August 2020

August started busy for me, but by the end of the month, things started to slow down. I went another month without finishing any books, but I started With the Grain: A Craftsman’s Guide to Understanding Wood. It’s been a great read so far, and I’ll write more about it next month.

Road trips

I’ve been incredibly cooped up because of Covid and the wildfire smoke, but I did have the opportunity to go on two brief road trips.

The first was up a bit of the California coast to a town called Jenner. The night before my girlfriend and I hit the road, the thunderstorm that set the CZU Lightning Complex fires rolled through the Bay Area. Our timing was lucky, though - the skies were clear for our drive in the afternoon and during the evening we spent in Jenner. We stayed the night under a restaurant in a room with a view of both river and ocean. Jenner doesn’t have cell service, and the room didn’t have wifi either. I watched hundreds of pelicans as they sat in the river, and I read some of With the Grain. It was such a refreshing change of pace.

At the tail end of the month, a friend and I drove down to the San Diego area to pick up a desk. I had been searching the Bay Area for a good secretary desk for several months when I realized I’d have to widen my net. When I found a good desk listed on Craigslist in San Diego, I arranged with the furniture dealer to pick it up. Then I roped my friend into coming with me.

One of my favorite travel writers, Noah Caldwell Gervais, (well, he actually just makes videos, but I think his work still counts as travel writing) talks about how road trip conversations can be uniquely great. You have license to talk about big ideas and totally inane ones, often at the same time. My friend and I talked the entire drive from Oakland to Oceanside and almost the entire drive back. It was a lot of fun and, again, a great change of pace.

A House Is Not a Home by Eula Biss

"What does it say about capitalism, John asks, that we have money and want to spend it but can’t find anything worth buying?"

This piece, an excerpt from the author’s forthcoming book, is a thoughtful meditation on consumption, capitalism and ways people can relate to one another outside the medium of commercial exchange. I've been struggling for a half an hour to write about why I like the piece, but for some reason it's tough. All I can say is that I enjoyed it, and I've been thinking about it since I read it.

A request for online stores

I’ve been spending more time than I ever have navigating online stores (yeah, yeah, I know, I'm just going to muscle my way through the cognitive dissonance), most of them boutiques run by one or two people. The same problem plagues nearly all of them: at least half of the products are out of stock, and there’s no way to filter them out. It’s totally fine to have product listings that are sold or sold out, but sometimes I just want to see the stuff I can get. I suspect this problem is so pervasive because it’s not simple to add user-facing filters using the store platforms like Shopify. Or maybe this is intentional! Whatever the cause, it makes using these stores a pain.