spent the last couple weeks at this. It was pretty neat. We (~15-20 “students” and 5-10 “teachers”) spent the days either doing a workshop (ranging from “theorize about the post-growth society” to “build1 a radio”) or working on our own projects, the evenings listening to each other talk about our work, and the nights hanging out, playing ping pong, dancing, drinking, etc.
- working on this abstract rectangles thing with help from with Ted Davis
- seeing Ioana Vreme Moser make music by doing her makeup (with synths made out of instrumented brushes and stuff)
- just completely marveling at Toktek’s performance, using all kinds of looped sounds, all kinds of hacked devices, and all kinds of intensity.
- barcode scanning and thermal (receipt) printing. These technologies that feel so entwined with Shopping are really just… very accessible and pretty cheap off-the-shelf devices. Maybe $30 and $120 respectively. Uh, I made a pokemon game with them. Shout out to Ted again for getting me started here too.
- getting kicked out of Carrefour because they “didn’t appreciate” us using a barcode scanner (yes I have Feelings about this: there’s no reason we shouldn’t be scanning stuff, just the assistant manager saw something unusual she didn’t understand, and didn’t want anything to do with it, whatever it was. relatedly…)
- hearing Louise Ashcroft talk about some of her work: smuggling unusual vegetables into grocery stores to try to buy them, to see what the system does in response. Mailing boxes of soil from land to that land’s remote owners. Comparing Urban Dictionary and Investopedia definitions of the same words.
- giving a talk about our own work. I was able to present some of my work (creative side projects, student work, for-profit, dumb internet posts) and why I care about it, to a group that really got and loved it.
- pondering how we’d build our own social network (online or IRL, big or small) and how we’d avoid harm as much as possible.
- making asphalt bricks representing the power equivalent of a human doing physical labor 8hrs a day for a week. (it’s half the size of a loaf of bread.)
- seeing the Tour de France go by
- hanging out in a picturesque French 30k-person town, working in a former ceramics factory on the town walls, uh partying in a former laser tag maze
I am energized and enthusiastic! I am reminded how important the community is to anything that you do. One important ingredient to the creative process is people who will care about it. It was awesome to meet and spend 2 weeks with some of them.
by “build” I guess it’s useful to specify how low-level you’re going. maybe the most concise way to describe what we did is “Arduino level”, with some soldering based on someone telling us what to solder and where ↩︎
Guys Being Awful, Drugs
Guys being awful
I have recently learned about a guy who struck me as “friendly, though a little insecure/out of place and maybe overcompensating for it in a little bit extra-masculine kind of way” being …uh, an alleged sexual assaulter? (… don’t know the exact best way to describe it but I think that’s accurate? and the “alleged” here is because that seems to be the way people say this (to shield from legal trouble??) but let’s just say I believe the many credible accusations)
I don’t really have much to add to this conversation, and I’m not really close enough to meaningfully effect change. I’m a little puzzled because I don’t know what (if anything) I should learn from this. Obv I should have seen it coming, etc., and obv as soon as you hear about it you believe the victims and shut down the assaulter and etc., but like… should I have not been friendly with him in the first place? And if so, I really gotta keep adjusting my radar because I don’t think I can tell the difference between “a little insecure so you should include them because that’s exactly what they need in order to blossom and grow etc” and “a little insecure and actually a sexual assaulter.”
edit: this part was previously about two separate guys; revising it after learning more; they weren’t really comparable situations anyway
Assorted side worries
- the housing market is so bad for anyone who needs to buy a house, and based on what I’ve seen in SF, I don’t see why it would ever change. Does the future get worse? In the future, instead of $1.5m homes in SF and $250k homes in Pittsburgh, is it $5m homes in SF and $1m homes in Pittsburgh? Or can some cities turn this around? (Pgh, which is already down about 50% in population from its peak in the 30s-60s, might have a chance? just by infilling all the homes that we’ve lost? I dunno.)
- I have not heard much about national politics since approx Jan 20. This is so wonderful, and I enjoy the peace in my life. I’m glad that the Less Bad Team got 51% of the votes. I don’t think we’re making the kinds of changes that will keep the Worse Team from getting 51% of the votes next time, especially as everyone gets as relaxed as I am. This worries me.
- I don’t think we’ve learned enough from Covid. I’m vaguely worried about vaccine research, given how bad it can be if we goof once. I’m also vaguely worried about “the next disaster of another sort” (an example I’ve heard is “huge power outage due to our aging power grid”); I don’t know what we’re doing to prevent that.
On Drugs and the War On Them
I’m slowly opening to the idea that the whole War on Drugs has been worse than we ever thought (even if we thought it was bad), and that the best answers may be more radical than I thought. I love accounts like this one about how basically science advances because of drugs. I heard an interview with Carl Hart, and it wasn’t this one but sounded like it, and I think he’s doing a great service by pushing the Overton window. As an endowed-chair professor and father, he’s a good one to say, “let’s literally legalize all drugs, even if people are just using them for fun.” (I think “heroin” will get too many of the headlines here, and this is kind of too bad; I still don’t think you should do heroin? “I didn’t get addicted” isn’t a good argument that you won’t get addicted.)
I’m not sure what the ultimate answer is. But I feel like it’s something closer to “everything’s legal, maybe you have to jump through hoops, but you can get or use anything without fear of arrest” than our current situation. Even setting aside all the flawed premises and motives of the drug war, banning drugs turns off all sorts of promising research angles. And I mean that on a societal level, but also on a personal level. I’ve loved Nick Cammarata’s tweets recently, like this, loosely describing potential psychological benefits from MDMA, and this is not “in a clinical trial with vets with PTSD”, this is just people healing themselves. People using the substance to learn new patterns of thought and emotion that can really help their lives. We’ve got to be able to experiment, to learn how to be our best selves, if we as a society are going to continue to grow. And I agree with Hart that people don’t become addicts because of the drugs. The drugs are filling holes in their lives that they’re not addressing in another way.
Solidly Into Act 2
That’s how I feel about turning 35. I’m going to be 100, so at 33 or even 34 I could say I’m just on the cusp of the second third of my life; but I’m not going to be 105, so there’s no way I’m still in Act 1 anymore. This is the last birthday that matters, ascending-wise (I can be president now): this is the last birthday where our society says that I’m getting more able. As you get to Act 3, you start to get birthdays where society says you’re less able. (retirement, social security)
I feel wiser now than 30 or 25, and that’s cool. I credit this to … mostly, therapeutic work and marriage?
- Therapeutic work: I guess I have a spiritual life now? One that I’ve actually felt. I blundered around mediation circles for a while and I thought that was spirituality, but I think without feeling it for myself it was just another form of blind faith, like the lite Christianity that I ran away from. I’m also in really great physical shape, and that rules (in both “proud” and “lucky” ways).
- Marriage: it’s so intense. Everything is harder at surprising times; you can prepare for your own issues, but someone else is also having issues and you may need to help them with those. And you’ve really gotta figure out what dreams you care about and how to get them. At the same time, you might be able to experience unconditional love from a peer for the first time, which is incredible and worth all of it. (“unconditional” is a complicated word, and this continues to trip me up. There are conditions; we’re human. But… maybe we can define “unconditional” as “loves you for who you are, even all the parts you hate.")
So. I’m feeling really good about my body, my most important relationship, and (perhaps most importantly) I’d say that “maybe everything isn’t hopeless bullshit”. And my mind is fine, I’ve got some decent skills, and I’m rich. What parts need to be rounded out in act 2?
- Kids. I’m even mildly excited about having them sometimes. Other times I feel like before ever going on my first roller coaster: I have no idea what to expect, but people seem to like this, so I’m pretty confident I will too. It feels like the next thing that’s gotta happen for our life to develop.
- Career. I can do things that make me money. I can do things that I feel pretty good doing from day to day. I haven’t gotten these to overlap yet. The sooner I figure this out, the better - but at least, sometime in Act 2! When work is going bad, everything’s bad (it’s a large portion of your day) so it’s pretty important to get this on the right track.
- Relatedly, though they might be the same and might be different: external purpose. Why will the world be a better place because I have lived? I need to either figure this out, or realize and believe that it already is.
- Pittsburgh, I guess? Let’s see what that brings.
The story you tell is the story that happened
We were debating moving down the hall to a similar apartment to save $1100/month. Pros: save $1100/month. Cons: slightly less space, and moving is hard. I told this story to basically everyone who would listen, and in some cases I asked for certain responses: “cool, get that discount!” or “it’s ok to not move; to effectively throw money at problems.” In either case, I felt validated. We ended up moving, and it’s fine, so that’s the story I tell. … Lesson learned, I think, is that if you’re super on the fence about something where both sides are fine, you don’t have to worry that the wrong story will get lodged in your mind; it just doesn’t.