Monthly Archives: January 2014

The only things that matter

From Jenny Lawson (The Bloggess): “I used to think that that it was a small sin to waste time rereading silly books you’ve already read, or watching shows about robots with hearts, and time travel, and impossible things, but then I grew up and realized that those things were the only things that mattered.”

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Sudo agrees. Especially because reading and watching shows about robots with hearts are things you can do from the couch. And if any dog ever had a favorite place, hers is the couch. One day I hope to enjoy my retirement as much as she enjoys hers.

 

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On Letter-Writing

ToTheLetterRecently, I read Simon Garfield’s book To the Letter: A Celebration of the Lost Art of Letter Writing. It was more of a history than a “celebration” (though the author was definitely in favor of letter writing), but it was an enjoyable history, and, like many good books, led me to discover all kinds of other things. One of those was Lewis Carroll’s (yes, that Lewis Carroll, of Alice fame) “Eight or Nine Wise Words On Letter-Writing,” published in 1890 and therefore available through Gutenberg

Between To the Letter and “Eight or Nine Wise Words,” I decided that one of my resolutions this year would be to write pen-and-paper letters to people. Because we had a lot of snow days recently, and therefore a lot of free time indoors, I went a step further: I downloaded Carroll’s pamphlet, re-formatted it, printed it out, and bound it, with some blank pages in the back for a modified version of his “Letter-Register.” (I know, I know: normal people, stuck inside for days, would just watch TV. I did some of that too.)

My version is a lot bigger that the original, with fewer pages; his little pamphlet accompanied a stamp case for carrying around all the different denominations of stamps (this was long before “Forever stamps” were invented). Some pages are sewn in, and some are tipped in with polyvinyl acetate (PVA, a kind of plastic glue).

front cover

front cover

The Guternberg file included some of the original images. Use of the images and text is completely legal (“This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at http://www.gutenberg.net”).

Inside, first page

Inside, first page

Inside, first page, tipped in

Inside, first page, tipped in

Inside, back cover

Inside, back cover

Back cover

Back cover

It’s really amazing how much of Carroll’s advice holds up for modern letter-writers. Among these bits of wisdom (for those not inclined to read the whole thing): if you’re replying to a letter, have that letter in front of you; start by addressing and stamping the envelope; always date your letters “in full” with the month, day, and year; carry letters in your hand when going to mail them (or you’ll forget); write legibly; if you are enclosing something, put it in the envelope when you mention it (because you won’t remember by the end of the letter); and use a sign-off at least as friendly – if not friendlier – than your correspondent’s.

There’s a lot of other good advice too, and it’s all full of Carroll’s cleverness and sense of humor. Garfield’s book has a sense of humor too (he makes fun of stamp collectors – although, as someone who’s writing a book about letters, and who has previously written about typefaces and maps, I feel he’s on rather thin ice here). So yes, it’s 2014, and we have e-mail and text messaging and Twitter and Tumblr – but we also still have real letters. Write one, and give someone else the pleasure of receiving mail that isn’t a bill or a catalog.

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Can we go inside now?

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Here we are, not a minute away from our front door, and she’s looking up at him with an expression that very plainly says, “Can we go inside now?” (Two steps further on: “How ’bout now?”) Could not be more different than the husky dog we saw today, happily digging around in the snow, while we were at the sledding* hill.

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Sudo, on the other hand, has to wear little booties to protect her feet from snow, ice, sand, and salt. And you can’t tell in this photo, but she’s actually wearing another coat underneath the orange one.

Fortunately, though, the sub-freezing cold that came with the storm broke today. This morning it was 27 degrees and it felt like a warm bath. It warmed all the way up into the low 30s in the afternoon and we had a nice long walk in the slush.

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*Sledding, naturally. So what if we were the only people our age there who didn’t have kids?

 

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