Get notified of Words&Dirt updates

You are looking at dirt

Journal #33: Frustration and Fire

Frustration is an emotion that depends on our indulgence for its perpetuation. One wrong step, unfortunate turn, or misunderstanding causes a flash of heat: the sudden awareness of fault and fallibility. For those who struggle to achieve the placid grace of deep breaths and quick chuckles, small frustrations build rapidly and compound with force. On [...]

Journal #32: Filling in the Gaps

I am not a funny person, but I sometimes try to imagine what being funny would be like.  Does making an entire room or theater full of people laugh hysterically feel as great as in my daydreams?  Is telling a poorly received joke as terrible and paralyzing as I think it would be? The question [...]

Journal #31: After the Rain

In the wake of our battle with the elements and the subsequent rush to finish the roof, things have slowed down here at the building site.  There is still much to do, but the mood is more relaxed, the work less suffused with the tension of an imminently hostile sky.  While the world dried itself [...]

Journal #30: Crunch Time

The subject of consciousness is a fascinating field of scientific study, one about which I’ve done a fair amount of amateur research.  Consciousness is notoriously difficult to define, partially because it’s extremely difficult to locate the precise level of biological organization at which consciousness takes place.  We know the brain is the physical substrate that [...]

Journal #29: Rafters and Reinforcements

Amidst the excitement of learning a new skill, it can be easy to forget that the acquisition of novel perspectives and behaviors is just the beginning.  The rest is repetition––reinforcement.  Physically, our bodies need time to generate neural maps that initiate, guide, and solidify unfamiliar motions.  Psychologically, competence can only be reached by revisiting an [...]

Journal #28: Stop and Go

Building is an activity beset by hindrance.  Because builders are responsible for erecting structures that have to last, it’s never a good idea to proceed with a project’s next step unless you are certain everything is in place for that next step to be completed properly.  Getting to this point requires a suite of mental [...]

Journal #27: Tear Down, Build Up

To bring about new order, sometimes we have to create a little chaos. At the beginning of last week, Dan, Sean and I set out to establish the requisite space to start framing walls for the house addition.  With our new floor providing a level surface on which to build, it was time to demolish [...]

Journal #26: The Perfect Fit

The ability to imagine perfection is a mixed bag, chimeric and useful at once.  It drives us to do good work, but also signifies an unachievable goal without which we might be more content.  There is no simple way to evaluate our tendency to abstractly project a moment, product, relationship, or activity that somehow transcends [...]

Journal #25: Dig Deep and Floor It

When Milan Kundera defined kitsch as “the absolute denial of shit,” he highlighted humanity’s all too common tendency to minimize the less than savory aspects of our existence.  Modern American homes are designed to accommodate our kitschy predilections: we announce our intentions to defecate using a broad palette of euphemisms, complete (or at least attempt) [...]

Journal #24: Creative Destruction

With the garage nearly finished, Dan, Sean and I have turned our attention to the larger project of extending the north wall of my mother’s house and converting our old garage into a cozy dwelling space.  Building a house addition is a different beast than constructing something from scratch.  Not only do designers and builders [...]