Where can I get these alphabet blocks? :-(

Trying to find others like this ...

I had bought some blocks a couple of years ago (too early!) and now that Tara’s going to be three, dusted them off to really use them for alphabets instead of just “blocks for a tower”.

Of course as expected, we were missing a few. Now, I could just find it again on Amazon or somesuch place, and refill missing blocks, but, how much I searched, I could not find the exact same set of blocks.

Anyway, later my wife remembered that we got these blocks at a particular shop on California Avenue, and I went there today, hoping to find them again. But unfortunately, I didn’t see them, they just don’t exist.

I even tried looking on eBay just randomly searching through all the listings for “wooden alphabetical blocks“ and hoping to see them but I didn’t.

I think I’m going to have to just settle and get one of the many other “ wooden alphabetical blocks and courtavailable on Amazon, etc.

In the meantime, someone out there didn’t recognize them from this picture (at the top of this post), please do let me know!

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Monthly recap: December 2016

Sunset over Dumbarton bridge
Sunset seen while driving along the Dumbarton Bridge

I guess the theme of this month is “recovery”.

I’ve slowly started using my leg more and more, going from 0 to 25 to 75 to 100 percent of body weight allowed on it. This meant a bunch of small milestones, such as climbing the stairs, carrying something in my hand while I walk, etc.

We had some plans for Christmas, but we all fell sick with a stomach infection in the last week, which was bad for morale. Luckily, we recovered in time to enjoy the last few days of vacation time, and played a lot with Tara at home.

Miscellaneous stuff:

  • both Tara and I got a haircut on the same day
  • had whisky for the first time in two and a half months
  • visited the new location of BookBuyers in Gilroy

Brainstorming digital tool chaos

I used to think that I alone struggled with various tools and apps to manage, track and digest all the things I want to keep track of, but I now suspect this is a pretty common source of discontent.

Every few years I go through a phase of ‘churn where I signup for something new, with the hope that now, at long last, my cognitive load will lessen, ideas will be remembered, snippets and quotes will be stored and retrieved, and so on. Yet inevitably, after some initial enthusiasm, the experiment ends in deadlock and decay.

In the best case, the tool or app becomes inconvenient and sluggish, while in the worst case everything laboriously entered in is los forever. So after about a decade and half of this ridiculous waste of time, I thought I’d try to think through to figure out what exactly it is that I’m looking for.

There’s no point pretending that the one true, great tool out there will solve these problems. So this post isn’t about finding solutions, but just listing problems.

  • I need away to remind me to do something on a one-off basis
  • I need to be able to track a small group of related tasks
  • I need to be able to make lists of things, sometimes collaboratively
  • I need to be able to write medium size posts, like this one, with minimum fuss
  • I want to be able to save bookmarks (lots of them!) and find them later, by date and ‘tag’
  • I want to be able to save quotes or extracts from web pages
  • I want to be able to save pdfs and later search within them
  • I need an easy way to make short notes without making an official ‘doc’ about something with a title, etc.
  • I want to be able to quickly snap a photo of something, annotate it, and file it away, sometimes with a reminder
  • I need to make notes about a certain topic as I go along, sometimes sigh snippets of text or code, and retrieve his later by date or by ‘tag’
  • Sometimes emails have to be be turned into tasks
  • I have to be able to quickly capture thoughts and ideas for future retrieval
  • I don’t want to be locked in to proprietary formats or hidden libraries, as far as possible
  • It should be possible to ‘sync’ between devices
  • I don’t necessarily want to keep everything ‘in the cloud’
  • I want a lot of photos around, forever, accessible from everywhere
  • I need to be able to search across text, images, pdfs, but without always doing a huge amount of tagging up front
  • I want to be able to create small ‘projects’ with tasks, but without having to fight some rigid ‘true way’ of defining them (fluid due dates, deferred dates, priorities, easy capture and editing)
  • I need recurring reminders too (sometimes weekly, sometimes monthly, sometimes quarterly, sometimes biannually, etc)
  • I don’t want to think too much about where to file a given snippet, all I care about is being able to look for it later as if I had filed it correctly to begin with
  • I want to avoid the risk of some one going out of business and taking my data with them (stick to regular files and plain text as far as possible)

Yeah, a lot to ask for, but also … it’s not all that much, there has to be a way to get all this to work somehow.

Personal Media Summary- September 2016

image
The Library of Alexandria

Random reads from September:

  • As a sign of the times, some Democrats are now nostalgic1 for Romney.
  • In the speculative archaeology section, links2 between China and ancient Egypt (specifically, that the former might have come from the latter?!)
  • This one3 is hard to summarize, except to say that if you liked ”Snow Crash”, or slightly older cyberpunk, you’ll like it.
  • NPR presents an evolutionary explanation4 for our (lack of!) grasp on reality
  • This one is in the “plus ca change” section: literary egos5 were just as easily bruised a couple of millennia ago.
  • Something relevant in the media-saturated yet misinformed current age: a fable6 about how the visual dominates the literal.
  • This one7 is a bit long and maybe too self-congratulatory, but it’s about ‘cool’ and ‘uncool’ things, and I would have loved it when I was younger (I think).
  • I love encyclopedias, so I have to share this8 nostalgic look back at the (perfect!) 11th edition of Britannica in 1911.
  • File this in the “cool cultural artifacts from the recent past”: there are apparently giant concrete arrows across America that were once guideposts for the first airmail routes (!)
  • If you liked “Jodorowsky’s Dune”, you might like this9
  • This one belongs in the “news that didn’t make the news” section: the largest ever General Strike10 in history (150 to 180 million workers) took place in India on September 2nd, but … you probably never heard about it.
  • Note to authors: don’t let the criticism of critics bother you, even if it comes from famous authors themselves. Here11 is one such note, from H. G. Wells to James Joyce from 1928 !

Now with regard to this literary experiment of yours. It’s a considerable thing because you are a very considerable man and you have in your crowded composition a mighty genius for expression which has escaped discipline. But I don’t think it gets anywhere. You have turned your back on common men—on their elementary needs and their restricted time and intelligence, and you have elaborated. What is the result? Vast riddles. Your last two works have been more amusing and exciting to write than they will ever be to read. Take me as a typical common reader. Do I get much pleasure from this work? No. Do I feel I am getting something new and illuminating as I do when I read Anrep’s dreadful translation of Pavlov’s badly written book on Conditioned Reflexes? No. So I ask: Who the hell is this Joyce who demands so many waking hours of the few thousand I have still to live for a proper appreciation of his quirks and fancies and flashes of rendering?

  • This one may be boring, or it may be interesting: charting the course of corporate logos12 through the decades, in particular how they all seemed to have lost the text within them!
  • Finally, if you have to read one long-form article this month, let it be this one: Andrew Sullivan laments13 how “… An endless bombardment of news and gossip and images has rendered us manic information addicts. It broke me.”

Has our enslavement to dopamine — to the instant hits of validation that come with a well-crafted tweet or Snapchat streak — made us happier? I suspect it has simply made us less unhappy, or rather less aware of our unhappiness, and that our phones are merely new and powerful antidepressants of a non-pharmaceutical variety. In an essay on contemplation, the Christian writer Alan Jacobs recently commended the comedian Louis C.K. for withholding smartphones from his children. On the Conan O’Brien show, C.K. explained why: “You need to build an ability to just be yourself and not be doing something. That’s what the phones are taking away,” he said. “Underneath in your life there’s that thing … that forever empty … that knowledge that it’s all for nothing and you’re alone … That’s why we text and drive … because we don’t want to be alone for a second.”

Yep, read it.

Monthly recap: August 2016

mickey mouse

The big highlight of this month, and something that consumed most of our time, was moving into a new place. There are still a lot of little things here and there to take care of (random plumbing problems, a few missing locks, etc), but we’re mostly settled in. I’m going to miss our old neighbors most of all 😦 … but they’ll be our new friends now 🙂

In other news, Tara has graduated to speaking whole sentences now.

Personal Media Summary, October 2015

In no particular order:

  • The 90s are back! Next year will bring new episodes for both Twin Peaks and X-Files.
  • I revisited the Dune soundtrack while browsing Youtube (yes, this still happens, though very infrequently these days), and noticed that while most of the music was done by what was popular at the time (Toto — I’d never heard of it), one track, titled “Prophecy” was contributed by Brian Eno! Check it out at the top of this post.
  • Finished listening to  World Without End (No, not the Ken Follett one). Also, stockpiled six books and cancelled my Audible subscription temporarily (otherwise I’m just wasting credits).

(It’s so hard to remember stuff from just a month ago — no wonder the years gone by seem so hazy in terms of “what did I read?”, “what did I watch?”, etc!)