Welcome to October 2021’s Disappearing Moment, an inventory of opinions and experiences. I hope you enjoy it.
Beginners by Tom Vanderbilt (2021) (Recommended): Mary Roach-style vicarious experiences grounded in science. While his year learning chess, singing, surfing, drawing, and juggling is interesting, I prefer Traffic (2009).
Julia Evans (Highly Recommended): Her essays on programming are useful for most people with traditional jobs. Two emblematic recent posts include advice on asking questions and providing answers.
- Entitled (Recommended). Academic discussion of human rights law. It introduced me to new ideas, which I appreciate. It would be better if episodes were shorter.
- King of the World (Highly Recommended): Shahjehan Khan’s “historical, cultural, and personal look back at the 20 years since 9/11.” It hits close to home in many ways.
- Nocturnists (Highly Recommended). Curating and interviewing are self-portraiture. Physician Emily Silverman hosts Moth-like stories by health professionals, and discusses their experiences with them.
- Other Men Need Help (Highly Recommended). I find myself channeling host Mark Pagan in my relationships with men. Sometimes I’m vulnerable, present, and caring. Other times I’m needy, needy, needy.
- Queersplaining (Highly Recommended): Accepting ourselves and others as they see themselves is radical. Empathetic conversation is revolutionary. Callie Wright is showing us the way.
- This Land (Highest Recommendation): Our genocide of indigenous peoples continues. We use their children and The Law as weapons, our God as a shield. Because we are good people.
- The Zen Studies Podcast (Highly Recommended): Somehow Zen podcasts outnumber podcasts. Amid this abundance, I found the teacher for me, Domyo Burk. She specializes in helping novices appreciate nuance.
- Zoroastrian Q&A (Worth Listening): Pablo is an earnest and endearing Zoroastrian convert and aspiring scholar. They provide answers about Zarathustra and Zoroastrianism in a gorgeous unidentifiable accent.
You don’t listen to everything and your taste isn’t eclectic. You recommended music for years after everyone stopped caring. How Bad Is Your Streaming Music?
Primal Life Organics Stick Up Natural Deodorant is effective and comes in recyclable cardboard packaging. Unlike other vegan deodorants, it doesn’t irritate my skin.
Personal Finance and Investing
Substantially Equal Periodic Payments, from IRS section 72(t), enables early IRA distributions without penalties. The rare financial ruling that seems both obscure and ethical.
This is aspirational. I have received great advice and gifts, and lucked into giving a few prized gifts. This summarizes what makes them memorable.
- It’s better to avoid expensive gifts unless you’re certain the recipient has wanted the gift for a long time. Certainty means they’ve asked you for it more than once.
- Look for modest luxuries the recipient would want and wouldn’t buy for themselves. Examples include an Apple polishing cloth, or fancy salt, wine, coffee, or mustard.
- Give gifts the recipient wants, not gifts you want them to have. Think about their taste and style, not yours.
- Experiences are better than objects, so think about tickets or memberships. An exception is an object involved in an activity the recipient enjoys. For example, cooking gadgets for people who love to cook or gardening tools for gardeners.
- Be cautious about giving gifts related to the recipient’s hobby, career, pets, or the way they like to dress. And be sure it’s something they want or you’ve consulted with an objective expert (i.e., not a salesperson). Don’t give them something they want to buy for themselves.
- Think about a theme that lets you give them many gifts. Examples include cocktails or mindfulness. Consider focusing on an event, a season, a time or a place.
- Buy early. You think better without time pressure, and the recipient will appreciate your preparation.
- Unless you’re known for your wit, focus less on greeting cards than on wrapping and presentation. It’s better use of time and money. Be sure to include a handwritten card or note with the gift in which you tell the person why you appreciate them.
- If you’re not sure if you’re exchanging gifts with someone, it’s best to discuss it in advance. A little awkwardness is better than the awkwardness of only one person giving a gift. Or one person giving a much more extravagant gift.
- Small surprise gifts are great, as long as they don’t happen too often.
- Some of the best gifts are modest demonstrations that you value someone. Examples include food you buy when you’re on vacation and bring home to share, a new book by a favorite author, or a poem.
- Think about the recipient’s sense of status. Some people prefer gifts bought in person from local merchants. Others want a brand name and panache, or gift cards, or cash, or a donation made in their name.
- A lot of people will appreciate gifts you had a hand in creating, provided it meets all the other criteria in this list.
- Often the best gifts are something you want, too. If you can find a gift the recipient wants a bit more than you do, you’ve found the right thing.
Thanks for spending a few moments with me. I look forward to corresponding again next month.