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November 2019

Post image for Do What You’re Doing

Years ago my mother introduced me to an extraordinary, out-of-print book on house cleaning, which has stuck in my mind ever since.

It was a thin, battered paperback from the early 1990s called Speed Cleaning, and it tells you how to clean a whole house in 42 minutes. Both of us were so impressed with its clarity and confidence that we resolved to learn its methods before it had to go back to the library.

Speed cleaning takes persistence to master, and I didn’t persist for long. But I did enough of it to experience its great revelation: cleaning, or any other challenging task, when done with a certain vigor and wholeheartedness, becomes strangely easier, even as you do more work in less time.

Another copy recently entered our lives, and I think I understand better what creates this effect.

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Post image for Two Ways to Keep the Fountain Flowing

I’ve been working on an interesting math problem I first pondered as a kid.

One day in the early nineties, my dad heard on the radio that there was a new technology coming called “INTER-NET,” and he struggled to describe it to me.

One thing he said was, “You could type in ‘Michael Jackson jokes’ and see all the Michael Jackson jokes in the world.”

It didn’t occur to me that this INTER-NET wasn’t a physical thing, or that you would have it in your home. I pictured a towering, all-connected computer at the university that people would line up to use.

“And it’s free!” He added.

That part seemed unlikely. I knew that even the lowliest candies cost at least one cent, and this computer with infinite jokes was clearly far more valuable. Even my pre-teen brain recognized there was something unusual about the economics of that.

I wouldn’t have guessed that decades later I’d be fully enmeshed in this futuristic value-distribution system, living on it and for it, supplying it not just with jokes but articles, rants, and some genuine insights, alongside millions of other creators.

Somewhat surprisingly, the internet did turn out to be the fountain of freely available art, entertainment, and information my Dad promised.

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Post image for Five Old School Things To Consider Doing Again

I have a not-so-secret hope that we’re reaching a sort of technology nausea point, when it becomes utterly clear that pre-digital (or at least pre-smartphone) approaches to certain things were better in many ways, and we begin to re-adopt them for that simple reason.

Even in 2010, we were still excited when, while doing something in the old, dependable, manual way, somebody said, “Hey there’s an app for that!” Today, the excitement comes when you realize you can do that thing much easier without trying to bumble through it on your phone.

As we approach the 2020s, I think we’re becoming more aware of what we’ve left behind. But a lot of it is still there if we want it.

Here are some places where I’ve enjoyed returning to the ways of years past.

1. Cooking From a Cookbook

There have always been a few recipes in my rotation that I had to open a cookbook for, and I couldn’t help but notice a hint of relief at that.

What a joy it is, when you’ve got flour everywhere and olive oil on your fingers, to simply glance over to an open book, rather than knuckle-scroll through clunkily-loading ads and long-winded anecdotes about the author’s husband just to check a measurement. You also don’t need to keep touching the recipe every so often to prevent it from disappearing.

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