Campaign managers live in a weird temporal vortex. Our lives are obscenely busy from May to November. We become overclocked multi-taskers, living in fifteen-minute chunks as we juggle hundreds of tasks, goals, and to-do lists at the same time. Everything is a crisis, our phones are ringing constantly, and our email box is always full.
But when all that has subsided, from December to April, I am left with a weird vacant feeling. The same way you feel after roaring down I-5 at 70 miles per hour and then jumping on the back roads and having to drive 35. You feel like life has moved to a crawl. Now some people, more sane than myself, use this time to relax, spend time with their loved ones, and recuperate. I, on the other hand, find very strange ways to waste my time.
Below is the collection of random things that have caught my interest in the last month. I figured after several weeks of straight political commentary, a few diversions would spice up the column. So enjoy!
My first new toy is the Bellingham Register. This website is a brand new political news website for Bellingham. That makes it interesting unto itself, but the true fascination comes from the fact that it is a wiki. Anyone can step up and edit pages. To test it out, I made Seth Fleetwood’s page. It’s a great system where reporters and supporters (Bob Pritchett and Rudd Morse) provide news content and citizens flesh out the background.
My second online discovery is Steam. Steam is an online video game distributor and seller. In short, instead of purchasing a computer game from a store, inserting a CD and installing the program, you can go to their website, buy it without the overhead, and download the program directly to your computer. They have a huge inventory of older computer games, enough to keep this geek fascinated for hours.
My largest time waster is the website TV Tropes. It is modeled as a Wikipedia for scriptwriters and television fans. A trope is a repeated idea, theme, or action in television, literature, or movies. For example, in a movie whenever a car runs into something . . . it explodes. Highly unrealistic, but very common. They call this “Every Car is a Pinto” and list several examples in various shows and books. Fascinating stuff, I lose hours of my life to that site. Not even joking.
When I finally manage to shut off my computer, I read. Currently I am reading “The Audacity To Win” by David Plouffe. Plouffe was Obama’s campaign manager and the book is his inside scoop on the campaign. It is thick with post-campaign mentality (this was a game changing election; yeah, we beat the Clinton juggernaut,) but nestled inside all of that are some fascinating nuggets, which I will unspool for a future column I’m sure.
As you can imagine, I continue my love affair with board games. Long time readers of this column (Hi Mom!) will remember my earlier column outlining some of the many board games I have collected. You can find it here. My most recent discovery is “CheapAss Games,” a Seattle company with an unusual line of merchandise. They came into the business looking at what the most expensive part of a given game is, and eliminating it. Namely, the board and pieces. Instead of selling lushly illustrated game boards with carved pewter pieces and tons of dice and counters, this game-maker took the opposite approach. They send you the rule book, a printed-paper board, and some paper cut out cards. They assume you can find a few pennies to use as counters, that you already have a couple six-sided dice, and that you can keep score on your own piece of paper. So instead of selling games for $50, they sell highly inventive games for much, much less (think $6.) An ingenious idea; I hope it catches on.
Finally, I would strongly encourage everyone to learn a musical instrument. Last year, my parents gave me a ukulele for Christmas. I loved it, but couldn’t find the time. Now, I have the time and am loving it even more. Music is one of the things that Bryna and I truly connect with. She plays the flute and piano and has a gorgeous singing voice; while I play the viola, guitar, and now the ukulele. I taught myself guitar. All it took was a guitar, finding some chords online and a little patience. It is worth the effort, I promise.
I hope the holiday season finds you busy and full of cheer. For me, it still retains a strange surreal feeling, perhaps a personal malaise, if you will. Keeping busy is my solution. What’s yours?