One of the downsides of writing less frequently is that I feel more pressure for each post to be impactful (even though readers have pretty consistently told me that they just want me to write anything). This post will be a meandering one without much of a point other than to let you know what I’m thinking about and working on these days.
I’ve found myself more frequently thinking about time I spend in front of screens and connected to notifications. I’ve also found myself becoming more and more nostalgic, even for times in which I wasn’t alive! I saw a 70s commercial (I was born in the 80s) for a toy and it evoked some sort of warm memory of a simpler time.
When I was young my whole family, including family members who I was barely related to, would go to my Aunt Nina’s house every Christmas eve. It was a tiny house in a non-affluent area. The floors were linoleum and shag carpeting, neither of which were really “in” at the time. There was one small picture of Jesus on the wall that I remember. Fifty or more people would cram into this apartment and we’d eat simple home-cooked Italian food off of disposable plates.
Then us kids would lie on the shag carpeting, because there was only one small couch that was used by adults, and we’d sneak a bunch of candies from the candy tray while we watched some Christmas rerun on her tiny console TV.
I’m extremely happy now, but I can’t remember a time that was happier than those Christmas Eves. It was just nice to be totally surrounded by my family. I even found myself nostalgic for how freezing I’d be outside as I shuffled across the ice afterwards to get in the warm car.
Am I nostalgic for all of this because it’s so long ago that I can only remember the good parts? Is it because I miss family members who have died since then? Is it because I don’t get to see my family that often, and because covid has messed up our plans for a few years? Or is there a level of connection and presence that is more elusive these days with all of our devices?
I was just on a cruise and my friend Nick and I decided to not use the internet for the first 60 hours. I expected it to be difficult and profound, but it really wasn’t either. I read a few books, we played shuffleboard, we had tea and chatted, and then we got into port and turned our phones back on. I thought I’d have a big blog post to write about what I learned, but I really didn’t learn anything. I was fine without internet and devices and it was fine to go back to them.
If some of the happiest moments I can think of are being stuffed in a tiny apartment with my family eating (admittedly excellent) Italian food, then why am I doing any of the things I’m doing? Why do I work? Why do I try to make our house so nice?
At some point computer work seemed to be my best avenue for reaching my goals, so I was on it all day and it was easy to justify. Why am I still doing it?
Anyway, that’s something I’m thinking about and “working on”. I read a book called “Lost Focus” that I really liked. I’m trying some experiments with structuring my day and turning things off. I think what I’m really trying to figure out is how to prioritize connection and presence in a world that doesn’t prioritize those things, and even around people who (maybe even correctly!) don’t prioritize them.
It’s been weird not writing every week. I don’t love it, but I also didn’t love the pressure of writing every week. It feels like I don’t have as many interesting things to say these days, and I’m not sure why.
Maybe it’s because I’m not very interesting now! I think there’s some element of truth to that, as 5-10 years ago I was definitely more in a phase of actively trying to figure things out and explore.
I also feel like I’ve said most of what I have to say, at least at this point. The principles that I’ve settled upon over the last decade have served me well and continue to do so.
In the past I really wanted to be famous, partially because I was naïve enough to think it was a good thing on its own, but also because I saw it as an accelerant towards meeting my goals. Now in the era of wokeness and cancel culture, it feels like a liability (especially when you were once a pickup artist). On the other hand, my small amount of fame opened some interesting doors for me.
So once in a while I think: “I will make a YouTube Show!” or “I will make a Podcast”! And then I think about what I’d get out of it if it went extremely well, and I’m not sure I even want that.
All of a sudden last month I got motivated to work on CruiseSheet again (even before the recent press stuff). I’m not sure why, but I was back in that mode of waking up thinking about reorganizing the database, and then ending the day thinking “It’s 3am… I guess I should stop working”. It felt great! I’m still riding that wave a month later.
Similarly, I’ve been working a lot on my email server / software. Hopefully you got this post by email if you’ve subscribed.
My favorite thing about CruiseSheet is that it’s an endless source of interesting problems for me to tackle. Sometimes I wonder if I should be more motivated to turn it into something bigger, or if I should just be happy that it fits into my life so well as it is. Recently it’s been growing to the point where I may not have much of a choice.
My friend Noah has two (TWO!) pinball machines in his house. My wife and I stayed there last week and got obsessed with Godzilla pinball, so naturally as soon as I got home I started building my own virtual pinball machine. I don’t have a good space for a full cabinet, so I’m designing a folding one that will hide in the closet and then fold out into the guest room when we want to play. I love projects like this. I get to research all sorts of stuff, stubbornly make my own thing because none of the existing ones are quite right, and learn a lot.
When we first moved in, I built a fake beam in our living room to hide a drop-down projector screen. It was affixed to the wall on one side but hung from a metal cable on the other. I did that because the cable-side is a stone fireplace and I wasn’t sure how to best attach it. Well, one day while I was gone the whole thing came crashing down. I guess I didn’t get enough of a bite on the wood where I hung the hook for it. The screen still works and only needed a few minor cosmetic repairs, so now I’m designing a better beam that will go from edge to edge.
Oh, speaking of projects, I’m also trying to build a spa in my backyard. My dad and I built the exterior structure (glorified shed with huge windows) and I’ve bought all of the equipment for the inside. I started running the electrical in the early summer, but eventually it was too hot. It will be cool soon, so I want to get it done soon.
I’m taking September off from traveling. Maybe not completely, but I realized recently that every time I get back to Vegas I feel so happy and excited to be here, and that I keep wishing I had more days before my next trip. So unless I can figure out how to go to Japan, I’ll probably spend most of the time here. I’ve been here a few days already and it feels great to have a normal routine, to be able to work on my projects, and to only eat Chipotle. As you can tell, I have a LOT of projects I need to finish.
Photo is of my tea set on the Danube river! I did my first river cruise and really liked it, though maybe not as much as ocean cruises.
I’ll do a tea time with Tynan soon, probably this month.
Apparently Japan is allowing self-guided tours starting 9/7 (you basically have an itinerary w/ tour company you do yourself). Reddit r/japantravel has good daily updates on it:
He likely means visiting japan without getting a jab.
I’m vaccinated. The issue is that I want to use miles to book my flight and stay in my own apartment, but with the change I have to book air + hotel through an agency. I might do it anyway.
I love projects where you have to make your own thing because nothing out there quite fits your needs. Usually learn lots during and you end up with a bespoke setup that makes you remember the project
I enjoyed reading this
What do you use for your email server Tynan? Software and hosting? Just curious.
I host it on my own server and wrote my own software for it (hence the issues with people not getting emails sometimes…)
You really have to be a glutton for punishment hosting your own email server, unless you relay it through Google or another provider. I have found getting emails through to people’s inbox is hit or miss. Very difficult to avoid the spam folder. Google has monopolized the inbox and doesn’t play well with little known self hosted servers. Reverse DNS, Dkim, and spf records help to a large degree. Curious to know more about the system you have setup
I send a huge amount of email for Cruisesheet (and am just a nut about hosting my own stuff in general), so it makes sense for me. I’ve had trouble in the past, but at this point I have the top reputation in both Microsoft and Google. I use a regular postfix setup with some custom stuff I’ve done to automatically unsubscribe people who report abuse, track engagement, automatically unsubscribe, etc. I also made an easy API so that all of my services (blog, cruisesheet, etc) can send mail easily.
Is that book you mentioned Stolen Focus by Johann Hari? Thanks