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How to Evaluate a New City

Blog entry

Okay, I've determined the appropriate characteristics for evaluating how livable a new town is. These are completely and totally the most IMPORTANT PARTS of a town, not those crazy things like weather or housing affordability or job opportunities or culture or what-have-you like schools.

The four key attributes of a new city, not exactly in the order of priority, are:

  1. Chocolate shops

    What is any town without a decent chocolate shop? Completely and totally worthless, that's what a chocolate-shop-free town is. Sure, the chocolate doesn't have to be from a shop itself, so, maybe a Whole Foods could be sufficient. Receiving chocolate by mail is iffy, so ordering online doesn't always work. Having a chocolate supply (more importantly, a supply of good chocolate) is very important for one's well being.

  2. Tea shops

    In find being able to sit in a tea shop, having a cup of freshly brewed tea of some variety I haven't had before, simply delightful. Yes, tea can be ordered online, and delivered at my door. I have a number of tea pots that I can use to make a cup or a litre of tea, but I don't have a small, cozy tea room to sit with a cup of tea and read. It's one of those experience things, more than an object (tea) thing.

  3. Paper shops

    Okay, this one is surprising hard to get right. Most paper shops are a small section in the back of a gift shop, and they aren't really good. The Paper Source or Oblation Papers or The Papery, on the other hand, are delightful paper shops. They have a great selection of notebooks and papers and cards (letterpress ones are just so delightful!) and small knick-knacks. I can often get my notebook / journal fix at a Target, though, to be honest, I've stocked up on the B5-sized, 6mm-spaced, lined, $1.50 Muji notebooks that I love.

    I still like a good notebook.

  4. Cupcake stores

    This one is HUGE. OMG do you know how hard it is to find a good cupcake store? Oh, it's hard, so very hard. One could say worse than the paper shop. The lack of a cupcake shop isn't, however, a deal breaker. I can make my own cupcakes. They won't be as good as some of the ones I've bought, to be sure, but the ones I can make are sufficient.

Okay, those are the important ones. To be honest, the Mall of America ranks high up on the "this new town is great!" scale, missing only the paper store from that list. So, let's be realistic and and provide bonus attributes that can bring a city's rating up.

Also in no particular order:

  • Bookstores
  • A good library
  • Dog parks
  • Hiking opportunities
  • Whole Foods (or equivalent)
  • Trader Joes
  • Target

Oh, and no Walmart. Those things suck.

Lincoln's Melancholy

Book Review

Okay, I'm really not sure what took me so long to read this book. The subtitle of this book is How Depression Challenged a President and Fueled His Greatness, so it's basically about Lincoln and how he lived with depression.

I really like this book. I really like this book a lot. I highly recommend this book for anyone who has had a depressive episode, had or has clinical depression, or had or has chronic depression.

The book describes how depression, also known as the manly "melancholy" of yesteryear (yester-century?), was viewed in the 1800s (much, much differently than it is these days); how friends and family rallied around a melancholic person to help; how being sad wasn't considered a failing, it was considered different. Talk about a different viewpoint than these days, where if you're not happy, there must be something wrong with you. I liked the one point in the book where the theory that happy people are actually the unbalanced ones: they have an over-inflated sense of self and their skill-sets, versus depressed people who have a more grounded realistic view of reality.

About half way through the book, I liked it enough to buy a hard copy of the book. It helps that I'm a fan of Lincoln, I suspect. But really, there are enough good quotes in the book that I wish I had it right now to copy them all down right here.

Lincoln had depression. He had chronic depression. He didn't beat it, he lived with it. According to Shenk, there were two major episodes and a resignation after those that Lincoln had to a lifetime of suffering. Many of the questions Lincoln asked himself in letters are ones that many depressives ask themselves. That Lincoln had a calling so strong that he kept going is another example of how having a life goal, a calling, a desire for a legacy, can make the suffering bearable for people with depression.

I plan on reading the book again, possibly before the end of the year, I liked it that much.

Highly, highly, highly recommended.

Let me repeat that back to you

Blog entry

This was originally posted on The Pastry Box for 1 August 2015.

I was trying to explain to my dev lead what problem I was having that day. I wasn't sure how much background to give. I wasn't sure how well I had explained my frustration. He asked me to listen to him explain back to me what I had said, and I realized I had explained it well enough that he understood. He could help unblock me on the problem.

"Let me repeat that back to you."

We were in a heated argument. He was frustrated because he believed I wasn't listening to him. I was frustrated because he kept saying the same thing over and over again. So, in the span of one breath, I asked him to listen to me as I described what I thought we were arguing about, and why we were arguing. He realized I was listening. He felt I understood. We resolved our argument quickly after that.

"Let me repeat that back to you."

Out on the ultimate field, a teammate kept running the play incorrectly. The sideline wanted to pull her from the game, even though she was one of our strongest players, mistakes and all. When asked during a timeout what she thought the play was, we all realized the second interpretation of how the play was run. From her understanding, she was doing it correctly and thought the play was a crappy play. Only when she repeated the play back to us did we realize the error and correct.

"Let me repeat that back to you."

Why do we generally suck at something as crucial as being able to communicate with another person? I don't know. What I do know is that listening, and then repeating back what I heard, in my own words, does wonders for letting the other know my level of understanding, for letting the other person know they have been heard, and for helping the two of us move towards a better understanding.

Try it.

"Let me repeat that back to you."

Door. Alarm.

Blog entry

Okay, so, as I approach an exit door, I notice there isn't any alarm on it. I push open the door and HOLY HELL THE ALARMS GO OFF. I immediately rush to shut the door, stop the alarms. I haven't done anything wrong, there's nothing wrong with going through this door, it has no signs that say "HERE BE DRAGONS" or "ABANDON HOPE ALL WHO ENTER" or even, "No Exit." I've gone through this door before, but THE ALARMS. CLOSE! CLOSE! CLOSE!

From immediately behind me, an arm reaches over my shoulder to grab the door, just before I have it closed.

"What is it with people slamming doors when alarms go off?" he asks.

I look back him.

"And with you on the WRONG SIDE OF THE DOOR," he continues.


He's right.

Feast of the Drowned

Book Review

Another one of those books that I'm not sure why I have it, but, eh, shrug, I guess I can read it since I'm mildly interested in it (though more for answering, "Why did I buy this again?" than for "I am WAY excited about this book!").

This was a stunningly fast read. As such, I'm fairly certain I bought this book as a free book (thanks to Bookbub), because I can't imagine paying $9 for this book.

Yes, it's a Doctor Who book, but it reads like someone is describing a television episode of the Doctor. Imagine the whole thing being read in David Tennant's voice, and you have the gist of the book.

The Doctor's character is as expected, the mystery solved, some people die, some people don't, the world goes on. Essentially, you're typical Doctor Who episode.

If you're a Doctor fan, have at it, read away (just maybe borrow it from the library). If you're not a Doctor fan, eh, skip it.