December for me came in two parts: the first half of the month in which I scrambled with everything I had to finish up my exhausting semester of teaching, and the second half of the month in which I finally had a chance for down time, to reflect, and to tinker. As often happens to me around the winter holidays, my struggles with generalized anxiety and depression have sometimes marred my ability to enjoy the second act of the month, but in spite of them I’ve actually managed to do a lot.
- Sailing with Jonathan—Thanks to a long stretch of unseasonably warm days, we had an opportunity to join our friend in renting a sailboat out on Lake Travis. A lovely way to spend a day.
- Visited my sister in Washington, DC—It was a low-key visit without a lot of outings for health and safety reasons, but we did manage to see:
- The Sackler Gallery of Asian Art—where we saw exhibits on Buddhism, ancient Iran, and the art of Hokusai. Truly fantastic. I could spend a very long time touring all the Smithsonian’s collections. I have to say though, I do hope this museum’s name is changed at some point.
- The Lincoln Memorial—What a stirring and powerful place, especially the engraved text of the Second Inaugural Address. Less stirring was the number of visitors there for selfies and to act like the monument is a playground. I know I sound like a grumpy old man, but come on, have some respect.
- Hosted my wife’s brother and his family when they visited from Florida. Fun times, though I did worry about the rise of Omicron the entire time.
- Pet sat my friend’s cat Archie. What a sweety.
With my extra down time this month, on my visit to my sister, and during my cat-sitting visits, I was able to veg out to quite a few movies, which was really nice.
- I, Tonya—I remember the Tonya Harding scandal from my youth, and this certainly made an enjoyable watch. Margot Robbie is fantastic, even if the direction is rather uneven.
- Home Alone—Hadn’t seen this since I was a kid. It’s still a fun watch (my concession to the holiday season), but I viscerally feel the villains’ many injuries now much more than when I was young.
- Palm Springs—Another riff on the Groundhogs Day concept with a pair stuck in a repeating time loop. Fun, but not terribly original or memorable. Russian Doll does it better.
- The Matrix Resurrections—The original Matrix was definitely a landmark film for people of my age, so I was very interested to see how Lana’s Wachowski’s return would play out. The results are pretty mixed. All in all, I really enjoyed all the self-aware meta-textual critiques and jabs at the industry. But the actual plot is pretty weak, and the action really fails to live up to the other films.
- The Old Guard—Watched this because it won the Hugo Award for Best Long-Form Dramatic Presentation. Fun, but forgettable. Certainly not a triumph of genre cinema like you’d want as a Hugo winner.
- Secrets of the Saqqara Tomb—A great little documentary about a series of spectacular finds in an ancient Egyptian necropolis. A cut above the rest when it comes to this sort of popular archeology doc.
- Bill Nye: Science Guy—A great portrait of the iconic science communicator that takes care to focus on his flaws as well as the good he has done. Overall, very inspiring.
- Don’t Look Up—Continuing Adam McKay’s recent streak of political films, this one is a scathing satire of the failures of our leaders and our culture to pay attention to science and take action against existential threats. The mentality it depicts is pretty accurate to my perception of the world on my most cynical days. Coming right after the Bill Nye documentary, this hit particularly hard.
As detailed below in the Projects section, I’ve added a new Bookshelf page to my site to replace Goodreads to track my reading, so I’ll just list my reading here and let you check out the new page for more detailed thoughts.
- The Merchant of Venice
- The Merchant of Venice
- The Vignelli Canon
- Henry VIII
- I’m Waiting for You
I spent a lot of my free time tinkering around with various coding projects, which has been great. It’s not necessarily how I hope to spend all of my free time when I have it to spend, but it seems that I had a lot of ideas in the works.
- Integrated Forestry.io into my site—I want to write a full blog post about some of the changes I’ve made to my site and the reasoning behind them. But I want the writing experience to be as effortless as possible, and this seemed like a good next step.
- Goodreads replacement—In my effort to own my own content and especially to get away from anything owned by Amazon, I created a new Bookshelf page to track the books I read.
- Hired a video editor to polish and finalize the documentary my friend and I have been sitting on for the last two years.
- Began new photo site—My old photography site is pretty long in the tooth and hasn’t been updated with new work in years. So I figured I’d get started on a new version. Nice progress so far, but nothing to show the public yet.
- Began migration of Guidebook—I’m in the process of refactoring the HTML & CSS Guidebook to use Eleventy. It should bring some nice performance boosts and make a number of aspects of the site easier to manage.
- Messed with some music—It’s been quite a while since I’ve had time and bandwidth to spend on my own personal music. I’m excited to get back into it, but I also don’t want to put too much pressure on myself to produce, so I’m taking it very slow and casual.
- Little tasks and upgrades around the house—Sometimes it’s very rewarding to focus on the business of domesticity and to feather your nest.
The New Year
I’m not much of a maker of resolutions, but I would like to have more balance in 2022 than I was able to achieve in 2021. Mostly I think that comes down to saying no to things and making sure work doesn’t get to be too much. I’ve already made some nice headway toward those goals, so I’m optimistic that I’ll be able to do more tinkering with code, writing, music, and socializing.