Savouring is Better

Stop: what’s the last amazing meal you had? Can you remember that first bite, the flavours and smells and texture coming together? Is your mouth watering now? Now, how did the 20th bite taste? The last bite? You probably can’t remember.

I really like strong-tasting beers. Give ’em to me hoppy, give ’em to me boozy, give me anything that pulls no flavour punches. I love that first smell, that first sip. But when I love a beer enough to have a second one (or more), I stop tasting and just start drinking. I might as well switch to Bud at that point.1

Taste is easy to relate to, but the same holds true of nearly everything that brings pleasure: those first moments of an experience are where I receive most enjoyment. Actually, I also get a lot of enjoyment in the anticipation of the pleasure to come.

I don’t remember the 18th bite of that amazing steak, nor that second glass of delectable wine, nor the second last bite of that incredible-but-far-too-large cheesecake. The best things are the best when I don’t try to gorge myself on them. This is in stark contrast with the incessant refrain of “indulge, you’ve earned it,” that we hear from marketers.

Real pleasure comes from moderation, from modest portions and an ability to live in the moment rather than trying to sustain or recapture a pleasure that’s already fading. That way lies stagnation and even addiction. The open secret of moderation is that I can actually savour the pleasures life has to offer, since I don’t immediately need to switch to “where can I get more” mode. Instead, I can just say “isn’t this lovely?” and bask in the moment.

  1. Actually, not really. Never drink Bud. 

Get Cookin’ in 2014

I like to cook, but I’m also busy and/or lazy1. But, every time I make the effort to cook something, I’m so happy that I did. For example, homemade tomato soup is infinitely better than its canned counterpart, even though the latter also tastes like nostalgia. It’s also much healthier, more cost effective, and environmentally sustainable.

So, here’s something that brings me pleasure, health, and savings; is better for the environment, but I only do it perhaps twice a week. It’s like I’m not rational or something.

Furthermore, I have a lifelong aversion to the majority of vegetables. This is not good for me, to put it mildly.2 This also needs to change, but I’m not going to tackle it straight on. I’m going to sneak up on myself with the following plan:

  1. Cook four meals per week. The other three suppers will be filled out by leftovers, prepared foods, or meals out.
  2. Jan–Mar: Three meals with meat per week. This is in keeping with my current norms and keeping things meaty should stoke my enthusiasm for cooking. Also: one meal per week will be made with only things already in my fridge and cupboard. This will promote creativity and making do
  3. Apr–Jun: Two meat meals per week. I now have to figure out twice as many ways to have meatless meals as before. The key here is that I don’t like cooking the same thing over and over again (except pizza) so I’ll be forced to try new things with veggies.
  4. Jul–Sep: Down to one meat meal per week. Now things will get interesting: Three vegetarian meals per week, and I’m going to say that one of them is low-carb. As in, no grains like wheat, rice, or barley.
  5. Oct–Dec: I don’t know yet. Maybe ensure that one meal per week is vegan? We’ll see: the previous quarter’s plan feels quite sustainable to me right now. I might have other ideas when this quarter draws nearer.

All of this implies planning, which is probably the most important bit. I’ve never planned. At home: “what do I feel like eating?” At the grocery store: “what do I feel like making later?” This is a surefire recipe for subpar eating. To follow through on this, I have to plan. So, the first step here is adding a recurring event for every Saturday at 14:00 to meal plan. Which I just did. I might even scan a flier for sales like other seemingly responsible adults.

This isn’t a resolution. A resolution is “cook more” or “eat healthier.” Resolutions are just unplanned aspirations that will never happen. This will happen: it’s a plan, not resolution.

  1. Likely more the latter than the former. 
  2. I used to be even worse than I am now but that means little. 

I Now Work at Automattic

I’m happy to report that I’m hanging up my freelance hat and putting on my gainfully-employed hat as a member of the Automattic team, which I’ve already written about more fully if you’re curious about the details. The short version is that I get to help make

There are too many factors to tease out in a move like this, but one of the significant personal ones for me came down to values: I was dissatisfied with my attempts to find a work-life balance. Even when I wasn’t working, I was thinking about work too much, preventing me from being properly present to those around me. And it wasn’t getting any better.

Employment isn’t going to be a magic bullet, but I’m hopeful that this shift will help me to find a better balance so that I’m actually present to my wife, family, friends, and community when I’m not working. I also look forward to having colleagues, since the freelance life can feel pretty isolated at times. All in all, I’m really excited!

Loss & Gift

Writing more regularly on this blog this year hasn’t happened, since 2012 started in a way that I could never have begun to imagine. My sister in-law Erica passed away on January 28th, after being in a coma for 10 days. She was 24 years old, and we have no idea why. None. She seemed to have a flu, and she just never woke up.

My wife and my in-laws have been, of course, devastated. How do you even begin to grapple with this? A day at a time, with a steady supply of soup, hugs, and kleenex. Or, more simply, you don’t. There is no perspective in the middle of it, you just get by.

This is a moment where words—something I fancy myself good at—just fail. Thus my blog silence. I couldn’t start writing here again without try to grapple with this abberation; with this young, vital woman taken from this world far too soon. And yet every time I tried to assign words, to theologize or philosophize or spiritualize or find some type of life lesson in the void of this unthinkable thing, I’ve come up blank. Or just sworn, softly.

The thing itself cannot be spoken of, but I can begin to name how the world looks altered. One thing that is now perfectly clear is that every day is a gift; every single one. Today. Tomorrow. Yesterday. I would have assented to this idea before, but now it’s visceral.

Live today as though it were the only one you have, because it really is. Don’t let your plans for the future lull you into the notion that you’re owed tomorrow. Don’t forget to live today, the only day you’ve received.

Life is a gift.


The first thing to be said is that I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions. They might work for some people, and more power to them. I operate under a level of self-criticism that essentially amounts to a series of resolutions on a near-daily basis—I should be doing this, I should be doing that.

Instead, this year I want to explore the notion of trajectories; of directions I would like to point myself in. I find this more interesting and helpful than resolutions, because I think that resolutions makes far too much of the will. Here’s a not-so-secret secret: willpower is bullshit. Resolutions usually require a set of skills and resources that can only be gained with hard work over time.

Take, for instance, the resolution to lose 20 lbs. While this is at least a specific resolution—much better than “get in better shape”—it fails to take into account the full range of skills and resources it will take to achieve this goal. Is losing weight the goal, or becoming fit? Is fitness a goal in-and-of-itself, or is it merely the means to some other greater end in your life, such as lower stress, a general sense of well-being, or improved body image? Of course, at this point we’re going beyond the typically rote resolution into a more reflective mode.

But a few more points: you have a good reason to get more fit. How are you going to do it? Do you know how to change your diet? What type, quantity, and frequency of physical activity will you do? What type of accountability structures do you have in place to ensure you keep doing these tasks when you run out of willpower? (You will run out of willpower.)

Resolutions are just the tip of the iceberg. Resolutions are fine, but they need to take place within a larger framework of thought and care that is generally ignored.

Enough about resolutions. Here’s my trajectories and things I’d like to explore in the New Year (some of them even sound like resolutions):

  1. Mindfulness. My friend Adam started talking a lot about the Buddhist practice of mindfulness a few years back. I didn’t share his enthusiasm at the time, but I’ve been hearing more about it lately and, coupled with my desire to learn more control over my mind and emotions, I’m going to explore it.1

  2. Be involved in study & discussion. I relentlessly seek new thoughts and subject everything I come across to critical evalution. I’ve had some irons in the fire on this front for some time, but they need to actually happen.

  3. Set a blog posting rhythm. It’s the rhythm that’s the key. I’m thinking 3–4 times per week right now.
  4. Start polyphasic sleep again. I liked the overall well-being I’d achieved while doing it.
  5. Jog twice a week. Three would be better, but two seems to be my sweet spot. Get my rate to 5:30 min/km.
  6. Explore writing on more consistent topics. My rough thoughts right now would be to write about justice topics in my local context.
  7. Figure out what “success criteria” are in my life at Flatlanders and in my business. When your only evaluation rubric for something is “I should be doing more,” you’re on a surefire path to moodiness, melodramatic teenage angst, and generally unnecessary feelings of failure. While wanting to do more can be healthy and an impetus for growth, not the way I do it.

There are more things on my mind than these, but this is a hefty list. Many of them are specific goals along trajectories I’m already, perhaps makers along the way. There are others which I don’t want to write about publically, and yet more that I would be tempted to include except that an important part of this exercise is to not set myself up for failure.

Here’s to a great New Year for you, too.

  1. You might find yourself asking “why mindfulness instead of prayer?” Firstly, one does not exclude the other. Secondly, I always feel like prayer is supposed to be productive, while mindfulness appears to be more about dwelling in the moment. We’ll see if I’m right as I explore it more. 


For the first years of this blog, I wrote a pair of Retrospective/Prospective posts that looked back at the year that was, and forward to the year that will be, respectively. I ceased this practice for the two reasons that I simply forgot that I had a blog for a season, and that somewhere along the line I decided that too much introspection was not a healthy pastime. I did not—and likely still do not—know how to parse the difference between introspection and reflection.

But, I like the idea of having practices, rhythms that I simply do because I do them, not because of the capriciousness of how I feel about doing it at the time. The whole point of practices such as reflection is to do something I may not feel like doing at the time because it’s a good thing to do and I said I would do it regularly. Yes, basing a practice on the flipping of a calendar year is arbitrary, but there’s a precedent, and it’s as good a time as any other.

I can hardly remember 2011. It vanished. Work was good, but there was too much of it, and it took over my life at times. I also spent my first full year living at Flatlander’s Inn, an intentional supportive housing community. The entire year felt like a tug-of-war of loyalties between Flatlanders, my business, my wife, and my other relationships in life. I feel like there were only losers in said tug-of-war. Have I mentioned that I get gloomy when I get introspective?

It’s at this point that I begin to rail against the limitations of the two-part retrospective/prospective model. I want to immediately jump ahead and talk about all of the ways that 2012 will be better; will be more balanced, more productive. Fitter, happier, etc. Slow down.

And now I’m at the point where I don’t want to post this on my blog any more, because I was liking my blog moving in more topical and less confessional directions. But again, I’ll abide by the discipline.

And speaking of blogging, my experiment of posting every day to reach 500 posts by year’s end didn’t quite happen, although I did hit a rate of 0.5 posts per day over the duration. This is post no. 467 in just over 6 years of blogging (or 0.21 posts per day), which works out to about 1.5 posts per week or 6.4 posts per month. These long term averages hide the fact that in 2011 had only 53 posts (0.15 posts per day). I’d only posted 21 times in 2011 up and until October 26th, for an average of 0.07 posts per day. But that looks positively stellar compared to 2010, where I posted a mere 7 times. Yes, these numbers should all be in a chart or something. But my writing rates are on the rise, which is a positive part of 2011.

A bit more on blogging: my favourite post I wrote this year was After the God-Shaped Hole, articulating a critical step in my journey as a thinking person of faith in Jesus. But Battlestar Galactica, Rationality & Human Nature was a close second. On Footnotes was the most enjoyable to write, ebooks were much on my mind, and The New and Notebooks and Pocket Computers were tied for most comments in the year.1 The latter was additionally the most visited post written in 2011, while On Valedictions continues its reign as my most popular post of all time.

I also started an experiment with polyphasic sleep, which I kept a log of for the first few weeks. I slept 4.5 hours per night with two 20 minute naps during the day for about a month, and I liked it quite a bit overall. I stopped due to illness for a time, and found it hard to get back into during the holidays. My writing output was much higher while I was sleeping polyphasically, so I’ll probably try again.

The highlight of the year was undoubtedly the fact that my wife won us a trip to San Francisco via EQ3. For a magical week in mid-October, she and I flaneured through what is now my favourite city in North America. No computers + no work + my wife + San Francisco = amazing, probably the best experience since we visited Europe in 2006.

Here’s a collection of 2011 aphorisms, mostly learned by failing:

  • I’m a cynic because I’m a romantic and an idealist.
  • There is no magic bullet.
  • Life is what happens when you’re making plans to be happy tomorrow, next week, next year. Live now.
  • I love the idea of “life’s too short for work you don’t enjoy,” but I’m also painfully aware of how easy that is to say for a young educated white male Canadian.
  • I do best when I have practices in my life that I keep doing whether I’m feeling like it at the time or not.
  • It’s especially easy to forgo grounding practices when you’re doing well, not realizing that it was your observance of those practices that enabled your well-being.
  • When I don’t care about something, it’s usually pardoxically because I care too much. See point about cynicism above.
  • You can never do it yourself, but that doesn’t seem to stop me from the foolishness of trying.
  • Don’t mistake the aesthetic beauty of a thought for real beauty.
  • There is a distinct shortage of people who know how to be alone with their own thoughts and concentrate.

It’s only fitting that, since it’s been four years since my last retrospective, this post has become long enough to compensate for those missing years. Hopefully the upcomging prospective for 2012 will be more merciful on any readers masochistic enough to read this far.

  1. Comments as a metric for engagement is an increasingly crude metric in the age of social media. Social media responses are harder to archive for posterity, however.