What goes on inside is just too fast and huge and all interconnected
for words to do more than barely sketch the
outlines of at most one tiny little part of it at any given instant.

David Foster Wallace, Oblivion

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snowy Saturday jasmine green

I woke up this morning to fat, swirling snowflakes outside my window turning Astoria into a snow globe and started my morning in one of the best ways I know: curled up with tea and a book in hand. This morning’s choice is Lin Yutang’s The Importance of Living: The Classic Bestseller that Introduced Millions to the Noble Art of Leaving Things Undone. One of the sections in this book is called “On Tea and Friendship.” He lumps the two together. I knew I liked this guy.

Yutang describes Ch’asu as an “excellent treatise on tea;” it definitely put a smile on my face this morning, as arguable as some of them are. Enjoy.

Proper moments for drinking tea:
When one’s heart and hands are idle.
Tired after reading poetry.
When one’s thoughts are disturbed.
Listening to songs and ditties.
When a song is completed.
Shut up at one’s home on a holiday.
Playing the ch’in and looking over paintings.
Engaged in conversation deep at night.
Before a bright window and a clean desk.
With charming friends and slender concubines.
Returning from a visit with friends.
When the day is clear and the breeze is mild.
On a day of light showers.
In a painted boat near a small wooden bridge.
In a forest with tall bamboos.
In a pavilion overlooking lotus flowers on a summer day.
Having lighted incense in a small studio.
After a feast is over and the guests are gone.
When children are at school.
In a quiet, secluded temple.
Near famous springs and quaint rocks.

Moments when one should stop drinking tea:
At work.
Watching a play.
Opening letters.
During big rain and snow.
At a long wine feast with a big party.
Going through documents.
On busy days.
Generally conditions contrary to those enumerated in the above section.

Things to be avoided:
Bad water.
Bad utensils.
Brass spoons.
Brass kettles.
Wooden pails (for water).
Wood for fuel (on account of smoke).
Soft charcoal.
Coarse servant.
Bad-tempered maid.
Unclean towels.
All varieties of incense and medicine.

Things and places to be kept away from:
Damp rooms.
Noisy streets.
Crying infants.
Hotheaded persons.
Quarreling servants.
Hot rooms.

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I find it so easy to forget this sometimes. Particularly in the perpetually harried bustle that is
New York City.

But here it is, a reminder to myself — to check in with love instead of assuming the worst, the unideal, and the disappointing in others as truth: 

“Have compassion for everyone you meet, even when they don’t want it. What seems conceit, bad manners, or cynicism is always a sign of things no ears have heard, no eyes have seen. You do not know what wars are going on down there where the spirit meets the bone.”
– Miller Williams

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Really. Truly. As soon as you can. Of this I am absolutely sure: Do not reach the era of child-rearing and real jobs with a guitar case full of crushing regret for all the things you wished you’d done in your youth. I know too many people who didn’t do those things. They all end up mingy, addled, shrink-wrapped versions of the people they intended to be.

It’s hard to go. It’s scary and lonely and your bandmates will have a fit and half the time you’ll be wondering why the hell you’re in Cincinnati or Austin or North Dakota or Mongolia or wherever your melodious little finger-plucking heinie takes you. There will be boondoggles and discombobulated days, freaked-out nights and metaphorical flat tires.

But it will be soul-smashingly beautiful, Solo. It will open up your life.


Dave Appleby

Dave Appleby

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Sad soul and brilliant writer Kurt Vonnegut’s eight rules on how to write a good short story. I’m thinking these eight nuggets can be grafted to life at large, not just to writing. Enjoy.



Vonnegut in TIME Magazine.


  1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
  2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
  3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
  4. Every sentence must do one of two things — reveal character or advance the action.
  5. Start as close to the end as possible.
  6. Be a Sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them-in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
  7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
  8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To hell with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.


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