freedomInWyoming

Freedom in Wyoming

A few years ago, for the first time, I consciously limited my packing for a trip to single carry-on backpack. By the time I’d passed through security and was strolling through the airport, my feeling of liberation was palpable. I felt able to absorb delays, change plans, and move freely upon arrival. I had minimized my baggage. Since then, I try to be thoughtful about the items I carry with me, particularly when traveling long distances. Related to that, I attach more value to freedom and to the stimulation of exercising it.

stamp

I’m spending part of this summer in Jackson, WY for the second consecutive year, thanks to my wife’s job. For about a month, we are living in small cabin on a ranch next to the Hoback River, which joins the Snake River a few miles away. Downtown Jackson is 12 miles north of that confluence, and you’re treated to a view of the Tetons peeking over smaller hills as you approach. My job, which I can do virtually, requires a high-speed internet connection, so I commute into the downtown area while I’m here.

Jackson appears homogenous at the first and even second glance: affluent, outdoorsy, white. Art galleries, gear shops and ice cream parlors proliferate, with a streak of cowboy sensibility to remind everyone that they’re in Jackson instead of Vail. But under the money and outside downtown, a working-class and Hispanic population helps keep it all running. Without a car, that’s the group I tend to travel with to pick up groceries on the free town shuttle, and ride beside on the commuter bus in and out of town.

I catch that bus from Hoback Junction after a four-mile bike ride from the ranch, astride the ranch cook’s old Rock Hopper. The mornings are early and cold, but the days are long, with enough light to read by until nearly 10pm. While having a car here would simplify logistics, it would keep me at arm’s length from the place. It would also involve traveling with something large and expensive, eroding the kind of freedom that I’ve come to value so much.

My pleasure in this freedom seems almost absurd. With some research, a bit of planning, and a few small sacrifices, I can get where I need to go and do what I need to do minimally, without adding another car to the road, spending a lot of money, or asking for favors. In a place like this, where I am still new and distances are large, living with a light touch is intensely satisfying. Just as I traveled here with only a carry-on bag, I hope that this lesson will continue to stay with me.

leftAtHome

A Best XI of Footballers Left at Home

The provisional squads for World Cup 2014 have been announced, and there are some notable absentees. Not surprisingly, it’s the best nations that can afford to leave behind high-profile players oozing with both quality and pedigree. Featuring Carlos Tevez, Isco, and Ashley Cole, this admittedly unbalanced and potentially volatile side would surely qualify from the group stage, and has enough goals throughout to worry any defense.

 

Diego Lopez

Rafael da Silva       Eric Abidal       Alvaro Arbeloa       Ashley Cole

Javier Pastore       Philippe Coutinho       Isco       Samir Nasri

Kaka

Carlos Tevez

presidentialLibraries

Map of Presidential Libraries

I recently had a chance to visit the Clinton presidential library in Little Rock, Arkansas. A platinum LEED building, it’s certainly worth the tour if you should ever find yourself in town. Out of curiosity, I plotted all of the presidential libraries on a Google Geochart, which illustrates how heavily they’re clustered in the eastern half of the United States.

music2013

Favorite Music of 2013

 

There was a time when I spent considerable energy seeking out great new music. The nearly simultaneous rise of algorithm-based advertising and MP3 blogs made for a powerful workflow. I would set aside hours plugging in bands and albums, listening to a few songs or a few seconds of Amazon’s recommendations, and have a fistful of great discoveries at the end. There were plenty of misses, but enough hits to make it all worthwhile.

 

2013

 

In the age of algorithm-based internet radio, it’s even easier to find unknown gems. Somewhat paradoxically, it also makes it easier to learn about older music, tracing sounds back through influences of influences. Most of my favorites now are at least a few years old, and I’ve lost much interest in keeping up with new releases. Still, there’s something appealing about a year-end list, and here are six albums from 2013 that I loved.

The National – Trouble Will Find Me

Phoenix – Bankrupt

Lucius – Wildewoman

Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City

Laura Marling – Once I Was an Eagle

Various – ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’ Soundtrack

briefHistoryOfBookClub

A Brief History of Book Club

My book club has met each month for over three years. Though it started in February of 2010, I only became a member after moving to the District of Columbia in 2011. Since then, we’ve read: A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Connor After Rain by William Trevor Sons and Other Flammable Objects by Porochista Khakpour 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne Something I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You by Alice Munro All Aunt Hagar’s Children by Edward P. Jones The Art of Choosing by Sheena Iyengar Waiting by Ha Jin A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan Dream City: Race, Power, and the Decline of Washington, D.C. by Harry S. Jaffe and Tom Sherwood The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes The Fault in Our Stars by John Green What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank by Nathan Englander Blue Nights by Joan Didion Swamplandia! by Karen Russell Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self by Danielle Evans This is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter Tenth of December by George Saunders The Boy Kings of Texas by Domingo Martinez The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson May We Be Forgiven by A.M. Homes The Manhattan Transfer by John dos Passos The Round House by Louise Erdrich The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri These books account for the vast majority of my reading, given my other projects and ways I choose to spend my free time. As a group, we tend to pick a lot of contemporary, literary fiction novels, though I’ve advocated successfully for short story collections, older classics, and non-fiction. Judging by the lukewarm response to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, I’m not sure everyone appreciates those deviations.Book Club I’ve thoroughly enjoyed gathering to share perspectives on what we read. Though the group is mostly female and, aside from me, all current or former teachers, opinions and insights are varied and the discussions are intellectually stimulating. Moreover, the book club has introduced me to fabulous authors like David Mitchell and George Saunders. Our meetings remain among the most anticipated items on my calendar.

A place for projects