Katie’s Birthday: 2020 Edition

Ten years ago, on Katie’s birthday, we went on our second accidental date. It was at the River of Lights event at the Albuquerque biopark. A bunch of our mutual friends were all supposed to meet up. No one accounted for the fact there there was a holiday parade, which made traffic a nightmare. It snowed, causing further havoc. We were the only two people that showed up, so we made the best of it. The evening was spent walking around, talking, and drinking cocoa.

A few days earlier, the same friends group was supposed to get together for a punk film festival. We were the only two people to show up for that as well. It was where we learned we had the same taste in music, and a frighteningly similar sense of humor. That was our first accidental date.

Up to that point, we really didn’t get along. We knew each other because we were part of a mutual friends group. We were in a tabletop roleplaying group, and our characters were oil and water. The truth is that we’d never had the opportunity to get to know one another.

Prior to the two accidental dates, I had offered to take her out to dinner for her birthday. Our general disagreeableness toward one another was affecting the group dynamic, and I wanted to bury the hatchet. We were going several days after her actual birthday; to do so on the day felt too familiar. It was not intended to be a date. It was a peace summit. At the end of the evening we decided that it was a date, and that the previous two outings were also dates.

We’ve been together ever since. Ten years.

Katie’s Birthday: 2020 Edition

The original plan was to roll out of bed, get dressed, and go out for coffee and pastry. From there we’d go grocery shopping. We pick up sushi and bring it home for lunch. For dinner I’d make her the meal she requested, meat loaf, mashed potatoes, and Brussel sprouts with bacon. Then we’d have whatever dessert she picked out: cake, ice cream, whatever she saw are the cafe or grocery store that looked good.

Two days ago, Central Finland went into lockdown. We’re still going to the grocery store, with all precautions in place. I have no idea whether the café is going to be open, or whether they’ll be seating people. And before you say anything, all food service workers continue to be masked and gloved, and all cashiers are behind plexiglass. We’re going at an hour when there are few people out and about, the café will be relatively empty, allowing us to sit far from anyone else. If, in fact, they’re open.

By the same token, I don’t know if the sushi bar inside the grocery store will be open. The operate out of a large booth in the produce section, near the meat and fish counter. There are normally two women, masked and gloved, making sushi platters and arranging them in clear plastic trays. That’s been safe. They might stop because of the lockdown. I don’t know.

So, plans might evolve.

Lockdown December 2020

Jyväskylä has gone from being one of the safest places to be to having the 3rd largest outbreak in Finland. I can make my own assessment, based on both data and personal observations. The largest demographic for new infections is people ages 20 to 29. University students are the culprits.

I look out the window and see herds of them without masks. They put on a paper masks to ride the bus (mandatory), then throw them away as soon as they get off. The trash can outside our building was overflowing with masks the other day. They don’t even wait until they get into their apartments. Apparently the lobby, the hallways, and the stairwell are “base”.

So I’m not worried about the café, which is frequented by paranoid older people with top-notch PPE. Nor am I concerned with the grocery story, which isn’t the cheap one where students shop. I’m more worried that we’ll catch covid in the distance between our apartment door and the entrance to the building. If safety nerf’s Katie’s birthday, well, we’d rather be around for her next one.

I Want to Annotate Everything

Yesterday I talked about wanting to add notes to my Netflix queue. It would be nice to be able to tag a movie or TV show with the reason I added it. At the moment the best I can do is create separate profiles, but that’s both limited and unwieldy. I want to annotate everything.

There have been times when I’ve wanted to add internal notes to a blog post. Recently I’ve wanted a feature in WordPress similar to document notes in Scrivener, or markup in a Word doc. Nothing the world can see, but some information there for my own personal reference. It would be fantastic to have drafts where my notes on what’s needed to complete the post weren’t in the draft itself.

“Remembrance is neither what happened nor what did not happen but, rather, their potentialization, their becoming possible once again.”

Giorgio Agamben, Potentialities: Collected Essays in Philosophy (1999)

My memory is crap. This is partially due to anxiety disorders, partially due to age. Having systems and being organized becomes a quality of life issue at some point. It’s certainly a productivity issue. Knowing what I have to do isn’t always enough. I need to know why I have to do it.

I Want to Annotate Everything

For now, I have my bullet journal. The best I can do is create collections and project pages that hold the pertinent information. While it means switching back and forth between a screen and a book, it’s not that cumbersome. We live, we adapt, we move on.

What I Learned from Dolly Parton

Do good for the right reasons, not to serve your own ego. That’s what I learned from Dolly Parton. Okay, I did grow up with the same values as Dolly. I just wrote about that the other day. But her initiative to provide children with books, and the recent revelation that she quietly helped to fund a covid vaccine, remain inspiring.

“This will sound crazy, but when I was interviewing Dolly Parton, I almost felt like she had healing powers.”

Gene Siskel, quoted by Roger Ebert in “Dolly Parton: Gee, She’s So Nice” (December 7, 1980)

Her charitable work aside, that fact that she remains so humble and down-to-earth in spite of being an icon is amazing unto itself. I can absolutely picture her taking off the wig, the makeup, and jewelry, putting on ordinary clothes, and walking down the street unrecognized. Her husband has managed to stay out of the limelight for decades, allowing them to live a life of relative normalcy.

What I Learned from Dolly Parton

You can be ambitious, and you can be successful, but you ultimately need to be true to yourself. That fact that she seems to happy is attributable to the fact that she is so grateful. Her thankfulness for the opportunities she’s had are made manifest in her kindness and her charitable work. My wife Katie refers to her as an angel on Earth. I don’t think she’s far from wrong. I aspire to have my act together, and to be as generous, as Dolly.

The 21st-Century Curator

There’s a scene in the Netflix series Master of None where Aziz Ansari’s friends want to go grab a taco. Now, this is from memory, because I haven’t rewatched the series since before Aziz got cancelled. He doesn’t want to leave this taco experience to chance. Given the opportunity to get a taco, he goes online and does a little research. He has to know the best taco place in the immediate area.

On one level, I get this. It’s not even a “fear of missing out” thing. Katie and I had some spectacularly bad Chinese food a while back. It was as if someone who had never eaten Chinese food was shown a picture of various dishes, and they said “yeah, I can cook that”. We later found out that half a block away, in a less conspicuous location, there was a phenomenal Chinese place.

Katie and I are also the type of people that will see an interesting looking hole in the wall and take a chance. We’ve discovered a lot of great restaurants that way. It is, admittedly, how we ended up in the bad Chinese place, too. If you’re willing to take a risk you can be rewarded, but not all of the time. Hence, Aziz does research.

“The 21st-century curator works in a supremely globalised reality.”

Hans-Ulrich Obrist, interview in The Telegraph, 8 October 2010

In putting together my 2021 bullet journal, I have an eye on that sort of curation. There will be lists of books I want to read. I will have collections of movies I want to see, and television shows I’d like to check out. When I have the time, I can check out the list.

The 21st-Century Curator

There’s more to it than that, though. If I want to pick a movie I haven’t seen, my Netflix queue saves me a lot of writing. There’s no need to clutter up my bullet journal with that. The flaw is that a) the queue limits my choices to what’s on Netflix, and b) it doesn’t tell me why I put that movie in the queue in the first place. I might not remember, several months later.

So what I’m doing is making notes in my bullet journal collections, rather than just listing things. These books are Booker Prize winners. This list contains books I want to read as research for a specific project. This is an author I want to check out, and this is how they came to my attention, and this is the book of theirs people suggested I start with.

I’m also trying to change my thinking. A collection of media to be consumed, or even projects I’d like to work on, is not an obligation. Because I need to schedule in reading and viewing — I’m curating how I use my time — these are things that can be migrated. At the start of a month, carry forward the book I didn’t get to last month. Go to the collection of books I want to read and pick one or two more.

That’s far less overwhelming than having dozens of choices staring me in the face.

What I Learned from Bob Ross

Some things should be for everyone. That’s what I learned from Bob Ross. If you create art, you’re an artist. You don’t need specialized training. What you create doesn’t have to be for public consumption. All that matters is that you’re getting what you need from the activity. That could be relaxation time, having some fun, or expressing yourself creatively.

“Traditionally, art has been for the select few. We have been brainwashed to believe that Michelangelo had to pat you on the head at birth. Well, we show people that anybody can paint a picture that they’re proud of. It may never hang in the Smithsonian, but it will certainly be something that they’ll hang in their home and be proud of. And that’s what it’s all about.”

Bob Ross, interview with The Orlando Sentinel (July 7, 1990)

This extends to all manner of creative fields. If you write, you’re a writer. It doesn’t matter whether or not you’re published. If you cook, you’re a cook. I have no desire to go to culinary school or work in a restaurant, but I enjoy preparing food. No one should be prevented from pursuing hobbies or career goal by gatekeepers.

What I Learned from Bob Ross

That said, we do need gatekeepers in some places. Anyone can start a blog, or a vlog, or a podcast and cover the news; that doesn’t make them journalists. There ought to be some accountability to ensure the public is being fed factual information. Not any cook should be selling food to the public. There are health and safety regulations for a reason. Any field where harm could be done requires standards and oversight.

But that’s not what Bob Ross was saying. He never claimed that you, too, could be a professional painter and earn a living doing it. There was no grift going on. When I say writers write, I’m not saying that everyone can be a successful author. Having a creative hobby, though, is enriching. Our lives become more well-rounded and interesting. It makes us better people.