⌘ July 1, 2023

Letters with Chris V, June 2023 [#3]

This is my final correspondence with Chris V for the Letters project this month. Chris also posted the letters to his site.

Jarrod’s and V’s avatars separated by the letter emoji and their website domains below their images.
(Image inspiration: Jose Munoz)

Chris’s Third Letter

Hi Jarrod,

Congratulation on the house buy! Is that the first house you bought?

We went through this process three years around (ok, we did not buy a house, only a condominium apartment. We loved it and were very lucky to be at there right time when it came to the market. We loosely knew the previous owners, which also gave us a leg up.

Interestingly, the house-buying process differs between Switzerland and the US, especially on the price side. Here it is unheard of that you make cash-only offers at all. Houses are so expensive that buying them in cash is impossible. I get jealous when I see these Youtube Flipper Uppers, which cost 40k - 60k. Here apartments or houses start around $600k.

So enough money talk :-D As I wrote, we were lucky and are very happy with our flat. At the moment we are planning a kitchen renovation. Initially, I wanted to do it myself. But we switched to a contractor—too much stress and work doing it myself. We just finished the selection of the appliances on the weekend. I love being able to change the flat to what we need/want as a family—and not having a landlord.

Regarding language, I have a thing here with English. I’m trying to reprogram my brain to think in English. I’m not there yet and unsure if I’ll ever manage that.

I started reading books in English around the age of 20. And then my first employer was English-speaking, so I used it all the time and needed to write everything in English as well. And when I moved on, I wanted to keep my English skill. So I slowly started to write my stuff in English. And then on top of that, I also have some dislike for the German language.

I always had trouble with spelling, and subconsciously, I’ve taken the feedback from the school about my writing that I can’t do that. I know this is not true, and it does not matter much whether I make spelling mistakes (and it is not like I don’t make any in English :-D). Still, when I write in English, I don’t have all the mental baggage of past German teachers’ voices reprimanding me for all the spelling mistakes I made.

I’ve grown up and still live in Switzerland, and my mother tongue is Swiss German,” a German dialect. But I have Dutch roots from my father’s side, so I also speak and read Dutch (but not good nowadays as I’m missing the vocabulary and exposure. I’m better at English nowadays than Dutch).

How much do you know about Switzerland? We have four official languages: German, French, Italian, and Rhaeto-Romanic. And we are required to learn at least one other language in school. In the area I live, we learn French. But I’m not fluent in that language - as I never use it. And it is easier to speak English with any French-speaking person.

Sadly, we spend so much time learning a language; in the end, we still can’t speak it well enough to use it daily (I had eight years of French lessons).

I also attended two semesters of Japanese and one semester of Spanish language classes later at university (or was it college — it’s the place where you end with the bachelor’s degree). Unfortunately, I can’t learn languages in a school setting. So I did not keep much of it. I mostly kept feeling for the language and how sentences and word sounds (does this make sense?).

Is ASL an entirely different language, or is it more of a different alphabet to sign the regular English words with? Coming from a position where I was not much exposed to it, apart from knowing that it exists and that there are also different versions. I imagine it would also be like learning a language that does not use our alphabet (like Japanese).

And I’m with you regarding Vision Pro helping to learn ASL. Having a camera able to track your hand gives so much possibility for new applications in the teaching field. I’m also thinking about learning instruments like guitars. Not sure how it would work seeing the instrument through the video feed, though.

Regarding the new job. Yep, I’m very happy with going into a position where I’m exposed to AR and getting paid for it. I wanted to look at this topic for so long and never had the energy to do it next to the job. And now, it is certainly good to have the know-how. And you directly speak about the points I find important and motivating to work in a startup. Being there early and helping shape it. And from it. And the most critical point: little red tape. I hate red tape :-) And another important part is that it is something I can speak about in public (i.e., not something which is secret or used as an internal tool). I love talking with the humans using the code I write. It gives such a different perspective on what you do. And it also gives me a lot of motivation.

I love that Micro.blog is so tiny, but it is also sad, on the other hand, that it makes it so hard to convince others to join it. I usually don’t get much interest when I speak about it in real life. But generally, smaller communities are better — especially when you want to make deep connections and are not only there to sell something. I made a Twitter account two years ago (yes, I know I was late) — I needed it for a project, but I did not feel comfortable on that platform. Everybody was trying to sell you something. I did not find any “real” humans.

I think I got into writing by starting my blog. I like talking about stuff that interests me. And the blog gives an outlet for this. I had my current blog since around 2002 (but with multiple breaks). And initially, when I revived it, I started wiring book reviews. It was an easy way to get something regular to write without too high stakes.

And that is the thing which, in the end, also makes the connection to fiction writing. I love reading fiction but have yet to find all the stories I want to read. So I need to write them myself. My favorite genres are fantasy and science fiction. But I’ve also discovered other genres around the human connections theme — something I would never have thought possible I was able to write a year ago. I guess it is a part love story but also the love between a father and his child. I can’t link to these stories as I have them not published and edited. And not sure I will ever post them.

This new style came from my process of learning how stories work. Two years ago, I was at the point of I had a scenario of what I wanted to read. Now how do you write that so it is interesting? How do stories work? And that triggered a process of reading books about writing. I’m currently in a place where I understand how to do such projects. At least, I hope it. But I also learned how hard they are to write :-D.

So I’m working on story outlines and experimenting with short-form fiction writing to practice the craft. And when an experiment is good, I have a blog where I can publish them. I hope to get feedback on my writing at some point. And grow from the feedback.

Another factor is that I must have the time and energy to write fiction. I’m not working at the moment (I start a new job in August), so I have a lot of mental space and energy, which helps a lot with ideas. And I’ve also read some books about writing, which are more philosophical, which also helped a lot (Bird by Bird is one of them).

And I’m still unsure if I will ever write an entire book — I would love to. Currently, I have fun exploring it and getting some of my stories in my head out onto paper.” And sometimes into the wider world when I publish them on my page.

I have seen Vincent’s new product as well. And I was tempted to add it to my homepage. But I don’t want to track my users, and I fear I would start trying to optimize the numbers. And it would take away from the fun of having a blog. I would love to know how many page visits I have—writing on Micro.blog (or a blog) does feel like shouting into the void a lot of the time. But again, I always remind myself that I’m not writing for others; I’m writing for myself. I write the stories I want to read. It is the cherry on the cake if somebody else reads them and likes them.

I know the fear about not starting a habit up again after breaking a streak all too well. So I try not to break it :-D But when I’ve managed to get the whole year of morning pages, I will permit myself to break it for holidays as it makes family holidays a lot more complex (and stressful) when I need two hours to write a morning page each day.

And it also means I can only make holidays with a computer or phone. And breaking the streak and ignoring the compulsion not to break it and make the number bigger is also good training for my mental health. I also benefit so much from writing each day that I can trust my brain to return to the habit after a break.

You mentioned saving tips and DoorDashing. Am I right in the conclusion that you don’t work a regular 9 to 5? I find this style of living very alluring, but I fear the freedom of not getting a steady income. I considered freelancing instead of another job but ultimately decided against it.

I took the first step towards a different future for me by only working four days in my new job. So I have one day to work on personal growth and writing. I hope I also have time for a break on the weekend for my brain. It took me a lot of time to understand that you can’t work 100% (or more) and then still expect your body to have brain capacity left on the weekends for more head work.

And speaking of spending time in the woods. My daughter and I have planned some camping in the forest in July. I’m looking forward to it. It will be her first time sleeping outside in the woods without a tent. I’m just hoping it will not be too dry so we can make a real fire for cooking. I loved to make these camping trips as a child (we did them once a year), just outside next to a creek, and the adults cooked something on the fire. And we children built treehouses or dams.

This letter got a bit out of hand I hope it was not too long OO Cheers Chris

My Reply

Hey Chris,

Thanks, buddy! Yes, this is our first house purchase. We’ve only done rented apartments and homes up until now. Honestly, I don’t know how anyone comes up with that wild amount of cash either. Unless they’re taking from retirement funds or something that’s better left alone, but even still. LOL, sounds like Switzerland and Lake Placid in New York State have similar home markets. It’s been very challenging to find something within our budget.

That’s awesome that you’re working on a kitchen renovation! Having the ability to make changes and improvements without having to ask permission is something we’re very much looking forward to. And I feel you on the switching to a contractor. There have been a lot of times when I’ve decided my time and sanity were worth saving by switching to a professional. Hiring movers has been one of them and it’s been our best decision during our last few moves.

Holy smokes! That’s so many languages to keep in your mind at once. I’ve heard once you start learning new languages, it’s easier to learn others. I wonder if that’s been your experience as well. I’m always so amazed by folks who speak and write in languages that weren’t their first. It makes your blog all the more impressive!

I know embarrassingly little about Switzerland. I’ve heard wonderful things about the backcountry and mountains there, so it’s definitely on my travel list. But I don’t know any of those official languages, so I think I’ll have to travel with a translation app in hand. Keeping a feel for sentences and words of a language, even if you can’t speak it, sounds like it’d give you a leg up if you ever were to study it again.

ASL is kind of a mixture of both. You can certainly sign letters to spell words and make sentences that way. But fluent signers know the given signs for whole words and phrases, and it has a dialect” of its own. As it happens, I just watched the Marvel Eternals’ movie yesterday, and one of the main characters uses sign language. It’s a beautiful thing to see. One of my favorite book series, The Kingkiller Chronicles’, has a community of people who use hand gestures to signify emotion and tone alongside their spoken words, rather than using voice intonation to convey them. It’s a fascinating idea.

I’m glad to hear that you’ll be able to share more about what you do at work. Secretiveness has its place — I’m game for an exciting product reveal — but it does seem like it would isolate you from other people and really cut back on working through a problem. I always think best when I can brainstorm verbally with others.

You’ve got it exactly right about Micro.blog and how smallness can be a double-edged sword. But that’s why I’m so optimistic for a more open social web with technologies like ActivityPub coming into the spotlight, and possibly being adopted by bigger companies. It’s going to be really cool if big silos like Instagram and Tumblr become interoperable with more niche communities like Mastodon and Micro.blog. If my Mom can reply to one of my blog posts from her Instagram account, I’ll consider it a huge win for everyone.

Your blog has almost 20 years on mine! Congrats on such a long-standing home on the web. I regret not starting one sooner, but, as they say, the best time to start was yesterday and the second best time to start is today. I think it’s super cool that you’re writing the books you want to read. It sounds like a massive undertaking. You’re going about it the same way I would: by reading a book about the writing process. I love learning how other people think and work. I think that’s why I like workflow and setup articles so much. A book on someone’s writing process is next level! Good for you for using your time off to work on personal projects. I hope that 4-day workweek will allow you the opportunity to continue!

My job is a little different, schedule-wise. I work for a gear shop and guiding company. The gear shop is open every day, 9 to 5, so when I’m not out guiding trips I work in there. But since trips can be booked whenever — half day, full day, overnight, and quite sporadically — I never have a consistent schedule. I don’t usually know when I’ll be working for a week until the weekend before. For example, I’m hoping to find out today or tomorrow the days I’ll be working next week. I try to make the most of my days off with personal adventures, reading, writing, and catching up on housework — but I might have to dedicate that time to a second job if I want to much such a big purchase. If a freelance writing gig presented itself, I might consider trying that, too.

Aw, I’m so excited for you and your daughter to experience that camping trip together! My favorite childhood memories are the ones where my family was camping together. That, along with being in the Boy Scouts, really cemented my path in life. Not to put pressure on the trip, I just hope she enjoys it as much as you! There’s something very special about getting outside and adapting to live with nature instead of despite it.

Hey, thanks so much for writing to me this month. It’s a little scary to be so open about personal life, but it’s also been very freeing. I’ve very much enjoyed getting to know you a little better, and I’m sure that will continue back on the socials, plus my email is always open. 😉 I wish you the best of luck with your camping trip, your new job, and that kitchen renovation.

Catch you later,


If you’d like to be part of this Letters project, please reach out! I might still have spots open.


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