I’ve never picked up a book that I didn’t learn something from it. One of the most unexpected things I’m learning due to my enormous “to be read” pile is how much more I enjoy reading history written in the 20th century than I do many of the modern reinterpretations. That probably shouldn’t be surprising given my general intolerance for most aspects of the 21st century. I’m fortunate though to have a keen interest in topics – the world wars, the Roman republic and empire, England from prehistory to the present – that have already been extensively plumbed by some of the true giants in those areas.
While I’ll pick up some of the new releases, I don’t find myself particularly enjoying many of them – or the modern historian’s penchant for wanting us to believe that everyone who ever carved their name into the historical record is evil and we should all feel badly about it. It makes me wildly appreciative of having such a wide selection of the older works that don’t nearly as often read like someone’s effort at forcing the past into a mold that supports the social agenda flavor of the week. I like my history a little less preachy.
I welcome and encourage everyone to read what interests them, but I’ll stick with delving into the saga of great men and great deeds. I guess it’s my own variation of dancing with the one that brung ya.
Ok, do you want to know the truth? I didn’t learn a damned thing worth mentioning this week. I did the work, I read some books, made some meals, played with the critters, and mostly avoided anything related to thinking deep thoughts.
Some weeks are like that. Maybe I could have made more of an effort – maybe I even should have, just for the sake of putting on a good show, but as they say the juice didn’t feel worth the squeeze. And that leads us directly to where we are now, with me sitting here pecking at the keyboard without much of anything at all to talk about.
I’ve been reading some solid books though – terrorists and silver mining and roman legions taking on American Indians. That’s some happy-making shit right there. Maybe this week that was far more valuable than learning something. Even if it’s not, I’m well satisfied.
What I learned this week in a lot of ways is just a confirmation of what I’ve known my entire adult life – and that’s that I have absolutely no interest in ever living in a city. Yes, I’m aware my disinterest in city living means I’m “missing out” on untold cultural opportunities, fine dining, education, and whatever else it is that attracts people to live in America’s dense urban centers. I’ve made my peace with being able to access those opportunities as needed from a distance if I ever really need to avail myself of them.
I’m not built for living in a place that prides itself on ginning up ever increasing population density or warehousing people stacked 20 floors deep with a thousand next door neighbors. I’m not a great outdoorsman, but I can’t fathom living somewhere my only outdoor space is ten feet of concrete sidewalk or the part six blocks away that can be closed at a moment’s notice by executive fiat. When I want access to green space, I like the option of walking across my own yard and being there – already with the forest at my doorstep.
As much as I like “home,” finding myself confined to a few hundred square feet indefinitely is the stuff of nightmares. I despised riding DC’s Metro a lifetime ago when I commuted into the District for work. The idea that it, filled with plague victims with no other options, would be my only reasonable means of transportation, sounds definitively awful. If nothing else, the Great Plague has reinforced my already deep belief in the value of elbow room between me and the next closest neighbor.
Cecil County is just far enough away that it won’t likely be a bedroom community for Baltimore or Philadelphia any time soon… but the growth of housing developments and apartment complexes along the county’s main routes undeniably means that people are finding their own reason to live here. I’ve been here long enough to notice the daily increase in traffic to and from the major outlying areas of employment. It’s already feeling just a little bit too crowded for my tastes.
I’m happy enough where I am for the time being. State land and large lots will do their part to prevent too much crowding. Once I don’t need to make residency decisions based on proximity to an employer, though, the gloves are coming off. If I’ve learned nothing else from watching the news unfold these last few weeks, it’s that I well and truly have no business living or working inside of one of America’s great Petri dishes. I’m sure it’s fine for some people, but it’ll be a hard pass for me.
It’s week two of the crisis, but I’m still learning things. I’m leaning so many things that honestly it’s just easier to list them.
1. Bread, the book says, is the staff of life. In a crisis the breads I like most – sourdough and seeded rye – stays on the shelf longest. Even when most else is picked over, I can usually find one or the other in stock. So I’ve got that going for me in the apocalypse, which is nice.
2. Two monitors isn’t a luxury. I’ve spent the last two weeks working exclusively on a laptop. It’s find for basic word processing, but if you get into any heavy lifting in Excel or find yourself needing to edit the fine print in PowerPoint, there’s just no substitute for dual monitors. If I thought they’d get here before the Great Plague is scheduled to end, I’d order up a pair of cheap screens to retrofit the home office, even if it did temporarily crowd the much prettier Apple rig sitting on my desk.
3. Last and finally, I need to talk to myself more often while I’m working from home. After almost two weeks of having just a few phone conversations and occasionally talking to the animals, my throat feels like ground chuck now that I’ve spent the day chittering with people in the office and fielding the random phone calls. It’s probably also because of today’s distinct lack of afternoon tea and honey.
This week was a series of reaffirmations rather than a true voyage of discovery. I stumbled along with many of the old standards – especially the knowledge that it’s a waste of time and effort to pretend that anything that seems like a priority to you will be a priority to anyone else… especially those inside the decision making loop.
I did learn one big thing this week, though. And that’s the the spell check on gmail sometimes does’t work if you don’t safe the email before checking it… which is something I know now because of the absolutely god awful spelling throughout last night’s post.
I’m sure I learned something new this week. Meandering through seven whole days without picking up one remotely interesting tidbit feels like it should be hard. Actually it feels like it should be impossible if you have any kind of inquisitive mind. To be fair, I’m sure I did actually learn more than one new thing as I was pouring through the latest hundred-odd pages of Pax Britannica. Those new things, though, aren’t really the kind of nuggets you bring to your blog on Friday night. Well, I sure some people do, but that’s not how we do things here.
The fact is, I’ve scoured my memory for the better part of the last hour hoping to tease out one little factoid that I could turn into a paragraph. I’ve been soundly defeated in that effort. My post-work Friday afternoon brain dump seems to have eradicated more than the stuff time stamped during business hours.
There’s also the very real possibility that I’ve completely overestimated my ability to remember random minutia. I try to make note of the interesting stuff, but even that system seems to have failed me this week… and maybe that’s this week’s lesson. It turns out I really can’t rely on my internal memory to keep track of jack shit anymore and need to make a conscious effort to be a better note maker.
Yeah, I guess that’s what I learned this week. It’s lame and I’ll probably have forgotten it by this time tomorrow, but there it is.
So I’m thinking about launching a new weekly feature… I’m leaning towards something short and pithy highlighting something (or several things) that I learned during that week. Based on the handful of notes I’ve jotted down already, there’s a fair chance that it’s mainly going to be a running list of things I probably should have known already given my advanced age.
I really don’t know if this idea is something that might have the staying power of my venerable series on What Annoys Jeff this Week. It might just be one of those early morning, under-caffeinated ideas that would have been better left where I found it.
I’ve been tinkering for a while now with various ideas of what I could use to plug an ongoing gap on Fridays here. I know that by the end of the week I’m rarely in the humor to churn out a fully formed post, but quick one-offs could fill the bill nicely in moving from a 4-posts per week back to a full service, five posts a week format. I increasingly feel like I need to be writing on Fridays, even if it’s just a little something to keep the fingers moving.
Anyway, we’ll see where it goes from here. Watch this space on Friday evening and you can judge for yourself.