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The holidays are over and my brain is filled with rants—how to mount a meaningful boycott, and the ramifications of foreign policy when performed by amateurs, to name two—but each time I started a post on one of them I stopped myself. I’m pretty sure regular readers don’t want to hear about that—not from me, anyway—so I’m moving on to something completely different.

Over the holiday break, my neighbor and I did a thing.

We made a game. (more…)

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‘Tis the season to be grateful.

Gratitude, I have found, is a very powerful tool. It has the power to relieve my stress and infuse me with joy. It increases my empathy for others. It restoreth my soul.

I have much for which I am grateful: good health, a sound mind, a solid income, a safe home, a well-suited and loving partner, and an interesting and quirky group of friends. Oh, and my cat; she’s a hoot.

For me, though, gratitude didn’t come easy. It took practice.

I was raised to see only the flaws in my life, those elements which could be improved upon, especially in myself. As a result, for most of my life, when I would look around, I’d only see what needed to be fixed, not what had been accomplished. In the beautiful wilderness of my back garden, I saw only the weeds. Though I have nine published novels, they only represented my failure to catch on with a larger audience. And as to my cooking skills, well, in them I only saw what I lacked when compared to other, more inventive chefs I know. Across all my successes, only the lost opportunities were visible, the deeds left undone. With this mindset, it was really difficult to feel grateful about what I did have.

But then I started practicing gratitude, actually forcing myself to see the good in things. Eventually, I began to appreciate what I had more and, as that increased, the primacy of the flaws decreased, for gratitude really is a zero-sum game. I can’t appreciate something and obsess about its flaws at the same time. I can still see the flaws, of course, but by being grateful for a thing, I take it as it is, not as how I think it should be.

Once the seed of gratitude takes root, it sticks with you, and those flaws? They are transformed from negatives into opportunities to make the whole even better, even more worthy of gratitude. I still want to improve what can be improved, but the little things—the dandelion among the roses, my lack of mastery with sauces—they stay little things; I no longer inflate them beyond their true importance.

So, during this season of holidays, where we wrap up our gifts as well as the year in general, I heartily encourage you to stop, take a few moments, look around, and concentrate on the good parts of your life, for there are many, even when things seem pretty bleak.

There is good in every day, and in every yesterday, and in every tomorrow. Cherish it.

Onward.

k

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The 2000-oughts and -teens have been a Spartan period, where society repeatedly pared and trimmed and shaved away at norms, ushering out elements deemed unnecessary in favor of brutal efficiencies and ever-more-draconian austerity plans.

I am, of course, speaking of typography. (more…)

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Today is the 30th anniversary of the Loma Prieta earthquake and, once again, I am in San Francisco. I did not plan this visit to coincide with the anniversary of that event—a shallow 6.9 temblor that brought down bridges and freeways, tumbled hundreds of homes, and turned large sections of expensive land into quivering jelly—but here I am. With the anniversary top-of-mind here, it hasn’t helped that, since my arrival on Sunday, we’ve had two minor quakes (registering 4.5 and 4.7). Put together, it’s made the locals a bit . . . jumpy. (more…)

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During times like these, when the world is screaming along at Mach 2 with its hair on fire (which, I think it fair to say, it is currently doing), we must not be afraid to practice some self-care.

Take a breath.

Step to the side.

Look up, look around.

Take note of something that pleases you. Music. Art. Nature. Your kids. Your partner. A piece of work well done.

Relax for a bit. Just a few moments of indulgence. Something just for you. A respite from the chaos, the frenzy, the tragedies large and small.

I’ve needed a lot of self-care lately—an escape from the cruelty I see each day—and have found it in a very unlikely place.

Rugby.

(more…)

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As a white male, my specific morphology is well represented in the media, but as an introverted generalist, not as much. My introversion has its avatars in fiction, of course—neither nerdy brain-cases who live in cupboards under the stairs nor socially invisible milquetoasts with hidden strengths are too hard to find (hell, some of them show up in my own books)—but the generalists? the broad-spectrum observers whose curiosity drives them scattershot through life? Them, not so much.

However, just as I saw my inner introvert expounded upon in Susan Cain’s book, Quiet, this month, (despite the brain-crushing climb up the logarithmically steepening learning curve of my new job) I’ve seen my inner generalist defined and extolled in David Epstein’s new book, Range. Subtitled “Why generalists triumph in a specialized world,” it immediately caught my attention, and when I saw Epstein interviewed earlier this year, I had to have it. When it arrived in the post, it caught my wife’s eye, too, so much so that she grabbed it first (she’s also a generalist) making me wait.

This month, I finally had a chance to read it, and I am loving this book. (more…)

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Miss me? OK, probably not. (If you did, *mwah*.)

Regardless, I failed to meet last week’s self-imposed deadline because I did something that I said I was no longer going to do: I bought a first-day-release version of a video game.

I’ve been burned by the hype of Release Day versions, most notably No Man’s Sky and Fallout 76. For those two, I either stuck with the game through months of patches and updates (NMS), or I dropped it like a hot rock within a fortnight of fighting patches and incredibly bad design (F76). Those two reactions pretty much describe the trendline of my frustration with the beta versions that game studios now peddle as consumer-ready fare. I mean, you should not load up a brand new game on the day of its release only to have a 5GB patch begin downloading. That’s just nuts, but it’s indicative of the high-stakes meat-grinders that game studios have become.

However, when I heard that Borderlands, the irreverent dystopic sci-fi shoot-n-loot franchise, was coming out with a third major installment, (and in my book, there have been only two Borderlands games, as the “pre-sequel” and the spinoffs had neither the charm nor the playability of installments 1 and 2), I could not help myself and pre-ordered myself toward what I hoped and prayed would not be another Release Day filled with frustration and tears. (more…)

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