Posts tagged: life

Not all ideas are good ideas

Jul 3, 2022

The back of our house points towards Salem, and Salem had their 4th of July fireworks tonight. In past years the booms have been loud enough to wake up Lorelei, and we could see the flashes through the trees on our back deck, but it wasn’t “watching fireworks”.

This year, I thought… oh, there’s a trail behind our house, in the woods. Let’s walk back there to where there’s a clear view over the water and watch them. Lorelei is old enough to stay up late, it’ll be fun.

We watched three tiny explosions before I was informed this was “the worst idea ever” and we marched back home. Standing in the (surprisingly dark considering we live in a city) woods was not her idea of a good time. Honestly it wasn’t my idea of a good time either (how long has it been since I was in the woods at night?), but the booms of the grand finale are taunting me a bit right now.

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Arts Fest Beverly 2022: Bridge to Nowhere

Jun 18, 2022

Took a walk down to Arts Fest Beverly early this morning. Nice weather for a walk, and it seemed like a lot of other people agreed, it was quite crowded. We picked up some prints for the house, and Lorelei went a bit cat crazy:

The walk was great not only because of the weather, but because there wasn’t many cars out because the bridge we take into town is closed forever.

This bridge has always had an appearance of “should we be driving over this?” so the news of its closure was not surprising, but the one day of notice was.

Some prints not pictured were from:

Past Years

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Forty

May 30, 2022

I turned forty today. It was a nice day at home, and there was ice cream cake. One upside to having a birthday on a holiday: you almost always have it off. One downside: a lot of other people do too. But late May also coincides with peak allergy season for me, so I’m happy with at home cake instead of sneezing the top scoop of ice cream off my cone.

My thirties, by the numbers:

  • 1 child.
  • 3 houses and 1 apartment across two states.
  • 4 cars. Two Subarus, a Honda and a Volkswagen. Real exotics.
  • Visited 5 new countries: Mexico, Spain, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and two new US states, Colorado and Nevada.
  • 6 jobs (across 2 careers).
  • 1 global pandemic.

The most complete record for those numbers (besides my head) was my Photos library. While I had online accounts that pre-dated my thirties, I deleted two of them (Facebook entirely, everything on Twitter over a few years old), and lost track of a few others (two blogs, including one that was a webcomic that I swear was pretty funny but I have absolutely no record of). I choose to believe that, God willing and the creek don’t rise1, I’ll be able to point to this blog post on this blog when I turn fifty.

Notes for my Forties

Last night Andrea said she wanted to document me giving advice for my fifty-year-old self because, “you can’t go back and give advice to your thirty-year-old self”. Fair. Although I wish I could, because I feel like the main difference between my twenties and thirties was that I had to actually learn something. While I could brute-force my way through a lot of things in my twenties (with mixed results) that fell apart early in my thirties. So, here’s some advice for myself for the next ten years from what I’ve learned from the last ten years.

Know what to say “no” to

I spent a lot of my early and mid-thirties saying “no” to things out of avoidance. My anxiety about being anxious when doing something got the best of me, and I wouldn’t do it. I know relationships ended because of this. I missed out on things that were objectively fun because of it. I missed out on career paths because of it. Eventually I went to therapy and now I have the metacognition to know better why I’m saying no, and a historical record to look back and that proves that the alternative to avoiding anxiety isn’t being not anxious, it’s being miserable about the choices you made to avoid it.

Austin Kleon wrote about a similar idea recently, “Would I do it tomorrow?”. I haven’t found the right mental model for me to decide yes or no to things, but I at least know it’s not defaulting to “no”, or choosing “no” because you’re worrying about what the bad parts of saying “yes” are.

Know what choices have been made and no longer require further thought

This is the crux of why becoming an adult is difficult, to me. Looking again at my twenties, I wasn’t entangled with anything. I could quit a job on a whim, move, spend money on whatever. Once I got married, owned a house, had a kid, that all becomes more difficult. Which then breeds a different mindset where you think things can’t or shouldn’t change.

But a) everything changes eventually and b) being adaptable to change of your own volition is important for being able to deal with when change happens outside of your control.

So think of the future like an artist trying a bunch of different mediums, then saying “I’m going to draw with pen on paper from now on”. They can draw anything, but they don’t have to think about what they’re going to draw it with.

Listen to the birds

Sometimes Andrea asks me what I’m thinking about, and I reply “nothing”. I don’t think she always believes me, but I’ve been trying to get better about being bored. It’s like a return to my pre-Internet youth, where when you sat down outside, that was it, there was the outside and nothing else. You could listen to the birds, or look at the clouds. Do we need more than that?

This isn’t me going full “blow up your TV”. I recently bought a really large, very fancy one. It’s more an acknowledgement that I can only think about so many things, and often I’ll think about things in unhelpful ways. So, sometimes don’t think, just listen and watch, or doodle on a piece of paper, or close your eyes and feel the breeze. Brains need rest too.

Take more vacations

…and travel to more places. We made an intentional decision after getting married to spend most of our savings on a house, and then made a lot of other life choices around having a house. We now have a nice house and will never move again (see above about knowing what won’t change. Again, God willing and the creek don’t rise), but it meant there was never a lot of money left over for vacations or travel2, or we felt that travel was an extravagance. While I do enjoy spending time in our lovely home, some of the best memories I have and the biggest source of novel ideas came from traveling.

You can respond to everything with this now


  1. Even though I don’t believe in God, this is by far my favorite American saying.
  2. But Joe, you say, you went to 5 new countries. Well, they were all for work. If you want to travel, I highly recommend working for a travel company.
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Seven

May 21, 2022

Lorelei turned seven this week. We had a party today, with a princess / fairy theme. We did a pile of yard work on Friday to finish off projects in the back yard, then woke up to clouds. Luckily it burned off by the time the kids got here, and they got to play outside for a bit. None of them mentioned the work we did, although I suppose they would have noticed if it was all a big dirt pile still (and, maybe enjoyed it more).

I look forward to a time in the future when I can tell Lorelei how she spent most of first grade pretending to be a cat. All of her friends seem to accept her catness — they all came with cat-themed gifts, and there was a game they played called “pet the cat” where Lorelei got to pretend to be a cat. The parents lamented that none of their kids ever tell them what goes on at school except in bits and pieces, but we pieced together that this is a game that gets played often at recess.

We also picked up an instax Link wide so we could send real pictures of the party home with the kids. This is Lorelei testing it out the day before:

I’ve wrote before about how much I enjoy the instax formats. The wide format is even better, and the printer, which allows you to use your much better camera phone as the source, makes it better x2.

Since yet another Easter has passed and Covid still isn’t over, it was, of course, a topic of discussion. The kids at the party are all in the same class, so the risk of one party is the same as the risk every single other day. Among the parents it was more a sense of resignation: we’re going out, we’re going to work, what else would we do. We want to start talking about “the pandemic” in past tense. Can we? I’m not sure it’s up to us. May of 2022 isn’t the same as May of 2020, but it’s not the same as May of 2019, either, but I guess that’s how life goes.

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Books and cats and books and cats and….

Apr 24, 2022

Our trips in the past few years have been there-and-back affairs, due to the complications of figuring out COVID hours/openings, the fickle nature of New England nature, and wanting some amount of post-travel pre-work time to relax. But the end of last week we were in Connecticut, Andrea wanted to go to a used book store, and none of the aforementioned issues were issues, so I suggested we go to the Niantic Book Barn, which met everyone’s requests:

  • Andrea: a large, semi-curated but mildly out of control collection of books.
  • Lorelei: cats

Andrea found a pile of romance novels:

Lorelei and I found the cats. Credit to her sixth sense for finding the two under couch.

I wouldn’t recommend going far out of the way to stop there, but if you’re by the Connecticut shoreline already it’s a fun stop. You won’t find a lot of good books unless you snipe one that just got sorted or you pull it straight from the newly arrived section. The stuff that accumulates… well, let’s say they had three entire shelves of L. Ron Hubbard.

As for me, I walked out with one, one dollar book. I think it was a steal.

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Museum of Science

Apr 19, 2022

We went to the Boston Museum of Science today. I have fond memories of it from when I was a kid, although growing up in Connecticut it was a rare treat, so far away in the big city of Boston.

This time I was not terribly impressed. Neither was Lorelei. I was thinking about why, on the way home, and I think it’s:

  1. No one would pick the Boston Museum of Science as a museum to really wow someone. They make lightning indoors and it’s got a nice view of the river but it’s not even close to one of those “oh man this is so much museum it might be too much museum” kind of museums.
  2. The interest and interaction you can get out of a museum exhibit for a six year old today is so much less than what it was for me as a six year old. You want to learn about nature? Great, here’s birds in 8k video, let’s look up what sounds they make, here’s an AR app to see what kinds of birds live in our backyard. What did I have as a kid? Look up “bird” in the encyclopedia, get a few pictures, maybe go to the library and get a bird book. Bug my Grandfather about bird names until he’d tell me something like “if it’s black it’s a Blackbird” until I went away. Going to a museum and seeing all of that knowledge in one place was mind blowing.

But today a hall of dead (or are they fake? Probably dead) animals isn’t really a draw. A dinosaur skeleton is (if it’s real). A cool physical or interactive exhibit is. The 4D movie theatre was a hit.

But still, we had fun, even though Lorelei pretended she did not when we chose to not eat at the food court there.

I will say if you’re not from Boston and thinking of going, going on a holiday is great. For reasons I cannot explain after living in the area for twenty years, Boston on a holiday is always empty. I have no idea where people go. On the drive in there was not only no traffic, there were parts of the highway where there were no other cars. That maxes out the happiness meter for me.

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