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'Twas a winning day.

Feb. 13th, 2019 | 11:08 pm

And I'm not even the one sentencing Paul Manafort.

I have 2,004 photos of the Louisiana State Capitol, so. Eternal B-roll.

I woke up at something ludicrous like 4:45 from bad dreams, borne of dread that I was due to spend today working at the Suburbs Office. Since I didn't see any more sleep coming after 45+ minutes of tossing, I got up, packed lunch, went to Starbucks for a giant coffee so I wouldn't wake B fussing with the coffee maker, and just went there early. Arriving at 7:20 is a perfect situation if you need quiet to get shit done. Which I did! The area with standing desks on the 8th floor is usually deserted, but since my last visit Finance has hired 4 interns and they were all on the counter directly across from me. Good to have their energy, and someone else to correct mislabeled voucher entries. There was also a giant array of muffins, bagels, Danish, fruit, and spreads in the kitchen on that floor. Major free food win.

Later in the day we got an email from our receptionist back in the DC office warning of a "chemical odor" in the suite. Turns out the renovation we are getting (folding one of the adjacent, now-vacant suites into ours) is at a critical point where it's also hard to coexist with the construction/demolition crews, so people quickly started cancelling meetings and scrambling for remote work spaces. It was coincidentally a great day for me to not be there, and it sounds like I won't be back there until some point next week.

I had marked off time to go to the gym at 2:30, and by that point was very sleepy and not at all feeling it. But I just marched down there and forced myself through chest and triceps. Very proud that I did! I certainly felt better after that and a shower, and was able to wrap my final meeting on a somewhat higher energy level, leave by 4:45*, and gas up the car.

I also set up an oil change appointment for Friday, the next day I'll be there. Tomorrow it is off to a random coworking space for me, which work did kindly set up. It happens to be super close to my apartment, so the winning continues. I can even come home for lunch if I wish.

*Still a nine hour day not counting the workout. Blah, capitalism.

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I still do things other than read books.

Jan. 7th, 2019 | 11:55 pm

Though that will taper off when my tower of library holds comes in.

I am still undecided about whether to continue to write backdated entries to cover what I did for the rest of 2018 after my initial attempts. I did get through January in a total of four entries, and I had a live entry that covered much of February, so there was progress made. However, I got unfriended by more than one person after I started to post those* so I am unsure if it would lead to losing more LJ audience. On the other hand, 1) it isn't all that difficult to piece together what I was doing from the dreaded Other Social Media Accounts and cover each missed month with perhaps two entries, and 2) it is my journal, after all. It may come down to whether I decide to put my otherwise idle time into this vs. reading.

In the meantime, let's keep up with what is happening with me in 2019! I am usually very much not a resolution-type, but will nevertheless happily attribute my recent productivity to the date. On Friday I paid off B's final dental bill for his implants, which I'd been putting off pending a hail mary to attribute the cost to a new year when we hadn't maxed out our coverage, but that was a no-go since the final procedure (mostly a checkup, really) occurred in 2018. So, whatever. Take your $104, periodontist. It's off our plate forever.

Fitness-wise, I went running almost on a whim yesterday afternoon. After dropping B at work**, there isn't much sunlight left around this time of year, but the days now get slightly longer every week, and with a high of about 55 in January I know I would be far from the only one out there. So I did it! My phone is entering the battery drain swirl and died about 2/3 of the way through but I know it happened. Then, much to my surprise, I went running again today during my "lunch" hour at 3. It was far colder today, but with gloves, earmuffs, and a sense of eternal stubbornness I still got some miles in. As of now, I'm the most prolific runner of 2019 among my (four) friends on the running app!

Social-wise, I saw a ton of people Friday night at Trade: Nasser, Eric, Andrew, Brandon, Ben, Patrick Ry., Patrick Ro., and he brought his friend Brandon*** from New York. After watching a lackluster Drag Race episode among the crowds, we commanded a booth and had a lovely time. Saturday was not intended to be a going out night as I had Great British Bake Off on and was listing neglected books for online resale, but then Blake called and wanted to chat. I took a Lyft up there and we had on tap margaritas at El Chucho, the ultimate cheap therapy session, then I dropped him off at home and walked back here. So good habits abounding and trying to be social too.

I don't have a ton to report on at work. One new feature is my "career effectiveness" coach, who is basically a sounding board and a good reason to stop making excuses, a valuable combination for corporate life. :) Today was my fifth session, and I have a more specific and realistic plan for what I will be doing in 2019 than ever. Overall I need to work on implementing her recommendations so good habits persist after our sessions wrap at the end of January, including turning off my inbox for a couple of hours a day because it will get me to focus at least a bit better and move time from mundane tasks to the meaty stuff I actually want to do.

On that note, I need to head to the Suburbs Office tomorrow, an earlier morning than usual to account for the driving time all the way up there. Surely my good habits will unravel as soon as I get there and smell the bacon coming from deli breakfast sandwiches and there is nowhere to walk for non-grease or work out. But it was nice while it lasted?

*Backdated entries still appear in one's friends list as of the time they were posted.
**His most consistent shift is 4 pm to closing on Sundays.
***Get new baby names, America. Yeesh.

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What I read in 2018: fiction

Dec. 31st, 2018 | 04:50 pm

My library hold queue is bursting with more, so bigger list in 2019?

As I said in my last post, getting back into fiction was a slow but promising development in 2018. And unlike my non-fiction list, I truly enjoyed all of these titles.

  1. Weike Wang Chemistry: How completely heartbreaking this was! The backdrop is of an enormously successful graduate student that experiences the setbacks that life tends to dole out especially to people in their 20s. She suddenly has to find a way to power through losing most of what passed for stability in her life, and tutoring undergrads becomes de facto therapy. I truly hope she writes prolifically in the future, because this was a major achievement for a debut novel. Like my number 1 non-fiction pick, this is instantly in my all-time favorites list as well.

  2. Andrew Sean Greer Less: Ok, this was also the novel that I saw on many Best of 2018 lists, after it won the Pulitzer. Deserved? Yes! The protagonist is an author in San Francisco, about to turn 50 and still trying to cope with being dumped by his longtime boyfriend. To save face, he needs to invent a reason to be unavailable to attend the ex's wedding, and it manages to be tragic and hilarious at once. The theme of age gaps in relationships was addressed masterfully, I think, as were the peculiarities of how gay men date and marry.

  3. Orhan Pamuk My Name Is Red*: The basic plot synopsis is this: we are in Istanbul in the 16th century when the Sultan employs multiple artists to spend their lives toiling on beautiful and intricate illustrations in books, some until they literally go blind. One of the senior illustrators is murdered near the start, and we must spend the whole novel trying to find out who it was. The suspense is compounded by the shift to a different narrator in every chapter, and I can't imagine how challenging it was to write this way. I don't remember reading anything quite this creative before or since.
  • Lillian Li Number One Chinese Restaurant
  • Viet Thanh Nguyen The Refugees
  • Mat Johnson Pym: A Novel
*Like the nonfiction list, this is the entry that I originally intended to read long ago. In this case, I started and stopped reading it in 2004 and again in 2013, before finally picking it up and rereading the whole thing. Delayed book achievements!
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What I read in 2018: non-fiction

Dec. 29th, 2018 | 05:09 pm

My friends list, while compelling, doesn't count.

Our excellent public library system got me back into reading in a big way in 2018, completing 32 books for the year. As usual I mostly read non-fiction, and below are the 26 titles from that category. In general I learned a ton, especially from the memoirs that offered insights into lived experience that aren't commonly found elsewhere.

On the other hand, some of these were wonky to a fault, delving so far into a specific topic that they came out the other end of irrelevance. I suppose one must produce something quite original to be published and widely distributed, but with the handful at the bottom of the list I found myself reading faster just to be done. Still finished everything, though! And I've basically had my fill of books about politics for a while now. In early 2019 I will only make an exception for John Dingell's new book, because he's the GOAT.

Here they all are, ranked and with commentary on my top 5.

  1. Tara Westover Educated: A Memoir: This is at the top of many individuals' and publications' Best of 2018 Lists, and I think the consensus is accurate. Her account of growing up in rural Idaho with a father eternally suspicious of the outside world and a housewife-turned-midwife mother was painfully detailed in some parts. Ultimately, it's widely relatable to any kid that had little exposure to the Big Wide World but had to know what it offers that one's family bubble cannot. In particular, her older siblings have very jarring, and very human, experiences that made me want to fight for each of them, and Westover is honest about where she and they go on their journey to adulthood. You might cry more than a couple of times, but it's worth the ride. This one also goes in my all-time favorites list.

  2. Miriam Pawel The Browns of California: The Family Dynasty that Transformed a State and Shaped a Nation: We may be hurting for competent, thoughtful leaders in the public sector in 2018 (ok, we definitely are). But digging beyond the Trumps and Mays of the world, we do have these, and Pawel wrote a painstakingly detailed account that follows three. Those are imminently retiring California governor (and one time state attorney general, mayor of Oakland, and candidate for president) Jerry Brown, his sister Kathleen, former state treasurer and one-time gubernatorial candidate, and, one generation back, their father Pat, also an attorney general and governor. The number of interviews she conducted is an insanely impressive feat, to get a fuller picture of where this family came from and what inspired them to govern as they did. Given the many offices held by the three Browns over multiple decades, this could have been an insurmountable topic, but Pawel whipped it into a smart narrative that put the details where they did the most good. Jerry Brown is the primary subject, but many other family members and friends are included. Recommended if you want to feel more optimistic about public service and how wealthy people can contribute positively.

  3. Dave Holmes Party of One: A Memoir in 21 Songs: Do you remember MTV in the late 90s? I think much of my friends list was in the States and of the right age to at least have a passing familiarity. Myself, I was obsessed for just about all of ages 12 to 17, and as such I remember all of their gimmicks, high and low. Dave Holmes was a central participant in one of those: the reality show-like contest to become one of their on-air VJs. But he starts this story well before that, as a gay kid in a Catholic household (and later college) that took to popular music as a refuge and became an encyclopedia of 20th century rock. The style is original, with an era-appropriate song assigned to each of the parts of his life, of which my favorite was being a 20-something with a degree and smarts but no real idea how to navigate a heartless corporate world (song: The Man Who Sold the World). Even if you didn't grow up with MTV, it's witty and not too clever.

  4. Alyssa Mastromonaco with Lauren Oyler Who Thought This Was a Good Idea? And Other Questions You Should Have Answers to When You Work in the White House*: Most of the DC politics books I read this year ended up fairly far down on this ranked list. Why? Even if historically important, the play-by-play narration of events was often tiresome, and most authors didn't seem to have a good sense of what actually counts as important to the story at hand, if not the larger context. Not so here! Mastromonaco was a campaign vet by 2008, and entered the White House as one of the senior staff in charge first of advance and later domestic policy. This was a surprisingly human take on what working with and for Obama was like, down to the mundane and humbling parts of a job that is extremely important and also all-consuming. An unsung highlight of this book by critics, in my opinion, is the chapters about her post-White House life, trying to figure out where her talents could be utilized and what to leave behind in DC.

  5. Deborah Fallows and James Fallows Our Towns: A 100,000-Mile Journey into the Heart of America: If you've read online thinkpieces about rural America in the past few years, you may have come across the authors. The Fallowses are prolific writers and interview subjects, and had a career worth of work reporting on small towns even before this book. Our Towns is their apparent opus, an account of several years flying their private plane to multiple small towns and digging in to the assets and personalities of those places, which can be (but aren't always) different from the large cities that tend to dominate the American experience. I do have a minor gripe, which is an occasional tendency to be too sympathetic to bad choices, when I would expect experienced journalists to tell the situation** like it is. Still, if you want to know what small towns and cities are doing other than growing our food, this is a good place to start.

And the remainder!
  • Daniel Doctoroff Greater Than Ever: New York's Big Comeback
  • Deborah Hicks The Road Out: A Teacher's Odyssey in Poor America
  • Barbara Ehrenreich Natural Causes: An Epidemic of Wellness, the Certainty of Dying, and Killing Ourselves to Live Longer
  • Richard Rothstein The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America
  • Bill Dedman Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune
  • Lisa Servon The Unbanking of America: How the New Middle Class Survives
  • Joseph Rodota The Watergate: Inside America's Most Famous Address
  • Stuart Rojstaczer Gone for Good: Tales of University Life After the Golden Age***
  • Marilyn Waring Counting for Nothing: What Men Value and What Women are Worth
  • Jeff Goodell The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized World
  • Jonathan Alter The Center Holds: Obama and His Enemies
  • Adam Winkler We the Corporations: How American Businesses Won Their Civil Rights
  • Bob Woodward Fear: Trump in the White House
  • Felix G. Rohaytn Bold Endeavors: How Our Government Built America, and Why It Must Rebuild Now
  • Tracy Metz and Maartje van den Heuvel Sweet and Salt: Water and the Dutch
  • Emmanuel Petit Philip Johnson: The Constancy of Change
  • Chris Hayes Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy
  • Atul Gawande The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right
  • Timothy Beatley Blue Urbanism: Exploring Connections Between Cities and Oceans
  • Arne Duncan How Schools Work: An Inside Account of Failure and Success from One of the Nation's Longest-Serving Secretaries of Education
  • Michael T. Walsh Baltimore Prohibition: Wet and Dry in the Free State

My next post will contain the accompanying list for fiction!

*Also my favorite title in a long time.
**I started to type out the most prominent example in the book, but it became spoiler-filled and so long that I think I may save for a standalone entry.
***Bonus: this title had been on my to-read list for something like 12 years! I never say it's too late.
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Housing for the good people of Tangipahoa Parish, which I can now spell.

Apr. 27th, 2018 | 05:42 pm

Louisiana, Part 3.

Picking up from last time, the final two days of APA were less intense and I got to focus more of my time on learning and enjoying the time with my friends and general professional cohort. Still a few travel mishaps here and there, and a great deal of viewing technical nerddom like this:

Occasionally being a planner is very cool. This was one of those times.

I have been issued a hard hatCollapse )

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Adulthood is cutting off rambling questioners with finesse.

Apr. 26th, 2018 | 08:02 am

Louisiana, Part 2.

Tired of sidewalk photos yet?
Tulane. I remain obsessed with these trees!

This was my first time in New Orleans in nine years, and I remembered very little from last time. Fortunately, I built plenty of extra time into the trip to get lost, explore, and change plans on a whim when recommendations came my way.

I ate everything in the GulfCollapse )

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Where the sidewalks are.

Apr. 25th, 2018 | 08:59 am

Louisiana, Part 1.

The greatest shade in Baton RougeBaton Rouge wins for best nature within the State Capitol Complex.

Ok, all back from and done with APA. It was certainly one of the better ones, and not least because I got to moderate a panel for the first time. That was in New Orleans, and will come in the next entry. For now, this is what happened on Days 1 and 2, in my first destination. Baton Rouge!Collapse )

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Big, bad window replacement saga is over.

Jan. 15th, 2018 | 09:23 pm

But no Mafia involvement that I'm aware of!

Last Wednesday's work retreat was at least worthwhile, unlike some of the ones I've ranted about in the past. I popped into McDonald's for breakfast on the way, then sat awkwardly in the parking lot drinking my coffee since the librarians rightly won't allow it indoors. We had about two hours of feverish writing of our priorities for the year on big easel pads and rearranging them on the walls, then broke for lunch at a Peruvian chicken place in Eckington I'd not previously known about. It was a very good and not nap-inducing lunch! Then in the afternoon we continued to write about how to implement this stuff but there was more opportunity to remark on what hasn't gotten well and just to generally vent. The easel pages are neatly rolled up on Nicole's desk where there is a ~25% chance they remain that way forever. We shall see, anyway. Then we were out of there by 4:15 and I stopped into Trickbox to get new underwear since I'm never in that neighborhood, and back on home.

Since I've whined about our aging apartment so much in the past, I'm pleased that we just got all of our windows replaced. The super in our building did the yeoman's work of aligning the schedules of the contractors and the residents so that we could all get the installation done, but it was still a bit of a rushed mess. They tried to come in on Friday morning when B had been asleep all of two hours, so he shooed them away and they came back at 1 pm. By the time I got home from the retreat, they were well underway but not done yet, so we decamped to Stoney's for happy hour to wait them out. Finally at about 8:15 we returned and they had finished, and we also got new blinds out of the deal! The furniture was still all moved out of place, though, so we had to vacuum and get that back in place. Very glad it's over.

Otherwise we've been in near-hibernation mode. I picked up my most recent library hold on Sunday, and even found a parking space relatively close by so I wouldn't freeze walking there. So far it's a good fiction palate cleanser from my usual wonky picks plus the neverending stream of DC news.

With the ice madness over, we got to Shoppers and did the monthly shop tonight. Now that we have groceries: ribeye, mashed potatoes, and French onion soup for late dinner! Take that, winter.

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The whole world is a skating rink.

Jan. 9th, 2018 | 01:33 pm

And I'm going to break a hip.

Winter continues to have its way with us! I'm glad I made my Target run on Sunday before it all happened, so as to avoid skidding off the 14th Street Bridge and having to be fished out. Yesterday a freezing rainish sort of precipitation was going for most of the afternoon, and the temps stayed low enough that every sidewalk just turned into a sheet of ice. Especially those made of brick and sett pavers.

I was just finishing a 31-day step challenge that evening and was concerned I'd have to walk back and forth in my hallway a hundred times to get the step count* done, but I managed anyway! After tottling home from the bus stop, I changed and got an Uber to meet B at DC9 because there was no way I'd have successfully walked there without falling on my face. I even had to ask the poor driver to move up by like eighteen inches in my driveway so that I didn't have to clutch on to the side of his car to get in. He did a great job, though, and the streets were adequately salted/sanded.

Going out of order a bit, I was watching the Golden Globes and shitposting about them on Twitter Sunday night when a higher-than-usual** commotion of fire trucks made me look out the window, and the bodega on the next block (a two-story building which had an apartment above) was very clearly On Fire. For the next several hours, our entire block was closed as they strung fire hoses all the way from the far side of 13th Street and busted windows and generally tried to put the thing out. Very heroic effort from them, and they even summoned and parked the "canteen truck" because they were clearly not going anywhere for a while. I had to text B to say he was unlikely to get dropped off near our front door after work, and according to my emergency alerts the street didn't reopen until after 5 am. So. That was depressing and humbling.

Work will be a little irregular for the rest of the week. Sooner rather than later we absolutely have to get some long-delayed payment issues resolved, which were folded over from the prior year. But that won't be tomorrow, because my sub-team is having a retreat at the library branch that had an open conference room for the day. I will bring pretty detailed notes of my gripes and grievances, and we either will or won't come up with solutions to them. Given that it is six hours plus lunch, we better gd resolve something.

*The equivalent of walking from the Santa Monica Pier to the base of the Palm Springs Tramway. Love an app that makes these challenges into something creative. And that summons warm thoughts.

**The closest fire station is about four blocks from our apartment and we are used to them flying by if they are en route to calls in our direction.

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Damn, Jonathan.

Dec. 27th, 2017 | 10:15 pm

Back at it with the window shopping.

First day back to work today was not very serious. I was set to get there around 10:45, but stopped for a burrito bowl on the way in, so let’s call it an 11 am arrival. Emails were responded to, not that I had all that many, and I made some tracker updates I’d been putting off. But I did not particularly need to be there. On the way home, I stopped into Papyrus to get heavily discounted Christmas cards, to finish my second batch tomorrow and then the rest to have for next year. Slowly I am turning into a well-oiled discount hunting machine.

There was more such discount shopping yesterday! With the weather being decent, Andrew and I agreed to pop into a few places on 14th Street. We met up and first went to Danielle’s apartment to drop off a bag she left in his car. While waiting and then walking around, he regaled me with the story of their Christmas, capped by getting a flat tire that resisted refilling and had to drive all the way back to DC stopping every few miles to check on it. Wouldn’t you know that Christmas Day is the hardest day to find any auto repair folks?

Anyhow, we started at Lululemon so he could exchange gifts for some more desirable stuff, then we went across the way to Room and Board to check out their after-Christmas sale with every other human in DC. The weather was nice, and we were admittedly enjoying a good sale so it was understandable. Lots of fun furniture, but we didn’t buy anything, just had a good conversation while moving from floor to floor browsing. In the end we just got coffee from Wydown and then I came home. But it was lovely and relaxed!

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