“One thing”

Rands in Repose: One Thing. A good description of some of the psychology behind the Deming principle of minimizing work in progress.

You cross the threshold of inbox usefulness when you begin to mistake the act of managing the importance rather than acting on the importance. Speaking as a human who has crossed this uselessness threshold multiple times, I am prepared to declare that I am 100% done with productivity products. There is a better, simpler, and more productive way.

Natural Bridge, revisited

Today was the first time I had visited Natural Bridge in more than eleven years. (You can read my previous write-up.) The bridge continues to be more imposing than can be easily absorbed, as the photo above hopefully shows.

This time I walked further up the path along Cedar Creek. (I had, after all, paid my $8 for access to the trail.) I passed a reconstructed Indian village – don’t flinch, it was done sensitively – and a cave, and made my way to the Lace Falls. Seeing more of the Bridge made me better appreciate Thomas Jefferson’s pilgrimages there – and his practical desire to explore the area’s mineral resources, including opening a saltpeter mine just up the creek.

Bookhunting

I have real trouble passing a good bookstore. Days like yesterday are why.

I didn’t start out the day intending to visit the Battery Park Book Exchange and Champagne Bar, and certainly didn’t want to get champagne there. But Esta and I were parked nearby and it seemed a shame not to go in.

I only made one full circuit of the store, but during that circuit I found first editions of the following:

  • Ray Bradbury’s Toynbee Convector (1988), which he published when I was in high school but which I’ve never read
  • Porte Crayon‘s The Old South Illustrated (1959), the first major collection of his published works, including Virginia Illustrated and first appearance of the “typical 1850s UVA student” drawing that the Virginia Glee Club has used for years
  • And Countee Cullen‘s Copper Sun (1927), pictured above, his third published book.

The Cullen is a beautiful work, illustrated in an art deco inspired style by the unrelated Charles Cullen, and featuring some of Countee Cullen’s most shattering poems, including “Threnody for a Brown Girl.” A Google search shows that first editions can go for north of $300; I got very lucky to find it for less than a tenth of that.

Listening: Kate Tempest, KEXP live performance

I’m an occasional podcast listener. I subscribe to a handful, all music, including the mighty Funky16Corners and Iron Leg and a few from KEXP. Because all three of these have some shows that last a half hour or more—typically longer than my commute—I tend to binge-listen to catch up.

I had a long drive down to North Carolina starting Sunday and took the opportunity to catch up on my listening. I almost fast forwarded past the KEXP live sessions entries, but I’m glad I didn’t. Something about the announcer made me want to listen to the first episode I had downloaded, from an artist named Kate Tempest.

What an amazing session. Twenty-five minutes or so of live hip-hop and spoken word, telling the story of a group of Londoners and their lives at 4:18am. The net effect is somewhere between The Streets and Hamilton for the immediacy of the verbal portraits and the breadth of the impact. Well worth checking out.

Ten years ago…

…(yesterday), the iPhone was announced. I went looking through my blog archives, and found my reaction.

Particularly funny is reading, after-the-fact, the commentary claiming that Nokia, Blackberry and others had such a big lead in mobile device design. Ten years on, it’s even more apparent than ever that all mobile prior to the iPhone was just a prelude. And every successful device since then has leveraged the same design architecture—big touchscreen, flat device, minimal hard buttons—whether from Apple or from any one of a galaxy of imitators.

I rewatched the launch announcement last night … on my current iPhone.

Cocktail Friday: Midwinters 1951 recipes

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I’m still working my way through the February 1951 Virginia Spectator, which has some interesting treasures beyond the Pogo-related content we wrote about yesterday. In particular, here’s a set of cocktail recommendations for Midwinters drinking, proving that straight bourbon and beer didn’t always prevail (though certainly “Mad Men” style sexism did).

In fact, as one might expect from the mid-century period, there’s no bourbon in any of these cocktails, or any dark liquor at all (aside from a little rum). None of these cocktails is fancy, but they’re mostly true to their models—with the possible exception of the fruit salad on the Zombie. Enjoy!

Martini

  • 1 part French Vermouth
  • 4 parts Dry Gin

Stir with cracked ice, strain and serve with stuffed olive.

Zombie:

  • 3/4 oz lime juice
  • 3/4 oz pineapple juice
  • 1 tsp. syrup
  • 1 oz white rum
  • 1 oz gold rum
  • 1 oz Jamaica rum
  • 1/2 oz demerara rum
  • 1/2 oz apricot liqueur

Shake violently, strain into 14 oz zombie glass, 1/4 filled with ice. Float splash of demerara on top. Spike 1 green cherry, 1 small pineapple stick, 1 red cherry on a toothpick, insert into drink, decorate with mint sprig, dust with powdered sugar.

Absinthe Drip

Pour a jigger of Absinthe into a drip glass, then place a cube of sugar over the drop hole in the upper section, pack with cracked ice, and pour cold water to fill the dripper. When all the water has dripped through you’re ready to deteriorate.

Daiquiri

  • Juice 1/2 lime
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 oz rum

Shake well with cracked ice and strain.

Champagne Cocktail

  • 1 cube sugar
  • champagne
  • 1 dash angostura bitters

Place sugar in glass and saturate with bitters. Pour chilled champagne over and serve without stirring.

Virginia Spectator: “February Pogo issue”

Virginia Spectator, February 1951
Virginia Spectator, February 1951

As previously mentioned, I now have my copy of the February 1951 Virginia Spectator, the “Pogo issue” of the University of Virginia student magazine that started out as the literary magazine (jointly published by the Jefferson and Washington Societies) but was by the 1950s more a college humor magazine with the occasional short story thrown in.

Calling this the “Pogo issue” is based on the incredible Walt Kelly UVa-themed cover (above) which I’ve discussed once or twice before, plus the inclusion of two articles: a biography of Walt Kelly and a discussion of the characters in his most famous comic strip. “The Land of the Elephant-Squash,” of which the first three pages are reprinted below, was later reprinted in the Okefenokee Star fanzine and in Fantagraphics reprint collections. “What Makes Pogo Tick?” is less often reprinted. Reading both, there is nothing to tie them to Virginia, but this appears to be the first time both appeared in print.

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1951-spectator-121951-spectator-13

1951-spectator-141951-spectator-15

I’ve scanned several more of the pages in the issue into this Flickr album. Enjoy…

New year, new resolutions

Here we are at the beginning of 2017. Last year I made my first ever public New Years resolution. It’s a time to check in on how I did and to do the next turn of the page.

The resolution last year was an easy one: write more, on my blog. It was easy because I wanted to do it. It was hard because it meant finding time to do it. But I managed to pull it off. I did a statistical check-in back in September on how I did, and reached the conclusion that I was keeping to the goal of writing every weekday at about an 88% success rate. I finished the last four months of the year at 92% average, thanks to a very strong September. So yay me!

The reward was substantial in other ways as well. I started finding writing was easier, both on the blog and at work, and started finding it easier to dig deeper and say more interesting things. That later in the year I got my first public speaking conference slots, in New York, Bristol, and Seville, I attribute at least in part to this trend. That is a classic unexpected outcome to a relatively simple change in habit.

Personally, I found the writing took me in some unexpected directions. I knew I liked learning about cocktails; now I like writing about them as well. And on a more serious note, I didn’t start digging deep into America’s history of slavery until this year, when I started finding the fossilized remnants of it lurking just beneath the surface.

So what’s next? This is a harder question. I have some harder habits to change, but I need to change them. First, I need to get more exercise. Second, I need to change my diet to lose some weight.

I’m not committing to how I’m going to do the exercise, but I know how I’m going to measure it. We’re going to close the rings, with a goal of increasing my number of weeks that I close all three.

Regarding the weight thing, I’m not concerned about the amount of weight I want to lose, though I have an idea. Mostly I just want to eat healthier. And I’m going to start with the low hanging fruit: no beer on weeknights. I’m in the habit of drinking beer with dinner, and I think I need to unwind that habit, or at least make it a less frequent thing. Wil Wheaton’s reboot is my inspiration here. I hope I don’t completely go off beer as he did, but I think it’s a reasonable starting point. So we’ll see!

Amateur hour in the House

New York Times: The Republican Ethics Vote: What Happened? When swift outrage followed the announcement that the House had quietly voted to dismantle an independent congressional ethics office, I figured it would be like all the times I was outraged about GOP actions: that the action would go forward anyway and our government would get a little shittier. Then Donald Trump weighed in, and this afternoon the House reversed itself.

The New York Times article explains the timeline, but not the cause behind the events. I think we can read this as a clear sign of “amateur hour” syndrome in the House. The Republican leadership spent six years in the majority under Obama, but they didn’t spend it governing. They spent it as though they were a minority opposition party, dedicating themselves to opposing every policy that he took and every initiative he announced. That’s not leadership; that’s protest. That doesn’t prepare you to actually act.

If today is any indication, we’re in for a long line of Keystone Kops style lawmaking out of this Congress.