Month: December 2010

100 Things I Learned in 2010, Part 2

caricature of the author by the artist Walt Taylor

The chin! The chin!

This year didn’t kick my ass so much as it snuck up behind me, whispered in my ear it would kill me if I made so much as a wrong move, and slipped off into the night before I could make out what the fuck it looked like. This year was easily the worst since I got sucker-punched by 2002.

Still. This year could have been SO much worse. I know this. I mean, I forgot this, but then I remembered, and so sometime a month or two ago, I started making another kind of list, of things I was really, really lucky to have. Stuff like friends and health (especially when I got it back) and relative solvency, of course, but also stuff like “sunshine!” or “rain!” or “electricity!” (Although electricity mixed with rain, not so much.)

My point is this: I write because I have to, but I also am never far from realizing I write because I get to. As in, “I am alive for now, and living people GET TO WRITE.”

So as this year draws to a close, I reiterate: I am alive for now. LIVING PEOPLE GET TO (fill in your Thing of Choice  here.) For my part, I am grateful for this year, and pledge to try my best not to slip out of gratitude for too long at any one point during the next.

Besides, sometimes the shittiest years bear the greatest fruits. Fertilizer, yadda yadda.

May you gently lay to rest your previous year, and rest your arms to open themselves widely to the next. Thank you, and I hope we’ll see each other in 2011!


  1. It’s hell in the hallway.
  2. Never judge a bra by his cover.
  3. My sign-painting obsession is not an anomaly.
  4. Hypnosis feels like cheating on your pain.
  5. But it hurts so good.
  6. There’s almost no mood that 100 miles of open road and a “singalong” playlist can’t fix.
  7. Keep that comfort television toward the top of the queue, too.
  8. Habits before tools.
  9. Fun has a high switching cost, but a stunning overall ROI.
  10. Compassionate understanding is more effective than strict punishment.
  11. Although neatly-drawn boundaries come in mighty handy.
  12. Halve the meat.
  13. Double the veggies.
  14. Deep-six the carbs.
  15. Anyone who says you can have it all, doesn’t.
  16. Everyone loves a good hack.
  17. And a peek at someone else’s setup.
  18. The answer to more things than not is “less.”
  19. (Underwear and socks, excepted.)
  20. Lemongrass is magic.
  21. Hippie “deodorant” is the toiletries equivalent of the “CLOSE DOOR” button on the elevator.
  22. When it comes to inboxes, “zero” is a journey, not a destination.
  23. Unloading beats acquiring, hands-down.
  24. Facebook is the best thing to happen to birthdays since cake.
  25. Coconut is the best thing to happen to Larabars since Larabars.
  26. Hotels are worth it.
  27. That goes double re: springing for the single.
  28. If you’re not paying for the service, you’re the product being sold.
  29. An open jar is an empty jar.
  30. Discovering bona fide Christians could almost restore one’s faith.
  31. I may never be immortalized in ink.
  32. Vinyl, however, is another story.
  33. With a rather bittersweet ending.
  34. There are angels all around you, if you know where to not look.
  35. Slow leaks cause steadily mounting anxiety.
  36. There’s no news like really fucking great news.
  37. Ask around all you want, but you already know what you need to do next.
  38. Sorry, not that.
  39. Yes, that.
  40. Don’t forget the Epsom salts.
  41. There’s no free qi.
  42. Misery (still) loves company.
  43. Muppets (still) rule.
  44. For good or for ill, you’re making a difference.
  45. Less video.
  46. More music.
  47. Crushes are better in individual serving sizes.
  48. Troubles are better shared.
  49. Fear is a yellow light, not a red one.
  50. When life lets up, you’re probably not living it anymore.

Yup. This 100-things thing is indeed an annual thing:








Magnificent drawing of yours truly, the clown, © Wally Torta, gentleman and scholar.

100 Things I Learned in 2010, Part 1

Amy Jane Gruber and the author by John Gruber

If SXSW were smart, they'd license this for a big-ass ad

I know that normal people marvel over how fast time flies when they see Rite Aid putting out the holiday tchotchkes in July or read stories of their college roommates’ babies get busted for dealing meth, but I’ll tell you what, nothin’ sez “Old timer!” to this old timer like posting your SEVENTH annual “Things I Learned in Whatever Year” to your blog.

This year was not an easy year for many people. On the other hand, easy years are rarely memorable ones. And, as my memory ain’t what it used to be (I think), maybe I’m better off with a “challenging” year.

Part 2 coming at you on Thursday…



  1. Love is easy.
  2. Forgiveness is hard.
  3. Which means that actually, love isn’t easy at all.
  4. December is way more fun when you do it in January.
  5. The best slide shows present you.
  6. To get down with the future, meet the kids who’ll be running it.
  7. For someone who never liked dogs, I sure turned out to like dogs.
  8. Then again, no one told me they had medicinal properties.
  9. You’re never too old to learn how much you have yet to learn.
  10. Or too good to make light of it.
  11. The way to read a lot of books is 40pp at a time.
  12. If you build it, they will cum.
  13. You may never work harder than the year you don’t “work.”
  14. Exhaustion is the true mother of invention.
  15. The two greatest blogs about change are newsletters.
  16. But the king is the king for a reason.
  17. There will never be enough hours in a day.
  18. I don’t know why or how, but wishing works.
  19. I finally have enough author friends to form a football team.
  20. And 2011 is bringing in some strong starters.
  21. As for me, we’d better hope those Mayans were wrong.
  22. Car washes are infinitely better when you add free magazines.
  23. Everything is infinitely better when you add hot guys.
  24. The best pictures are inevitably the worst pictures.
  25. When it comes to chasing, I give up.
  26. Uniforms rock.
  27. Pen pals rule.
  28. Nothing underlines the need for self-love like a run-in with one’s inner shithead.
  29. At a certain point, “procrastination” becomes simply “one’s working style.”
  30. The biggest learning is in the doing.
  31. Cheap is beautiful.
  32. Ice cream is better than gossip. For everyone.
  33. You’ll hate half of what you try.
  34. If you’re incredibly lucky.
  35. And unusually diligent.
  36. Feminism and heat are not mutually exclusive.
  37. I’d walk a thousand miles for a singular comment.
  38. Two thousand, if the comment comes from the elusive Dan Owen.
  39. I like my books like I like my eggs: hard-boiled.
  40. The biggest skies are the hardest to get to.
  41. But when you hitch the right ride, they’re beyond worth it.
  42. Maybe video ain’t so bad.
  43. When life won’t buy your lemons, offer it lemonade.
  44. On the other hand, when assholes spill oil, set them on fire.
  45. Although some of them are pretty good at self-immolation.
  46. Nothing feels as good as true service.
  47. Belly laughs run a close, close second.
  48. Then again, these days, belly laughs are the highest form of service.
  49. Social media is dead.
  50. Long live social media.

Part II is here. And have I mentioned that I’ve been doing this 100-things thing for SEVEN years now?







Photo © John Gruber via Flickr.

Frrrrriday Rrrrroundup! #32

awesome machine holiday; click for full glory

An end-of-weekly roundup collecting fffffive of the fffffantabulous things I find stumbling around the web. Keep up with them day-to-day on one of the many other Internet outlets I stop by (or tweet at) during my daily travels. More about the genesis here.

Not a link, but by way of explanation for the light posting here of late, at least, the part I can talk about, here’s a little post I put up on the Tumblr. [Tumbled]

Design writer, gelato lover and flaneur extraordinaire Alissa Walker has been an inspiration to me since I met her roughly four years ago. This excellent write-up by Heather Parlato, a fine designer and another good friend who is a source of inspiration, will give you a good idea of why, plus some great insight into building a life and career you love. [Google Reader-ed]

This excellent little essay by Merlin Mann on his obsession with Dr. Strangelove gets at not only the heart of the film itself (hint: NOT about nuclear proliferation), but also the nature of obsessive loves, and how they become paths to bigger truths. [Stumbled]

One of the most thrilling meetings of great Stephens you’re likely to encounter. Delightful! [Facebook, via Taylor Negron]


Photo by The Royal Academy of Nuts + Bolts via the Machine Project Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Frrrrriday Rrrrroundup! #31

little girl on a skateboard in front of a magazine rack

An end-of-weekly roundup collecting fffffive of the fffffantabulous things I find stumbling around the web. Keep up with them day-to-day on one of the many other Internet outlets I stop by (or tweet at) during my daily travels. More about the genesis here.

Best thinking I’ve seen yet on the question of Facebook: do I stay or do I go now? [delicious-ed, which will soon be defunct, alas]

Lots of great stuff in the Google Reader feed this week, but the most useful thing I found was my friend Delia Lloyd’s cogent summary of ways to engage without conflict. [Google Reader-ed]

On envy, magnanimity, what real success looks like, and why you should run like hell from the other, all in one piece nominally about design. [Stumbled]

Great proposals are made of great ingenuity. And love. And, occasionally, Muppets. [Tweeted, via Dave Seah]


Photo by mejuan via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Poetry Thursday: Slow death by bullshit happiness

old clip-art dude holding sign: Dead inside. You?

You think to yourself:
“I can do this!”
“This will be good for me!”
or even
“It doesn’t matter.”

And so you smile
when someone asks
how things are going,
broadly, you smile,
with most of your teeth,
and you flick aside what’s left of your heart,
and you stick out your hand and say,
“Couldn’t be better!”
or, when life is particularly bleak,
“Things are looking up!”

And you recite from memory
a menu,
several pre-selected items
from columns “A” and “B”,
of all the marvelous wins
and fabulous opportunities
and other stale pellets
of extruded terror
formed into appetizing, life-like shapes,
tarted up with brio
and garnished with a wilted sprig
of false humility
until you question
whether you can even remember
what it felt like
to really, truly feel anything.

What happens,
I wonder,
when you just
“Damn, I’m tired.
Business sucks,
traffic was awful,
my husband left me,
my hard drive crashed,
the dog has cancer,
and the Emperor’s ass
is a flat, pale, pockmarked bucket of sad
the sight of which is going to take years to wipe
from my memory banks.
What’s new in YOUR world?”

Whether everything is awful right now
or everything is perfect right now
everything IS right now.

And I can’t think of a single thing
that doesn’t get a little bit better
served up fresh
and truthfully,
with humor, with tenderness,
with the judiciously-chosen expletive,
dependent on company.

Besides, what’s the alternative,
slow death by bullshit happiness?

The end is coming,
either way.

And I’m guessing,
just guessing, mind you,
that if you let at least some of it
hang out,
the two of you
might even toast
to the ironies of life,
and the way a bump in the road
can turn two complete strangers
into fellow travelers.


Return of the governor cold

sick man in bed holding handwritten sign saying "I'm sick"

I’m into Week #3 of the Cold That Would Not Die.

Admittedly, part of this is probably my fault: I pushed myself way too hard on Thursday and Friday, emotionally and physically. Sometimes you can’t avoid these things; sometimes, you don’t want to.

At any rate, it is an interesting thing, being forced to slow down so significantly, to find a setting (or be forced into one) between “full-bore” and “off.” I walk, but more slowly and not as far, and only when I have the energy to do even that. I forgo my usual full routine of Nei Kung, happy if I can do just 10 or 15 minutes of Horse Stance. I take longer to do everything, it seems: brushing my teeth, finding the items I’m looking for at the drugstore, getting dressed, putting away my clothes. It is like being very, very young, or perhaps like being very, very old. It reminds me of being very, very sick, although thankfully, I know what very, very sick really feels like and I’m nowhere near that, knock wood.

I’m just…hampered.

Almost six years ago, I wrote a little item about how it felt: the “governor” cold, I called it. It was a way to reframe the annoyance, both to remind me that, compared to what I’d been through before, it ain’t no thang, and to maybe make it a little useful to me. Which it is. I’ve stopped drinking coffee, and I’m actually going to bed when I’m tired. Remarkable.

I’ve also revisited my nightly “gratitude dump.” No, not that kind of dump (although given my plumbing, I’m always grateful for a good dump). It’s a kind of elaboration on the gratitude journal, where I just spill out thing after thing after thing that I am grateful for, until I’ve exhausted four columns on a page of my 8 1/2 x 11″, college-ruled notebook. Some of the things get a little silly, like “roof” or “spiral notebook.” Then again, if you think about it, both of those things are pretty awesome, and I have them along with four-columns-minus-two-lines’ worth of other awesome things.

Partly as an outgrowth of my feelings of gratitude and partly out of sheer self-interest, I finally signed on with Kiva and made my first loans. (Thank you, Jason and Jodi, for the brilliant idea; it was the best I felt all weekend.

I did a few other, small things, too: got the last four installments of the newsletter posted to the archives, for example. Restrung one of my guitars to pass along to a friend, now that I’m done with it. (Don’t worry, I kept the other one.) Cooked some meals. Drank a lot of weak tea and hot water with lemon. Got my hair did. And wrote every day, either longhand or in the Google Wave with Dave, downloading this crazy stream of stuff that starting gushing a few weeks ago. Maybe being sick is actually good for thinking? Dave seems to be going through the same thing, both cold and crazy-stream-downloading, so yeah, maybe.

Hopefully, though, it’s just the slowing down that’s doing it. Because I can do that anytime. Right?


Image by skippyjohn via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Frrrrriday Rrrrroundup! #30

comic of two cats watching a leaf drift off: "Driftrs gonna drift."

An end-of-weekly roundup collecting fffffive of the fffffantabulous things I find stumbling around the web. Keep up with them day-to-day on one of the many other Internet outlets I stop by (or tweet at) during my daily travels. More about the genesis here.

Great tips on reading faster without reading dumber. [delicious]

A haunting story made more so by the very particular use of photographic illustations. [Google Reader-ed, via Neil Kramer]

Awesome swear-ridden rant from screenwriter Harlan Ellison on writers getting paid. [YouTube-ed, via Joy Lanzendorfer]

Amazing motion graphics work applied to illustrating one of my favorite Jonathan Coulton tunes. [Facebook-ed, via Daring Fireball ]


Comic by Ape Lad via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.