Walking through Harvard Square yesterday I took a moment to admire the fresh blossoms. The weather has been cloudy and dreary for what feels like forever, but in reality is less than a week. Meanwhile, the temperature has been slowly rising, the need for layers of clothing falling, and the grass is getting greener. Maybe the sun will come back soon as well.
Yesterday was the Spring Equinox, also known as the officially the first day of Spring. It still doesn’t feel particularly Spring-like here in Cambridge, but it is starting to warm up.
I was walking through Harvard Square yesterday. It was bright and breezy, with the sun teasing the possibility of warmth. I went into Felipe’s Taqueria, one of my favorite fast Mexican places in town. I sat by the window, in the sunlight, people-watching for a solid half an hour. I was sorely tempted to step into Mike’s Pastry, but the battle of the bulge won’t fight itself.
The day before that I was spending the early afternoon in my favorite coffee shop, (sorry, I’m not quite ready to give away that secret). I ended up talking to the young gentleman sitting next to me about fountain pens. The young lady at the register there has the cutest accent, and knows my name already.
Yesterday I also went to an old college friend’s PhD defense, where I ran into another college friend. I also stopped by his celebration later in the day where I met a bunch of interesting new people, and had some really good cake. So much for not being tempted by dessert.
When I first moved to Cambridge nine months ago, I underestimated how difficult it would be to start a life in a place where I knew very people, and where most of the people I did know had their own lives and social groups to keep them busy. I still haven’t made as much progress on that front as I would like to.
On the other hand, some days I have random encounters and end up spending lots of quality time with people who really get me. On days like that, I fucking love Cambridge.
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I’ve been living in Boston (or Cambridge to be more precise) for the past few months and it has been good so far. Boston is a quite attractive place to live, with all the universities and the museums, architecture and open spaces. Though there are certain deficiencies to my life here (I haven’t built a solid social circle yet), as this article says, being within easy rich of various forms of beauty has been quite enjoyable.
Since sitting down and actually reading Thus Spoke Zarathustra a few years, I have been a fan of Nietzsche (and one day I should really sit down and read all of his work). And over the years I’ve become increasingly fascinated by the intellectual webs that writers and thinkers find themselves embedded in (in no small part due to reading Brain Pickings). So of course I found this interview of Sue Prideaux about her forthcoming biography of Nietzsche very interesting. It’s only about Nietzsche, but situates his work in the context of his life and the people he knew and communicated with.
Talking of things I have become interested in during the last few years, I have been increasingly concerned about how “work” and “productivity” should be situated in the broader frame of our lives. Of course, this is well-trod ground and in this case we get to see Hannah Arendt’s footsteps in this region as she ties together notions of work, labor, creation, consumption and humanity’s connection to the “metabolism of nature”. Hopefully a thought-provoking read on a Sunday afternoon before starting the workweek anew.
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I recently moved to a new city to start a new job and am in the slow and not-quite-steady process of rebuilding my social circle. Though it’s not the quite the same flavor of loneliness as after a relationship, being comfortable of doing things entirely on one’s own again takes time and effort. On the one hand, I know that this too will pass, but on the other hand, knowing that doesn’t necessarily make the awkward or uncomfortable moments any less awkward or uncomfortable.
One side affect of finding oneself alone again after being used to a vibrant social life is getting used to a larger-than-usual amount of quiet time by oneself. As a child, and during most of my teens, I was content, and quite happy with a lot of time to myself. Over the years, I seem to have lost that ability, at times feeling like a part of myself is missing. The modern Attention Economy makes it all the harder for sitting quietly with oneself to be a normal part of daily life, and that in turn makes periods of solitude all the more uncomfortable. I’m hoping that this is another skill that can be (re-)learned given enough time and practice (both of which I have ample of for now).
For a long time now I’ve considered myself a materialist — I like nice things, especially when it comes to things that I use day in and day out. But I also like having a small number of such things and taking good care of them (the difference being a materialist and a consumer is something I’ll explore another day). Craig Mod is also one of my favorite writers when it comes to the question of tools and how they can shape and direct your creative work. Pair this with his excellent GF1 Field Test and Leica Q Field Test.
A conversation about Star Wars during a long drive made me start rewatching this wonderful animated TV show set in the Star Wars universe during the Clone Wars (as the name suggests). It has a broader range of characters and more in-depth story arcs than the movies and is a testament to how good storytelling can be with a good premise and enough time to do a good job (which probably goes part of the way to explaining the recent increase in really good television shows).
It’s summer, it’s bright, sunny and getting unreasonably hot, the students are off on vacation or internships, and Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain passed away recently. After a few weeks of traveling, I’ve been spending the last few days reading about Anthony Bourdain, Buddhism and meditation (not necessarily in that order). Along those lines:
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An interview with Bourdain from several years ago. It’s a good summary and glimpse into his life, work and views on cooking, food and living. If you don’t know much about Bourdain, or haven’t seen his shows, this is a good place to start.
Fun fact: I occasionally get a junk food craving, and on road trips I give myself a pass to eat whatever probably-unhealthy-probably-carcinogenic food I might stumble upon. On one of these recent road trips I learned that my mother apparently likes unglazed donuts from Dunkin Donuts. Go figure. Anyways, Bourdain appreciating a Waffle House should come as no surprise, but also makes me realize that appreciating both foie gras and Waffle House maybe takes a certain kind of person, or at least a certain spirit and openness, that hopefully can be cultivated.
Why indeed. Maybe it will make you 10% Happier. Personally I’m coming around to the idea that meditation is essential for mental health in the same way that cardio and weightlifting is essential for physical health.
It was bound to happen eventually, but still…
From the Bookshelf
I’m only about half way through this, but it’s one of the better examples of explaining why Buddhist practices, specifically meditation, “work”. To my pleasant surprise, it also does a good job of explaining certain tricky Buddhist concepts in clear terms (better than a lot of articles I’ve read written about Buddhism by Buddhists). It’s a long read, but definitely worth it.