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two years & forever my teacher

Three years ago, I didn’t even know the man who’s still officially my manager today.

Two years ago tomorrow, he became my manager.

One year ago today, I reflected on my manager and saw how supremely lucky I’d been to find such a manager, who inspired me on and off the job.

Tomorrow, he’ll cease to be my manager. After a good long career, he’ll begin the “retirement” chapter of his life.

I applied for his position. Before I went to Oregon for Thanksgiving, I thought I wanted it. Read more…

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la próxima vez

In July, I wrote that I was excited to study German again. I enjoyed eavesdropping on a couple of coworkers shooting the breeze, and occasionally joining in with my incredibly rusty college German.

In August, I reconsidered. I definitely wanted to study a language, but was German really the one to study first?

I listened to conversations around me and realized how many of them are in Spanish. I realized I’d be able to interact with many more people day-to-day with even a basic grasp of Spanish. Also, I remembered promising my “Peruvian sister” I’d learn Spanish, a promise about a decade stale.

I started studying Spanish. I’ve already used it to hold a few conversations with some folks who know less English than I know Spanish.

Last week, I was introduced to a phrase that sounded so musical, I wanted to say it over and over and over again: la próxima vez. Next time.

I don’t have many ways to use this phrase yet, but that’s OK. The one I can think of is enough for now.

Hasta la próxima vez,

I will spend my moments awaiting

the next time Silver Star, Darth, and I

are face to face

full and messy life

This morning, I’m thinking about a recent conversation with a friend.

In our current world, where companies and governments alike designate “citizens”  mere “consumers,” meaningfully different only in what and how they consume, people are told they are “brands” and to behave in ways that build their brands.

What kind of life is that?

I don’t want to be perfect. I refuse to limit my life to pursuit of brand-building, instead of being fully immersed in something raw, real, messy, and wonder-full. Life.

Why? The way I see it, trying to live someone else’s (whose?!) idea of a perfect, perfectly branded life is a recipe for late-life sorrow at halfway connections with people, little life-changing learning from important mistakes, countless adventures missed.

While I’d usually rather leave aphorisms than take them, I’d boil this pursuit of a full and messy life down thusly:

If you’re always careful,
you’re barely living.

Between books and life

[audio]

Library audiobooks were supposed to save me money.

Unfortunately–or is it fortunately, for other reasons?–I happened to check out Nicholas Nassim Taleb’s Antifragile two weeks ago. I only made it a few chapters in before I realized I’d need my own print copies to highlight, annotate, and reference.

The book was so much more illuminating than anything else I’ve read, I decided to buy the four-book Incerto series it concluded. I listened to two of the three other books, Fooled by Randomness and The Black Swan, while waiting for my Incerto box set to arrive.

Well, other audiobooks will save me money, I thought. So there’s that.

box set.png

The last time I was this excited about a box set, it had “Buffy” in the title

[vignette]

Last Monday, I left work sick. I briefly explained my concerns to a friend.

“Don’t be afraid to take medicine!” my friend replied. Read more…

anthropologist

I studied anthropology in college.

For all I studied, I’m prone to forget what it means to be an anthropologist.

When I lived in Japan, I was keenly aware of how my students and colleagues monitored each other’s appearance, attire, and behavior. As a foreigner, I was exempt from being called “piggy” or mocked for not eating natto* with everyone else.

I was glad to be American. Back in America, we were way too concerned with our own lives to constantly worry about what others were doing unobtrusively with theirs. We Americans didn’t have to worry about social controls the way Japanese people did.

LOL.

Read more…

power to change everything

One year ago, I couldn’t have told you how World War II began. Sure, I’d studied it in high school history classes, but that was more than twenty years ago.

Having immersed myself in history and politics for the last year, I understand more now. Most significantly, I understand how economic distress fueled Hitler’s rise.

Germans were not a uniquely evil people. They were a distressed people, susceptible–in those specific circumstances–to finding both the wrong villains and extraordinarily wrong solutions.

On Sunday, I wrote about how neoliberalism created the conditions for the weekend’s tragedy in Charlottesville.

Yesterday, a dear friend replied that she’d seen the pictures. The racists she’d seen pictured weren’t economically oppressed, but well dressed and clean shaven. They were privileged.

I’d reply today the same as I replied yesterday. That is to say, I’d reply by noting I’m no fan of privilege theory, which conceals (grave systemic failures) much more than it reveals (anything actionable).

But I wondered: How could I express the pain of enduring economic squeeze to those who haven’t yet felt it? Read more…

a hamiltonian history

Last April, I made a small but fateful decision in a grocery store line: I bought a copy of the Hamilton soundtrack.

For the first time ever, history came alive to me. It came so alive, I decided to read the biography that inspired the musical, Ron Chernow’s Hamilton.

“Oh, Deefy. You take such silly pictures.” — my husband, today

What I read fairly well stunned me. Sold, somehow, on the notion that history was a linear progression toward the betterment of humankind, I discovered instead that Americans today are having the same fights that our forebears did two hundred years ago. That those fights were extensions of fights that had been held elsewhere for decades to centuries prior.

While the state of technology has progressed, I saw that the state of the States … hadn’t, in fundamental ways.

I’d been a lifelong Democrat when I picked up that musical in the grocery store line. Democratic officials cared for the little guy, I thought, while Republican officials cared about the little fraction of the population that could fund grotesque, human-crushing legislation. That was pretty much my entire understanding of politics before I heard and then read Hamilton. Read more…

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