One of my favorite things to do is to visit one of the great local libraries in our area and just hang out. Browse the new books, look at some old classics, read the latest magazines, and just chill.
Since the start of the pandemic over a year ago all of our local libraries have been closed. They’ve continued to support their communities through drive-up pickup service and online ebook checkouts – but the quiet beauty of just being in a library space hasn’t been available.
On Thursday this began to change as the local libraries that are part of the San Mateo County Library system began re-opening – taking their first baby steps to re-emerge from the last year of forced isolation. Yesterday I stopped in at one of my favorites – the Portola Valley Library – just to get reminded once again of what a great place it is. A cheerful staff member greeted me as I walked through the open front door – both of us fully masked up of course. A delightful breeze was wafting through the place – keeping the air moving.
I took a few minutes just to browse the new books and to take a look around at the physical space. Much of it was still off-limits – including the lovely reading area near the front with its wonderful big leather chairs – but the study desks were reopened (with only one seat instead of two). You’re limited to a maximum of one hour inside until restrictions ease further.
But it’s a wonderful first step towards getting back to normalcy – and seems aligned very nicely with the spring season. I’m looking forward to heading back again, and again…
“It wasn’t that time stopped in the library. It was as if it were captured here, collected here, and in all libraries—and not only my time, my life, but all human time as well. In the library, time is dammed up—not just stopped but saved. The library is a gathering pool of narratives and of the people who come to find them. It is where we can glimpse immortality; in the library, we can live forever.”
Everyone I know is some element of tired, stressed, anxious, frustrated, or just running at maximum speed trying to keep it all together. People are short-tempered, irritable, irrational, and lashing out or thrashing around.
And he shares some good advice:
Give yourself a break and acknowledge to yourself and your loved ones that you are not at your best right now.
After reading Brad, I came across the latest from Ming Thein. He’s been a long-time inspiration for me in photography. In “Full Circle“, Ming writes:
“If things are starting to take on a tone of finality, that’s because this is the point at which I confirm the suspicions you’ve been having: MT the writer and mingthein.com are both going into retirement.”
My friend Doug Kaye and I took a San Francisco street photography workshop from Ming back in 2014. We spent a couple of days walking with him on the streets, watching him make his images, and benefiting from his critiques of ours. He proved to be perhaps the most challenging “coach” I’ve had among the many photography mentors I’ve had along the way. While he’s stepping back for now, I’m hoping it won’t be long before we are inspired again by Ming and his work.
But setting the news aside, there are lots of positives to see and feel if I just pause and reflect a bit. Things like the wonderful creativity of people like Craig Mod, the inspiring work of the creators on KickStarter, the wonderful photography of my friend and teacher Cira Crowell.
Craig has it right when he talks about the benefits of walking:
“Those walking are almost certain to have clearer minds than those sitting at home or standing around with guns. Long walks may not solve all problems, but over time they have unquestionably activated groundbreaking insights of scientific reasoning, creativity, and philosophy. And have unlocked equality in the eyes of the law and the world.”
“It can be difficult to sometimes remember, but there is a lot of good still out there. Look well, look closely.”
Such a great reminder! I find it helps even more if you think about using your camera in those moments to slow down, breathe in and just see!
Sunday is a day for remembering the best, not dwelling on all that melancholy trying to wave over us. And, just maybe it’s just another perfect day for taking a walk…
“You will move in the direction of the people that you associate with. So it’s important to associate with people that are better than yourself. The friends you have will form you as you go through life. Make some good friends, keep them for the rest of your life, but have them be people that you admire as well as like.”
After weeks of staying very close to home during this pandemic, we were looking forward to taking a break and getting out for an afternoon stroll through one of our favorite gardens at Filoli.
On a beautiful Friday afternoon, we booked our tickets online (a requirement during this period), stood in a socially distanced waiting line to enter, and then walked the prescribed loop through the gardens – all while wearing a face mask as prescribed by San Mateo County’s health director.
During my morning reading this morning I happened across a story about bookmobiles – including a number of photos of older bookmobiles.
The idea dates back to Ms. Mary Lemist Titcomb, a librarian in Maryland who stated in 1905: “Would not a Library Wagon, the outward and visible signs of the service for which the Library stood, do much more in cementing friendship?”
As a kid growing up in Ohio – and later in Maryland with our two children, I can remember my delight in regularly visiting our local bookmobile every week or two. What could be better than having a portable library show up down the street – where you could browse and then borrow free books!
Such a great idea – and reading this story was a lovely reminder of how much I enjoyed seeing the bookmobile arrive in our neighborhood!
From a recent afternoon photo walk with my Fujifilm X100F. The days are warming but the sun angle is still low in the sky. Her shadow in perfectly parallel to the wall itself – walking directly into the sunlight.
I got serious about losing weight three years ago. In addition to watching portion sizes when eating, the keys to my success in this journey have been:
Recently my friend Doug Kaye and I decided to venture beyond our usual San Francisco city street photography venues to get out beyond the bay a bit. After considering a couple of options, we headed to Sacramento for a day.
Doug lives in the North Bay and I’m on the Peninsula so we needed to figure out the best way for both of us to make the trip. After a bit of research, we settled on taking the train – the Capitol Corridor line which runs from San Jose to Sacramento – taking advantage of a special “Friends and Family” discount for buying two tickets.
We met at the Richmond BART station which is adjacent to the rail line making for a convenient transfer for me – I usually take BART to get into San Francisco and on this day I took BART under the Bay to Richmond and made the short walk from the BART station to the Amtrak station. Doug drove over the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge to Richmond.
We were pleasantly surprised by the Capitol Corridor train. It was about fifteen minutes late in arriving – but made up that delay and got us to Sacramento right on schedule. The train cars are double deckers and we headed upstairs to sit on the left side of the train. After leaving Richmond, the train line runs along the edge of the Bay as it heads northeast before crossing the Martinez Strait to head on to Davis and Sacramento.
Doug took advantage of the snack bar in one of the other cars to bring us back a fresh cup of coffee. We arrived in Sacramento on-time and took the long walk on the underground walkway from the train landing to the station building.
The Sacramento Valley Station is in the heart of downtown Sacramento and has one of those classic old high-ceiling waiting rooms.
It’s about a 15 minute walk from the station to our first stop at the California State Capitol. Right after going through security screening into the building, I caught a glimpse of Governor Gavin Newsom as he moved down the hallway waving to visitors.
The Assembly gallery in the Capitol was open the day we visited although the Senate gallery was closed and we weren’t able to visit that room.
On the main floor of the Capitol are several historic offices – including the old Treasurer’s Office which recreates the period when California’s state government didn’t trust banks and kept all of its assets in a big safe in that office! The old Governor’s office was also very interesting – it has many desks for more than just the governor himself!
For lunch, we headed to Biba Ristorante, a great Italian restaurant in a neighborhood east of the Capitol complex that came highly recommended. We enjoyed a great lunch (I had a delicious tomato-onion soup followed by Pollo alla Milanese)
After lunch we headed to Old Sacramento and the Delta King – an old stern wheeler which has been turned into a hotel. It’s in beautiful shape – looking freshly painted and very “ship shape”.
This museum, a California State Park, is remarkable – an amazing place for railroad buffs. The upper level has a large model railroad display which brought back memories for me of the American Flyer train set that was one of my treasured toys growing up. One of the displays is a series of examples of all of the various model railroad gauges – all the way down to the tiny Z scale trains.
The docents at the Railroad Museum were a delight. They enjoyed telling us more about their exhibits, answering our questions and sharing. We particularly enjoyed the walk through both the sleeping car (which rocks and has sound and light effects simulating being on a real train trip to Chicago – “all trains go to Chicago!”) and the dining car with its displays of railroad dining china settings.
After the museum, we walked back to the Sacramento Valley Station and caught our return Capitol Corridor train to Richmond.
While this was a long day, we had a great time – and we got in a lot of exercise – over 10,000 steps and over 3 miles of walking. A great day of exercise for my legs as I’m finally back to almost 100% following my broken femur accident last spring!
Notes: All photos taken with an iPhone 11 Pro Max and edited on the iPhone using Photos.
Update: I first wrote about this back in 2012. The lessons remain powerful – even in retirement! Suggest you give these techniques a try if you have the freedom to do them! With the New Year, I’ve been looking back at some of my older posts – and this was one I re-discovered with a couple of important lessons!
Back when I was a senior executive in a big company, I had an amazing executive assistant who made a big difference in how my work flowed day to day. She could read me like a book – as they say – and could tell when my frustrations started to build. She guarded my calendar carefully (back in the days before meetings could somehow just pop up on your online calendar) – but most days I was almost zombie-like moving from meeting to meeting.
One particularly frustrating day – one of back to back seemingly endless meetings – she caught me at the end of the day. She’d noticed that one hour meetings on my calendar seemed to take all that time – and that I’d often have no time in between one meeting and the next. A day of this kind of back to back meeting schedule was particularly grating on me.
She had a very simple suggestion: saying to me “Let’s change your minimum meeting time block to 90 minutes instead of an hour.”
So simple. I agreed to give it a try – and a few weeks later noticed the difference it had made in my work day. Most of the time, my meetings ended after an hour or a bit more. Her insight was that, by blocking 90 minutes on my calendar, I’d actually have a bit of “recovery time” in between meetings. It was sorta magical – I had “think time” during the day – a time to reflect, recover and prepare.
Sometimes these simple things make a big difference – in your personal productivity and, perhaps more importantly, how you feel about your work – and, ultimately, your life.
Back when I was still working, I decided that I wanted to try to apply a similar idea to my work week. I’m fortunate – being no longer hostage to back to back meetings in a corporate setting – and I usually had quite a bit of flexibility in terms of balancing meetings, calls with clients and prospects, actually working, doing email, etc. But I always noticed the toll that interruptions and, importantly, the context switches that come with them actually took on my ability to focus and get things done.
So, I began to block each Friday as a day when I would not schedule meetings, conference calls, etc. I’d just try to protect each Friday as a day for me to get my work done. Obviously, I can’t guarantee being able to do so – clients sometimes want to schedule meetings on Fridays, important internal work requires Friday work sessions, etc. And, of course, there’s always email, Twitter, etc. But I was surprisingly successful in protecting many Fridays – so that I could focus on the work at hand. I’ve come to think of Fridays as my “crank day” – that’s about cranking on work, not being cranky! And avoiding those externally-imposed context switches which seem to add such a burden and create a hit to productivity. Flow – it’s all about creating a zone where you can focus.
It’s proven to be a very useful personal productivity technique for me. If you’re in a situation when you can apply it, give this simple idea a try!
Would love to hear if it makes a difference for you!
While heading to the Ferry Building this morning I came across this practice session at the temporary ice rink at Justin Herman Plaza along San Francisco’s Embarcadero. Fun to watch them drill! Shot with iPhone 11 Pro Max.
Wow that seemed quick! In a flash 2019 was over and we were on to the new 2020.
Let’s hope 2020 is indeed a new year for clarity of vision, new learnings, much joy and prosperity for all.
I was reminded last night of another Happy New Year photo that my friend Doug Kaye and I both made while walking the streets of Havana seven years ago this month. It highlights the contrast between decay and hope with the simple Happy New Year message painted in English on this decayed building on a Havana street.
I am an optimist and believe in society’s ability to find the will to face our challenges and the intelligence to find solutions to them.
And don’t miss Life in 2030 by Frank Chen of Andreessen Horowitz. He should take up science fiction writing!
I also recommend Om Malik’s recommendations for A Decade of Self-Control – although my strong recommendation for a daily journaling app is Day One. I’ve been using Day One since I had a surgery back in 2012 and wanted to capture my recovery. It’s become a regular daily habit for me since then – the literal scratchpad of my life! For another recommendation for Day One see Why a Digital Diary Will Change Your Life.
Over the long holiday weekend I read a few books – especially enjoyed Mike Isaac’s SuperPumped about Uber. Quite a story and a very enjoyable read!
In other news I continue to find it somewhat amusing that the most popular article here on my blog remains the one from many years ago about my rotator cuff surgery! Somehow that article ended up high enough in search engine rankings to generate many pages views every day!