Nanoism in the Washington Post

Very fun: Nanoism, a few tiny stories, and I made an appearance in the Washington Post yesterday in an article about Twitter’s planned/rumored character-limit change.

For what it’s worth, while the type of fiction I’ve purveyed is only fun within a predominantly constrained system, for people who write Twitter fiction differently, the ability to say more probably wouldn’t be much of an issue (say, those writing in the longitudinal first person like a digital diary of someone surviving a zombie apocalypse).

What I read in 2015

Between the birth of our first child in April and by far my busiest call year of residency, 2015 was shaping up to be an abysmal year for pleasure reading. Ultimately, the saving grace was the combination of my much-lengthened daycare-related commute with Audible (the free 30 day trial/two free audiobooks via that link got me completely hooked). Audible is fantastic, and it’s not an exaggeration to say it’s changed our lives. Dead time in traffic or folding the laundry is no longer the dreary waste of time it used to be; it’s a chance to “read” (okay, listen). Even with Audible, I still ended up with fewer books than I read in 2014 (and this year’s list is padded with some pretty short stuff).

  1. Firefight by Brandon Sanderson (Reckoner’s #2)
  2. The Eye of Minds by James Dashner (Mortality Doctrine #1) (Not as good as The Maze Runner, which while entertaining, wasn’t all that good either)
  3. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo (changed how I fold all of my laundry)
  4. Yes Please by Amy Poehler (wife’s choice, meh)
  5. The White Coat Investor by James Dahle (re-read)
  6. Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari (wife’s better choice)
  7. The Martian by Andy Weir
  8. 1984 by George Orwell
  9. Walk the Sky by Robert Swartwood and David B. Silva
  10. Sapiens by Yoval Noah Harari (like Guns, Germs, and Steel, but less rigorous and much broader in scope)
  11. The Pearl by John Steinbeck (so depressing)
  12. A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab
  13. America Again by Stephen Colbert (funny, but not as good as I am America)
  14. The Art of Money Getting; or, Golden Rules for Making Money by P. T. Barnum (old, kinda fun, free, my highlights here)
  15. Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg (may be an anthem for working women but perhaps should be read by men just as much. And then one should expand the ensuing mindfulness to include every group and minority you can think of).
  16. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
  17. This Is Water by David Foster Wallace (the book version of this short essay is pretty much a fluffed out graduation present. The original essay is still available online for free.)
  18. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides (so good)
  19. Hiroshima by John Hersey (the ethics of the atomic bombings in World War II was something we discussed in history class, but this follows the stories of several survivors of the attack. It’s harrowing. I’ve never read anything like it. It’s much more digestible in book form, but the New Yorker released a big chunk of it free online for the 50th anniversary.)
  20. Super Mario by Jeff Ryan
  21. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  22. Why We Make Things and Why It Matters by Peter Korn
  23. The Dorito Effect by Mark Schatzker (actually a very fascinating pop-sci discussion of modern food breeding and technology)

A few books make the list from my wife’s Audible choices. There are also a couple of classics that I somehow hadn’t read before, but I’m going to keep trying to do that every year to make up for only pretending to read the assigned books in high school. Here’s to a lively 2016!

Life Lessons from P. T. Barnum

You may not be familiar with P. T. Barnum, but you’d probably recognize the 19th century showman’s longstanding legacy: the Barnum & Bailey circus. In 1880, he also published the self-help/personal finance book, The Art of Money Getting; Or, Golden Rules for Making Money, which contains essentially everything you’ve ever read in a blog or book about the topic (in old timey English, for bonus points). The book is available for free on Kindle, but here are some of my favorite life lessons: Continue reading

Folding Clothing: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up was arguably the biggest ‘self-help’ book of the year (i.e. NYTimes #1 bestseller). The book’s central premise is something that I think everyone deep down knows and that that my wife and I rediscovered for ourselves while preparing for the birth of our first child. Organizational schemas are great, but nothing you do makes a difference if you have too much stuff. Doesn’t matter how you organize if there are more things that you can physically see or get to.

The KonMari method states that if something doesn’t spark joy, then you get rid of it. It doesn’t matter if it’s in perfect shape or if you bought it with every intention of wearing it but never did. The better condition it is, the happier you will make someone else who will have a chance to use it if you don’t need it.1

One of my favorite parts of the book is how she describes a better way to fold your clothing. Her method is one that is so awesome and simple that I can’t believe it’s not simply the default. It’s genius, and it essentially boils down to folding your clothing down tighter than you would otherwise expect, and in doing so, you can arrange your clothing almost like book shelf so that you can see everything contained within the drawer instead of having stacks where the items on the bottom never get worn because they never get seen. Goop has the illustrated guide here.

Modern Romance

I recently finished “reading” the audiobook of Aziz Ansari’s Modern Love (coincidentally narrated by Aziz Ansari), which is essentially an amusing presentation of real sociological research focused on how dating has changed in the internet era. Made for a good listen in the car on the way to daycare, which has become my primary reading time of late.2

It’s an interesting exercise to take a step back and see how in just a few years the foundation of our relationships and framework for making new ones has completely changed. The sections on international romance, particularly in Japan, were a highlight.

As someone who likes having their biases confirmed, my other favorite part of the book was its discussion of studies that demonstrate how social media is increasingly distorting how we view life satisfaction.

That’s the thing about the Internet: It doesn’t simply help us find the best thing out there; it has helped to produce the idea that there is a best thing and, if we search hard enough, we can find it. And in turn there are a whole bunch of inferior things that we’d be foolish to choose.

Too many choices can be paralyzing and just as depressing as having too few. Seeing other people’s curated images causes us to believe that other people are happier than we are, that their choices are better than ours, and that even if we are happy, maybe we could be happier. And all this in turn makes us sad. Perhaps, the solution:

Spend more time with people, less time in front of a screen, and—since we’re all in it together—be nice to people.