It’s the holiday season, and a friend of mine gave me this delicious loaf of bread yesterday. She called it “friendship bread,” something I wasn’t aware was a thing. She gave one to another friend along with mine, and my other friend later told me that it was related to the Amish. So I looked it up, and yeah, it’s a thing. Huh. Did I say it was delicious? Because it was delicious.
Here are some notes from today, this 16th day of December, 2022:
You come at the king, you best not miss
On Wednesday, I beat my friend in yet another 7-day competition. This was our second straight competition, and my second straight victory. That’s 2-0. You know what she did the next day?
Challenged me to another competition. “I’m taking it this week 😂,” she said.
“This crown on my head is getting really heavy,” I replied.
Because of these competitions, I’ve been pushing myself really hard, harder than I have in… shit… years? And my metrics don’t lie. For the past 17 days, I’ve been burning more calories than I had for the few weeks before. That’s on account of the fact I’ve been working out almost on a daily basis. I took off last weekend, though, and guess what? I was kinda miserable because I wanted to workout but I knew my aging boding needed rest. You best believe, though, that on Monday I was so happy to be working out again.
And I feel gooooooood.
And that’s where my 12 (!!!) low heart rate notifications from the last week come in. Before this week, my lowest recorded resting heart rate was 36bpm. I can now say 35bpm is my lowest. I hit that last night. The lowest threshold you can set the Apple Watch to trigger low heart rate notifications is 40bpm, and I triggered all of these notifications while asleep, so I’m not too worried about my heart and what these low averages might mean for my heart health. In fact, I believe my heart is healthy and strong, and I just take these metrics as proof that I’m on the right track.
I feel good, I’m eating well, I’m working out hard, and I’m sleeping really well. Because of this, I feel happy and feeling happy makes me happy.
The World of Urban Sketching by Stephanie Bower because when I do it, I love to sketch, but I’m admitting now that I’m probably lazy about it and I hope a book like this inspires me to get out there and sketch sketch sketch (doubt it but I never know)
From the start of Monday to the end of Wednesday, 20 major league free agents agreed to contracts totaling nearly $1.6 billion. The vast majority did so while outshooting their projections. And if there was one phrase that could encapsulate the week’s event, it was that one – muttered so often by front-office members, agents, scouts, coaches and media members that it might as well have been part of the branding. The winter meetings, presented by Holy S—.
One of the topics I’ve stayed away from on my website is sports. Why? This idiotic idea that I might alienate people with it. But sports has been such a big part of my life this year that I can’t not write about it anymore.
I’m from San Diego. Born and raised. My team is the San Diego Padres. They’ve been my team since my childhood, since I went to my first baseball game in ‘96 and saw Ken Caminiti hit a home run, since I saw them make it to the World Series in ‘98 (and get swept by those damn Yankees), since I saw Tony Gwynn get his 3,000th hit. They’re my team, and oh my goodness, wasn’t this year so damn special? First, we signed Juan Soto, Josh Hader, Josh Bell, and Brandon Drury, then we lost Tatis Jr. to a stupid PED suspension, then we beat the Mets and the Dodgers to make it to the NLCS.
And now we’ve signed Xander fucking Bogaerts. These aren’t my childhood Dads. If I had children, these would be their Dads, and that’s amazing.
$1.6 billion, $280 million to sign Bogaerts. Wow.
The Padres began the week with a payroll that was already projected to surpass $200 million and stood dangerously close to exceeding MLB’s luxury-tax threshold for a third consecutive year. (“Where are they getting all this money?” one agent asked.) Then they pursued Turner aggressively, made a late – and highly competitive – offer to Judge and blew past the Red Sox for Bogaerts, who will join a dynamic lineup featuring Juan Soto, Manny Machado, Jake Cronenworth and, eventually, Fernando Tatis Jr. Bogaerts is an imperfect fit, no doubt, but the Padres believe they have the roster versatility and the payroll flexibility to make it work.
There’s a good-sized snow mound on one side of the playground at school, a mound created by the plow truck driver. The kids have loved playing on it during recess for the past week, but after speaking to a few of the teachers, I’ve learned that they’re the only ones happy about it. “I hate the snow mound,” one of the teachers told me. And I hate winter.
Here are some notes from today, this 9th day of December, 2022:
Yes, I will always post screenshots of my phone whenever I manage to sleep for over nine hours. The last time I slept this long was over two weeks ago, so needless to say, I have felt really good today. Once I returned to work last week, I’ve been averaging about 7 hours and 45 minutes of sleep, which isn’t bad, but I would love an extra hour. Where to find it?
I found the courage to finally quit intermittent fasting. I started this maybe 4 or 5 years ago with the intention of both trying to lose a bit of weight and to quit snacking late at night. I succeeded in the latter, failed with the former. I’m not super overweight or anything, but I do want to keep an eye on it. Over the last 4 or 5 years, I grew used to eating at set times, so much so that I think I screwed up my metabolism or something. Sure, it could be my body changing because I’m getting older, but no matter how hard I worked out and how little I ate, I still managed to gain weight. It got pretty bad during COVID, where I gained maybe 5-8 pounds over my “average,” weight I have not been able to lose since.
So I decided to eat breakfast every day this week, snack a bit in the afternoon, and have a smaller-ish dinner at night. And you know what? After the first few mornings hating the feel of food in the morning, I’ve grown accustomed to it, and today, for the first time, I was eager to eat breakfast. I’m not sure what this will do to my weight yet, but I can already tell the difference with my workouts. I’m working out harder and longer, and my body feels stronger. These changes have been great, and I’m looking forward to see how my health changes in the coming weeks and months.
One thing I have found the time to do this week is reading more books. I finished both Kaiju Preservation Society by John Scalzi and Slow Horses by Mick Herron. Both were fun reads, both gave me that old, familiar writing energy I used to have a lot when I was younger but have lost over the last decade or so.
Writing used to be fun. In high school, back when I was first learning that I liked to write, I had fun writing my stories. They were heavily inspired by the stories I loved: action movies, crime thrillers, murder mysteries, stuff like that. I got into film school by writing stories like these for my portfolio. At film school, I had the most fun when I wrote these types of stories, scenes inspired by movies like Le Cercle Rouge and Heat. At some point, though, I lost that. I started to take things seriously. I started writing more “serious” stuff, stuff that would win awards, would win Oscars or whatever. I took myself too seriously and my writing suffered, I think. And it has suffered ever since.
Earlier this year, I wrote a silly short story in my notebook that reminded me a lot of what I used to write. It was this stupid idea of this guy who invented a way of synthesizing people’s memories into pills, and he got addicted to these pills because whenever he took them, he would be this other person for a while and that helped him forget who he was. He could be a 16 year old girl at her prom or a 29 year ball player hitting the game-winning home run at the World Series. He would be anyone but himself. And I dunno, I had fun writing this story, and it wasn’t something I had written in over a decade. My stuff had all been about heavy drama and shit like that, and the weight of trying to write something that I can sell to a “serious” publisher became too much for me.
So I stopped writing. And because I stopped, I stopped reading, too. At least reading fun and enjoyable fiction. Instead I focused on non-fiction stuff that was all about optimizing my life in some way, to be a “better” person, a “smarter” person. All that stupid bullshit.
But then I read Kaiju Preservation Society and Slow Horses this week, both on the same day—Slow Horses in the morning, Kaiju Preservation Society in the afternoon—and I remembered why I wanted to be a writer in the first place. Because writing was fun. Writing an action hero who was tougher than Nathan Drake or a thief better than Neil McCauley. That was all fun to me, and goddammit, I miss that shit. And you know? Nobody gives a shit if I write serious fiction or whatever, because honestly, nobody gives a shit about me, right? And what I mean by that is I’m an unknown. I’ve never been published, so who cares?
I did for so long, and now I don’t care. I want to write whatever the fuck I want to write.
A big reason why I was able to read so much (to me) this week was because I made some changes to try and curtail some of my bad habits. For weeks now I’ve been using Apple’s Screen Time and Focus modes to help me curb my social media usage. In a way, it worked, but only with Facebook and Instagram, surprisingly. I set a limit of 10 minutes on both of these apps, and that has been more than enough for me. I never reach it! Once I get the 5 minute left notification, I stop using those apps and move on. It used to be 20 minutes, but that included Mastodon and Micro.blog, but these last two apps have been awful to my attention and focus, so I deleted them from my phone. I’ll admit, I had that twitch to check my phone for the first few days, but once I grew used to not having them on my phone, I started to feel better. But still not where I wanted to be.
So I set another limit, and that was on Reeder, my RSS reader of choice. I set a limit of 30 minutes on that, and I made the decision to only check it once throughout the day. The evening is what I chose. After work, after my workout, before dinner. 30 minutes has been more than enough for me to check my feeds for the day. I would add anything I wanted to read later into GoodLinks, and when I can, I would read those later. I again felt that twitch to check Reeder earlier this week, but by Wednesday, that twitch disappeared. Instead, I would pick up one of my two books and read that instead. And again, surprisingly, I have loved this change. It has given me more time and focus to read, and with this rediscovered writing energy, I hope more time and focus to write, too.
But not yet. I’m not quite there yet. What needs to change? I’m not sure. My focus is on a lot of things right now: trying to find another hour of sleep, changing my eating habits and trying to eat better, working out more and working out harder, reading more books, and now trying to write more, too. So, I have a lot on my mind right now. If I can somehow figure out to do and fit all this into my life?
Shortcuts includes a built-in barcode scanner, and that made creating this simple shortcut even easier. These three simple actions has made searching for books on Bookshop quick and easy. Shortcuts is good for things like that. Now to keep reading Slow Horses—it’s so good!
Over the weekend, I spent time sprucing up my Bookshop store page. I’ve had the store for a few years, but I hadn’t publicized it, and the only list I had were the books I read in 2020. A few things prompted this activity: I love buying my books at Bookshop.org, and I hate how few books I’ve read this year. So I came up with an idea I’m not sure will work forever but works well enough now, and that’s using my store page to both track some of my reading and to promote those books that I love, those books that have shaped who I am today.
I’ve broken up my page into several lists:
Year in Reading: 2021
Year in Reading: 2020
The first section is made up of two lists: the books I’m currently reading and those books I would like to read next. The latter are books that are sitting on my shelf behind my couch, and they’re books I had hoped to get to this year but didn’t. They also include recent purchases, like The Passenger Box Set by Cormac McCarthy, books I pre-ordered back in March. These two lists will also be the only two lists I will keep updated regularly, as long as I feel like this activity holds any value for me.
Bookshop makes this very easy to maintain. All I have to do is find the book on Bookshop, scroll down until I find the Your Affiliate Link section, then click on Add to My Book Lists. There, I can add or remove books from my lists. I feel like this removes just enough friction that maintaining my lists will be easy.
The second section is made up of two more lists: the fiction and non-fiction books I’ve read that I love and have influenced me in some way. Admittedly, my fiction list is dominated by male authors, mostly Cormac McCarthy and Dennis Lehane, and I wouldn’t have noticed that if I hadn’t made up this list. That is one thing I would like to change about my book selection. If you have any recommendations, email me and let me know. I’m always looking to expand and grow as a person.
My essential non-fiction selection is a bit better on that front, but it’s still a bit sausage-heavy. They are still books that I’ve loved and have shaped my thinking in ways I can’t explain. Book lists and recommendations are inherently personal, which jives with the theme of my website. I mean, this website does exactly what it says on the tin.
Finally, my third section contains and will contain all the books I’ve read in any given year, going back to 2020. My personal reading log goes back to 2010, but I didn’t want to have that many lists on my page, so I’m focusing on just 2020. That also happens to be the year I both started this blog (again) and wrote my first Year in Reading post.
Each one of these “Year in Reading” lists has a short description linking back to my respective blog post, and that is why I don’t have my 2022 list up yet. I have created it, though, and that’s another cool thing Bookshop allows you to do: it allows you to hide lists from your store page. I’ve created my “Year in Reading: 2022” list and have added the books I’ve read into it, but I won’t make it visible until the end of the year sometime, whenever I write my Year in Reading: 2022 post.
I believe all of this will allow me to better track my reading, to help me decide what to read next, and to display my reading journey in a visually appealing way. This also provides one more thing:
The one and only way you, my one reader, can support me.
I’ve never been one to ask anyone for support. I’ve always just done things on my own and asking anyone for help literally gives me hives. But I figured that promoting those books I love can also help someone else out there, if only a little bit. Maybe you’ve never read Cormac McCarthy or Marcus Aurelius, and maybe if you used my store page to buy one or two of these books and read them, then maybe these books would have helped you like they helped me. That’s a pretty cool thought, right?
If anything, this method of tracking my books will help me get reading again. That’s always the ultimate goal.
Oh, one more thing: I have removed all links back to Bookshop.org on any previous blog posts that had them. I feel like linking to books using my affiliate links whenever I write about a book is both tedious and a bit disingenuous, like I’m only writing about the book so I could make money off of it or something. That’s not how I roll. If a book is worth writing about, it’s worth writing about, and if it is, I will have added that book to one of my “essential” lists. Check back to my store if you’re ever considering buying a book I’ve written about here. There’s a good chance I will have included it into one of my lists.
And as always, thank you again for reading. That’s really cool. You’re really cool. (Now go buy some books! From my store, preferably, but it’s cool if not. No pressure.)