the snail shell


we've got to keep the motor running and accept a little sin

from “long line of cars” by cake, which is actually quite appropriate for this post

A thing I’m not really proud of but I’m not 100% ashamed of and either way I keep talking about and not fixing is: I’ve picked fights with cars a bunch. Sometimes if they y’know come too close to ending my entire life, but also sometimes if they do something like park in the bike lane, I’ll yell something like “don’t park in the bike lane” and they’ll yell something back and then we’ll keep yelling at each other and y’know it’s just road rage and useless and shitty.

This is the tiniest injustice, but is an injustice, and it makes my day feel super like crap. I get mental-bikeshed over this: I could worry about any number of things but my brain won’t let go of these Bad Drivers because they’re Definitely Wrong! Life would be easier if I didn’t worry so much about them. Kinda like how you can’t get too hung up on style while coding, or like how you can’t fuss too much about doing laundry or you’ll never get real stuff down, you can’t get hung up on people being Definitely Wrong (but in mostly harmless ways) 20% of the time.

So much of life would be so much easier if I were just comfortable with 20% of it being really crap! (like these last couple weeks. gosh.)



grab bag of accreted thoughts

do all feelings have threshold effects?

trauma generally does: if you have a kinda bad day, it washes off, but if you have a really bad day, you can get PTSD. I think really great experiences are threshold effects too; you don’t forget them. Which suggests that, instead of eating at average fine restaurants for $30 10 times, you should save up and go to Alinea for $300 once. Though, “fewer high-intensity good feelings vs more kinda-good feelings” may be a thing you can’t optimize for; like optimizing a program to output a prime number of rows in log files.

holding-out conversations

I recently had a conversation with a coworker that went kind of like this:

and this sounds awful but I think it actually got across a decent amount of information. We’re both basically playing the Voting Game, where we want to do whatever we both want the most. That is, if I want to do X with strength 7/10 but he wanted to do Y with 9/10, I’d say maybe his instincts are more likely than mine to be right here so let’s do Y.

There’s a short story by Ray Bradbury called Frost and Fire. It’s pretty good! In particular, there’s a scene where he and another character fight. On this planet, the sun is super hot, so they fight by going outside at dawn and just trying to stay standing there in the heat; last one to fall wins. (plus throwing stones, eh; here’s a copy, see chapter VIII on page 299.)

It’s such a good image that applies in many places in life. This is not quite it - we’re not trying to defeat each other here - but it’s close enough because we just state our prefence by holding out a little bit longer.

symbolically liberal but operationally conservative

Ezra Klein nails it here. Yeah it’s a “super liberal state” but SF and CA are really pretty conservative in some ways, especially housing and transit. Quoting Ibram X. Kendi: “Racist policies are defined as any policy that leads to racial inequity… And so, for me, racial language in the policy doesn’t matter, intent of the policymaker doesn’t matter, even the consciousness of the policymaker, that it’s going lead to inequity, doesn’t matter. It’s all about the fundamental outcome.” Even if the heart of the lawmaker or voter is just “I want things to stay the way they used to be in my neighborhood”, it ends up perpetuating inequality.

and now for something completely different

“the horngus of a dongfish is attached by a scungle to a kind of dillsack (the nutte sac)." alas, a hoax, but why is it that this kind of humor, involving basically just mispronouncing words, is so funny?

glue work

a perennial gripe, well told.

school is prison

sorry, that’s inflammatory bullshit, but it’ll perk you up halfway through a long post, huh? so ok another SSC/ACT post1 reviewing a bunch of stuff about education. I can’t speak much about What Types of Interventions Work or How Should Schools Be or whatever, but I can just really relate to the anecdotes about how school is such a drag. Imagine that now: imagine being in a place where you had to listen to lectures for 8 hours and you couldn’t use the bathroom when you wanted. Gah! I can’t imagine subjecting myself to that; how could I subject my kids to that!

what if schizophrenia/autism is a spectrum, and so is ocd/adhd?

basically that. I have still found it useful to wonder about if I’m on the OCD spectrum, or the autism spectrum spectrum. (“OCD spectrum” doesn’t officially exist, but I mean “what if I’m some percent of the way to OCD?” similar to the autism spectrum spectrum - I’m not formally on the autism spectrum, but I’ve wondered if I’m partway there.) Keeping in mind my friend Neil’s curse of labels, why bother with this? Because I think you can learn something about regular life by looking at extremes. for example, work with psychiatric patients makes it easier to make sense of persistent non-symbolic experiences.

speaking of rationalist-adjacent types

I wish I could organize my thoughts as well as this person. Looks like they do what I’ve done from time to time: take a topic and scan abstracts from papers that seem related, and put them into some coherent structure. This is not The Best way of getting knowledge (ideally you’d be, or talk to, an expert, and combine that with some research citations) but I’ll take what I can get. Like, this guide to exercise types and muscles is kinda interesting.

adblock, but for youtube

sounds great!


  1. I feel obligated to disclaimer SSC/ACT these days because there’s been a lot of Ugly Discourse but… I still generally (though not completely!) like him. ↩︎



getting ahead of the writer

ever have chunks of time that go by and you’re not really sure what all happened?

I keep a log file these days I call “dan log” at work and write down all the things that I did - not really sure why, besides sometimes it feels good to go back and find all the little things I did while I felt like I “didn’t accomplish anything.”

life is a little bit in that “going by in a blur” state right now. a friend mentioned once that sometimes he feels like he’s writing his story and then sometimes he’s living it. I like that framing1. Imagine that part of you is living life as another part of you is writing it, much like Gromit riding a train while laying down tracks. Right now I kind of feel like I’m getting ahead of the train tracks, or like the writer/tracklayer is on autopilot. It’s not pleasant, but it’s mostly bearable.

(the reason isn’t a mystery: I’m just working on a new project at work. it’s kind of big, it’s a lot of manageable tasks instead of one big unwieldy task, and it’s kind of important and deadliney. I’m not super used to those things, so I spend more time working and it’s stressful.)

Another thing that’s stressful: I got a new keyboard. I think I used to type about 100 wpm. This keyboard is split, columnar, tented, thumb clusters, and all kinds of things that are probably ergonomically good. But that means it’s a learning curve. I think I went down to about 40 wpm and that is so agonizingly slow, I feel like those dreams when you are running but you can’t run. I’m back to about 70 or so now, so that still feels bad but not quite so bad. Epistory was pretty fun; a little cheesy but still the best typing game I’ve played. Typeracer is still fun. typing.io is what I really need: practice with all the colons and brackets and arrow keys; those are still rusty.

legit conflict extra-guilt

One thing I’m learning in the process: a certain kind of feeling about a recurring engagement. Let’s call it “legit conflict extra-guilt.” The way it works is this:

At this point, I’m feeling Legit Conflict Extra-Guilt. What will inevitably happen if I don’t address it is that I will feel guilty but keep having conflicts, one way or another, and I’ve got to cut my losses. It’s a certain kind of feeling that is both like “nah, I’ll totally make it next time, see, it was a legit conflict” but also “ooh I really don’t have time for this.” Now that I’ve learned this feeling, when it comes up I know that I must admit that I don’t really have time for it right now, I was too greedy in signing up, me grasp exceed grasp, and I’m sorry for that but I will generally not be at event Y.

It’s neat to start to recognize some of the dumb tricks my brain pulls on me!


  1. I think I’m using it a slightly different way than he meant it. Maybe he reads this; if so, sorry! ↩︎