Issue No. 12: This Is Water

“Learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed."

- David Foster Wallace, "This Is Water"


Update: The neighbor I mention below has turned out to be one of the nicest people. Assumptions about other peoples assumptions are twice as useless. Let’s just all stop.

Hello, hello.

In my first interaction with one of our new neighbors, I was somewhat accusingly asked if I was from California. Our conversation went something like this:

“Hi, Welcome. I’m, Mary.”

“Hi! I’m Tavaner. Nice to meet you.”

“Are you guys from California?”

In my surprise, I didn’t quite know how to respond. What would make her think we’re from California? I ran through the list: License plate? Nope. It’s Washington. Has Matt been wearing his Cal shirt? No—I don’t think he even has it anymore. Why would she think we’re from California? Why does it matter?

(Full disclosure: I've lived in California at three different times in my 33 years, including the first few. However, I don't consider myself from there.)

I still don’t know why it matters, but it turns out the reason she thought we might be from the Sunshine State is that it was a gorgeously sunny day here in Seattle and I was wearing my Patagonia down sweater jacket. In my defense, it was a touch chilly.

This small event in my life struck me as representative of a larger problem that we’re seeing play out on the world stage: Our assumptions about other people. In this case, my neighbor’s assumption was mostly benign. But it did have an impact: A few days later it was another gorgeous day and I decided to do yoga outside on our deck in the evening. Our neighbor was in the yard doing yard work and I thought to myself, “Oh great, now she is really going to think I’m from California.” And then I decided: F--- it. This is me. (As my friend Drew likes to say, “You do you.”)

But in all seriousness, what would happen if we gave each other the benefit of the doubt a little more often? If we didn’t assume things about people based on the car they drive, where they live, the color of their hair, the color of their skin, or the fact that they're wearing a jacket on what you think is a warm day? What if we decided to pay attention to different things?

I was recently reminded of David Foster Wallace’s commencement speech (Thank you, Matt.) and it seems of particular relevance to this moment in time. If you haven’t listened to it or read it, do.



  1. Deciding that yes I’m long overdue for a little reset and turning to one I’ve done many times before, the Clean ProgramListen to an interview with the mastermind behind it. (Anyone care to join in?)

  2. Categorizing the media that I consume into intentional and interstitial. (And can’t help but wonder how we can be more intentional with the interstitial media that we turn to … )

  3. In the final stretch of Ronan Farrow’s War of Peace: The End of Diplomacy and the Decline of the American Influence. Fascinating—and disturbingly so. Follow it up with Trump vs. The “Deep State” for a good reality check.

  4. Renewing our years-long search for a financial planner after reading this article from The New York Times: “Your financial security can affect you as strongly as job satisfaction, relationship stability, and physical health combined.”

  5. I’m still in awe of how easy the appropriately-named EZ Binz made moving. No cardboard boxes, no tape, reusable. #winwin

  6. Hold the plastic: Stocking up on compostable sponges from Trader Joe’s. Finally, an earth-friendly kitchen sponge that holds up to the work it needs to do.

  7. For once, a feature story leaving me with a smile vs. worry lines: “Cairo: A Type of Love Story”

  8. After a less-than-stellar trip to the dentist, I’m giving the Ayurvedic technique of oil pulling a go with Keeko’s Mint Charcoal Oil Pulling Mouthwash. (I do realize that I’m about two years late here.)

  9. Rooting for Patagonia (of course) in Patagonia vs. Trump.

  10. Athletes are ditching Iburofen for CBDs to treat pain.

  11. Thank you, Yotam Ottolenghi, for reminding us that there is a difference between easy cooking and cooking with ease: “Stressless cooking is not always about ‘easy,’ but about ‘ease’; it’s not about a dish but about a state of mind.” (Like everything, right?!)

  12. Impressed by impact-driven One Hope Wine’s red blend and rose. (Full disclosure: When it comes to wine, I am by no means an expert. My evaluation criteria is simply whether I, and the people I’m drinking with, enjoy the wine or not.)