Sometimes I want to write things that can't work as a blog post, I don't want to lose amid Twitter, or don't make any sense. For all these stream of conscious, I have my Notes section. They have lots of colors to match how across the board they get.
Keep scrolling to read my notes in order. Or surprise yourself with a random note.
Here on New Haven's Orange Street, there's a place called The Audobon. It has a gym, a store, a rooftop lounge, and a restaurant on the ground. The restaurant, oddly enough, has fencing around the outdoor tables.
I didn't know why such fences were needed until I looked across the street. People outside are right across from the New Haven Housing Authority. Where citizens go for housing assistance and often wait outside in a large bench area.
Were these fences added so tenants didn't need to see the less-fortunate as they eat? To avoid the cognitive dissonance of living in expensive, self-indulgent housing while watching those in public housing? To avoid grappling with how homes like their reinforce structural inequality in society while they enjoy their cocktails?
I can only speculate.
As we mourn the loss of the Supreme Court's liberal icon, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, I can already hear the hypocrisy attacks from either side.
- Democrats: You refused to appoint a justice during the last election year in 2016, but you're appointing one in this election year!
- Republicans: You wanted to appoint a justice during the last election year in 2016, but you don't want to appoint one in this election year!
The main difference is, in 2016, it was at the start of the year. This year the election's less than two months away. But that kind of nuance gets lost when party leaders focus more on discrediting the other and justifying themselves to their base.
As if we didn't have enough of that already.
You ever get a phone notification and stare at it a while? I'll admit I do. When I'm feeling even more lonely and isolated than usual, a notification icon is like a drug.
It makes me feel needed and wanted. It tells me that someone, somewhere, needs my input on something. It tells me something can't make any more progress without me. It makes me feel important. It adds validation to my brief existence.
I stare at that notification icon, even though I know it's unhealthy. I know it's reinforcing the idea that I need others' attention for validation. I know that idea is poisonous and plays into tech's goal of stealing our attention.
But I keep staring, taking in the pleasure, and knowing the long-term costs. I feel that warm comfort that will, slowly but surely, burn part of me to cinders. I take the drug again and again.
I've gotten many reasons for why someone didn't reply to my texts. But recently I got my first "someone suddenly gave me a baby that got too comfortable and I coouldn't get rid of it" excuse.
I consider it a modern adult milestone. It's also a good reminder that in a time when many people (like myself) cling to whatever digital or in-person interactions they can get, things like taking care of babies are still more important.
Granted, I should already know babies are more important than texting. But during social isolation and distance, a few reminders can't hurt.
A hallmark of Stoicism is realizing that we can only control our inner worlds, and accepting we can't control most of the world around us. Part of that is focusing less on events and more on how we react to them. But I've realized it also affects how we chase our goals.
If you work towards a specific, tangible goal, something could happen that takes it away. For example, you could aim to own a house but are never able to afford one, find a good one, or it keeps getting burned down by demon salamanders. The world can take these goals away, and there's little to nothing we can do.
From a stoic perspective, it's better to take action based more on values than specific goals. If you value independence, you can always find other ways to achieve this without owning a house. You can cook or clean for yourself, pay off any student or credit card debt early, or learn how to wield spears for salamander hunting. They're not buying a house, but they're ways to express independence at that moment.
Most importantly, no matter what form your values take, living by the right ones means no regrets. And no salamander burns.
You ever have moments where your mind is so restless and thirsty for something new, you get pulled into a spiral of browsing and reading? It usually ends with a purchase you forget about a week later, reading something you realize you don't care about, or hate that you wasted breakfast time on a dozen empty Google searches.
I invite you to guess which one of those is me right now.
With so much choice in society, it's easy to think "I need to find the exact kind of thing my mind is looking for." But finding something so niche can take way too long, and the more niche a desire is, the more likely is to quickly fade. So is the effort of chasing a ghost of desire really worth so little?
It's not worth skipping breakfast for, I can tell you that.
This Calvin and Hobbes comic breaks down America's economic and cultural system pretty well in about eight panels.
My only disagreement is this: would there be anarchy if an economy based on artificial desires collapsed? Or would a new system based on human needs, compassion, and simplicity emerge to take its place?
Instead, maybe we don't know what that new system would be like, and confuse that lack of knowledge with anarchy. The fact that we've never been taught of, or had any real exposure to, that kind of system bothers me the most. Next to the fact that many people claim that's what our current system somehow is.
Some people are unsure, or even scared, of a person with a stand-out outfit. Imagine someone dressed in drag asking around for directions in a random neighborhood. They're bound to get more negative reactions than someone dressed in plain clothes and a face covered by a beard or sunglasses.
But I'd be more suspicious of the second person. The harder it is to pick someone out of a line-up, the more comfortable they may feel doing that could put them in one. It's similar to the logic behind people in the military having the same outfits and haircuts: to minimize individuality and therefore lower their sense of personal accountability. Then they're more likely to follow orders with fewer questions. Even if those orders are violent and horrifying.
I see someone in a generic, hard-to-recognize outfit, and I worry about their sense of accountability. I worry if that'll affect how they act towards others, society, or even themselves. If doing something horrible won't bother them nearly as much as those around them.
This long-form comic about how style can normalize ideas of force and violence, called "About Face," goes into this with far more detail I could ever hope to know myself. It's a long but worthwhile read.
A book I read hit me with a hard truth that in most things I, and everyone else, try to do, we'll just be average.
That's not a big or new revelation, which shows I'm not above average when it comes to wit or observation. Even if I am above average with how bitter this all makes me feel.
But I'm mostly relieved to know this. Embracing my average-ness takes away the societal pressure to be a superstar at whatever I do. I can be just okay at something, and that's fine.
It's also not an excuse to do nothing. Someone who doesn't try unless they're great wouldn't last on their own for a week. An average plate of home-cooked pasta is better than an empty one.
The next time someone claims that a pandemic policy is similar to what "Germans were put through in Nazi Germany," I'm asking for more details. When was this policy implemented? How specifically was it meant to discriminate against German Jews? What was the public's reaction? Are there records of any Nazi officials formally establishing this policy? Was this before or after the hundreds of deaths in the Night of the Long Knives?
Why? I have a hard time believing Hitler's rise to power and the start of WWII and the Holocaust involved slowing the spread of a virus, wearing face masks, or waiting a few more weeks for a haircut. If they're serious, I assume they care enough to base an accusation this heavy on evidence. If they're not serious, why should I listen to someone who makes such stupid comparisons?
In a pandemic, video games aren't the only good time-murdering diversion. Sometimes a little drawing is great to lower the buzzing in our heads. Colored pencil drawing is a favorite of mine, even on a tablet.
A bonus (for those of us with button makers and lots of free time) is the final drawings can be put on buttons. What fun is art if it can't be needlessly shown off?
The way American society functions, it's easy to feel more like disposable assets than citizens. That makes it tough to develop a durable sense of self-worth. It also makes it harder to put effort into anything, knowing it could all be wiped away for profit at any moment. Human misery be damned.
We can't do much about that. Few people have any real control over how society sees its people. We have more control over if any specific people in it see us that way.
But if society sees us as disposable, aren't we more likely to see others that way too? Is it worth trying to change how others see us?
I'd say it's worth it, even if it's not easy. But the first step if not seeing yourself as disposable. Or what reason would others have to think differently?
During this particular pandemic, there are lots of people I'm understandably angry at:
- People turning mask-wearing into a political issue instead of a simple way to slow the spread.
- Young adults so eager to pretend life is back to normal, they're spreading the virus without knowing it.
- The "greatest country of the world" doing far too little while countries across the ocean responded fast and won.
- Old white people clashing with protestors and police to protect a statue of one of history's better known genocidal idiots.
- Nintendo for making controllers that keep drifting, and threatening my best source of quarantine entertainment.
- The state of Florida for continuing to exist.
But I remember this quote from one of the few self-help books I enjoy, How to Stop Worrying and Stop Living.
When we hate our enemies, we are giving them power over us: power over our sleep, our appetites, our blood pressure, our health, our happiness. Our enemies would dance with joy if they only knew how they were worrying us, lacerating us, and getting even with us! Our hate is not hurting them, but our hate is turning our own days and nights into a hellish turmoil.
Anger is good when it inspires us to action. But even then, relying on it too can be too heavy a sacrifice. As angry as I feel about many things, it shouldn't be the main thing getting me out of bed each day.
The quarantine has kept me away from my anime laser-cut artwork, which has made me sad. I'm happy to say I finally found the time, courage, and momentum to make some more. With two helpful quotes as I'm stuck inside for most of my time.
The local craft store may be closed, but I have lots of wood scraps saved up. They laughed at me when I hoarded it all, but I'm laughing now.
Granted, I'm crying at the same time, but still, I'm laughing!
As delicious as meat is, eating it is unsustainable for the planet. But I read something surprising: we could help save the world be swapping meat with insects.
For example, one NBC news article about eating crickets points out how they take a fraction of the resources to raise compared to cows, are highly nutritious, have fewer calories, and a greater percentage of each can be eaten. It's even better than eating plants!
Proponents point out that certain bugs have protein levels comparable to conventional meat, and insect protein contains all eight essential amino acids, making it nutritionally superior to plant-based protein.
Sadly, there's one big obstacle: eating bugs is gross. Many American liberals likely want to save the world, but not at the cost of their Instagram brunch photos.
But I still predict a deteriorating planet will force the whole world to fully accept eating bugs one day. Imagine what it'd be like if crickets became an everyday food:
- McDonalds drive-thrus would serve cholesterol-laden cricket burgers smothered in cheese, mustard, and mayo.
- High-end magazines would analyze the cricket brunches celebrities ate.
- School cafeteria food fights would break out where teens throw fistfuls of dead crickets at each other.
- Halloween would have houses giving little kids caramel-covered crickets.
- Stoners hit with the munchies would get deep-fried crickets delivered late at night.
This could all be real someday. I think of that and feel a touch better about the future, for it is intriguing, revolting, but ultimately pretty tasty.