Dandy Cat

The displeasure associated with turning another year older continues to be worse than actually turning another year older.

Happy 35th to me! 🥳

My second COVID vaccine is knocking me for a loop today. I’ve got a whole body ache going on and it is unpleasant, to say the least.

Still totally worth it, though. Screw this disease!

I received my second Pfizer vaccine earlier today, and I couldn’t be happier about it. As many people have already said, any discomfort I may feel from this shot is well worth dealing with if it means helping myself and those around me stay safe.

It’s been too long since I took the time to talk to a therapist, but I changed that this last week. I’m not sure what this path ahead of me will entail, but I’m proud of myself for taking this positive step. I want to work on doing all I can for my mental health.

Never having to use LinkedIn again is enough of a motivation to risk utter destitution and infinite job-related hopelessness for the rest of my life.

My visit to the DMV today was not the hellish experience for which the place is so well known. Instead, it was both a complete bore and a great cure for the random “should I get a job at the DMV?” thoughts a person might have.

The day that I’m all ready to make an appointment for my driver’s license renewal at the DMV is the day that the website decides not to load? Come on, DMV. Stop living up to your terrible service stereotypes!

A COVID vaccination sticker sitting top of a desk.

Well, if this doesn’t make for a phenomenal day, then I don’t know what will. I feel great about doing my part to help us all move past this terrible disease.

I’ve spent a good portion of my adult life trying to fashion a career out of something I’m extremely passionate about. Lately I’m wondering, would I be happier just doing any acceptable job and leaving my passions out of work?

It’s taken me far too long to get into it, but I think I’ve found the text editor that’ll give me everything I need: Drafts by @Agiletortoise. It’s developed into far more than just a place for quick text snippets. I’m really enjoying it.

After much searching, purchasing, disappointment, and finally success, I think I’ve gotten my workspace to a place that makes me happy. It’s all working well.

Did I end up trying IKEA again? Yeah… But that’s beside the point. It turned out well in the end.

My mom got vaccinated yesterday, and I couldn’t be more happy or proud. She’s never been opposed to them, so she was going to get one regardless, but it’s still good news. It’s heartening to see the tide start to turn for the better.

The experience I’ve had with IKEA since the pandemic started has been fraught with disappointment and frustration. Just today, some items I had ordered online appear to have been sold to other customers after I had placed my order. It seems I’m being willed to shop elsewhere.

If there was one thing I could change about my body, I’d forever remove my ability to grow facial hair. At best, I look like a greasy teenage boy, but mostly it’s completely useless. My razor constantly mocks me by demanding a real challenge.

I spent a good portion of yesterday taking apart my old desk and putting together a new one. I’d be okay with the soreness I’m feeling in my lower back if this wasn’t all still a work in progress. On the other hand, it’s very nice to have a new workspace.

Sadly, I’ve never been the best touch typist—never had to take any classes to learn it. However, I find that I actually have some measure of success at it when using Apple’s Magic Keyboard. I don’t have any such luck on other keyboards for some reason.

My taxes for this year have been completed. Time to celebrate! 🥳

As always, I’m very jealous of people who live in countries where they don’t have to deal with this annual song and dance nonsense. Taxes should not be this complicated.

Nothing has been more life-changing or skin-removing for me as the Salux Beauty Skin Cloth. The exact middle of my back has never been better washed. Coming from a puffy shower scrubber, it took my sensitive skin some time to get used to, though.

I’ll be spending the next couple weeks adding all of my outdated blog posts from my old website to Medium. It’s not an ideal platform, but I do think it can be a good repository for that stuff. More importantly, it’ll create a portfolio of past work for job hunting pursposes.

I just wrote about 1,400 words for a future post and I’m feeling great now. The feeling of accomplishment that comes with finishing up the first draft of something can hardly be matched. I think this was a great way to cap off a Monday.

I hope you’re doing well, too. ❤️

My Year of Understanding

i.

Last year, I tried my hand at the Theme System. It was conceived by CGP Grey of YouTube fame and Myke Hurley of Relay FM fame. I first heard about it while listening to their Cortex podcast. The goal is to throw off the high-pressure, low-results shackles of annual resolutions and instead embrace, as they say, “an idea of how we would like to approach each year or season.”

I think it can be a stellar system if it’s done the right way. In fact, it’s quite hard to do the wrong way, which is nice. Instead of deciding on a single make-or-break goal to complete before the end of the year, you give yourself a guiding principle, or theme, to live by throughout the year. There are no other objectives than to do right by yourself, however that means to you.

Want to live a year of less? Then feel good about cleaning out your closet, buying fewer things, or decreasing the amount of stress you have in your life.

Think a year of gratitude is more up your alley? Be mindful of the things you appreciate and the people in your life.

Or maybe it’s even something like a year of elevation. Raise the needy people around you, or heck, climb a few mountains.

Whatever the case may be, try to adhere to these suggestions:

  • Make it meaningful and personal.
  • Keep it open-ended—you shouldn’t have a year of only learning a new language.
  • Keep track of your progress, however you’d like to do that.
  • Use your tracked progress to encourage you through the tough times.

ii.

I tried to live a Year of Growth in 2020. When I came up with the idea, I had my business in mind. I wanted to grow Dandy Cat, garner some attention, and start earning some money. In this way, I did not succeed at living a growth year. The business stagnated,1 and I didn’t grow its audience any larger than it already had been. That was a real disappointment.

It’s taken me a while to understand that a lack of growth in my business doesn’t mean I didn’t live a year of growth. That’s sort of the beautiful thing about the Theme System. It can be vague. Maybe not too vague—there should be some measurable success—but pretty vague. My then-fiancée/now-wife and I moved in together. I learned a lot about my country’s government.2 I started podcasting with a great friend of mine. If that’s not growth, then I don’t know what is.

Getting over the feeling that I didn’t live up to my hopes for the year is a hard thing to accomplish, though. I did a lot of great stuff, but I didn’t achieve what I was hoping for. Did I fail, though? Ultimately, no, I don’t think so—I did a lot of growing!

Maybe I can consider coming to that realization a moment of growth. Hey, extra theme points coming in out of nowhere. Score!

I’m planning on making this year a different story.

iii.

2021 is my Year of Understanding.

Last year was rough on just about everybody. I wish it could have been a lot better, but that just wasn’t in the cards for us. Instead, we’ve gotten a rampaging virus, shaky governments, and insane unemployment rates. We’ve all had to face many tough truths about the world and the people in it. It was a banner year for getting smacked in the face by the cold, indifferent hand of the universe.

2020 also gave us all the opportunity for self-reflection, and I hope you took the time to ask yourself some tough questions. Reflecting on the answers you give can allow you to learn more about yourself.

I tried to take advantage of that tumultuous year to ask myself a few questions. These have been on my mind because they’re the most important ones I need to answer at this point of my life. They’re also damn tough to crack, but I’m going to give them a go. I want to answer those questions because I want to gain a greater understanding of the world and my place in it.

To feel accomplished with my Year of Understanding, I’m going to tackle at least four topics:

  • I want to understand what I want from my life more than I currently do. Who do I want to be in the future? What sort of work do I really want to do?
  • I want to understand my wife better. I think a relationship is a long voyage of understanding, but it still takes day-to-day effort. I want to be the best person I can be for her, so how do I do that?
  • I want to understand how to be a better, more patient son for my mom. I’ve noticed that our relationship has gotten more combative over the years. I don’t like that, and I want it to improve.
  • How can I become more kind, understanding, and patient?

There’s a lot I don’t understand about my life and the world. Usually, I’ll just feel upset that I don’t have any answers. I’ll also feel upset that I let my lack of understanding get to me. It’s a pretty unpleasant cycle.

Instead of just feeling frustrated about my ignorance, it’s important to do the harder work of learning about these issues. Gaining understanding without trying to earn it is a rare thing. It’s not worth counting on. Instead, understanding is something that needs to be built, maintained, and allowed to flower.

iv.

My Year of Understanding may end up being a difficult one. Asking yourself tough questions and giving yourself tough answers is a hard thing to do. Most of the time, we don’t ever want to broach these subjects. They’re painful. There’s a fair chance they’ll take the shine off the images we hold of ourselves.

But what good is living in this world, and surrounding yourself with other people, if you don’t try to be better than you were before?

I want to be a better person, and the first step I need to take is understanding myself more than I do now.


  1. Certainly, COVID didn’t help with anything. [return]
  2. Due, in large part, to it being run by sadistic lunatics who want to burn the whole thing down. It’s hard not to pick up on names, events, and the workings associated with a government when there’s a fresh catastrophe in the news every day. [return]

I’ve been a fan of the podcast, Reply All, for a long time, having started listening to the show since nearly their first episode. The quality has always been excellent and many of their stories have stuck with me since listening to them.

But that appreciation was shaken a couple of years ago when Gimlet, the company that produces Reply All, responded to its staff’s unionization efforts by, essentially, giving them the middle finger. At the time, I didn’t stop listening to the show because I felt that the union would eventually be recognized. This feels like a mistake now, especially since they’re still fighting for recognition. I could and should have supported the Gimlet Union in ways other than continuing to subscribe to a Gimlet show. My presence in their podcast analytics would suggest that Gimlet’s actions are acceptable.

Then this episode popped up into my podcast feed this morning:

Given Gimlet’s actions, it wasn’t a surprise. Is it much of an apology? Eh, kind of. I appreciate that they’re taking time to evaluate themselves, but it also sounds like hosts/producers P.J. Vogt and Sruthi Pinnamaneni are just being allowed to lie low until the heat of this story wears off.

I wanted to investigate this further, so I followed the story, being led to a Twitter thread by former Gimlet employee, Eric Eddings. I encourage you to click through and read it all.

This is a moving and frustrating story by someone who was ignored, passed over, and insulted by Gimlet and some members of its staff. It’s sad to know that Eric wasn’t the only one who had to deal with this institutional bullshit at Gimlet.

I’ve since unsubscribed to Reply All. It’s the most meager action I can take, but it is something. If playing a part in hitting them where it hurts—their subscriber numbers—is what I can do, then I’ll happily do it. There’s also this post, which I hope will encourage others to look into the wild power imbalance at Gimlet, understand how their people of color and pro-union employees are treated, and hold Gimlet and its founders, Alex Blumberg and Matthew Lieber, accountable for their abhorrent actions. Throw in Gimlet’s parent company, Spotify, as well. They certainly don’t appear to be doing anything to help the Gimlet Union. I also encourage you to follow the Gimlet Union on Twitter. They’re doing good work.

I enjoyed Reply All, but I can’t continue to support it when its success was built off the backs of the unrecognized and spurned. What I will continue doing is try to learn more about that of which I’m ignorant, such as I was about the toxic culture at Gimlet. And I’ll always appreciate help with that endeavor from people who know more than I do.

Going out for a nice, long stroll with my wife was just the thing I needed. This last week felt like a long one. It wasn’t a week where everything was piling on; it just felt never-ending. Fresh air and sunshine are magic. ☀️

A Sidestep

i.

Unfortunately, this was born out of gloom.

My company, Dandy Cat Design, had been an instructional resource intending to help people design their most productive lives ever. Since very nearly the beginning, it’s a blog that I enjoyed working on and sharing with people. I’ll never stop finding it delightful to hear what others think about what I’ve published. I’ve written a fair amount about starting a blog, why I think a blog is just as meaningful as ever, and why it’s important to start your own (if writing is something you want to do). I won’t get into that again here.

Dandy Cat Design has been lots of things since its inception. The business began as a Squarespace website design service. It then became a place for me to sell Squarespace CSS plugins and business building guides. Most recently, it turned into a blog bent toward the topic of productivity.

The whole thing, too, was born out of the gloom I felt after the death of my father in February 2018.

I put more hours than I can count (mostly because I don’t do a good job of tracking my working time) into Dandy Cat Design. It’s been a tool that’s given me a weekly routine, a creative outlet, and many tasks on which to focus. Unfortunately, it’s also never really caught on and snowballed into the financially stable business I hoped it would become.

This has been discouraging for me, to say the least.

A couple of years into working on Dandy Cat Design, I discovered an educational course from someone named Melyssa Griffin. It’s called Pinfinite Growth. Its intention is to help you grow awareness of and engagement with your business by flooding Pinterest with images of your blog posts/products/website. Stick with it long enough and you may just have the chance to catch the attention of Pinterest’s algorithm. Once you accomplish that, the growth potential can be huge. I started the program because I saw it as a way to bring attention and money to my work. Unfortunately, the only increased engagement I saw with Pinterest was from sharing other people’s content. My website saw no significant uptick in visitors.

(On a side note, Ms. Griffin recently sent out a notice that she’ll no longer be developing or offering this course. She still believes in the power of Pinterest, but she’s focusing on other aspects of her business. She’s come to understand that teaching others how to game an uncaring algorithm isn’t quite as important as helping them become better business people, from the inside out.)

The gloom I felt set in soon after seeing a negative turn in my analytics on Pinterest. Results for a course like the one I took are never guaranteed—how could they be?—but it was still frustrating to pay for it, follow the recommendations, and not succeed.

I felt aimless and stuck, much like I did in my early 20s when I had no idea what the hell I wanted to do.

ii.

In truth, Dandy Cat Design wasn’t created to be fulfilling in one of those deep down, personal ways. It was created to make money. If I could one day feel personally fulfilled by whatever work I do, then that would just be a cherry on top of my life sundae.

Speaking this way tends to feel blasphemous to certain kinds of creative people who have been told by other creative people that their art should always come before, and sometimes in place of, earning a living.

Art above all else. Righteous fists to the sky, and all.

The thinking is that creativity should be all about The Struggle. Without The Struggle, how will you ever be able to understand the grinding, dismal truth of the world—life is pain. Without The Struggle, how will you be able to know how to display that truth in your work?

The general feeling is, if you’re having a rough go at it, then good job! You’re doing art the proper way. Alternatively, If you become successful, then you’re a sell out. Nobody ever mentions that money helps alleviate the need for The Struggle, but then, if everyone had enough money to be comfortable, how could the richest people ever bank more wealth?

It’s a damn shame that artists have let themselves be tricked into thinking their work should be done only for noble reasons, instead of also a paycheck.

I got closer to my 30s than I should have before I realized what a load of harmful nonsense that is. I spent too many years wanting to just create things, and damn the lack of compensation. My art would sustain me!

I wanted to be an actor. No, a cinematographer. No, an illustrator. No, a web designer. No, a… And so on. I leapfrogged from interest to interest without a thought of what I would do to keep from drowning when I finally landed on something at which I had some talent.

I’m supportive of art and its creation, but you’re going to have a hard time creating art if you’re not able to pay for life. The world isn’t really set up, at least not now, to help people who don’t already have some cash in their bank accounts. Life is going to be damn tough if you don’t have at least one eye on the money ball. Money may be the root of all evil, as they say, but it’s also the genesis of life, happiness, and freedom.

iii.

I don’t know what will ultimately become of Dandy Cat. Try as I might, I’m still unable to see into the future (which is a shame because I’d really like to win the lottery). Perhaps this place will wither away to nothing in the future. Maybe it’ll click with the right people and become the uncontrollable snowball of success I think it should be.

I’ve got my fingers crossed for the second one. That would be really cool.

What I do know is, if I’m intent on wanting to create things right now, I need to do it for good reasons. My driving force with Dandy Cat was to become financially independent doing something I enjoy. That’s a fine reason to do anything. While I started it in the hopes of making money, there was also a stink of desperation around my actions. That’s not a good reason to do anything.

Behind every decision I’ve made has been a thick thrum of anxiety. It sounded like this:

“I hope this will all finally work out for me.”

“I hope this move will let me pay off my student loans before I’m dead.”

“I really hope getting into Pinterest will help me reach the point where I don’t have to keep depending on other people for money.”

Basing my decisions off fear instead of level-headed introspection was never going to be a good idea. I usually don’t like the outcome of those choices. I’ve learned that what I’ve done with Dandy Cat up to this point hasn’t helped alleviate my anxiety. In fact, it was growing anxiety, and I was losing interest in the business because of that.

iv.

What can I do to make Dandy Cat healthier for me in the long term? What’s a good reason to keep this going? Those are probably the most important questions I need to answer.

I recently took some significant time off to relax, think a lot, and figure out what would be best for me. I also got married, but that’s a whole other big topic. During that time off, I learned that Dandy Cat as it had been before my break was not bringing me fulfillment or happiness. In fact, it was beginning to feel like the sort of work that I don’t want to do. If I can create something, then I should make sure it’s to my liking.

I realized that what I was writing about and sharing—namely productivity tips and tricks—were, at best, only bandages applied over a greater issue. I wasn’t discussing why someone would and should want to become more organized and productive. Instead, I was suggesting that cleaning out your junk drawer would totally transform your life. Not only is that untrue, but it’s irresponsible. I was following the lead of so many other bloggers out there—only discussing tools and not issues. Junk drawers aren’t the underlying problem; the problem is deeper down. Coming to this conclusion helped me reach another one: I like being organized and productive in my life, but I don’t particularly feel like writing about it. Not weekly, anyway.

I feel like I shoehorned the topic of productivity into Dandy Cat’s stated mission. When I settled on productivity and organization, it was because it felt like a popular topic at the time. Hey, it was working for Marie Kondo, so why couldn’t it work for me? I didn’t choose it because that’s what I’m thinking about all day, every day. Instead, I chose it for superficial reasons and that’s why my enthusiasm for it waned.

Now, I want to do what’s healthier for me, and that means writing about whatever the hell I want to write about. I’m more interested in Apple, technology, movies, tv shows, music, books, podcasts, animals, my life, and yes, sometimes even a cool new task manager app. I’m impressed with and love the work John Gruber does on Daring Fireball, Jason Snell does on Six Colors, and Jason Kottke does on kottke.org. I don’t mean to be a facsimile of them, but I do mean to try to live up to the quality of their work.

I’m at a different place now. I want to know what it feels like to do something for the gosh darn, roll around, throw confetti in the air joy of it. If I want to continue creating things, I need to do it for my enjoyment first. That means figuring out what I really like talking about and publishing that. It’s probably not going to be cleaning tips.

Furthermore, this may mean that Dandy Cat isn’t my only job. Remember, money is still important.

I’m also going to pull the trigger on something I wrote about in a Dandy Newsletter a while back: Dandy Cat Design is now, simply, Dandy Cat. It’s cleaner and now more representative of the topics I’ll be talking about, or rather, won’t be talking about. The word “design” doesn’t fit anymore, so it should go. From now on, you can go to dandy.cat to find my work.

v.

Writing this has been cathartic. I can’t think of a clearer sign that I should do more of it.

I can’t promise myself that I’ll remain gloom-free forever, but I can turn that feeling into something healing and meaningful. I can try to walk out of the gloom and into the sunlight.

And hey, I didn’t need to eat an enormous carton of ice cream to feel better either.

Happy belated birthday to me! If you’ve got an iPad Pro, I couldn’t recommend this keyboard enough. It’s everything I was hoping for and more. I think this iPad is now my favorite computer ever (and I had some pre-butterfly keyboard MacBook Pros).

An iPad Pro attached to a Magic Keyboard on a desk.