Magazine mashups from Entertainment Weekly, November 2019. More here.
While going through my library’s bevy of old staff and event photos, I encountered lots of what used to be commonplace but are now practically ancient artifacts: photo envelopes. Most of them were from the 1990s and early 2000s, which you can probably guess from the designs.
(See also: groovy ’70s library brochures.)
Two of my favorite activities to do with Mr. Two Years Old is play with his train tracks and Magna-Tiles. We started with a relatively small batch of both, but then he got big upgrades for Christmas and from his cousins as hand-me-downs, so recently we’ve been really going wild.
When we first got the tiles we tried to recreate the structure that was on the box. It took about five minutes before we abandoned any attempts to follow the instructions and just went rogue.
There’s the satisfaction in building something with your hands, and then there’s the satisfaction of feeling the magnetic snap as you piece together the different shapes into fantastical structures.
He really gets into the building part, sometimes for a surprisingly long time for a toddler, but then loses interest just as quickly. Whatever grand creation we’d just whipped into being usually gets summarily knocked down or abandoned for another activity.
Andrei Kashcha’s City Roads tool beautifully renders every road of any city in the world into a simple line drawing using OpenStreetMap.
I did my hometown of Madison (above), knowing its isthmus gives it a distinct look. I then did the city where I work and discovered that for some reason it includes a large chunk of the interstate that borders it:
Part of the This Is My series.
Thanks to the magic of email, I know that in March 2009 my mom asked if I wanted anything from REI. She had a coupon that was about to expire but didn’t need anything for herself.
REI is one of those stores I love in principle but don’t actually buy from, mostly due to the prices. So I jumped at that opportunity to get something I normally wouldn’t. I considered what I could use and landed on the CamelBak Blowfish Hydration backpack, pictured here over 10 years later in its usual hangout spot by the door:
(You might recognize the jacket next to it.)
It’s slim yet expandable, with just enough compartments, and padding in the back to make it breathable. In the picture it’s stuffed with library books, CDs, and my notebooks, with assorted pens, my sunglasses, and earbuds in the front pouch. It’s not super convenient for transporting my laptop, which I have to wedge in between the tapered zipper design, but it’s gotten the job done for a long time.
And in that time, it has accompanied me on every flight, hike, and trip I’ve taken, to every college and grad school class I attended, and darn near every workday I’ve logged. Somewhere along the way I stopped using the water pouch because it made everything in the main compartment a little damp and took up too much space.
It’s not available at REI anymore, so once the end of its useful life arrives I’ll have to find something else like it. I’ve tried satchels and messenger bags, but nothing beats the two-strapping reliability of a quality backpack.
Part of the This Is My series.
If you have met me in the last 15 years, there’s a decent chance you have seen me in this orange jacket:
I acquired it in 2004 on a trip from Madison to Kansas City with a few people from my youth group to attend a conference. We stopped at a Salvation Army somewhere along the way, which is where I spotted it. Don’t remember how much it cost, but since I’ve worn it for darn near half the year every year since, I’d say it was a sound investment regardless.
It had the same appeal then as it does now: a bold orange color, accessible pockets, and the perfect thickness for use as a spring and autumn jacket—not too thick and not too thin.
Sometimes I wonder if it’s time to find another light jacket. It’s starting to fray now, having served me and previous owners well for who knows how long. Something more waterproof or muted might be a better look and practical move.
But by Jove, I’m sticking with it, because I stick with useful things to their bitter end. It’s my only play against planned obsolescence and conspicuous consumerism. Until I accidentally lose it or it disintegrates beyond repair, it’s staying on my coat rack. That’s the only way to honor such a reliable companion.
Somewhere on the Internet I stumbled upon this print from the artist Nina Montenegro’s series Against Forgetting:
It struck a chord in me not only because I’ve been reading the tree-centric novel The Overstory, but also because six days ago I became a father. And I’ll tell ya, I know I’m barely a week into this, but there’s nothing like having a child to make you reconsider everything you think you know about time.
C.J. Chilvers wrote about the pros and cons of popular notetaking tools. Out of the four he features—Apple Notes, Evernote, Ulysses, and Bear—I have used two previously, and none currently. So, having already examined my favored podcasts and newsletters, here’s a look at the tools I do use and why I use them.
The once and future king of all notetaking apps. I keep a plain, pocket-sized Moleskine in my backpack for odds and ends, a larger journal as a daily diary and scrapbook (previously a Moleskine classic hardcover and currently a Zequenz 360), and a good ol’ composition notebook for my filmlog.
Dynamic, lightweight list-making with blessed few bells and whistles. Perfect for hierarchical thinking, tasks, and anything else you can put into a list. It’s built for marking tasks complete, but I use it mostly as an archive for reference, split between Work and Personal. Plus a To Do list at top for quick capture of tasks.
Good for taking quick notes in plain text. I often use it for first drafts of blog posts, taking book notes, and whatever else I need a basic text editor for. Helpful when trying to remove formatting from text you want to paste cleanly elsewhere—”text laundering” as I call it. Clean, simple, works well on the web and mobile.
For when Simplenote isn’t enough. Good for collaboration and as a document repository. Among other things my Logbook spreadsheet is there, as are lots of work-related docs, random files shared with my wife, my archive of book reviews, and my Book Notes doc filled with (at present) 121 single-spaced pages of notes and quotes from 108 books.
Used mostly for sharing shopping lists with my wife, because it’s easy to regenerate lists from completed items. Unfortunately it doesn’t sync well between devices without WiFi, which is a bummer when we’re out shopping.
Google, don’t you ever get rid of Calendar. I mean it. Some former Google products had it coming, but you’re gonna ride or die with Gmail and Calendar, ya hear?
Essential for quick and easy file backup. Through referrals and other incentives over the years I’ve accumulated 5.63 GB in free storage on top of the 2 GB default. I’m using over 95% of it.
Wait a minute, Doc. Are you telling me you built a time machine… out of LEGO?
While rearranging the apartment in advance of Baby, I was sorting our small games collection and stumbled upon the unopened LEGO Back to the Future set my dad got me a few years ago. I gotta say, it was super fun to put together:
I haven’t encountered LEGOs in years, maybe decades. Even a relatively small project like this one had several bags with hundreds of small pieces. But following the directions made it come together pretty quickly. Much respect to the engineers who create these designs.
This sign is posted in the parking lot outside my work. Why “NO TV’s”? A while ago someone left an old TV next to what they thought was a dumpster for trash but is actually a dumpster for paper recycling. But only people who had seen the TV there before it got picked up will understand the odd specificity of the sign.
It’s still a great sign without that context, because paper is the far superior technology.