Last weekend I spent some time going through a closet and taking stock of what was in it. This weekend, I’ve been doing a similar inventory of my main computer. Two different types of storage, both need a fair amount of tidying to be done.
I’m not one for resolutions, but I am always one for reflection. And since it’s my birthday, I’m thinking a lot about life and what I’ve learned over the last year. I have a lot to be thankful for, not the least of which is to be healthy, able to support myself, and that while I work in settings which increase my risk of exposure, I’ve been diligent about wearing protective equipment and have been lucky to remain healthy so far. I’m also incredibly lucky to have received my first round of vaccine.
What’s struck me this year, more than others, is how I often have good intentions, but struggle with following through. I always have a good reason for that, be it with from being too busy, or too tired, or both. Sometimes it’s easier to kick that can down the road than to actually take the time to face what it is you need to face. And what 2020 made me face, in new clarity, is how thinly I’m spread.
It’s one thing to have a busy calendar, and quite another to have full days followed by equally full evenings. I’d work all day, come home and cook, or come home and change and run to the gym, and then home and cook. I’ve become a fan of having intentional time to do things like work out and take care of oneself, but the sudden forced reset made me realize that, much like my closet, having no breathing room in my schedule meant no time to really even relax and feel like myself.
This has been a gradual realization and I’ve found myself wanting to simplify how I live. Pare down my possessions to include primarily those things I use and love. Reduce the number of services I use which fragment how I use the internet and keep track of things I want to keep track of. In the fall, I took a step by stopping using Goodreads to track what I’m reading and instead use a page on my own website for that exact purpose. I have a variety of interests and think about all sorts of things, and a personal blog is a great way to reflect that in the online space. And it has the benefit of being unique, and doesn’t hand any easily mined data to anyone if it’s just me writing some text or posting a photo.
As I enter this next year of life, I want to be more intentional with the time I have. Not to schedule it as much as possible as I was previously, but to actively say no to things so that I can say yes to unstructured time. More time to listen to music and let my mind wander. More time to write or doodle. Reduce the things in my life so I can have some space to stretch out when I want, both mentally and physically.
I want to spend more time sleeping, more time visiting with friends and family, with intentional messages, emails, or coffee visits (preferably offline, but online since that’s our current reality).
Last weekend, I spent the entire afternoon on Sunday taking out the contents of one closet with the goal of moving a second bookcase inside since I have some new furniture for the space. I was astounded at the sight before me, everything in stacks or boxes, much of which I only ever see when I do this sort of thing. Upon trying to put the second bookcase in with the first, I discovered that my measurements did not account for the baseboards, and I was just under ¾ of an inch shy of being able to combine the two like I’d hoped. I scrapped that plan and put everything back, and it’s now just a bit more organized than it was before.
My life for the past few years has been like this closet project, trying to fit just a half hour more in, every single day, for so long that I’d forgotten what it felt like when I had a bit of breathing room. I hope to continue on this path toward simpler living, and look forward to new lessons learned in the year ahead.
Officially received my first round of vaccine today. The rollout here in NM hasn’t been without its bumps, but they’ve done quite well overall and it was fairly smooth today. They kept everyone for at least 15-30 minutes after for observation to make sure we tolerated it well.
Cautiously optimistic about Georgia, but it’s wild that the status quo remains so remarkably persistent. Much work to do, but for now, take heart, and tomorrow let’s press on to do keep aiming to do better.
I’ve been slowly getting into the habit of writing more again. Finding myself a bit disjointed, as I like to write here but also have ‘blog’ elements for both of my biz websites. I’m curious how others handle writing in various places.
“Why so dreary? It’s not as if the world is ending.”
It was an innocent enough question, but the answer was complicated. Outside, the sky was bright, lined with a few puffy clouds. They looked inviting, as if beckoning one to climb in and relax awhile. If she didn’t know better, Fabina would have thought sure, no way was the world ending. But it was ending, and she was the only person who knew it.
“Seriously, you’re lost in thought and I’m right here, are you okay?” Piper was one of those friends who could read between the lines so well it felt like she was reading your mind. She was the kind of friend you’d want to have along to witness the end of the world.
Fabina let her gaze drop from the clouds and looked at her friend. “The world is ending, Piper. We need to get out of here.”
Piper stared at her. “How long have we got? Oh, and when were planning on telling me?! You’ve been holding out, girl.”
“A week, if we’re lucky.” Fabina took a sip of her coffee and smiled. “I figured I’d tell you, oh, a minute or so ago. When you were ready.”
Piper rolled her eyes. “Some sage you are. Come on, let’s go. Sounds like we’ve got some work to do.”
Fabina laughed and fished for her keys from her bag. “You’d better not spill my coffee on the ride. We’re gonna need it.” The two friends got up from the table and headed out the gate.
“Whoa, this is yours? Never pegged you for a biker. Damn, this is nice.” Piper admired the gleaming blue road bike with purple and red-hued flames curling along the side.
“I figured since we didn’t have much time left around here, I might as well get around in style. You like?” Fabina sat down on the side of the bike, then suddenly kicked her legs up and did a full two-seventy spin before straddling the bike. She wagged her eyebrows at Piper and started the engine. “You got moves like that in you? I’m only friends with people who do, so you’d better. And you’d better not do a stupid cartwheel.”
Piper grinned at her, then turned away. Suddenly, she spun the coffee mug and tossed it into the air, then dove into a back handspring. She effortlessly launched herself into the air and with a slight twist landed cleanly astride the bike. “Your coffee, madame,” she said as she caught Fabina’s mug. “Not one dropped spilled.”
Fabina grinned with a sigh and shook her head, feeling better knowing she didn’t have to go it alone. She revved the engine a few times, and marveled at its power. Piper tapped her shoulder. “Where to?”
“The sunset,” Fabina said. “It’s almost time.”
A Day in the Life in Albuquerque, NM. Taking some time out in the morning to visit the tree downstairs and bask in its splendor.
I finally took the plunge and am trying out LinkedIn to see if it helps make connections for my indie businesses. Step one, outside of setting up a profile, was turning off most email notifications and disabling all ad tracking. Good grief with all the invasive ad tracking.
Rest in Power, RBG. May we all use our powers for good the way you have. You will be missed, and you will never be forgotten.
I started out this post with a sentence I didn’t expect to: I wrote I’ve been a user of Goodreads for many years now. I didn’t say “I’ve been using,” or even “I use”. Goodreads, of course, is a service which ostensibly acts as a social network for people who enjoy reading, and for many years, I think it served that purpose for me. Of course, like so much in the digital age, I started out using a different service, called Shelfari, which was eventually bought by Amazon. Amazon did what monopolies love to do and bought Goodreads later too, eventually merging the older acquisition Shelfari into the newer Goodreads.
I’ve recently learned that there’s unrest in the Goodreads community, largely because the site has been left nearly untouched for years now. It’s not too hard, given what we’ve learned about big tech companies, to see why. For Amazon, the real benefit for owning Goodreads has almost nothing to do with users, and likely everything to do with all the data those users generate. I’ve started to think of it this way: I think I use a service to keep track of something, in this case my reading habits over the years. The company in question uses that services for something else: to turn something I thought was tangible into a data point and turn and directly advertise to me in increasingly specific ways. Here’s some books from your “want to read” list that are suddenly on sale, one email says. People who liked this book also bought this other book, says another.
For Amazon, owning Goodreads mean they can access all that information and tie it directly to your Amazon account, giving them yet another place to directly advertise to you.
For me, my use of Goodreads over the past few years was partly to keep track of what I was reading, and partly to take note of other books I might enjoy. I also liked its annual goals feature, which encourages you to set a goal to read a certain number of books each year, and offers a convenient way to track your progress. Every single Goodreads email I receive gets promptly deleted, since it’s mostly a daily reminder of what friends are reading on the site, and how I have the same two books listed as ‘in progress’. Logging into the site recently, I was promptly met with a note that I was behind on my reading goal, and that I should catch up. I’m not behind, it turns out, I just hadn’t bothered with the chore that updating Goodreads has become.
Ultimately, I use this very digital tool in a very analog way. If I happen to read on my Kindle, I never allow it track my progress there. It takes the enjoyment out of the process of reading, and it makes it yet another thing to track and gamify. Sometimes that’s fun! See my enjoyment of annual book challenges above. But at the end of the day, it’s actual work for me to update, and Amazon gets to reap the rewards.
In learning about the unrest among Goodreads users, I’ve also learned about a new service called The Storygraph. It’s an interesting concept, but ultimately its faith in an algorithm takes away the best part of books to begin with: the human connection. The books I’ve most enjoyed reading have come from either people I know, or references within other books that made me want to explore further.
It’s clearer than ever that nearly everything we use online can be reduced into data. If we let it, that data will be hoovered in an instant to help and used to try to sell us more, or further track us wherever we go. I love the idea of a social place to share books, but now, I hope we collectively push back. Let’s use journals, digital or analog, to track lists privately. Let’s write and make videos about books like my friend Ashley. Let’s connect the dots between books in interesting ways like Austin Kleon, or keep a whole page of our websites dedicated to what we read like Patrick Rhone. Let’s go to local bookstores and get recommendations from people we meet there, or from staff who have all sorts of interests and reading backgrounds. If you want to go social, micro.blog has an interesting way to view books people are talking about within the community.
Personal websites and blogs are the most analog forms of the Internet we have left. They’re the places we can go which we can decide what they look like, what we feature, what we want to give our attention. They’re random and weird and interesting, and they’re the best place we have on the Internet to keep things that way.
For the algorithm, users are the tool to achieve their end. The more you use (input), the “better” it gets at its job. Its job, though, is to keep you there and keep your attention and keep you buying. It doesn’t care what connection you made, philosophy you learned, or new idea you had as a result of what you read. But a human will. Whether that human is someone you know, or someone whose site you read and you send an email, a sense of shared experience and humanity can happen. Let’s stop being users and get back to being human.
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