House keeping

A shout-out to Alice who joins us this week. Welcome! :)

The front of my blog includes a random selection of testimonial quotes from readers of this email. It would be helpful if you’d hit reply and write something I could add to those testimonials.

Also, I’ve made a small addition to also show the tags for each of these items. After 10 years and 3,000+ posts, all my tagging along the way has proved well worth the time. If you’re curious, I have two pages for tags; One is an insane “all the tags” page, (there are 1,326 unique tags on my blog,) and the other is a more useful page of “tags with 10+ posts.The latter runs to about 100 tags and is an insightful glimpse into the sorts of things which interest me.

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Escalation, Part 2

Three weeks ago—zoinks, time flies!—I wrote in Escalation that I didn’t want to turn this into a quote-a-day blog. That would also make my weekly email have 7 quotes, plus all the additional daily blog posts.

I’ve got to be honest: I was wrong. I really do want to publish all the quotes, and write all these blog posts. So, “All ahead flank-speed!” This week’s email will be even larger. …and onward thusly we shall proceed.

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drip drip drip

This is post number 3,000 — What a long, strange trip it’s been!

My very first post here, “Hello world,” was written on August 13, 2011. That marked the beginning of this second incarnation of my home on the Web. It’s been a sublime decade of tap-tappity-tapping away. I’ve learned a lot about werd-slingin’, and obviously developed my own way of doing things. Looking back, I believe I’ve settled into a comfortable melange of: posting photography rarely enough that they have real impact when they appear, and often enough that I feel I’m actually doing something with the digital photography I manage to shoot; quotations that inspire, conspire, and aspire to be helpful; random linking to the effectively limitless wonderful things created by humanity; working on my own thinking by exposing my reflection; pointing out interesting connections among people, places, and things.

I’ve collected a surprisingly small number of posts tagged “Meta”, (19 to be exact,) which share more of the what-and-how of this blog.

I spent the last year preparing for this little milestone by currating a collection of posts tagged “Apogee”, which are the best-of-the-best. I was hoping to find 100, and without paying attention as I was finding and tagging, I ended up with 96.

Finally, this blog is a labor of love, and the front of the blog acts as the central-most “start here” for my presence on the Internet. It would mean a lot to me if you shared something with anyone you think would also enjoy it.

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Escalation

It’s fine if you didn’t, but last week you may have noticed this weekly missive put on a few extra pounds. (I just love the word, “missive,” don’t you?) This week’s missive is similarly embiggened. And for the foreseeable future, you can expect about 42.9% more puzzlement. What, pray tell, has happened?

Here’s how much care I put into this . . .

I write, and schedule, the it’s-just-a-quote posts as I find new quotes. At this moment, there are a few—202 to be specific—lined up in the wings awaiting their day in the sun. I had been scheduling them every third day. But you nimble-mathing people will realize that means I was scheduling them nearly two years out. (Relax. WordPress makes it easy to do.)

Worse, because I feed the quotes to my Little Box of Quotes podcast-turned-Little_Shop_of_Horrors-monster, I must accumulate at least one new quote every day, (on average.) Not only are the quotes stuck, like an epic fat-berg, in the pipeline of my blog, that ‘berg is quickly growing. What to do?

Well, I really don’t want to turn my blog into a quote-a-day web site. That’s the only real way to fix the pile-up. Instead, I rescheduled them to be every-other-day. (Relax. WordPress doesn’t make it easy, but I’m cuckoo, and fast.) I already felt that I was cheating 33.3% by only writing two blog posts between every-third-day’s quote— But there was no way I could bear to only write a blog post every-other-day. (Don’t misread that as: I couldn’t bear to cheat that much. No, the posts come out of my head faster than that, and I couldn’t bear to ignore them.) Which brings me to…

I’m going back to writing a blog post for every day, and you’re getting 3 or 4 quotes each week. Thus the jump from a regimented 7 items per week to an embiggened 10 or 11 items per week.

So I got that goin’ for me, which is nice.

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Quotations are difficult

Most of my blog posts are either a quotation which I leave to stand on its own, or a usually-longer-length pull-quote with a citation and my commentary. Things around here are very intentional. The freestanding quotations are meant to leave all the context and analysis to you, Dear Reader, without any of my thoughts coloring your thoughts. You may very well try to learn more about me based on my selections, but I’m trying to recreate—for your enjoyment—the experience of discovering the quotation. The pull-quotes both expose the seed of my reflections and try to lure you to something in the world I’d like to highlight.

Fires can’t be made with dead embers, nor can enthusiasm be stirred by spiritless men.

~ Baldwin

But there are the vanishing rare two-fer posts like today. There. Have a quote. And…

I discovered this quote in a book, (p17 of Get Together, 2019 Richardson et al if you must know.) I know this will surprise you, but I have a well-practiced process for “capturing” quotes. In this case, the vague attribution tickled a memory; “I’m pretty sure I have a quote from James Baldwin…” I checked, and I do. “I wonder if this quote is that Baldwin…”

What’s the simplest thing that could possibly work? Just type the quote, in quotes, into a search engine… and Quote Investigator has a page for it. (Going directly to Quote Investigator is step two, by the way, if the search fails. I search generally, first, because it often finds the phrase in the original source material right out of the gate.) It turns out that this quote has a second sentence!

Fires can’t be made with dead embers, nor can enthusiasm be stirred by spiritless men. Enthusiasm in our daily work lightens effort and turns even labor into pleasant tasks.

~ Baldwin

Oh, nice! I like that even more than the one I stumbled on. But who is this “Baldwin”… and then I read the Quote Investigator page. Their conclusion is ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ . It’s been attributed four different ways for nearly 90 years. And now I’m wondering if my James Baldwin quote— which is #380 in my collection of 700+ so it’s pretty old, although I think I recall where I got it, from Gaping Void . . . but don’t go there! It’s a wonderland rabbit hole of decades of cartoons. I digress. And I’m having images of the book authors doing this same rabbit hole deep dive.

Fine, executive decision: I’ll stick with “Baldwin.” But that makes for this wonky entry in my slipbox index of people… Now I have “Baldwin, James” and “Baldwin.” But you know what? I’m never going to forget about this now, if I ever look at that index slip again.

So now you know: When you see me casually drop a freestanding quote here, it’s not in truth casually.

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slip:4a732.

Better is better

I once asked someone a long, complicated question related to how I was currently doing something. I was considering changing the way I did the thing, and would “more” be better? …or would “less” be better? …or maybe something entirely different would be better? Their answer was:

“Better is better.”

As 2021 came around I found myself assessing what this blog is, why I’m investing all the time and effort, and what do I want you, Dear Reader, to get from it. It’s that last part that I’ve not specifically thought about in the past decade. 10 years of posting nearly 3,000 posts… and that’s all been done for my benefit. I realized I want this blog to help you become more reflective, and as a first step that’s why I created the previous 8 weeks of daily posts.

Going forward you’ll receive a single email from me on Sunday mornings. My hope is that a longer, but less-frequent email will encourage you to spend higher-quality time reading and reflecting.

I’ll see you on Sunday!

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A journey of small daily steps

Starting on Saturday, January 2nd you and I will be going on a journey of small daily steps. Today’s post is a preamble for you, my cherished regular readers.

I’ve prepared 60, daily posts designed as a journey of reflection for your new year. The final one will appear on March 1st. Tomorrow (Dec 31st) and Friday (Jan 1) will be two preliminary posts that set the stage for the sequence through March 1st.

The tone of these coming posts will be familiar, so I think you will be delighted. My hope is simply that these posts help you find tranquility as we head into 2021.

As always, I’m just a Reply-button away. I’m always delighted by any thoughts, feedback or conversations these posts instigate.

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Some current projects

A while back I reworked the front of my web site, https://constantine.name If you’ve not seen it recently, it used to be a list of recent blog posts, now it’s an overview of the various things I’m working on.

My work in the podcast space
I’ve updated my creator page on Podchaser. Podchaser is a web site that helps you follow shows or specific creators, hosts, guests, etc.. My latest appearance, (in a podcast as a guest,) is in Vivian Carrasco’s Within (U) podcast, in an episode titled, Cultivating Curiosity That Leads to Compassion.

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How the words get here

I’m process oriented. I want to figure something out once, and then move on to having other interesting thoughts or experiences. That leads me to a sort of, “do one, cross off two,” mentality; I try to do more work up front—do the more complicated things first—in an attempt to reap a larger gain in the long run. I’m a tool builder you could say.

But my power of process, can also be a problem. There is, of course, an XKCD for this lesson: https://xkcd.com/974/. I digress.

Today, I wanted to share a bit of the process that I use to distill the things I find, and to focus my thinking. (I’m not going to go into how I find things, nor how I ensure a fresh “stream” of those things is brought to my attention.)

I have a WordPress-based blog using my own domain name. I also have a separate email account with a non-obvious address. It’s in my address book at “blog – Postie to Blog” [as you can see in the screenshot].

Whenever I see, read, or find something that inspires an interesting train of thought, I fire off an email to this special address. I simply brain dump my thinking. I insert bare URLs into the email. I put a “>” in front of blobs of text I want to show quoted. But I don’t bother with any formatting; it’s all just basic text.

I use the Postie plugin for my WordPress site. It’s an email client which periodically looks in my special mailbox and creates draft posts on my site. It deletes the emails as it creates the drafts.

When I want to work on blog posts, I go into my WordPress site and look at my drafts. I clean up the draft—fixing anything that I couldn’t stand having out on the internet. I dress up the links, organize the quoted parts, season it with my personal style, etc.. Very rarely, I’ll simply delete a draft. This has the advantage of giving me a chance to review my ideas for posts at some distance from when I initially captured it. Most of the time, I can see ways to drastically improve the post, but I don’t bother preferring instead to post the snapshot I had originally captured. I schedule the post for whatever day I want it to go out on. I’m writing this blog for my own benefit—it’s part of my process of reflection. So it’s not usually important when any particular post goes public.

Finally, I have a Mail Chimp account that has a recurring Campaign. It follows the RSS feed from my site, and emails whatever it finds to be new at 11am every day.

Why? Well, that’s probably best left for another day.

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On a mission

When I arrived at the atelier, the canvas was blank and I simply began poking at making little pin-points of color. Poking just to see each little point. Sure, I avoided some entire areas of the canvas. That top-left corner didn’t interest me, but that area above the center caught my focus. Then my gaze wandered a few inches and I found I was putting points down in another, new-to-me, blank area. Day by week by month by year by decade I wandered up to the canvas. Curiously, I now realize I never looked each day at the canvas as I walked up—or walked away or simply past. I just headed to this atelier and— Although, come to think of it, I’m pretty sure I thought it was a video game Arcade at one point, and it looked like a snowy ski slope too for a while, and I recall breaking waves and some sea smells. That’s… interesting. When exactly did I realize that this place is a true Atelier? Sure sure yes yes, the particular dots are still very [very!] interesting; the minutia seems fractal and the more closely I peer, the more interested I become.

But just the other day—although, it quickly became a couple weeks ago, soon to be a couple months, a couple years, a couple decades…

But just the other day I peered over my glasses and looked at the whole canvas for what might have been the first time ever. Holy shit, it’s a Georges Seurat painting of some afternoon on some island! I mean: The overall composition is so blindingly freakin’ obvious and banal that I’m tempted to chuck the whole thing as trivial— …until I pear closely and see all the infinitely intricately interconnected dots and—bam!— VERTIGO!

My vision is a world where everyone can flourish.

My mission is creating better conversations that spread understanding and compasion.

Will you join me?

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