John Scholvin

John Scholvin

still can’t fit a half-stack in the trunk

04 Dec 2022

sunday seven

tree limb grown around a wire


I’ve been one poor correspondent, I’ve been too, too hard to find. It’s been a busy couple of weeks. Thanksgiving, and now Nutcracker week, and it shows no signs of slowing down for a while. I’m kicking around some ideas for longer essays, but it’s really hard to find that moment where I have time, energy, and access to the muse all at once. We’ll get there. In the meantime, enjoy a Sunday Seven where the last couple of Friday Fives should have been. I realize that means I still owe Three. I’m good for it, swearsies.

Like everything else about this house, the trees were poorly cared for before we got here twelve years ago. Three have already succumbed to their accumulated neglect—a scraggly old pine, a massive birch, and a pretty flowering crabapple tree. A fourth was felled by a windstorm, though I can’t fault the previous owners too much for that. The two remaining trees from before our tenure don’t have much time left, I don’t believe. The canopy of the red maple pictured above thins more starkly every year. Standing next to the trunk and looking straight up, in peak summer when all you should see is a wall of deep green, you can see blue sky above. And you can see that lichen is growing fairly widely on the limbs. I’m fascinated in particular by this little bit of a long-ago string of Christmas lights that the previous owner just left up there until the tree grew around it. That’s how they treated everything on the property. This wire had been there for years when I found it the first winter after after moving in, and it was already permanent by then. That limb is about four inches in diameter now. While the tree’s been scarred by this intruder, she also sort of made it her own.

I should start keeping a list of articles where the author confidently asserts for one reason or another that Trump is finished in politics, and can never win anything again. What willfully blind wishcasting. These folks need to get out more and see what is still seething out there in the exurbs and hinterlands, maybe hotter than before. They also seem to forget he appeared to be an unelectable joke in about 2015. Though, I suppose, what would I do with such a list when the unthinkable happens? Dunk on them with a mean tweet1? We’re going to have bigger problems on our hands than idiot pundits at that moment. We’ve survived their presence for a long time. We won’t survive the other thing happening.

I’m going to be traveling a lot for work again, starting this week with a trip to my customer’s offices in New Jersey and Delaware, and then the following week to our headquarters in the Boston area. Several full-week trips are planned to the east coast in January, and I am probably going to India in February, I think I mentioned. (Very excited about that!) Plus we’re talking about some early college visits to one or both coasts for Leah over the coming months, and even possibly some road trips to see Danny play volleyball as his college team travels around the Midwest. It feels good, to be honest. I know traveling is far riskier than in the before times, and some people even consider it insane, or dangerous. I get it, I do. But more than ever I feel the gravity of Somewhere Else pulling me. Or could it be that I’ve finally been here long enough, and it’s more of a push than a pull?

I’m doing the Advent of Code again this year with a few friends. It’s deeply nerdy. For every day of the Advent calendar, two new programming puzzles are revealed, all as part of a whimsical storyline involving elves who do everything the hard way. Each puzzle has a numeric answer. After you code the solutions up, if you get the right value, you get a star. The faster you get the star, the more points you get. My friends and I have a local leaderboard which tracks our little group.2 It’s fun, and it’s good for keeping my coding skills sharp. It’s been over three years since I wrote any C++ code for a living, other than for this exercise. At my job, we use an in-house programming language that isn’t used anywhere else. So this is something of a defensive maneuver for me in case I end up on the proverbial street again, as well as just a good daily brain workout. There are some who compete in this at an elite level, with a global leaderboard tracking who finished first of the tens of thousands of players worldwide. A new development this year: some people are using AI to scan the problem statements and generate code for the solution. Amazing, really. One of these bots came in with the right answer only ten seconds after the question posted. Feels unethical to me, but you know, welcome to 2022, where we can’t have nice things anymore.

I have very wise friends. Recently, while fretting about an upcoming transition at work—one that kind of smells like a promotion, except without the money/prestige/title parts—my impostor syndrome kicked in pretty hard. I expressed significant doubt about my ability to fill the shoes of my retiring mentor. He’s an absolute legend within the company, there since just after the founding of the firm 25 years ago. He’s good at everything, and he knows everything. Those are not exaggerations. I’m good at like two things, and I don’t know jack. So, whining about all this to my friend, they wisely said (paraphrasing here) “How many times have you been promoted into something that felt over your head? And how many of those times have you not succeeded?” OK, you got me there. But this time is different, I objected! A wry smirk and another sip of their drink is all I got in return. I still don’t know how I’m going to do this. I ask you: who was the shooting guard for the Bulls after Jordan left for good? Bet you don’t know.3 Even though he was a pretty good player, he was following the greatest who ever lived, and he was dogged by the shadow of the legend. It wasn’t about him, and he was traded two seasons later. Anyway, I’ll be trying to heed the wise friend’s words, but man, this is a lot. Then again, maybe going to the Lakers would be OK.

I’ve been a hobbyist photographer for a long time. Not very good, really. I take pictures of the kids’ activities, mostly, and share them with the family. Sometimes I post them on the socials, or here. For the last couple of years, I’ve been taking pics at the Nutcracker dress rehearsal, filling in the role that my father-in-law Jack used to love so much. (Speaking of following in the footsteps of a legend.) It’s a bit of a high pressure shoot; theatre photography is WAY harder than sports. Sports are in well-lit gyms or outside. For dance, there’s just never enough light. I need more photons! But I’ve muddled ahead, and gotten a little better as we go along. Buying (and inheriting) better gear certainly helps; this year’s addition of a Canon f/2.8 70-200mm zoom lens is a game-changer. I do have to say that it’s quite gratifying to hear feedback from other kids and their parents when they see the results. Or to see the work on the ballet’s social media (the top third).

Speaking of Nutcracker, we saw tonight’s closing performance. Terrific as always, and Leah is of course luminous, which I say without any hint of parental bias. She’s been doing this for seven or eight years, depending on how you count the missing covid season, and I’ve probably seen the production fifty times by now. It can be easy to get jaded or complacent, or to get drawn into the backstage and dance mom drama.4 Tonight, though, there were two little girls sitting behind us, maybe four or five years old, and to hear them “ooh” and “aah” at all the key moments was completely enchanting and reaffirming. They were surely seeing it for the first time. They loved the sleigh adorned with fairy lights, the falling paper snow. They squealed when the cannon in the battle scene fired confetti over us. And of course the brilliant dancers. At one point, one of the littles said out of nowhere, “Mama, it’s just so beautiful.” Indeed it is, kiddo. Already looking forward to next year.

Leah performing in the Spanish dance in the Nutcracker


  1. assuming twitter will still be up in 2024—a pretty huge “if” ↩︎

  2. if you want to join us, let me know! ↩︎

  3. Ron Harper. ↩︎

  4. do you think the moms or the teenagers are more dramatic? ↩︎