The New Normal

As we start a new year with (once the death rattle shenanigans peter out) new leadership, it’s tempting to think that things will slowly start returning to normal. For the most part this will (hopefully) be true, but one of the many ripples of 2020 on American society has been a great “Band-Aid ripping” effect that’s caused many slow but inevitable changes to happen years before anticipated.

As a result, a lot of things are never snapping back into place. Here are my predictions for a few of them…

Commuting and remote work: While it’s possible that we start seeing permanent closures of physical offices (for jobs that allow it), we’ll almost certainly see a lot more flexibility for and acceptance of remote work for a significant portion of the workweek. Future generations will find it jaw-dropping that many people once filled a personal car with gasoline, only to drive to another location five days a week, sit there at a computer for hours, then drive back home.

Our interactions with stores and restaurants: Online/app-centered ordering, delivery services, curbside item pickups and digital in-restaurant menus are here to stay. Who knew that QR codes would finally have their moment?

New movie releases: With Warner Bros. already leading the way, we’ll see same-day streaming releases for new movies, with the number of movie theaters shrinking as the theatrical experience becomes more of a “few times a year” social experience. Spielberg and Lucas were way ahead of the curve on this.

Streaming church services, theatrical performances and other live events: Obviously nothing beats an in-person experience, but the convenience and wider accessibility provided by live streams (augmented with text, audio or video discussion rooms) is powerful, and will become a vital leg on the live event/community stool.

The attitude of American exceptionalism: From the massive bungling of our nation’s COVID response to the long overdue reckoning on institutional racism, many people have experience a forced recalibration to their sense of America’s place in the world. Let’s move forward with an attitude of humility and a desire for cooperation.

Holiday/Pandemic Fuel

I post a lot (too much 🙄) about my email newsletter, but that’s only because I’m having a great time writing it, and love that people seem to be into it.

If you haven’t already subscribed, and are looking for a steady source of content to fill the void that is December 2020, I invite you to sign up! It’s free to get one issue/week, or (through the end of the year) just $18 for a full year of three issues/week. 🤯

You never shut up about it, but what does the newsletter cover?

I generally share a featured post from this site, along with links, tweets and videos about (for the most part) technology, entertainment, politics, ’80s/’90s nostalgia and American evangelical heartbreak.

What’s in each of the three weekly issues?

The Sunday and Wednesday issues have different content but follow the same format (usually with a newer featured blog post on Sunday and one from the archives on Wednesday), and the Friday issue (called “Weekend Watches”) provides viewing recommendations. 📺

People are also saying that subscribers are more respected by their friends, more feared by their enemies and last longer in bed. 🤷

Alright, I’m convinced, where do I sign up?

👉 Right here, sweet friend.

Digital Sausage

In a few months I’ll have been writing my newsletter for a year (!), so I thought I’d share a look at how the Junk Drawer sausage is made, with hopes that it might inspire more people to start their own publications (I’ll read ’em) or at the very least continue widening/deepening their information diets. Let’s take a look…

💻 Hardware:

I documented some of this in a past post, but for cooking up newsletter issues, I use an iPhone 11 Pro, an iPad (some model from a few years ago) and an HP Chromebook (again, some model from a few years ago, it doesn’t really matter). I’ll read, browse and collect stuff on the iOS devices, then write on the Chromebook, usually while wearing headphones (I’ve somehow now added even more pairs to the mix 🤦‍♂️).

If I’m reading a book, it’ll be on my Kindle. If I’m watching a movie or show, it’ll likely be on the Fire TV or Apple TV.

📰 News/Link Sources:

In terms of “mainstream” publications, I read The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Yorker and Apple News+ (which, in addition to offering a zillion magazines, also contains stories from The Wall Street Journal and The Los Angeles Times).

For more independent stuff (or links from around the web), I rely on Twitter, Reddit, Medium, Google News, Slate, Tumblr and a decent-sized set of sites that I follow via RSS (I know, I know, just call me The Crypt-Keeper).

📺 Movie/TV Sources:

I cut the cable cord long ago, but I’ve offset this with a full-fledged streaming service addiction. My weekly picks typically come from Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Apple TV+, HBO Max or Disney+ (once in a while I’ll briefly activate services like Showtime, Starz, Epix, Peacock, etc. for specific shows).

For rentals I mostly go with Amazon these days, though sometimes I’ll fall back on crusty old iTunes.

💾 Software/Services:

I use a bunch of software and services to streamline the process of collecting, tracking and writing:

Timing/Workflow:

I read and watch a good deal of stuff, so while I’m always saving interesting things with the software/services mentioned above, I’ll start making proper drafts for the upcoming week’s three issues in Substack on Tuesday or Wednesday.

“Weekend Watches” is the simplest, and I’ll usually knock it out first, tracking my selections in a Google sheet (so I don’t accidentally repeat myself).

I’ll then start working on the Wednesday and Sunday issues at the same time, pulling in stuff I’ve saved from TikTok, Instapaper and Google Keep, often also browsing YouTube for additional video inspiration.

I typically (but not always) run new feature articles from my main site in the Sunday issue, so I’ll spend some time finding a good (and still relevant) piece from the archives to include in the Wednesday issue.

I tend to save the tweets for last (since things in 2020 move so rapidly), erring on the side of more evergreen stuff on Wednesdays and timelier stuff on Sundays. This often means that the Wednesday issue is baked and scheduled (always for an automatic 6am Pacific release) a day or two before the Sunday issue.

Once issues go out, I love looking at Substack’s analytics to see which things resonate more than others, if certain subject lines boost open rates, etc. Then I crack my knuckles and start it up all over again. 💪