Tuesday, August 08, 2023


After reading "Better Living Through Birding", I've started identifying birds via the Merlin app! 

There's a concept of the "spark bird", the first bird that gets you excited about birding. The first bird I identified was the Great Egret, but I don't think it was my spark bird. 

The author Christian Cooper points out how birding leads to an increased desire to protect the birds' habitat. Birding creates quiet communion with the outdoors. It's similar to bicycling in terms of being a gateway to increased social awareness.

Me: "Wow, I would never have started birding without Christian Cooper."

Aff: "He's your spark birder."

Friday, July 14, 2023

I walked the walk

I did the Camino Portuguese last month, 180 miles. 

I met pilgrims from many countries. One Italian man, in his 60s, has walked several Caminos in the two years after retiring. Next he will do the Via Francigena trail (2000 kilometers) from Canterbury, England to Rome. 

In one coastal section in Spain, the trail was 80% Germans.

Me: [to one young German] "Why are there so many Germans in this section?"

Him: "Because Germans are everywhere. Everyone thinks we are working so hard, but instead we are just making vacation all over the place."

One American woman was on her fifth Camino. She's planning to move to Spain and open a Camino guesthouse. She's currently a doctor and is disillusioned at the profit-driven nature of US hospitals. 

At a break, two college-aged guys were laughing over viral meme videos. Later, I encountered them on the trail and met their group leader, who is the grandmother of one of them. She told us about thru-hiking the Appalachian trail for 3 months, camping with snorers. 

I hoped to feel "walker's high" from endorphins. That lasted 15 minutes per day. Instead, most of the time I felt anxious, sometimes over practicalities like avoiding rain and heat, and other times ruminating pointlessly over frustrations. Despite this, I felt very satisfied by the Camino. I had many novel experiences. It was memorable. 

I also developed an appreciation for exercise. Working out is not just an obligation performed due to societal pressure. It actually helps you propel your body up hills and along trails. 

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

MRI happiness

Today I took my mom to get a brain MRI. She's been walking slower, and a neurologist ordered a MRI to check out her brain. It could just be age-related (she's 73), but we're verifying to be sure.

I sat in the corner during the 35-minute process. No electronics are allowed, so I wasn't able to use a phone or kindle. I just sat there and thought.

Strangely, I felt really happy during the MRI process! It was probably the happiest I've felt this week. I listened to the MRI machine noises, and felt satisfied that I was taking good care of my mom. It was a relief to get this errand crossed off the list, and be able to look forward to answers from the neurologist.

I would not have expected "waiting for MRI" to be the highlight of my week, but strangely it was!

random internet photo of MRI

Thursday, May 04, 2023

book about the two wolves inside us

I was touched by this book, by a mom who develops ALS at age 44. Upon her diagnosis, she knew that she had around 3 years to live, and would progressively lose the ability to walk, type, feed herself, and speak. 

She wrote about how some friends dropped her, because they were uncomfortable with her wheelchair and slurred speech. She was furious at their desertion. But she decided to intentionally focus her attention towards the friends who stepped up. 

Every day, friends stopped by with home-cooked food, to help her kids, or to read passages of her book. 

She typed the book using just her thumb on her iPhone. Later she could no longer move her thumb and she wrote an epilogue using nose-tracking software. 

There was a sweet quote from her husband of 20 years. He dressed her, fed her, and helped her go to the bathroom. He said, "You're not a burden. The least I can do for you is everything." 

Friday, March 24, 2023

a little wizard hacker

I really like this Wired article about Marcus Hutchins, who saved the world from the WannaCry virus by registering its sinkhole domain. 

He comes across as very moral! He made mistakes as a teenager when he tried too hard to impress his peers. They asked him to write sketchy code, and he did it. Then he paid for it with years of anxiety, and now he is wiser and thoughtful.

He is Ged from the Wizard of Earthsea.