, and I'm glad that I did. Really powerful work. I also read White Fragility, a really thought-provoking look at race in America. 

A couple others bear mentioning before I close. First, N.K. Jemisin's How Long 'til Black Future Month, a fantastic collection of stories from the author of The Broken Earth Trilogy, which I read last year, and The Inheritance Trilogy, which I'm in the midst of right now. Nalo Hopkinson's Sister Mine came out of nowhere for me, but it was among the best books I read this year. Iain M. Banks' Consider Phlebas was the first book of his that I read, and although it didn't pull me right into the rest of his work, I expect I'll get there eventually. Finally, I thought that Christopher Buehlman's The Lesser Dead was a fun and interesting take on vampire stories. 

I finished out the first trimester with some re-reads: the first two books in Tad Williams' Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn trilogy, which I loved as a kid but hadn't read since--I thought it held up quite well all these years later. I also revisited Jim Butcher's Codex Alera, which I realized I had never finished. I still like his Dresden Files novels better, but these were better than I remembered them (though I suspect they might fall into the category of books that--to me--are better to listen to than to read). 

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Heimat

A month or two ago, I read an article called The Glossary of Happiness, about a project collecting words from other languages that don't have a precise equivalent in English. Throughout this month, I'd like to explore some of those words (yet another plan that didn't come through--yet).

Heimat (German, “deep-rooted fondness towards a place to which one has a strong feeling of belonging”)

The place that came immediately to mind for heimat was my alma mater, Kenyon College.

1.

All four years of college, I sang in the Chamber Singers, a choir that rehearsed daily and spent 11 days each spring break touring a region of the country. At every stop on tour, at every concert, our encore piece was "Kokosing Farewell," the "unofficial alma mater," and it was deeply ingrained through that singing (to be fair, lots of alumni who didn't sing in the choir also feel connected to the school songs--my wife and I bonded over school songs on one of our early dates). With all the time we spent singing together, Chamber Singers was a special kind of family, with connections made even deeper by the conscious efforts of our director. Every year in the fall, he and his wife would invite the choir in groups of six to his house for a lasagna dinner (he wasn't the only professor to invite students in, but that lasagna dinner was part of every single year of college for me). The food, the conversation, the camaraderie: I loved it. That, right there, went a long way toward imbuing my Kenyon experience with heimat, helping me feel like I belonged, like the college was home and my professors and fellow students were family. So much so that I'm drawn back every four years for the choir reunion, where not only do I see many of my favorite people from college, but where that family grows as I meet new people with that same connection to the choir, younger and older than myself. Even as the group expands, it's anchored to a place and an experience that is shared.

Little-known fact: to each of my daughters, within the first hour or so that they were out of the womb, I sang to them "Kokosing Farewell," the unofficial alma mater of Kenyon. Perhaps you'd call it early indoctrination, but that's not really it. The song does have something of the feel of a lullaby, but I think also that when I thought about comforting my newborn children (well, especially the first one, before it became a thing I did with all of them), Kenyon was a place that felt comforting to me, in no small part because of my experience in the Chamber Singers, of which this song became a representation.

2.
Of course, college is not just singing and lasagna dinners. It was also a place where I found a brotherhood that deepened the sense of heimat I have for that campus.

Like most only children, I didn't grow up with siblings. And so--like many onlies--I sought out surrogate brothers (and sisters) as I moved through the world. Although I didn't join a fraternity in college, I guess you could say I forged fraternal bonds anyway. Long story short[er], in my sophomore year I met the guy who would become my best friend, and he was enmeshed with a group of guys he lived with (6 of them). And over the next few years, another group of guys would merge with that group, tied together by a few of us who crossed over. We had a core of +/- 12 guys, a group that's shown itself to have permeable boundaries over the past 20 years since we graduated, easily absorbing new "dudes" just like they were always there. Some number of us have managed to get together most of the last 20 years, and when we do we find the bonds of friendship have only strengthened.

As I get older, I find that there really is something remarkable about those relationships that formed early, whether in high school, college, or my early 20s. Those relationships, too, have heimat baked into them. Maybe it's harder to form these kinds of relationships in adulthood because we're pulled in different directions by our family connections--spouse, children, parent(s), extended family--and so don't have the time and energy to nurture those new friendships. Or maybe it's harder because adulthood encourages us to raise more shells between ourselves and others, while in our younger days we were more open and uninhibited. We can still find some measure of that openness with these old friends because they've already seen us at our uninhibited worst (and best) and love us anyway, and that history of trust keeps the door open between us.

Earlier this fall, my best friend let me know that he was going to be heading to Kenyon for work and wondered if I wanted to get together. I live about 2 hours from campus now, so I took a day off work so we could get together and hang out, spending a solid 24 deepening our own connection to each other and to that place that was literally home for four years and has been a figurative home in the 20 years since.

Enjoying the crisp fall air, coffees, and heimat at the gates.

Keep spinning those pots

Obviously, when I was thinking about how Holidailies would go, a 2-week break in the middle was not in the plan. Life has been busy, but it was also pretty busy during the first nine days when I was writing. I think if I'm being honest, as much as anything, I was feeling inadequate to the task. I didn't feel like I had anything interesting to say, like no one was reading it even if I did, and why bother?

There's an element of truth to all that self-criticism: I'm not the writer I was when I had a year-plus streak of blogging, when I was also writing regularly in a pen-and-paper journal. I don't write as much as I used to, and it shows. But then, there's only one way to fix that: write more.

There was an experiment where they had two groups of art students, and they divided the students into two groups--one was told that their final grade in the class would be based on any one piece of art that they chose to submit, while the other was told that their grade would be based on the quantity of work that they produced. And in the end, the group that was being judged on quantity rather than quality also made better art. Just gotta keep spinning those pots (or whatever).

My blog has never been a high-traffic site, but even if there are even fewer people reading it now than at times in the past, so what? Someone's reading it (at least this time of year!), and those are some cool people whose blogs I also enjoy reading (or, at least, I did--I've got some catching up to do, because at the same time I wasn't writing, I wasn't reading). There would be value in doing the work even if no one was reading, and whatever community we find of fellow bloggers is a good thing, not to be denigrated as "less than."

Maybe it's a little seasonal blues combined with writer's block. I don't know. It is what it is, or was what it was, or whatever.

I think it's a natural human tendency, when we're trying to do something and fail in some way to just throw in the towel, to throw up our hands rather than getting back on the proverbial horse. You're on a diet, you have a cookie, next thing you know you spend the rest of the day--if not the rest of the week--binging, because you've already "ruined" your diet, as if there's no difference between one deviation from your plan and giving up entirely.  I've definitely been there, and I know I'm not the only one. I've done that before with writing, too, whether blogging here or doing NaNoWriMo. But this year, I'm going to try to get back on it, try to finish the month strong and maybe even keep going into the new year instead of calling it a day at the end of Holidailies. Here goes.

Monday, December 9, 2019

Concert compliment

Sometimes a compliment lands badly, through no fault of your own.

After the concert yesterday, there was a reception, and at the reception a woman came up to me. "Oh, weren't you in the center of the front row?"

"Yes, I was."

"I'm pretty sure that I could hear you several times!"

"Oh, I'm sorry about that."

"No! You have a really nice voice!"

Thanks, but I really am sorry about that. Not sure what I mean? She also said she could hear the guy two down from me, and I was thinking that I was sure she could, because he routinely sings way too loudly and isn't very good at blending.

And that's the thing: in a choir, it's usually not a good sign when individual voices stand out, however lovely the voice might be. I really don't think of myself as having a particularly loud voice. I mean, sure, give me the right note, the right vowel, and a little permission, and I can definitely give you a fortissimo, but in general, that's not my goal or (I thought) my strong point. I mean, I'm not a soloist, I'm a chorister.

Of course, I didn't say anything. I just thanked her in the spirit it was meant, thanked her for coming and all that.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Concert Season

One of my friends, a former professional violist (now, I guess, a semi-professional?) asked me to tell her when my choir's having a concert, but when I was writing her a note earlier this week to invite her to today's performance, I was already pretty sure that she wouldn't be able to make it, because it's just that time of year when musicians have stuff going on (and I was right).

Prior to this week's rehearsal, it was a little touch and go. We had a pretty challenging program, and I think we were starting to doubt our collective ability, but we had a good dress rehearsal Wednesday and our concert went really well.

The first half of the concert is Respighi's Lauda per la nativit√† del signore. I'd never even heard of it before we started working on it, but it's a gorgeous piece. We finally heard it with woodwind sextet at dress rehearsal, and that added a lot to the sound, just a really beautiful timbre with the oboe and
English horn (and 2 bassoons and 2 flutes). The piece has several long sections featuring 3- and 4- part men's chorus, and I'm absolutely a sucker for the sound of men's chorus.

The second half of the concert is a little more traditional Christmas concert-y, but there's still a lot of interesting pieces in there. We start with a carol called "Sir Christemas" with a 16th century text and 20th century musical setting. It's fine. Another original composition is "Winter Wind," a setting of Shakespeare, which is lovely, and then what I assume is a traditional carol "Bring us in good ale, which was either arranged by Holst or actually written by him. Very much in the tradition of "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" or the various wassailing songs, t's got some tricky melodic lines and accelerates crazily at the end. There's an arrangement of "Huron Carol" (Canada's oldest Christmas song!), and it's pretty. We're doing two "Songs of Peace" in Hebrew by Jeremiah Klarman. Then there's a Rutter arrangement of the second tune of "I saw three ships," which feels very... British. It has whistling, for goodness sake. Then there "The Chanukah Song (We Are Lights)" which feels very Broadway--which was no surprise once I looked up the composer, Stephen Schwartz, and saw that he wrote music for Godspell, Pippin, and Wicked. It finally came together for me at the concert. Then there's the Willcocks arrangement of "Ding dong! merrily on high" and a really beautiful and moving arrangement of "O Little Town of Bethlehem" by Dan Forrest, which includes oboe solo. The David Chase arrangement of "Angels We Have Heard On High" is quite nice, as is the Willcocks "Jingle Bells" that we end with.

We won't get to do the Respighi again, but we have two more performances of the other pieces the next two weeks at a couple area nursing homes. And I kind of like those performances as well or better than the big performances: smaller, more intimate venue, and the choir is also smaller, because not everyone in the group can make it, and I actually like smaller groups better (not that it's small, even so).

Saturday, December 7, 2019

It's been a week

Not the easiest week around here.

Monday morning around 1:00, our 9-year-old made a pilgrimage from her bedroom to the bathroom, leaving vomitus at various points along the way. And given that she'd eaten ramen noodles early, it had quite an odor as well as fantastic texture. As the guy who cleaned it up, I know what I'm talking about here. I was up for about an hour with her, and if that wasn't enough, our fur child decided she needed me at 5:00, an hour before the alarm was due to go off. So yeah, good way to start the week.

Then again... I don't normally get the privilege of working from home (still the new guy), but for things like staying home with my sick child, it's allowed. And even though I was pretty tired, working from home was pretty excellent. I can't wait until that's a regular thing.

Then, Thursday evening, I started getting the vague sense that I might have started coming down with whatever she had. I skipped dinner and went to bed early, which got me a good 45 minutes of sleep before my kids starting actively resisting my wife's attempts to put them to bed. And when I did get back to sleep, it only lasted so long (roughly the 4-6 hours the Tylenol bottle advertised). I woke around midnight feeling achy and slightly nauseous, though what I could possibly puke up, I had no idea. I took some more pills, hoping to get comfortable enough to fall asleep again, then spent the next hour shifting positions trying to 1) fall asleep and 2) not puke. I won't leave you in suspense: at the end of that hour (or so), I fell asleep.

Thank goodness for small wins.

Then on Saturday, my wife and I tried to get back on schedule with our running. We're training for a half marathon in February, and we were doing really well until it got cold and we got busy. One or the other we could handle, but we've struggled to get up at 5 am for a run the past several weeks. Or is it months now? Anyway, it's been a while since we had a real routine going. But we got up to go today, and then less than a mile into it, my wife rolled her ankle on one or more acorns and went down. I managed to get a little bit longer run in--by running home to get the car and come back for her--but she's been limping around on crutches ever since, and her ankle has swollen up like she's hiding a tennis ball under her skin.

Like I said, it's been a week.

Friday, December 6, 2019

My new look?

"Daddy, you have ice cream hair!"


My daughters haven't done my nails, but I guess sometimes they think I need a hair transplant.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Thought experiments: friends and spouses

I was thinking in the shower the other day. And this is a two-parter, so buckle up.

So, first: if you think about all your friends, your good friends, you know whether or not you would want to (be able to?) live with them long-term. Right? The point isn't really whether you would or wouldn't be willing to be roommates with any particular friend--I think everyone knows people who are great friends that you just couldn't live together. No worries. The point is, you have a definite answer.

Now, here's the thing. You can give that answer because you know a lot about those friends, about how the two of you interact. But. What if we did that same thought experiment with those same friends' spouses? I guess you could think of it as "would you want to be married to that person?" but I'm thinking of it more in equivalent terms, leaving aside sexual compatibility (or interest).

Maybe it says something about my adult social life, but I'm guessing that most people would struggle to even answer that question. Most of my best friends, I don't really know their spouses well enough to really answer that except maybe in a lukewarm way ("yeah, I guess").

And there's something kind of weird about that. You know what I'm saying? Like, here are these people that you care about, people that you know well, but you don't know this other person who is almost certainly the most important person in their life. Interesting, isn't it?

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Making a list...

As a child of the '80s, one of the highlights of autumn every year was when J.C. Penny and Sears & Roebuck's Christmas catalogs arrived. I've spent countless hours poring over the bibles of consumerism, educating me about all the things I absolutely needed (even if I hadn't previously known they existed). I'd guess three-quarters of the pages were dog-eared, with multiple things circled one each so that my parents would know where to spend their hard-earned money on behalf of my happiness.

My kids have basically followed in my footsteps, except that their "catalog" is called "the internet."

As I was, they are--at least in one sense--easy to shop for, if only because they want everything. Of course, there's a sense in which that also means that they--and also previous me--can never be satisfied, because their wants are limitless. But whatever.

Perhaps it's just as well, then, that I don't get that many presents anymore. I get something from my wife (typically the best thing, because it's both a surprise and something I'll really like, I get something from my kids (i.e. something else from my wife), and something from my mom--usually something we've negotiated in advance, usually something very generous and greatly appreciated. And something quirky and fun from my mother-in-law in my stocking.

And then there's my wife's family's gift exchange. And let me be clear: this is great, and I've really liked the things I've gotten over the years. It's also nice that the adults of the family basically just have to shop for one other adult in the family (besides their spouse). Here's the problem: I am absolutely terrible at putting out ideas for my family-secret-santa. I just have no idea what to ask for. The things that I need or want, I typically buy for myself at some point during the year, or else I don't because they're ridiculously expensive... which also makes them things I can't ask for in the gift exchange.

For several years, my go-to was clothes to represent my sports-team allegiances--Ohio State, Cleveland Indians or Cavs, Cincinnati Bengals. But I've reached a point where I've got plenty of those things. Plus, they meant just a little bit more to me when I lived in Indiana, because I liked to wear these things that set me apart from those around me and declared an allegiance to the state of my birth (and they were harder to buy for myself). Now that I live in Cleveland, it just doesn't feel as important, since basically everyone agrees with me (except about the Bengals). And, like I said, I have a fair bit of that gear now, thanks mostly to the family gift exchange.

So: what to ask for?

I love books, but I can't bring myself to ask for them, for the same reason that I've slowed way down in buying books for myself. We live near a great library where I can get any book I want. Besides: what I really need is not more books but more time to read them. I'm pretty sure I already own quite a few books that I'll never make time to read, despite the best of intentions when I bought them. I do like getting them, but what I love about receiving books as gifts is when someone knows me well enough to select a book that I'll love without me knowing that the book even existed.

I just don't know. If you'd like to suggest cool things for $75 or less, I would be happy to hear about them. Cool gadgets? Interesting things to go in my new cubicle? Kitchen things? Fitness gear? I'd also be interested to hear how you ask for presents.

Monday, December 2, 2019

I mean, it's good enough, right?

A recent FB post:


As my wife pointed out, I was manually controlling the wipers when she informed me. The slow setting and whatever speed the intermittent setting was on were both too fast--we were getting this obnoxious scraping sound every time the wipers wiped, because it wasn't wet enough. So I was controlling it manually, every so often, and my wife says "why don't you just..." My first reaction was actually "What? You can't do that!" "Yeah, every car you've ever driven has had one of those." I'm still not convinced that my first car, a 1992 Dodge Shadow, had such controls, but she's actually driven every other car I've owned, so I mean, she probably does know about those.

While a tad embarrassing, it was too funny not to post.

But the very next day, I had a sort of moment of clarity as I reflected on what could be a pattern. It was like this:

We've lived in our house 16 months, and in that time, our dryer has never been very good. First, it was a dryer that came with the house. It was old-ish, and we kind of assumed that it was crap, since they were willing to leave it. When someone (okay, it was me) broke the washing machine by trying to wash a sleeping bag in it and burning out the motor, we figured it was just as well to get a new set. And really, the new ones were both awfully nice.

But. The new dryer, with its wealth of interesting drying features, wasn't actually much better in terms of, well, drying things. Which might be the most important feature of a dryer. Arguably. How "not much better" was it? I'd have to run a cycle probably two or three times. And those cycles sometimes took approximately forever. I resorted to drying half a load of laundry while hanging the other half around the basement to dry under the influence of the dehumidifier, and thus dry faster when their turn finally came.

Side note: it's telling that our basement needs a dehumidifier, and so maybe I shouldn't be going out of my way to introduce more humidity.

But whatever. I mean, that was fine. Other than all the time wasted hanging stuff up, and the time wasted moving it from there to the dryer, and it sometimes still taking two really long cycles to dry half a load of laundry. This has been the state of things for at least several months, maybe in part because I'd gotten used to it with the old dryer, which I assumed to just be crap.

It took all of 10 seconds Googling to realize that the problem might actually be that the dryer vent was clogged. In fact, I'd actually heard about that possibility before we got the new dryer, and assumed (hoped?) that the new dryer vent pipe would have taken care of that possibility.

In the end, it took me maybe five minutes to take off the vent cover outside, clean out the lint that was entirely blocking the flow of air out and put it all back together.

And that got me thinking: what the hell is wrong with me? Seriously. This could have been fixed in five minutes sixteen months ago, if only I hadn't been so accepting of what we might call "the way things are."

That's the theme here. Why did I never discover that the intermittent wipers had an adjustable speed? Because they were fine at whatever speed they happened to be. Not great, not ideal, but you know. I could live with it, so why look for an alternative? Which was more or less how I approached the dryer situation. Really, it was a pain in the ass to hang stuff up every time I did a load of laundry, to have to wait to do another load until I'd ran through two ridiculously long drying cycles. But at the same time it was a royal pain, it was also... fine. Just the way it is. What's the use of complaining?

And then, in the lead-up to The Game (Ohio State and that team up north), I was reading a piece by a guy a few years younger than me about growing up in the 90s in an Ohio town where, nonetheless, the majority of kids seemed to be rooting for that team up north, which at the time was dominating the rivalry. "So why keep doing it [cheering for OSU]?" He offers a couple explanations before saying that it might have been

the almost religious Midwestern belief that if you put up with enough crap, eventually things will turn around in your favor. That last part sounds dumb and insane, but I live in a reality where the Buckeyes started a third string quarterback against Wisconsin, Alabama, and Oregon in successive games and beat them all to win a national championship, so you tell me what's ridiculous and what isn't.
And maybe that's it, too, a Midwestern sense that putting up with sub-par circumstances are just what you're meant to do in this world, a form of karmic dues-paying that will reward us.

But yeah, it's actually dumb and insane, and something I need to work on. Stop "suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune" as though it's somehow ennobling, and instead "take up arms... and by opposing end them."

Or, you know, just clean out the damned lint. Or look into your car's features.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Holidailies Intro

I've been doing Holidailies long enough, and the community of participating bloggers seems small enough, that I almost feel like an introduction at this point is superfluous.

Then again, I'm not the same person this year that I was last year. Are we ever?

This time last year, I was on hiatus from a career in education, staying at home with our 2-going-on-3-year-old and job hunting. This time this year, that hiatus was extended indefinitely and I've started a new career. After 17 years in education, teaching English and music and working most recently as a student life administrator, I suddenly find myself as a software developer working for a corporation that's large enough to make even the largest school I worked at look like a tiny mom-and-pop.

It's a whole new world, in more ways than one.

Other things, however, have not changed. I'm still an occasional--at best--writer and blogger. Still a father to three girls and a husband to one woman. Still singing in a couple choirs, still reading a lot of books, still cultivating a large range of diverse interests.

Still excited to be back at Holidailies and committing to blogging for one month out of the year, getting back to writing, getting back to reading others' writing, being in community with all you fine people.

Happy Holidailies!