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Books Living

Life in these United States

woman in white long sleeve shirt standing near white and gray house during daytime
Photo by Julian Jagtenberg on Pexels.com

A couple of commentaries I read today really brought home to me some of what’s happening to life in these United States. Both of these articles strike me as like the other:

Zen and the Art of #VanLife Influencing

The problem of getting old is an old problem, which means there are plenty of established ways of coping. The new problem, the one harder to deal with, is the diminishing possibilities for our species. Settling down means something different now, because there is no long term. The best one can hope for is a temporary pocket of equilibrium, to be enjoyed while it lasts, and then mercilessly abandoned. …

I grew up in Portland, and I love it. Here’s why I’m never moving back, even though I can work from anywhere.

…what links the vanlifers, the influencers and the get-rich-quick kids isn’t laziness or dreams of going viral, but rather a sense of precarity that they see all around them, whether in campgrounds filled with the homeless, in the ongoing climate disasters and now in a pandemic that has isolated them from their friends. …

In other news, I’ve recently discovered Ted Kooser (thanks to the By the Book profile of author William Kent Krueger in last Sunday’s New York Times Book Review). Kooser’s known for his plainsong poetry about the Great Plains. I’m really enjoying his prose – in particular his great memoir about life in rural Nebraska: Local Wonders. Highly recommended – his evocative sentences are a real delight to read!

Contrary to what out-of-state tourists might tell you, Nebraska isn’t  flat but slightly tilted, like a long church basement table with the legs on one end not perfectly snapped in place, not quite enough of a slant for the tuna-and-potato-chip casserole to slide off into the Missouri River. The high end is closest to the Rockies, and the entire state is made up of gravel, sand, and silt that ran off the front range over millions of years. …

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Books Living

More Book Recommendations…

After writing yesterday’s post including my book recommendation for Falling, I realized there were two other books that I really enjoyed reading in the last couple of months – and wanted to share them.

The first is Daniel Silva’s The Cellist, the 21st book in his long running series about Gabriel Allon. Silva rewrote a lot of this book after the events at the Capitol on January 6th. He lives in DC and is married to a CNN correspondent – so he was right in the midst of those January events. He masterfully weaves that story line into the end of The Cellist. There’s a great interview online with Silva talking about this book that’s worth watching.

The second is the The President’s Daughter by Bill Clinton and James Patterson. This is their second collaboration – I also enjoyed the first (The President is Missing) but found this second one even more enjoyable. Patterson’s use of plot twists along with Clinton’s “spice” of realism regarding the presidency and post-presidential life add a lot to this story. There’s also a great interview of the two of them with Lee Child that’s well worth watching.

Both of these books – along with Falling – are great summertime reads!

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Books Covid-19 Living

Stuck in Neutral

Back in May, I wrote about re-emergence – that feeling of coming out of the pandemic and “getting back to normal”. If only that had proven to have been true!

Instead, what’s happened is the “Delta relapse” – as this new Delta variant has demonstrated again that viruses are clever and have a “mind” of their own. A more contagious mutation – causing “breakthrough infections” even among dual vaccinated individuals – has thrown a new damper over those good feelings we had back in June.

For me personally, that’s meant staying closing to home again – avoiding group contact, etc. But it’s also been good in some ways – as I’ve added a new regular daily walk to my morning routine. That’s help me drop a few more pounds in weight – a very good thing – and provided a daily photography opportunity.

We’ll see where we are as we get through August – as schools try to re-open, traffic picks up again, and “normal” life tries to re-emerge again. Delta curves in India and the UK provide some hope that the US will see some stabilization and recovery soon. We also expect to hear soon about the need for a booster shot this fall for vaccinated individuals – wouldn’t it be wonderful if that got combined with this year’s flu shots?

Life goes on – just another roller coaster ride!…

Book recommendation: over the weekend I read Falling by T.J. Newman. It’s right at the top of my list of the most enjoyable books that I’ve read this year. Definitely not recommended for reading on a flight but otherwise it’s a great escape! I finished it in one day – a great example of a “page turner”!

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Living

A Profound Shift…

From a commentary by Marc Andreessen:

This is, I believe, a permanent civilizational shift. It is perhaps the most important thing that’s happened in my lifetime, a consequence of the internet that’s maybe even more important than the internet. Permanently divorcing physical location from economic opportunity gives us a real shot at radically expanding the number of good jobs in the world while also dramatically improving quality of life for millions, or billions, of people. We may, at long last, shatter the geographic lottery, opening up opportunity to countless people who weren’t lucky enough to be born in the right place.

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Covid-19 Health Living

Re-Emergence II

Yesterday, the US CDC came out (at last!) with newly updated guidance for those who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19. In essence, masks are no longer needed for protection (for either you or people around you) if you have been fully vaccinated.

The right column in this CDC “Choosing Safer Activities” graphic makes the point for “Fully Vaccinated People”:

It’s been a difficult 15 months during this pandemic. Yesterday’s updated guidance from the CDC does feel like we’re emerging from the deep, dark tunnel we’ve been in. It’s almost hard to believe – we have been so accustomed to this weird way of hermit-like living. But here we are.

Thanks especially to all of the scientists and miracle workers who so rapidly developed the vaccines that deal with this nasty virus – and to the many healthcare workers who dedicated themselves to trying to save every life they could among those who became infected.

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Libraries Living Portola Valley

Re-Emergence

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.

Susan Orlean, The Library Book
Categories
Living

A Sunday Morning – Late Summer 2020

I’m feeling a bit melancholy this morning – aren’t we all in some way?

But it’s a lovely day shaping up outside – the local lightning-caused wildfires are gradually coming under control, the air quality is slowly improving and the sun is bright.

But my mood is not so bright. Brad Feld shared his feeling – asking “Are You At Your Best Right Now?

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.

Picking up this morning’s Sunday San Francisco Chronicle to read at breakfast added to the melancholy mood of my morning! With headlines like: Understanding 2020’s confusion, As workers at big businesses stay home, downtown SF’s small businesses suffer, and Willie Brown’s latest column Burning and looting in the name of justice will hand election to Trump.

And then there’s this: Chadwick Boseman helped us understand our history. His death shatters our hearts. Reading the news certainly doesn’t help swing one’s mood back to positive and out of the melancoly!

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.”

And

“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…

Update: Oh, one more cheerful thing – it’s Warren Buffett’s 90th birthday today. Bill Gates shares some memories and makes him a birthday cake! And quotes some wisdom from Warren:

“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.”

Categories
France Living

Memorial Day 2020

A scene from the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial, Colleville-sur-Mer, Normandy in France. I visited this sacred spot last fall on a beautiful September afternoon – just after seeing Omaha Beach and Pointe du Hoc.

Buried here are 9,385 Americans who lost their lives in World War II defending freedom – most during the D-Day landings and ensuing operations in the area.

Another reminder: Freedom is not free.

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Filoli iPhone 11 Pro Max Living Photography

Back to Filoli

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.

All in all, a very therapeutic afternoon!

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Libraries Living Memories

Remembering Bookmobiles

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!