One blog to rule them all
Welcome to my blog!
I would make some sort of clever introduction here, but most of us already know how blogs work; if you like me and like my writing, you might also enjoy my personal ramblings and assorted thoughts. If you don't like me, you're probably not reading this anyway. And if you're undecided in your opinion of me, I invite you to read as much or as little as you like and decide for yourself.
Please read on and, if you find something worth discussing, don't be shy about submitting a comment!
My wife and I have been rewatching The Newsroom for the umpteenth time, and every time I watch it I'm reminded all over again why Aaron Sorkin is such an extraordinary writer. While it's usually Episode 4 of the first season that gives me chills and fits of jealousy over how good it is, this time I was really struck by the final episode of the first season with the recurring theme of "the greater fool."
This YouTube clip compilation does a great job of distilling the theme of the episode down into just a few minutes and key scenes:
As Sloan Sabbith (played by Olivia Munn) says in that clip, "Most people spend their lives trying not to be the greater fool" and then, "The greater fool is somebody with the perfect blend of self-delusion and ego to think that he can succeed where others have failed. This whole country was made by greater fools."
Maybe it's the current moment we find ourselves in, maybe it's that I'm a relatively new father and am learning how to deal with a completely different way of prioritizing things in my life now, but rewatching this episode really made me realize how long I've tried to avoid being the greater fool. Self-consciousness, perfectionism, fear of failure, social anxiety ... whatever you want to call it, I've often chosen passivity over action because I'm too afraid of looking like a fool. Or at least attempting to not be the biggest fool in the room.
What I've been reflecting on since watching this episode is just how hard it is to do something remarkable when you're playing it safe. As someone who wants to tell impactful stories and leave a mark on the world, it made me realize how long I've been spending not actually attempting to achieve that for fear of coming up short. And I'm not sure that, at the end of my life, I want my legacy to just be, "Yep, he definitely played it safe and made sure he wasn't the biggest idiot in the room."
I've also been watching the new docuseries Dear... on Apple TV+ and the episode on Lin-Manuel Miranda recounted a story I'd forgotten about his early years. In 2008, he was just coming off the success of his first Broadway musical, the Tony-winning In The Heights. In 2009, he was invited to perform at the White House Evening of Poetry, Music, and the Spoken Word. The expectation was that he would perform one of his hip-hop inspired Tony-winning numbers from In The Heights but, instead, he decided to perform a new piece he had been working on, inspired by a biography of one of America's founding fathers that he read while on vacation. The piece he performed was "My Shot," which ultimately became one of the standout songs from the record-breaking musical phenomenon Hamilton. And I can't stop thinking about what a bold swing Miranda took. He got invited to perform in front of the President of the United States alongside the country's most talented poets and musicians, and rather than performing a guaranteed crowd-pleasing surefire hit from his current award-winning work running on Broadway, he decided instead to perform something he was still workshopping.
I don't know if this speaks to anyone else, or if anyone else needs to hear it right now, but I'm really weighing the pros and cons of spending one's time and energy focused on not looking like an idiot rather than taking a big swing at things, even if it doesn't always work out and you sometimes fall flat.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that maybe I want to try being a greater fool for a while.
"30-Day Blogging Challenge" | May 30
I think my favorite prompt would have to be yesterday's prompt about the dream house ("Dream House" ). I really like blog prompts that make you think and require you to give more than just a perfunctory answer, so prompts like, "write about your dream home" are really appealing to me because they can be answered in a single paragraph or, if the blogger is feeling inspired, a much more thorough response. I dislike prompts that can be answered with just a couple of sentences and after that it's just a bunch of waxing poetic.
The more interesting question to me, though, isn't which prompts were our favorites, but which of our responses were our favorite. There were several blog entries this month where I really didn't like the prompt, or didn't initially find it very inspiring, but then ended up being pleasantly surprised by how they turned out. "30DBC Road Trip" was one of those, as was "Cooking Submissive" . That's probably the part that was the most rewarding about this whole experience too. As it so often is with writing, sometimes you get surprised by the things you come up with, for better or for worse.
I'm not sure I really learned anything from this activity, except in the general, cliched, "I got to know myself better through self exploration blah blah blah" that often comes from blogging activities where the prompts challenge you to think about your own personal tastes, preferences, and predilections. Well, that and I suppose I learned things like who's dream house would be fun to visit, who would be a convenient stop on a road trip around North America, and who to steer clear of.
Overall, I'm glad I completed the 30DBC this month. While there were definitely times that I really disliked having to slog through an entry I wasn't particularly keen on writing, I'm enjoying the feeling of accomplishment now that it's done, and I'm pretty proud of a handful of the entries that were inspired by the activity. I'm not sure I have the time or the interest in doing every 30DBC, but I can definitely see doing a month here and there when I'm feeling the need for a little inspiration, encouragement, or just need to feel productive getting some words committed to the page (or screen, as it were).
"30-Day Blogging Challenge" | May 29
Architecture is an interest of mine, so I'm totally into this prompt!
There are a lot of architectural styles I like, including Federal and Neoclassical in particular. I also appreciate the quirkiness of styles like Queen Anne, Second Empire, and Victorian, but I'm not sure I'd actually want to live in any of those style homes, particularly since I prefer an open floor plan and homes in those forms tend more walls to support them, and thus a higher number of smaller, segmented rooms. For those who are interested here's a link to a website with details and a sketch of each architectural style for reference.
The architectural style I most often find myself gravitating toward is modern/contemporary. And I don't mean super out-there modern like staircases composed of steps suspended by cables, or the cold sterility of an interior decorating scheme that's sharp edges, metal, and glass. But I do like the modern sensibilities of clean lines, large open spaces with lots of natural light, and a variety of modern finishes. Here's an example of a home exterior that really appeals to me, including garage doors on the side of the house rather than obscuring the front of the house, and plenty of windows to see the natural world outside.
I won't bore you with comps of all the various rooms of the house, but I will take a few moments to highlight a few key spaces that I feel strongly about, starting with the kitchen. I enjoy cooking and, in my experience, the kitchen is such a central room in the house, I hate it when the kitchen is tucked away from the other rooms of the house. I'm not the kind of person who has dinner parties where a private chef prepares the meal out of sight, out of mind; I'm the kind of person who has dinner parties where I'm in the kitchen prepping the food while guests are having drinks and socializing in the living room. So I really enjoy modern, open spaces where the kitchen space flows into the living room space. Kind of like this:
Next up is the master bathroom. When my wife and i were in Thailand, we fell in love with the indoor/outdoor feel of the bathrooms there. The Thai culture has a connection with nature and many of their bathrooms, if they don't contain a literal combination of both indoor and outdoor spaces (like open air showers, concealed by walls and/or plants), will often have an element of nature in the bathroom, or large windows to view outside. When we stayed in a pool villa at our resort on the island of Phuket, the shower had a glass wall that looked out on several planted trees, with a privacy wall behind them. So the shower had this wonderful exposed to nature feel, but at the same time had the privacy of the whole setup, nature and all, being secluded from public view.
So I'm definitely in favor of a bathroom that has some element of the outdoors to it, even if it's just a view. I also really like the idea of a separate oversized soaking tub and roomy shower, and I kind of like when a bathroom feature like the shower or tub breaks up the room a little. I've spent so long living in small apartments where the master bathroom is a cramped affair with one sink and a tiny shower/tub combo, I've really come to associate a spacious bathroom with luxury. My dream home would probably have a bathroom similar to one of these:
Obviously, the most important room in the house for me is going to be the home office. Since I often work from home for my day job, and work from home independently on my writing, I need a space that I can dedicate to that work. For years I've either used our converted second bedroom or, now that we have kids, a desk that's in the corner of another room like our living area. And as with my feelings on the bathroom, years of working in dark cramped spaces leaves me wanting a work area that is bright and open and has plenty of room to spread my work out. And lots of storage. My dream home office would probably be something along these lines. I love the wrap-around desk facing floor-to-ceiling windows and all the shelves and cabinets in the first photo, and the spaciousness and the extra chair for relaxing and reading from the second photo:
That's all I'll say about the rooms, but now I want to focus on a couple of home features that would be really important to my dream house. I'll keep it to my top three most desired features.
#3 on the charts is a guest house or a pool house, and the pool to go along with it, of course. The pool is a no-brainer because swimming is one of my all-time favorite ways of getting exercise, so I would love to one day have my own pool so I can go for a swim any time I want without having to worry about getting in the car and driving somewhere. But even more importantly, I'd want a pool house, guest house, casita, or some kind of small detached bonus area for guests to stay. Hosting other people is something that's important to me, and I know how much it can feel like you're imposing (on both sides of the stay) when you're in someone else's home for an extended period of time. I would love to have some kind of small full-service (bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, living area) space set apart from the house so we could have the grandparents come and stay, or missionary friends from another country come and stay, etc. for an extended period of time and be able to have their own private space they can get away to whenever it starts to feel crowded in the house.
Coming in at #2 is a convertible indoor/outdoor space. I love those houses where you have modern glass walls that you can push aside and retract into solid walls in order to open up your living area into the backyard and have a wide-open, airy feel to the living area. Here's a couple of pictures of the same space from different angles, just to give you an idea of the kind of thing I want. The black line on the ground is the track where the multi-panel glass walls can be pulled together and closed off when you want to lock up the house and separate the indoor and outdoor areas:
And my #1 most desirable dream home feature is... secret passages! When I was growing up, a friend of mine had a dad who was a contractor and custom-built their home, which included a secret bonus room in my friend's room. There was a built-in bookcase that had a latch which, when flipped, would allow you to push the bookcase in and enter a bonus play room attached to my friend's room. Ever since then, I've been fascinated by the idea of secret passages and hidden rooms, and that interest has only become more poignant after playing games like Clue and watching a number of movies and television shows like Scooby Doo where secret passages play a key role in the story.
I like the idea of both inventive, unusual secret passages leading to hidden rooms like this:
As well as more traditional "shortcuts from one room to another" kind of passages like this:
The idea of secret passages is appealing to me because my dream house would have to be an ideal place to play hide and seek and other games of that nature (obviously), and also because I actually like the idea of creating a flow to the rooms beyond just "here's the one door you enter and leave from." And since I'm not sure I want a house big enough to warrant multiple established points of ingress and egress in each room, the idea of having neat little passageways here and there would be a super-fun idea. For example, it'd be fun to have a secret passage from the master bedroom to my office, or from the kitchen to a hidden extra pantry/storage area, or from the garage to a separate workshop area. I've also always thought it would be fun to be able to tell someone, "And here's a little something that won't show up on the floor plans..."
Okay, well, I think that's about it for my dream house. As far as where I'd like to live... I really enjoy where we are in Southern California. The ocean is my happy place, so I suppose the dream would be somewhere within earshot of the ocean waves. I'm not sure I'd actually want a place on the beach (not a fan of tracking a bunch of sand around, or the marine layer that often sets in), but somewhere with a view of the ocean and being within earshot would be nice. If that weren't a possibility, somewhere in the Hollywood Hills with a view of the city would be really nice... and if Southern California weren't an option at all, I'd probably choose to live somewhere in the Pacific Northwest, with my dream home located somewhere with a nice forest or mountain view.
Thank you for tuning into this episode of WDC Cribs!
"30-Day Blogging Challenge" | May 28
1. If you were to run for President of the United States (or the equivalent leader of your respective country if you're not living in the USA), what would be your signature issue and how would you address it?
2. Let's say you're a mega-billionaire worth $50 billion who's taken the Giving Pledge and you have to figure out how to give away half your money to charitable causes. How would you spend that $25 billion? What causes and organizations would you give it to?
3. Have you ever pawned your work off on somebody else? Explain.
Sorry, I couldn't resist with that last one. I suppose it's only fitting that I answer it too.
The only time I've ever intentionally pawned work off on somebody has been when I've been in the process of leaving a job and there was a task I just didn't want to get around to doing. Every job I've ever had has involved basically working frantically up until the finish to get every single possible thing off my plate, and I don't think I've ever once transitioned out of a job where everything has been done by the time I've walked out the door, with no handing off of a number of tasks and responsibilities. And if it just so happens that the stuff left on my to-do list is the tedious stuff that I put off until the very end and never got around to?
Responsibility is a huge facet of my personality, so I don't generally like to pawn stuff off on other people and tend to overwork myself to make sure that doesn't happen. But when you're leaving a job and you're doing a ton of work to clear as much off your plate as possible, sometimes it's just unavoidable!
"30-Day Blogging Challenge" | May 27
If my life were a song, it would probably be a mash-up of genres of some kind. Both my personal preferences and the way life seems to have worked out seem to have multiple layers to them, so I imagine that a song that exemplifies that multifaceted life would similarly be some kind of crossover. I tend to like upbeat songs and ones that have really powerful, emotional lyrics, so maybe an R&B remix? A hip-hop jazz number? I'm not sure about the exact genres per se, just that there needs to be more than one.
I'm not sure who the singer would be, but it would have to be someone super-talented and capable of producing music in different genres. And not knowing my specific genre makes it a little complicated. Maybe instead of a singer I could just hire a great film composer who understands all kind of different influences and styles and can create a unique sound.
Actually, now that I think about it, I want to change my answer. I think my life song should be a music score composed by one of the iconic composers in the entertainment industry. A John Williams theme song would be epic. Or something by Alan Silvestri or Michael Giacchino or Ludwig Goransson. Ramin Djawadi would be a good choice too. And obviously it would be a huge hit because these guys make such iconic themes that people can't help but recognize them whenever they play.
"30-Day Blogging Challenge" | May 26
Honestly, I find this prompt really frustrating. At first I kind of just wanted to throw my hands up and go, "When I'm in the mood to celebrate, nothing can stop me from... celebrating? What else do you want from me???" But then I was discussing the prompt with a friend and we decided that it would make an interesting Cards Against Humanity or Apples to Apples prompt card, so that's exactly what I'm going to do.
First, I'm going to draw ten white cards from the Cards Against Humanity deck.
These are my cards:
1. A sausage festival
2. An erection that lasts longer than four hours
3. Actually taking candy from a baby
4. Sniffing glue
5. Grave robbing
6. Eating the last known bison
7. Dropping a chandelier on your enemies and riding the rope up
8. Getting naked and watching Nickelodeon
9. Whipping it out
10. Waking up half-naked in a Denny's parking lot
Next I'm going to choose which card I want to play. And this is going to be a tough one because there are a lot of potential great ones here. #7 is one of my all-time favorite ones to play in a game of Cards Against Humanity. The imagery is just
To be honest, these would all be great cards to play, but I think I'm going to have to go with #2:
When I'm in the mood to celebrate, nothing can stop me from an erection that lasts longer than four hours.
I picked this card because the idea of such an intense physical reaction to wanting to celebrate genuinely made me laugh out loud when I drew the card, and as with most games of Cards Against Humanity, I tend to pick the card that I would want to choose if it were my turn to select a winner. To be honest, though, any one of them would have made a great answer.
"30-Day Blogging Challenge" | May 25
I'd say that the most valuable skill I have is my ability to adapt to whatever circumstances I find myself in. Whether it's related to the times I've been laid off, given an unexpected set of additional responsibilities at work, welcoming foster kids into our home, having to deal with home repair or auto emergencies, this whole COVID-19 situation, etc., I've always had the ability to just figure out a way forward, and to look at the situation I'm in and what I have around me, and just... figure out a way to make it work. It's something that's proven to be very useful over the years because life has a tendency to be unpredictable. It's nice to know that, no matter what's around the corner, I'll mostly likely have at least some ability to adapt to the situation and figure out a way to move forward.
On the other hand, I'd say my most useless skill is a knack for remembering random trivia. And not, like, useful trivia where I know everything there is to know about multiple categories of Trivial Pursuit, or where I'd make an awesome Jeopardy! contestant and could win some money. I mean like truly bizarre and random things like being able to name all the countries of the world, or play Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon (or pretty much any other famous actor) for hours and hours on end without being stumped, or being able to rattle off the U.S. President's cabinet positions and line of succession, or being able to list pi to 13+ digits. I am admittedly somewhat proud of many of these accomplishments and bits of knowledge, but there's very little use for them, and showing off that kind of knowledge often comes off as being self-important or condescending. I mean, it's not as if people at a party are just randomly like, "Hey, who can name all 50 U.S. states and their capitals?" And it's not like I'll ever be in a job interview and be asked to name an animal or a fruit/vegetable that starts with every letter of the alphabet. And yet, I still spend an enormous amount of time reading about and collecting all kinds of this random information.
The worst part of this useless skill is that all this trivia and these random facts stick in my brain, but things like requests to take out the trash, or remembering to stop and get some item on the way home from work often go in one ear and out the other. So while I can tell you all kinds of information about galaxies (their various shapes, how many stars are in them, how many galaxies are in the known universe, etc.), I have to ask my wife like three times, "What was it you needed me to bring home again?" I'm lucky she puts up with me.
"30-Day Blogging Challenge" | May 24
Just yesterday, I decided to support a local business by going to a coffeehouse and getting a chai tea and some breakfast pastries for my wife. Obviously the whole COVID-19 thing is still going on, so the coffeehouse had very strict rules posted: wear a mask, order inside then go outside to wait for them to bring your order out, stay six feet apart, etc. And this coffeeshop has had a lot of problems with people ignoring those guidelines. Even though they've locked up all the tables, there's a large concrete planter outside that people have been sitting on the edge of and socializing rather than taking their drinks and leaving as the business requested.
Yesterday, the coffeehouse had put signs on the planter saying, "Please do not sit here. Outdoor space is for waiting for your orders only, by state order, you cannot sit and socialize." One of the patrons decided he wanted to do just that and actually tore the signs off the planter seating area and ripped them up, then proceeded to sit down with his buddies and enjoy their coffees. When someone from the coffeehouse came out and politely asked them to (a) not tear up the signs and (b) please leave now that they have their order so other people can wait at an acceptable social distance from one another, the patron leaped to his feet, got right in the woman's face (and of course he wasn't wearing his mask anymore), and screamed, "I don't have to do what you say! I work in construction! That makes me an essential worker, and it's my right to enjoy a f---ing cup of coffee out here with my friends if I want to. I followed your stupid rules about wearing a mask inside; screw you for trying to take away my freedoms out here on a public street!" (For the record, the planter seating is not on a public street.)
A few people tried to interrupt and talk the guy down, but he kept yelling at the barista and anyone who came to defend her, and his go-to excuse was always, "I'm an essential worker so you should be thanking me and letting me do whatever I want rather than expecting me to follow the rules." It was super awkward and the guy, seeming to suddenly realize that he was making an ass out of himself and everyone was staring at him, suddenly collected his things and left, muttering something about going somewhere that wasn't run by a bunch of fascists.
I can't imagine what it's like to feel entitled to break the rules. I'm a conformist through-and-through. If someone clearly posts expectations about how to act and interact, I try to follow them to the letter. The idea of just ignoring them and doing what I want is completely foreign to me. And then there's the whole matter of using the fact that he's an essential worker (and let's be clear, I would be shocked if he were doing any kind of public works construction project... in our area, odds are that he's a luxury home builder and is able to keep working because the entire construction sector has been preserved as essential) to justify his bad behavior and feeling of entitlement. Even if I did break the rules, my initial reaction to getting called out on it would be to conform or leave, not double down on the "I'm right and you're wrong" strategy.
In situations like this, I never quite know what the most awkward part is... actually witnessing it happening, or the weird silence that descends on the group of people who remain after it's over. I don't think anyone said a word after he left. We all started staring real hard at the pavement in front of us.
"30-Day Blogging Challenge" | May 23
If this were fifteen years ago, I would have said playing Dungeons & Dragons, but with the advent of popular platforms like Critical Role and other live-play podcasts and webcasts, as well as a number of celebrities who have come out as fans of tabletop gaming, it really doesn't have the same outcast status that it used to have. I mean, my wife still looks at me like I'm a weirdo whenever I say I want to spend time DMing a game, but a lot of other people are starting to come to terms with and be cool with it.
So for the entry, I think I'm going to go with cataloging all the things I read and listen to. For some reason, keeping track of every book, script, and comic I've read year after year, plus all the podcasts I listen to, is something that I've come to make a habit. I'm strongly considering also extending it to movies and television I watch, and maybe even online videos or channels that I'm subscribed to. I don't know why I enjoy tracking all that stuff, but the accumulation of data and the availability of a database where I can check if and when I read something is information that I don't mind taking the time to collect, and that's definitely something that most people tell me they think is weird, because they can't imagine taking the time to maintain a spreadsheet or a database of information that nobody else is tracking or cares to track.
I suppose that this mostly comes from the fact that a lot of my natural gifts are in the administrative sphere. I'm good at arranging and organizing things, I like input and having a lot of information to process things, and I collect a lot of random bits of information and trivia. So cataloging all the stuff I read and listen to makes perfect sense because I then have, at my fingertips, all the input necessary to be able to answer any kind of random question like, "Have you read this book?" Or, "How many books by this author have you read?" Or even, "How many books did you read each of the last five years, and what's the average number of books you read a year?"
I'm a total nerd.
"30-Day Blogging Challenge" | May 22
In general, I find stringed instruments (especially the cello) very inspiring. I particularly love instrumental string covers of popular songs, and when popular songs feature string solos. One of my all-time favorites is from Paula Abdul's song "Rush Rush" from 1991. It starts around 3:05 here:
I remember listening to this song on repeat (and even skipping back several seconds to listen to the strings piece itself multiple times) because it just has so much emotion in it. This was my go-to sad song when I was a teenager and just wanted to be sad for a while. I think strings are a beautiful way of musically communicating an incredible breadth of feelings.