What follows is a series of unrelated rants, none of which would make a good stand-alone post. These consist of one part fizzled journal entries and one part half-baked hot takes. The reader is advised not to take this small sampling of consciousness too seriously
Others People’s Writing #
I used to think that very few people should publish their writing online. I thought the act of posting online akin to something like littering– filling up servers across the world with cruft.1
I’ve since softened on this a bit.
To be sure, the internet replete with fluff, and much of this is written in a tone that undeservedly presumes authority or worth.2 But unless it’s the 2000th article on Keto diet plans or how to code a Ruby on Rails blog, I’ve actually become tentatively supportive of this enterprise of public journaling. If you like to hash out your ideas on ‘paper’, and you think a half-dozen people might be interested or learn something, I’m for it.3
This is in large part because I enjoy the way writing by people I know “sounds” in the mind. Slowed to the pace of considered prose, a person’s writing is a completely new window into who they are. Their manner of thought and expression changes. It’s as if they put on a wholly different set of clothing and radically changed their hair.
You need not be earth shattering in what you cook up. You most likely will not change the way the world thinks about Austrian economics, nor will you be the next T.S. Eliot. And that’s OK, just share some of you! If nothing else, this is a far healthier way in which we can process and share what’s knockin’ around our skulls than [re]tweeting and [re]gramming.
Down with 280 characters.
Long live 280+ words!
Trail Runs #
Trail running is a rebranded version of running designed to make it possible to sell stuff to people participating in an activity that normally doesn’t need much stuff.
In fact I’d say it’s the most minimalist sport in the world. For most of my life as a runner (now now nearly 18 years) I’ve worn 3 articles of clothing: shoes, socks, and shorts. Inconsistently I wear a shirt, and mostly consistently I also wear a watch. In running-friendly places (that is, pretty and peaceful places) I rarely wear earbuds or carry a phone.4
One of my longest training runs to date was a 16-miler some years back. The majority of this run consisted of muddy undulating hills. My training partner and I averaged about 6:45 mile pace, which puts us just shy of two hours of running. In preparation for the run I ate an icecream sandwhich, and I only took in water after we’d finished.
Today it’s not uncommon to see people embarking on 5-mile training runs wearing hydration packs, vests, arm bands, headlamps, and a variety of biometric trackers that tell you “you’re working hard” or “you’re a bit tired” in a dozen different ways.
And really I think it’s because marketing has gotten us to believe that if you have more than a hundred meters of dirt along your route, if you want to avoid injury, if you want to run a marathon, if you want to be an Athlete™, then you need to buy stuff. Oh, and to make running sound interesting to your crossfitter peers who are busy slamming tractor tires with sledge hammers, you need to stick the word “trail” in front of the run you just did today.
There’s joy in simplicity. I went for a run. I didn’t bring anything.5
The various behaviors of dog ownership I see today remind me of when cell phones were new and it was common to hear people basically shouting inside. Or maybe a more current example would be the types on public transport who listen to music on their cellphones without headphones.
Nobody cares how important your call is. Go outside.
Nobody cares how fire your music is. Put in headphones or STFU.
And I don’t care how cute your dog is. I didn’t ask for it to come jump on my lap.
There’s a kind of creeping shift in norms and expectations around dog ownership that I think we ought not ignore. Do you really have to take your dog to work? Every day? OK, but in the bathroom stall? To every meeting you attend? This is a level of care and attention we don’t even extend to children.
Speaking of which, I do wonder if the uptick in dog ownership is due to couples (and–I suspect–most often women) sublimating care giving instincts and a latent desire for children.6 Dogs are an alternative that is less expensive, less of a commitment, does not require a permanent partner, and allows for continued dedication to careers, active social lives, hobbies, athletic pursuits, etc.
The vocabulary has changed to match. “Dog mom” or “my furry son” are phrases I hear often, and begging one’s canine into public spaces that are otherwise dog-free is achieved with dubious designations like “Emotional support animal.”
We had another phrase for this already:
I love dogs. My dog’s passing was the inspiration for one of the better pieces of music I wrote in college. I think a well-trained dog of a good breed can be a loyal and noble companion worthy of its lupine forebears. But I’m surrounded by poorly trained dogs and careless owners who coddle their animals like a baby princess rather than a wolf descendant. Thus my budding cynicism finds its blossom in this rant. I’ll end with one of my favorite excerpts from GK Chesterton:
He lies in front of me curled up before the fire, as so many dogs must have lain before so many fires. I sit on one side of that hearth, as so many men must have sat by so many hearths. Somehow this creature has completed my manhood; somehow, I cannot explain why, a man ought to have a dog. A man ought to have six legs; those other four legs are part of him.
Always Be Training is a sort of goofy philosophy that came to me during a lecture at a code bootcamp in NYC when I was doing some hip stretches on the floor. Originally the thoughts were specific to physical training (primarily mobility and aerobic development) but it can be fruitfully expanded to anything in life worth doing:
Progress in a physical pursuit is best accomplished when you do not discount even the smallest effort.
Said another way, one ought not be too precious about the content of one’s training as much as the consistency, and so the 10 push-ups one day are better than 0, even if you didn’t do the 100 you planned. As a corollary to this, one ought not mind where or how these efforts take place as long as they do. It is often said “do not let
perfect be the enemy of
good,” but it is sometimes easy to forget this, especially when “good enough” means doing some lunges or ankle circles on the subway platform.
Closely related to this is the idea that one will accomplish much more in life if one is able to ignore the judgement of others. Sometimes doing the productive thing looks just plain weird. But then, there are very few people I’ve ever admired that were not–in their own way and at various times–a bit odd or eccentric.
So bring your foam roller to work, play your guitar in an empty office, listen to an audiobook on philosophy while riding your bike ride. The best time to make progress is now.
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1 My very first post even said as much. ↩
2 and it is my goal to leave no such impression on the reader! ↩
3 learning “in public” is a concept I started liking in part due to the writing and podcasting of Chris Krycho ↩
4 In fact, my run is perhaps the only remaining precious hour of my day where I’m away from any technology at all. ↩
5 I’m not referring to ultra marathoners and trail racers who are putting in huge training days, and whose races may have technical or nutritional demands that require gear. I’m referring to people who erroneously think what they’re doing is like that. ↩
6 I’ve had female friends admit this nearly word-for-word. ↩