2017: In Review

I’m a few days late to wrapping up 2017, but I think that will hardly matter in the grand scheme. This is my 5th year recapping, so happy to continue a good tradition. And, well, years usually seem to shift more on my birthday (January 9) then the Gregorian calendar (January 1st), but that’s not too vain……

I always enjoy answering the questions below, but always struggle a bit to do this part (this intro). How to sum up a year?

Not sure. Still not sure.

2017 was light(er) on travel—which is super relative, considering I went back to Asia, both coasts (a few times), and I think 10 states if I’m counting that correctly. It was full of concerts, parties (the Mardi Gras party from February may have been the best one I’ve been to, and we hosted it!), movies, books, the like. For these, I’m always grateful and looking back fondly.

It was a big year for weddings. Three of my best lifelong friends got married to wonderful women; and I even got to officiate Kevin and Emily’s, which was most certainly a highlight of 2017.

What else? Too much. I still find these years filled with so much richness that it makes it hard to summarize. That’s a gift. To live variously to a degree that simple summations cannot possibly do justice.

My goal for this year was to be ontologically leaner. That meant to be consume less, take less, register a bit less in the atmosphere. I wanted to see if I could produce more with less weight, burden, energy, etc….I don’t know how I did. I know I bought less. I built more. I spent more time with myself—meditating, reading, writing, floating. But Chicago is still a city of friends and I’m still an unabashed extrovert, so I still went out. Still bought things unnecessarily, still drank more than I needed. I guess the leaner part will have to be a lifelong pursuit; and that’s probably a good thing.

And 2018, what does that have in the waiting? A whole lot. Big, big plans for this year. The biggest? Get started on this book. Do my dream thing.

But that’ll come. Here’s the rest of my notes from 2017. Thanks to anyone reading for being a part of it!

Other Notes

Travels: Chicago > NYC > Santa Fe > Manila > Bali > Manila > Phoenix > Florida > Lake Geneva > Martha’s Vineyard > Phoenix > Los Angeles > California Road Trip > Minnesota > Madison/Lake Geneva > Austin > San Diego > Los Angeles > San Francisco

Writing: Lots of notebook (learned what a commonplace book was and realized I’ve been doing that for years…). Did an experimental month of poetry, wrote a few blogposts. Overall, probably my lightest year of “public” writing—but I think a lot of that is gearing up for a massive 2018 where writing takes over my life.

Reading:  Finished 24 books, and somewhere in the middle of half a dozen more. 2017 was the year I finally finished Moby Dick. I read two Anne Lammott books, two Irvin Yalom books, and focused more on books about writing or the self. Less reading of novels (fiction) (only 5 of the 24) than previous years too. I said I wanted to touch on spirituality in reading this year and I didn’t do that specifically, but I did dive in where in certain places (poems, psychology…..actually I barely did this. Hmm). Full list of books read in 2016:

  1. The Argonauts (Maggie Nelson); January 1st
  2. A Sport and a Pastime (James Salter); January 28th
  3. Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith (Anne Lamott); February 12th
  4. The War of Art (Steven Pressfield); February 17th
  5. Desert Solitaire (Edward Abbey); March 2nd
  6. Wise Blood (Flannery O’Connor); March 6th
  7. Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life (William Finnegan); March 15th
  8. Iron John: A Book About Men (Robert Bly); April 25th
  9. The Servant: A Simple Story About The True Essence of Leadership (James C. Hunter); May 9th
  10. Book of Hours (Kevin Young); May 10th
  11. The Harmonious World of Johann Kepler (Sidney Rosen); May 12th
  12. Collected Poems (Jack Gilbert); June 8th
  13. Meditations (Marcus Aurelius, trans Gregory Hays); June 14th
  14. Liar’s Poker (Michael Lewis): July 18th
  15. The Dog Stars (Peter Heller); August 14th
  16. You, Beast (Nick Lantz); August 25th
  17. It Ain’t No Sin To Be Glad You’re Alive (Eric Alterman); September 6th
  18. My Favorite Thing Is Monsters (Emil Ferris); September 11th
  19. Moby-Dick; or, The Whale (Herman Melville); September 23rd
  20. The Counterfeiters (Andre Gide); November 12th
  21. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life (Anne Lamott); November 19th
  22. Love’s Executioner (Irvin Yalom); November 20th
  23. The Three-Body Problem (Cixin Liu); December 5th
  24. Creatures of a Day (Irvin Yalom): December 26th

For record-keeping purposes, I read 19 books in 2015, 21 in 2016, and 24 now!

Professionally: Another year at Uber down—with some amazing progress here! Expanded my team and put in some first-of-its-kind infrastructure that wil surely outlast me in my role there. 2017 was a year in which the team and I took those steps; rather than being hustling to be reactive to the calls of the business. We got more organized, more streamlined, more specific, and because of that and the talents of those around me, achieved more than we have in any other year. Pretty proud of 2017s professional accomplishments!

Pearl Jam: no shows, but Let’s Play Two came out and saw the premier at The Metro.

 

Favorites

Favorite 2017 New Thing: Cryptocurrencies

This is an obvious one even if it’s not my favorite “thing” as the title suggests. It certainly consumed a good chunk of my time this year, after consuming so little of it in years past (even after buying some Bitcoin in 2014—I wasn’t reading or writing about it).

I think crypto has become a favorite thing of many in 2017 (as I’m sure bull markets make favorites out of many things). So it has some of the cliche and I’m okay with that. But it wasn’t just monetary growth, it was actually a hobby of learning about this technology, writing about it on a few sites, and discovering little-known “coins” that have intriguing offers. In other ways, this became part of my identity as people found out I knew a bit about it. No idea where this whole thing goes, but 2017 was certainly the year I dove in.

Others: Commonplace Books (link), Mardi Gras parties 🙂

Favorite book I read in 2017: A Sport and A Pastime by James Salter

Salter’s book is well known for its eroticism and probably some readings of misogyny, as well. I won’t deny the latter and 2017 has certainly opened my eyes to more of these readings. But I think what gets written off with both of these summations is the prose that the author composes here. It’s fresh, it’s French, it’s sort of full and light at the same time. I haven’t read a book in a long time with so much underlying and marginalia—a big part of why it was the favorite book I read this last year.

That and a undeniable desire to be in Paris and around love and lust and freedom. Salter has enough in there to leave you kind of gasping for that experience a few times over.

There was some serious contention here with The Three-Body Problem which became (I think—trying to avoid some recency bias here) my favorite science fiction book.

Other Favorites: The Three-Body Problem (Cixin Liu), Collected Poems (Jack Gilbert)

Favorite 2017 movieLady Bird

I really liked Lady Bird; it stuck with me for some time after and I was happy that my mother and sister saw it and liked it as well. I normally find my pretentious self looking for holes in first-time directors films, but Greta Gerwig pulled this off with amazing style, grace, and some serious conflict with Sacramento.

The acting, too, is great. The script much the same. Really enjoyed the

In general, 2017 was a low one for me with movies. I’m still working through a bunch so maybe the tides will change, but no movie blew me away the way that some in the past few years have (Moonlight, Deus Ex Machina).

I did see The Handmaiden this year which I thought was excellent. And Jules et Jim, and I’m sure a handful of others that were great. Nothing just blew my hair away.

Other Favorites: Columbus, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Personal Shopper

Favorite 2017 album‘A Deeper Understanding’ (The War on Drugs)

Lots of solid music came out this year (this album and the other favorites below are probably four of my top 10 current bands, hard to ask for more from one year).

Other Favorites: ‘Capacity’ (Big Thief), ‘We All Want The Same Things’ (Craig Finn), ‘Sleep Well Beast’ (The National)

Favorite 2017 song: ‘Mary’ Big Thief

Probably the easiest pick of favorites from the year. This song stopped my cold on the first listen (after a pretty magnificent album (it’s the second to last track). Simply put, this song is beautiful—it’s Adrienne Lenker’s voice over a piano and it’s as bare as its lyrics are winding. She takes it to the last of her breath, giving off a surreal vision of something wonderful. It made me remember that one single song can be a tremendous journey; unconfined to itself, a marvelous trip the ears lead the mind down, hand in hand.

Other Favorites: ‘Knocked Down’ – War on Drugs, ‘Happy Birthday, Johnny” – St. Vincent, ‘New York’ – St. Vincent, ‘Carin at the Liquor Store’ – The National

Favorite Place Visited: Sequoia National Park

There’s a somewhat common trope of Americans traveling abroad and marveling at other nations’ natural (and manmade) wonders without remembering or realizing that the U.S. is home to some of the most marvelous landscape our planet offers. That’s certainly true and my trip to Sequoia helped me remember that. I hope it’s long before I forgot it again.

The trip to Sequoia is coupled with the roadtrip taken to get there—which involved renting a 31-foot RV. For free. Yes, that’s right. For free.

Favorite Meal: Dim Sum at Din Thai Fun

Had some very solid meals in 2017, including some homemade ones. This one made an impression (truffle dumplings, seriously?) and I went twice in one trip while in Manila—so think I gotta give it to this place.

 

And, that my friends, is a wrap on 2017! Some more pics!

 

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Automatic Vultures | hyperlinked poetry series | #6

open your mouth to the stand of trees
automatic vultures tend to sneeze.
sonic or sickness, hums a creature first
where it matters, it matters most.

a nun escapes the passenger seat
her luck in a trunk at the covenant
a hero she gave up on for lent
bedsheets in sapphire, the room for rent

foreign geography with a touch of sobriety
lossless in an empty stall to call up
mirrors at an anxious length in a haul\
you carved out a tomb where
a winter went instead.

no one listens close in the city of god
dreams startle beans where green glass grows
in a fit without luck, the prayer picks a fist
in a knife fight with oblivion.

Living On | hyperlinked poem series | #1

Let’s keep living on advices we love. Wrap ourselves

In nothing cloths on summer evenings and lie about.

 

Let’s stay put

with grace. Or go on and on without punctuation

We’ll do the whole damn ceremony without it.

And forget prayer.

 

Let’s renew vows in a garbage dump—or fake a break up

Over the airport P.A. while they all break the other hearts

Delaying flights. Let’s cover ourselves head to toe

In honey, stick on the bandages bought that morning at market. Call up

Love’s captain to drop us off on a strange pier. Linger for a while.

Go back home where we’ve stitched dreams to streams

Of advice in letters across the floor.

 

And let’s throw in some bad apples too.

Disasters are the parades that remind me why I love you.

And have we already forgotten the too-drunken toasts to what we caught

And what we killed. And what we had but could not hold.

 

See I had all these plans and no gun to trigger the start. I had all this

Money and no tools to bury it.

All these seeds and

No pots to corrupt

That spectacular emergence.

Collars, but had no dogs. Chains, no commands.

Pride, but no patience.

 

I promised you the glories of life and came up short on what to do about it just

Yesterday.

 

So today I listen to advices, mostly from fabled folks

And they say to let love spoil as fast as possible—use it up,

Stomp on its throat,

Move on.

 

Well, I don’t know if I can do that. I’ve always preferred

the lovesongs you used up on me

To tragedy’s flirtation.

 

And even then I’m fresh out of my own ideas anyway.

H1 Goal Review + Q3 Goal Planning

For the sake of ledger(ing), here’s a review of my H1 2017 goals and a listing of my Q3 2017 goals (all personal goals—professional goals excluded).

H1 2017 Goals

Buy less than H1 2016

— Success. I’m sure I’m missing a few variables (tracking reimbursable work spend, for instance), but my YoY spend through Q1 and Q2 in 2017 is down 15.02% from the same periods in 2016.

I don’t have a great hack for this—I still think I spend too much. I tried to spend less on Amazon (down almost 50% in same time period as last year). I tried to make myself think about any clothing purchase for at least 3 days before purchasing (do I really need this?). Lastly, I tried to not buy books, with the only reasoning being that I have more than enough to read through this year (and several more). I’m essentially building my own queue that’ll hit impossibility eventually. So…….I bought 11.

Volunteer at least 25 hours

Not success. I volunteered a total of 21 hours in H1. I have no excuses here. I know that volunteer work is good for myself, my community, and my world. I didn’t prioritize this. It was a failed attempt at a worthwhile goal. And it’s not that many hours. Darn.

Publish 2 literary criticism essays (+1000 words) on my blog

Not success. I published one very not-well-thought-out piece of criticism. I had another draft. I just couldn’t get behind this. It’s not an excuse since it’s just a lack of discipline but it wasn’t my favorite goal. I did throw up one review of the exceptional Nick Cave documentary, so many that can count too. Either way, no success on this one.

Deadlift 160% of BW

— Success. On 6/5/2017, I deadlifted 275lbs. I weighed myself that morning at 169.8 pounds. That’s 162% of my bodyweight. I’m glad I set this goal too since it was the morning after a later night—U2 show at Soldier Field. Without having this goal set, I likely would have skipped the gym or held off from going for 275.

Can’t say how good this feels to see progress in my deadlift. It was just 4 years ago I was walking with a cane in Vancouver.

 

Q3 2017 Goals

Moving to quarter goals. Here’s what I’ll try to achieve before October 1, 2017.

Take SuperLearner course (link)

10 pieces of writing as part of a themed project (theme is TBD)

Two weeks on time-restricted diet & two +24-hour fasts (link)

Deadlift 295lbs

What I Bookmarked in 2013

I don’t bookmark too many sites. For articles, I try to throw them into Pocket. Other sites will get a note in the notebook or an email to a friend. For some reason, though, I don’t hit that star in Chrome too often.

And when I do, there are a variety of folders that things go into. Writing, sites of Zirtual interest, education material, etc…..For everything else, there’s been a folder simply called ‘2013’.

At the end of the year, here’s the randomness that made my bookmarks.

Find The Conversation Concept Map — perhaps still the best designed website I’ve come across. A great database of articles on various topics, but an even better aesthetic.

Reddit ‘what are the best websites for NOT wasting your time’ thread — self-explanatory

Letters of Note — great blog of correspondences through the years. Lots of famous back-and-forths here for the literary minds & historians.

Pixar’s 22 Rules of Storytelling — self-explanatory

GetInspired365 — new inspiration for each day

37 mind-expanding subreddits — for the Redditor in me.

The Complete Guide to Interval Training — early seeds of a healthy year. workouts on the go.

The Sad, Beautiful Fact That We’re Going to Miss Almost Everything — great NPR article on living in the age where anything can be in your hands in minutes. Daunting, mystifying, yet wonderful.

Maggie Appleton — great artist I discovered. Love her sketches with quotation additions.

Jason Collins is the Envy of Straight Men Everywhere — a good reminder of the first openly gay professional athlete. Big step for sports in 2013. This is author Sherman Alexie at his finest — shoving our own presumptions and cultural norms in our face.

The Big Dot — more people live inside this circle than outside of it

Radical Openness — video on new paradigm. Dig it.

How Do You Define Yourself? — Alan Watts asking the important question. He was good at this.

Mindful in May — a month of mindfulness. Good links to be found here.

What? You Didn’t Fall in Love with Rome? — great little sentimentality trip here. I know not everyone loves the eternal city. But their wrong. Simple.

Ernest Hemingway’s Reading List for a Young Writer — self-explanatory. and how.

Reddit’s r/malefashionadvice The Basic Wardrobe — good for dressing on the road. plan to follow this more in 2014.

The Dark Side of the Digital Nomad — blogger Mark Manson on some things you lose out by living on the road.

The Inside Story of the Moto X — goes into the phone Google released this year, and some of the reasons for its acquisition of Motorola. Good read.

100 Alternatives to ‘So whaddya do?’ — good list of interesting questions to spark a conversation other than, well, the standard.

Vancouver pic — this is nice to look at it. Can’t wait to make it back to all the glass.

Milesimizer — helps determine whether to use miles or $ when booking plane tickets

Note to Selfie — great article on why using social media doesn’t take people ‘out’ of the moment. A truly potent analysis of the world we live in today.

 

And that’s all. 23 sites. Not the best or the worst  I’ve found. Just the ones that found their way to the 2013 folder.

Book Recommendations, I

A lot of friends ask about book recommendations…..So I thought I’d publish a seres of posts with some commonly recommended reads.

If you’re looking for….

…a novel everyone should read?

East of Eden (J. Steinbeck)

John Steinbeck was one of the most prolific American novelists who ever lived. He may take the cake on that honor in the 20th century. And you may know him from either a summer reading requirement of Hatchet, a long history-based English course on The Grapes of Wrath or, more randomly, for his love of his dog Charlie. He also won the Nobel Prize and was a great letter writer.

East of Eden, in his own words, was the summation of everything he learned in the craft. And it shows. It’s brilliant. About as brilliant of a novel as I’ve read and every novel that I come to has this as its basis of comparison.

It’s just so. well. crafted.

…short stories that would be perfect for my commute:

A Good Man Is Hard To Find (O’Connor)

Flannery O’Connor was a master. And I don’t use that term lightly. Anyone who has written a short story knows of the challenge of saying A LOT with only so many words. O’Connor mastered that and this is her pièce de résistance.

What might be considered the best collection of short stories published in 1) this century; 2) America; 3) by a female author — is well worth its high praise.

O’Connor takes you through the American South of the 40s ands 50s more than any other medium I’ve found — and she does so with a cast of interesting characters, outlaws and women. Not to mention a litany of lessons,  aphorisms (see title), and the kind of sentences that make writers want to put down their pens and weep.

Any newcomer to the short story would be wise to start here. Those experienced in that style should have already made their way here; and if they haven’t, there’s a dozen reasons here to check it out.

Try this line on for size: “She would have been a good woman if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life.”

…a change in my worldview:

Weapons of Mass Instruction (J.T. Gatto)

Well, maybe not worldview. But it’ll certainly change how you view the education system in our modern world.

Gatto was a NYC teacher for something like 30 years and after leaving in what seems like an unceremonious fashion, he decided to start railing against a system that’s been much the same for the last 150 years. And the only big changes came about 100 years ago when the first wave of huge American industrialists put their hands in the system.

Why? Well, because they needed to know that 10 years from that point someone would come and work in their factories. That American workers would still be manageable and have the basic skills that they felt were necessary for the post-industrial revolution economy. They wanted an assembly line system IN education. And they got it.

Worse…..we’re still using it today.

Gatto breaks down that system and how it’s failing us in our current context. It’s almost a scary book in that right. Well worth the read.

Only knock: he slips a bit into the anecdotal a few times. You can list hundreds of people who quit school and “made it”. But you can also list those that got PhD’s doing much the same.

 

 

More recommendations to come. Enjoy the first round here!