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Friday, 06 May 2022


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Concerning book of the week, I mention Geoff Dyer's two volumes of essays concerning photo: The Ongoing Moment and the more recent See/Saw. I realize that essays aren't everyone's cup of tea, but they are each good, IMHO.

R Hunter

I'm going to play the contrarian here: For most humans, I will offer that it is the quality of their connections (social, familial, romantic) that actually determines their happiness. I would posit that mostly saying "yes" rather than "no" in those social and romantic contexts is really what determines success in those areas. Since most of us would not change places with Jobs or Buffet even for a moment (if we really thought about it), we shouldn't worry too much about their insights, however valid, on the matter.

To take things 90-degrees: My father was a painter at the end of his life, and yearned for recognition by other artists. But I often thought seriously about how lucky I was, as his son, that he was not, in fact, the next Picasso. The thing about genius is: it has to serve itself. And I mean "has to" in the "compelled/no other choice" sense, regardless of the other claims the world may have on it. Whether you want to call it narcissism or self-absorption, or by some other label: it sometimes leads to success, but often leaves a certain amount of wreckage in its wake. I am not arguing against the value of that genius, but I will be very cautious before I consciously try to emulate it.

Let me close by offering my own needlepoint aphorism: "The only wealth is time." And all his dollars didn't buy Jobs an extra minute of it.

Another potential book of "some" week might be Susan Meisalas' 2018 Mediations, a book that discusses her approach to documentary photography.


What do Steve Jobs and Warren Buffet have to do with you? They are celebrated reps of a culture of madness. All that you wrote about yourself so generously is of your path and your necessity, adequate and soundly stated. I’m trying hard just to learn from the simple adage; “Where your focus goes your energy flows.” Success? Follow your heart.

I'm not vegan but I try to eat healthy and avoid processed and prepared foods, or at least keep them on the margins. And it's astonishing and dismaying to me how even that meager standard consumes my time, energy and/or money. Of course, this is an ancient problem--one that supposedly instigated and shaped civilizations, and destroyed some, and it's why we collectively tolerate a food industry that's in many respects evil or stupid, and the consequent health and social problems. I'm also not very good at it, as with many other basic life skills. But while I remain wary about projects like Soylent, I've about had it with the economics and logistics of traditional food, and would welcome a healthy and affordable *something* that can render that an option, or at least a more occasional requirement, and I hope people keep trying. Or, if I missed something, I welcome recommendations.

When my wife finished her PhD in International Relations with a focus on the role of women in conflict resolution (a field unsuprisingly dominated by old white men) my crafty sister presented her with a small needlepoint sampler that said "Carry yourself with the confidence of a mediocre white man." Pretty good advice for any woman entering academia or really any career in the US.

As far as getting your work done, I'm right there with you in progressively getting further behind. For all of my adult life I have longed for the single-minded focus of some of my peers, whereas I find myself moderately interested in almost everything (I'm the guy who admitted to reading every issue of the New Yorker cover-to-cover a few weeks ago). This makes me pretty good at couch Jeopardy and other games of trivia, but not really that successful at life. To admit my most painful failure, I did not finish my PhD in Evolutionary Biology because four years of fieldwork and labwork was my absolute limit and no matter how hard I flogged myself I could not find the motivation to buckle down for six months solely devoted to writing. So close and yet so painfully far away.

The best advice I have heard is to acknowledge that you can't do everything and then intentionally decide which tasks you will do less of. Still not easy when it feels like the tasks on your list are all essential (e.g., how are you going to choose between eating healthy, exercising, sleeping enough, or having a bit of relaxation each day), but it's a start.

My kids are grown, my wife and I are both retired, and we've never been as busy as we are now. We also have 2+ acres, and the house, and a neglected raised bed vegetable garden that I've been trying to get to for about a month. In sum, your description of your life echoes ours.

Maybe first world problems? We're lucky that we have so much. Or, are we?


Yep, you are pretty busy. But the necessary lawn work on the only recently nice day got you a column when added to some other thoughts, so that job wasn't a waste of time.

How do people get it all done?

Well, we're not doing all the writing and moderating and researching for a successful website -- plus writing a book.

Laundry? Easy. Run the washer and dryer. My only concern is pulling the clothes out of the dryer when done, so that they don't wrinkle. I learned a long time ago that half of the time, ironing clothes doesn't make them look better. Ironing is just too fussy, so I don't bother with it.

My 12-step program consisted of deciding not to drink anymore and then sticking to it. I was ready to quit cold turkey and that was that. No hourly meetings twice a week. More time to take photos!

I consider myself lucky that I'm not interested in cooking. (Nor eating, if that could be managed.) I try to spend as little time as possible in prepping the food before cooking. Shopping should be easy and quick if you know where the items are located in the store. Just dump 'em in the cart and get the heck out of the store. No "shelf shopping".

Spending an hour or two daily with the dog isn't too bad. Dogs give back of their time, so it's a win-win situation.

The comparisons with Jobs and Buffett, of course, pertain to work, but as part of their job, not the necessary house and yard work, etc. You'd need to hire a maid and a landscaper to handle the necessary indoor and outdoor work that you can do yourself. Sure, it takes time. But are you really going to pay someone else when you can do it? Only rich people or disabled people generally hire someone to do those simple tasks.

I got a kick out of this part to a reply: "But when Oprah mused that she thought fresh sheets every two days was best, the expert dismissed it with a wave of his hand, saying, "real people can't do that." Oprah's feelings were hurt!"

I hope you get some good advice on saving time.

"Press on regardless".

I bought a house on nearly 3/4th of an acre in Austin, Texas about 25 years ago. At the time my full time job was (and still is) commercial photography. Grass grows quick here and it grows all year long. The lawns, hedges, etc. don't get time off during the winter months. I had a choice, I could surrender whatever free time I might have from paying work to do my own lawn care. It would require also purchasing a lawn mower, a weed wacker, some gardening shears, safely storing gasoline, and maybe even buying and using one of those nasty gas-powered leaf blowers. I calculated my lost earning potential of doing my own lawn care and quickly found, through good recommendations, a one man lawn care company which I have now used for the last 25 years. I own no heavy yard machinery, I have time (three or four extra hours every other week) to do things I really want to do. I would suggest, since you mention lawn responsibilities more than once, using what you might have learned from Jobs, Buffett and other billionaires and outsourcing the droll and mindless tasks that can be done better and cheaper by other people. I can charge multiples more for my services than what I pay for yard services. It seems like a very simple business equation to me. When my wife and I both worked in the advertising business back in the 1980s our hours at work were insane. Since our agency billed our time at several hundred dollars per hour the idea of spending all weekend cleaning our condominium and running errands seemed downright foolish so we hired a cleaning service to come in once a week, on Fridays, so we could enjoy a nicely cleaned home on the weekends. The cost was very small considering the alternative of productive time lost doing the work ourselves. You might consider sitting down at the kitchen table and making a list of all the many things that you could eliminate from your plate by just doing some smart outsourcing. It's worked well for us over the last 36 years of domestic existence. Just a thought. Having a gardener or lawn care company means one fewer vector for back injuries....

That's a lot of yard to keep up for sure. If you're looking for alternatives, you might want to have a look at the work of the landscape designer Piet Oudolf.

I grew up with the 50's commitment to manicured lawns and yards but a recent presentation by a local gardener talked about the ongoing crisis with pollinators and how challenging current practices are to them. The other interesting topic covered was the rewilding efforts going on around the world, notably with the estates in Scotland and England.

So now I'm committed (to what extreme will likely be up to my wife). Perennial, native plants and grasses for the large part - low maintenance and bug friendly with mowed grass to a minimum. It might take a couple of years to get done but hopefully I can then spend less time working on it and more time enjoying it.

"...and if I say no to yardwork it sure gets away from me in a hurry..."

In my town's newspaper there is a column written by one of the ever shrinking staff called "The Darwinian Gardener", which changed my life.

Things that live are suppose to live. Things that die were not meant to be. I don't try to create an unnatural environment by playing God over things humans can't control without way too much effort. I can't estimate how many hours of mindless, never complete work that this philosophy has given me back.

Some things are obviously catching.... BBC recently published "How often should you change your bed sheets?"


“Resistance is Futile”: there’s some evidence that the phrase was first used, at least in TV SF, in early Doctor Who episodes in the 1960s. Either by the Daleks, or the Cybermen, or both. One reference takes it back to 1963, but I can’t confirm it.

And apparently Douglas Adams used it in Hitchhiiker’s Guide to the Galaxy; it may have been spoken by a Vogon soldier, possibly when he was about to throw Ford Prefect and Arthur Dent out of the airlock. The first incarnation (instantiation?) of HHGttG was the radio series in 1978, and the phrase might have been used then. However, there is a connection between Adams and Doctor Who - before HHGttG he wrote scripts for Doctor Who, and would have been familiar with that programme, so he may well have known about the earlier usage of the phrase in Doctor Who.

Don't make "to do" lists--just do it then move on to your next task. Simple as that.

BTW scut work is a waste of time. Remember that time equals money and that writing can be more profitable than mowing lawns.

If I may also quote from the late, great Douglas Adams: “I love deadlines. I love the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.”

Book of the Month (better than week):
Jay Maisel's Light Gesture Color

More good photos, photo advice, life wisdom, etc. than in a stack of others.

(AND, not one monochrome pic from the rear of a NY couple in winter coats and hats on an overcast day!)

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