In the ‘blog’ section I reflect on my own insecurities and commit to paper a history of my view on the world and my place in it; it is meant as a daily exercise to myself to experiment with different ‘voices’ and see what resonates. These entries are as fleeting as a single thought. I do it to encourage myself and other (aspiring) writers to experiment and fail in public. You just never know what words, form, or tone hits the right note with your readers.

The ‘column’ section exists specifically to produce a body of work that lasts forever. It is meant as a series of guides; I mean to poetically reflect on the sorrowful nature of our existence and how to cope with that. I try to keep a universal perspective between both forms of writing because I believe the human experience to be subject to inertia; our emotional experience today is no different from the one our ancestors experienced.

Thanks for taking an interest in my work.

Note

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Why is there no contact section?

There’s no contact section because I’m terrified of people. It’s that initial “unknown“ stage of meeting someone new that throws me out of whack. In my essay When Time Stood Still I explained that ”all sharks look like sharks" and that makes meeting new people difficult. Every person I meet is a potential threat to my well-being and that makes me nervous.

People register as threats by default. I grew up in a perpetually hostile and life-threatening environment, unbeknownst to my immediate family. It’s left me on edge. If it sounds like I’m angry a lot it‘s because I need to keep people at arms length to keep them from hurting me again.

I would love to meet new people! It saddens me that it’s so difficult. It’ll have to remain on my terms for now. There are amazing people out there, and my life is less rich without them in it.


Published on September 14, 2021

Try on different suits and see how they fit

I’ve been trying on different suits to see how they fit, but not in the way you’re imagining it. I write and experiment in public. I change “clothes” often to see how it feels. I openly experiment with design, new business ideas, and my writings to unify myself with what the creative process is actually like. It’s chaotic, intuitive, and emergent. Drastically increasing the output means I can count on stumbling upon a gem with greater frequency, and ensures I keep myself motivated and entertained.

That’s why I’m going back to writing daily. I thought I could just write weekly instead of daily but guess what happened? The output dropped spectacularly and I missed the weekly deadline I had set. I employ the same mindset with thoughts/ideas. You try it on and feel how it fits. If it’s not a good match you try on a different one until you find one that feels just right. That way I won’t get too attached to one idea or another; it’s freeing.


Published on September 13, 2021

Working less

I’ve been putting undue pressure on my creative process. Although I enjoy writing daily a great deal, it takes up a good chunk of my time, which I can’t afford at the moment. I want to work less, not more. Writing feels like work now. I’m scaling down to posting once a week, on Friday, for the time being.


Published on September 5, 2021

Quote of the Day (2) - Gabriel García Márquez

To him she seemed so beautiful, so seductive, so different from ordinary people, that he could not understand why no one was as disturbed as he by the clicking of her heels on the paving stones, why no one else’s heart was wild with the breeze stirred by the sighs of her veils, why everyone did not go mad with the movements of her braid, the flight of her hands, the gold of her laughter. He had not missed a single one of her gestures, not one of the indications of her character, but he did not dare approach her for fear of destroying the spell.”  —  Gabriel García Márquez, Love In The Time Of Cholera

This to me is still the most beautiful description of what being in love feels like.


Published on September 4, 2021

How to build a habit

You need four things to build a habit: trigger, routine, reward, and a time frame to do it in.

The trigger can be a feeling or a sensory reaction. When I get bored I tend to pick up my phone and start browsing the web. That’s a bad habit, but you get the picture.

The routine is what you do. When the sun goes down lots of things start happening. I dim the lights to a minimum, brush my teeth to prevent myself from eating more than is required, take care of my cat’s needs, lock down the house, write a blog entry, prepare for tomorrow, and so on.

The reward is something positive you get out of doing it. One example of a bad habit is rewarding yourself with food after a bad day.

The final ingredient in building a habit is setting a time frame to do it in. Dedicate a block of time to what you want to be doing. I blog/write at night. It’s become part of my nightly routine. If you want to build habits you should look at the habits you already have and tack one on.

One additional tip for advanced habit builders: log what you’re doing. What environmental cues work best for you? What times during the day do you feel like you’re at your best? What part of your process can be improved? How many tasks is too many? Log all of it.


Published on September 2, 2021

I feel like I haven't learned much at all

I was never able to focus on my education; it always came second to survival. I can’t make up for lost time, but I still feel a profound sadness associated with it. I don’t feel like I’ve learned much at all. What to make of that?

It’s disconcerting to feel like you know nothing at all.

It’s not true, but you feel so … naked.

Exposed.

Embarrassed.

“I’ve worked my butt off my whole life, and THIS is what I’ve got to show for it?!"

It’s the inner critic at work.

Mine is a representation of myself with a moustache; not a twiddly, tiny moustache, but a thick, intimidating one.

It’s self-awareness.

The realisation that I understand so little of the world keeps me modest.


Published on September 1, 2021

You don't have to be good at math to do math

When I see someone do math I can’t help but feel intimidated by them. It’s so alien to see numbers and variables represent some version of our reality. These “mathematicians” have somehow mastered this alien language, made it their own, and construct new language like it. They’re bloody wizards.

I want to be a wizard too.

Mathematics is a language that’s alien to everyone. It’s the language we’ve assigned reality. Wizards taught rocks how to think! You can’t expect to master a natural language by not using it; to master math you must do it often.

Mathematics is the language of the universe. If you “speak it”, reality is yours to bend to your will.

Watch the linked video. The “Too Long; Didn’t Watch” version of it is that math helps us see the world from a different perspective. You can use it to model the problems you face in life and approach it from a new perspective. It’s fun to do once you develop a feel for it.

And that’s the problem, right?

How do you develop a feel for mathematics?

Let’s ask John von Neumann, the most prolific mathematician of the 20th century, for advice.

He was quoted to say to Felix Smith, who was struggling with some aspect of mathematics:

“Young man, in mathematics you don’t understand things. You just get used to them.” - J. von Neumann

He basically said that experience will eventually turn into familiarity.

It has given me hope that I too, one day, can be a wizard.


Published on August 31, 2021

You are not a product

I very nearly stopped writing today.

I felt … pushed … to write for an audience. Not just any audience, but a profitable one. That would require me to precisely define who my readers are. I started to feel sick and anxious, almost enough to start avoiding work altogether. But I’m not a product or service to be consumed. I write for the pleasure of it and to imprint the web with a bit of my personality and history. It’s a perverse inclination to want to monetize everything I do. How disturbing.


Published on August 30, 2021

If life were a song

If life were a song, what would you hear?

Routines are boring only to those who don’t hear their own song. Life has a rhythm to it that you can tune into by going through the motions.

The daily tasks required to maintain health can feel like drudgery. It’s the chorus we are forced to hear without reprieve. Listening to our favorite song gets old and annoying real fast if it were forced upon us.

We must introduce a verse here and there to keep things interesting. We do this by chasing novelty, new experiences. If we don’t get enough of them life starts to feel dull.

Life’s been rather uneventful the last couple years. I’m hyper focused on my goals. I have no room for novelty at the moment, but to keep things interesting I take pleasure in the comings and goings of daily life.


Published on August 29, 2021

Quote of the day (1) - C.S. Lewis

“Human life has always been lived on the edge of a precipice. Human culture has always had to exist under the shadow of something infinitely more important than itself… If we let ourselves, we shall always be waiting for some distraction or other to end before we can really get down to our work. The only people who achieve much are those who want knowledge so badly that they seek it while the conditions are still unfavourable. Favourable conditions never come… We must do the best we can.” — C.S. Lewis

Filed under “urgency, decisiveness” on “why you shouldn’t fear living on the edge”.


Published on August 28, 2021

What makes you come alive?

I’m here for the experience of being alive. I believe most people are. I spent two and a half decades in a near, or complete, catatonic state. I couldn’t feel much of anything. I felt severed from life itself. It’s hard to describe what that’s like. It’s like looking at a world that’s never out of focus. You never take in anything fully, except for signs of danger. Imagine looking at a stunning sunset but not being able to experience it because the mind can only focus on the feeling of being in danger. I spent my life detached from the world as a result of repeated trauma. Up until now, that is. I’m not quite sure how I got here. That’s a topic for another time.

What I’m getting at is that I’m grateful. I’m happy I get to experience it now. It’s opened up a whole new set opportunities for me to explore. There are hobbies I’d like to try out. I never could find the energy or time to pursue hobbies because I was hyper-focused on survival. I want to get into fashion. Build retro gaming systems with scrap electronics. Learn how to take care of plants and collect rare specimens. Buy high-end headsets to play music on. Take classes again but instead of staying on the sidelines I want to be at the center of it, and be transformed by it. There’s a new world out there for me to explore.

The question that’s at the forefront of my mind right now is, what makes me come alive? It’ll take some trial and error, but I’m sure I’ll figure it out.


Published on August 27, 2021

Edit to your heart's content

I’m half asleep from the toil of today’s labor. I did some editing today. Dark mode is now permanent and I fixed some mistakes.

This post is a reminder not to get attached to any one idea. One of life’s greatest pleasures is the ability to change one’s mind. No thought is permanent. Neither are these blog posts. I fixed some mistakes and changed the tone of some sentences until I felt pleased.

Edit to your heart’s content.


Published on August 26, 2021

Developer diary (1.2) - Typography and Language

This entry continues the series on brand identity.

A large part of brand identity is determined by how you communicate with your customer. The type of language you use determines who feels drawn to it and who deterred. The same is true for your choice of typography; it communicates what type of company you are, what it represents, and who your perceived clients are. Let’s compare.

Wreath typeface is shown.

Type face “abolition” is shown.

The first image shows a typeface that would be suited for a company that wants to communicate that it’s energetic, creative, and playful. Most of your typical food blogs choose this type of typography. The second image communicates the exact opposite. It’s reserved, steadfast, serious. I don’t want to associate with every other food blog out there, I’m the “anti-chef”, I want to automate that dull task as much as possible and share my ways with the world, that’s why I chose Abolition as the main font for logos and headers. It stands out immediately and won’t draw the wrong crowd.


Published on August 25, 2021

How to build confidence in yourself?

Today was a hard day. I know what next steps I must take, it’s just that to do it I must let go of my desire to control the outcome. I must leave the perfect bubble I’ve created for myself. And I mean, it is perfect. Every minute of my day is under my control. I dictate what happens and when. And because I live in near perfect solitude there is no-one to rain on my parade. It is unfathomably blissful to live inside the bubble.

Regrettably, I can’t stay here.

People say that you build confidence after the fact, that you must hurl yourself into doing the thing that you’re afraid of doing and after you’ll feel more confident, and that’s true, but why? Trust is at the heart of confidence. It’s because you saw yourself handling the thing you were afraid of doing that you managed to build trust in yourself. Unfortunately, it’s not that straightforward, unless you’ve lived a life free from significant trauma.

If you’re looking for better advice than “just do it” to improve your confidence, look for ways to build trust in yourself. Are you trusting yourself with your well-being? If you aren’t taking care of yourself, start there. Are you worthy of a friend’s trust? If not, improve; keep secrets, be thoughtful, mind their boundaries. Are you challenging your mind? Pick up a book and go down uncomfortable roads. Do all that and you’ll have built enough trust in yourself to take on more challenging avenues of growth.

The current driver of my confidence isn’t trust, it’s the fact that I recently learned that people fear me, feel intimidated by me, feel anxious around me, and actively avoid me to not have to deal with me. That’s absolutely wild to me. I never thought of myself as a potential perpetrator, but always as a potential victim. I’ve honestly never felt more relaxed in my life knowing that some people fear me.

I’m ready to leave the bubble.

If I don’t like what’s out there, I can recreate the bubble at will and feel blissful again.

That’s a comforting thought.

If I get through it I’ll be a changed man.

There’s literally no bad outcome here.

Winning.


Published on August 24, 2021

Developer diary (1.1) - How to create a brand

I thought I’d lift the veil on what developers actually do. Today I’ll talk about web design in particular. What do you need to get right to create a brand?

  1. Brand colours (e.g. associations, aesthetic)

  2. Typography and Language

  3. Logo

Think about a particular brand you like. What comes to mind? When I think about Apple I think: privacy, intuitive, reliable. Start with what you want to communicate with your brand.

For my cooking app/blog it’s “funny, relatable, moody”. I’m looking for an aesthetic that communicates the opposite of what today’s cooking blogs are all about. The vast majority of them are from people who are passionate about cooking. I’m not. I’m passionate about automating all the parts of life that get in the way of living. Cooking, to me, is an annoyance. Have a look at a colour scheme I’m considering.

overview of colours chosen for my app

The base colour is grey. I think it’s called “space grey”. Doesn’t matter. It fits the “opposite” rhetoric I was talking about earlier.

Most cooking blogs are friendly and playful looking. 99% of them have a white shade as a base colour. I have tried darker shades before in my earlier designs but that seemed to erase brand identity in its entirety. Shades of black are hard to associate with an identity and difficult to pair with standout colours. I instead went with a base colour that won’t burn a hole in your eye sockets at night, but also still fits the “opposite” rhetoric.

The yellow is a contrast colour. Works particularly well for messaging that needs to stand out. Like messages delivered to the user. The remaining two are complementary colours meant to associate the brand with the colour of bread, pastries, cookies, root vegetables, mushrooms, and the adjective “earthy” (e.g. vegetation, roasted, cheerful, fragrant, humor, strong).

Together they form a palette of brand colours. You’ll go through dozens of these before you find something that feels right to you. Design is hard. You have to rely on your intuition to get it right. Tools that help me are coolors.co and colorhunt.co. You can’t just pick a palette and run with it though. You must also consider its impact on accessibility and other elements of visual design.

For instance, I discovered while designing the logo that the colours I had picked made the logo communicate something different when paired with certain shades yet not with others within the same palette. You don’t want to confuse potential users with inconsistent messaging. I’m still not completely happy, but I’m in “good enough” territory now so I’ll run with it.

Also note that if you’re an entrepreneur and you’re in a hurry, which I’m not, then you shouldn’t spend too much time on brand identity. It helps to get it right from the start, but you adjust messaging later. Not too much later though. It’s difficult to decouple associations once they’re made, that’s why so many companies opt to rebrand instead.

Tomorrow I’ll likely talk a bit about the role of Language and Typography in creating a brand identity.


Published on August 23, 2021

Labour of love

I’ve been slaving away at creating new logos for a Dutch cooking blog. It’s a real labour of love. I’m happy I get to do this. Dave Buchanan said it best though:

“I don’t need to be rich or have a fancy home. I just want to go to sleep at night knowing my labor had heart, I’ve loved fiercely and lived close enough to the edge that I can see the waves kiss the rocks.” —  Dave Buchanan

That’s it for today.


Published on August 22, 2021

Music series (7) - Pedal to the metal

What do you do when you get angry? Anger’s got to go somewhere. If it turns inward you’re looking at depression. Music might help put that anger into words AND into the world. If you’re a gym rat then listening to metal while you pump weight certainly helps to blow off steam. I have an entire playlist dedicated to “anger” and most of it is metal music.

I got introduced to metal by a friend in middle school. We had a few metal heads at school, like any other school. They never treated me poorly, unlike the jocks and the easily intimidated. Said friend took me on a tour of all “the best” metal bands in the world starting with Metallica’s "Master of Puppets" *, Iron Maiden’s "The Number of the Beast", and Megadeth’s "Peace Sells … But Who’s Buying?".

I recommend listening to all three; all links are Spotify links. I’m not a metal-aficionado, but I made friends with scary looking people simply for knowing and appreciating metal music. I distinctly remember a chatty metalhead on the subway who looked terrifying. He asked what I was listening to. I don’t remember what I said. It was an esoteric metal band. He was impressed. He didn’t think of me as the type and asked for a list of favorites. We became instant friends, a friendship that lasted until we parted ways. It’s a sweet memory.

I’ll highlight two favorite songs aside from the aforementioned albums.

Pantera - "Walk"

A song about self-belief.

It’s about people who have so little going on in their lives that they feel the need to put down those who do lead interesting lives. These bullies are incapable of making real friends. They’re always bullshitting each other, never revealing themselves to anyone frankly. They lead disordered lives because they lack direction. They’re unable to take responsiblity for themselves (“Can you hear the violins playing your song?” They can’t … they don’t know how to lead).

Run your mouth when I’m not around, it’s easy to achieve
You cry to weak friends that sympathize
Can you hear the violins playing your song?
Those same friends tell me your every word

Is there no standard anymore?
What it takes, who I am, where I’ve been belong
You can’t be something you’re not

Pantera’s album “Vulgar Display of Power” is exactly what it says on the tin.

Next up is Rage Against the Machine’s "Guerilla radio".

A protest song if there ever was one. A song about how money in politics corrupts leaders, getting arrested for protesting against immoral acts, and the importance of raising your voice to point out evil when you see it. It’s brilliant.

"Killing in the Name" is a cautionary tale about trusting authority. Authority isn’t a guide for morality. "Bulls on Parade" is about the ugly nature of the military industrial complex. "Wake Up" tells us about the ugliness of the class war. We’re being manipulated into having an “enemy” when the only real enemy are the greedy capitalists doing everything they can to hold onto their power.

All their songs are worth examining, but they don’t have to be to get the message.

That concludes the Music Series for the time being. I have one more entry coming up about my favorite genre to date, but I don’t yet know how I’ll approach it in fear of not doing it justice.

I’m happy I’ve been exposed to so many different genres of music over the years, all by people who were/are deeply passionate about their choice of music. Every time I listen to new music I’m left a different man than I was before.


Published on August 21, 2021

Music series (6) - Jazz it up

Jazz is an odd duck in this series. Certain criteria must be met for it to not register as noise half the time. Nevertheless I used to frequent a jazz bar in Amsterdam. It’s one of my favorite places in the world because it made me feel alive during a time where it was difficult to feel much of anything. Jazz music electrifies the air. You can cut the atmosphere with a knife; it’s tangible. It’s invigorating. It‘s just incredible because it’s so visceral.

I have no single recommendation today. Jazz is best experienced in the flesh. If the reader desires to understand why I listen to it at all, they must visit some local dive with live jazz music and experience it for themselves. For an alternative, play any of the Fallout games (my vote goes to Fallout New Vegas with mods to make it look better).


Published on August 20, 2021

Music series (5) - Dad's influence

What is this?

The prospect of death is driving my desire to document my life. I believe those who survive me will appreciate a long-running series on what I liked, disliked, and thought about. I listen to music most hours of the day. Be it while working out, working, cooking, or cleaning, there’s a playlist for everything I do. This series on music should help the reader understand what music I grew up listening to.

Music series (5) - Dad’s influence

I have a framed poster up in my home from a Pink Floyd concert I attended with my dad. It’s a constant reminder of my dad’s influence on the music I love. Today’s entry is an ode to what’s now considered Classic Rock. The kind of music my dad grew up listening to.

I got obsessed with Pink Floyd’s concept albums for a while. "The Wall" in particular blew my mind. I hear my life reflected in “The Wall”. My life didn’t begin with losing a father to the war ("In the Flesh?"), but with navigating a life of extreme violence, abuse, and neglect, but I, too, began to build a metaphorical wall to protect myself ("Another Brick in the Wall, part 1"). I, too, was mistreated by teachers ("Happiest Days of Our Lives"), although not in the exact same way as the protagonist. Middle school, a six year endeavor in the Netherlands for those with ambitions of obtaining an undergraduate degree, turned dark after three years. Those memories of middle school turned into yet more “bricks in the wall” ("Another Brick in the Wall, part 2"). The similarities end there, until you get to “One of My Turns” in which the protagonist goes off the rails in a violent fit of rage. I didn’t get violent at any point in my life, but I understand the feeling of rage and wanting to hurt people very well. You don’t want people to leave you ("Don’t Leave Me Now"), but you also don’t want to hurt people in your confusion and anger. You go into complete denial of what you’re actually feeling to protect those around you ("Another Brick in the Wall, part 3"), cementing your fate as a person isolated from the rest of humanity ("Goodbye Cruel World"). That’s the end of Disc 1. I can’t relate to Disc 2, the breaking of the wall, as much. It’s a completely different experience, aside from successfully destroying the wall.

Thanks dad, for introducing me to such an amazing artist. I owe many more to his influence. Chief among them, Neil Young and The Eagles.

Neil Young

My “Old Man" isn’t great with words, nor emotions. He’s a stoic, reserved, contented, hard-working man, with a*"Heart of Gold"*. I know, I know, that’s cheesy as fuck, but it’s the right kind of cheese. My dad’s an action-oriented type of guy. He’s always there when you need him. He’s never angry with you for failing, puts his trust in you, and supports his loved ones in whatever they choose to do. He adores Neil Young. I choose to believe that Neil Young often puts into words what my dad wishes he could say. I listen to Neil Young to get a glimpse behind the curtains of my dad’s mind.

I like to listen to Young’s contemporaries while writing, it puts me in a mood. The Rolling Stones, Lynyrd Skynyrd, David Bowie, Warren Zevon, Billy Joel, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Cat Stevens, Bob Dylan, The Band, Tom Waits, Iggy Pop. It’s a veritable smorgasbord of musicians keeping me company while journeying through the wild lands of the heart.

I’ll highlight one more band that has had a lasting effect on me.

Eagles

I have yet to put into words what I feel when I listen to the Eagles. I doubt I’ll be successful today. It’s the kind of band that defines a generation. I absolutely adore “Hotel California” (album). Their titular song ranks high among my all-time favorite songs.

If I had to pick a few favorites, they’d be: “Seven Bridges Road”, “Tequila Sunrise”, “Desperado”, “Life in the Fast Lane”, and of course, “Hotel California”.

I hope to be fortunate enough to see them before they quit for good.


Published on August 19, 2021

Don't go to bed during the day

Unless you actually need to take a nap, don’t go to bed during the day.

Don’t rest on it.

Don’t even go near it.

The bed’s strongly associated with sleep. I myself feel drowsy after just a few minutes of lying down on the bed. I start to feel hazy too, unmotivated, utterly incapable of doing anything else but rest. I wonder, have I been pushing myself too hard lately, or is the bed simply too strongly associated with sleep?

I don’t really have a proper place to rest when I need it during the day. I could perhaps go for a stroll and call it “active rest”, as long as it doesn’t engage the mind too much I should be fine. Maybe I’ll buy a chair to rest in. Who knows? Doesn’t matter as long as I stop using the bed for anything but sleep.


Published on August 18, 2021

Music series (4) - How to paint a mood with sound

What is this?

I’m documenting my likes and dislikes for posterity’s sake. This entry is part of a series on music.

Music series (4) - ambient & electronic music

I listened to a lot of music in my late teens and all throughout my twenties. I still listen to music all hours of the day but it’s no longer a deliberate activity like it once was. I don’t spend hours of my time sharing and discussing music anymore.

Ambient music is best described as music that paints a mood. When I listen to Tycho’s “A Walk” I picture orange overtones on a mellow backdrop of people going about their day. It feels sunny, lighthearted. It’s the essence of walking down the street and seeing sun dresses waving in the wind. There’s a whole aesthetic associated with it. That’s the beauty of it. It doesn’t matter what the artist intended, they’re just helping you paint a mood for you to get lost in.

These days I don’t listen to whole albums anymore in the ambient & electronic category. When the mood strikes I just listen to one of Lofi Girl’s playlists instead. But a friend from the UAE got me hooked on Emancipator, Tycho, Explosions in the Sky and Bonobo; I can’t write a story about how I came to be me without including a segment on these artists in particular.

I’ll include one album of each artist that struck me as important to me still.

“Dive” by Tycho

Recommended song to try on either Spotify or YouTube: “Hours”

Why this one? If you’ve ever wondered what the hours before sun down sounded like, look no further than Tycho’s “Hours”. It’s a celebration of the day passed. It’s the excitement of having lived yet another day. It’s a comfort and an awakening at the same time.

-——————

“Safe in the Steep Cliffs” by Emancipator

Recommended song to try on either Spotify or YouTube: “Greenland”

Why this one? It’s ethereal. It reaches a point where reality and the imagination become one and the same. Kinda like listening to poetry without words to hold onto, getting lost out at sea without a map.

-——————

“The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Place” by Explosions in the Sky

Recommended song to try on either Spotify or YouTube: “Your Hand in Mine”

Why this one? Because it makes me long for love. It’s an 8 minute exposé on the delicate nature of what it’s like to be in love. It’s that tingly feeling you get when your hand touches that of another. It’s that build up of feelings racing to your heart. It’s that dizzy feeling of being intoxicated with someone’s scent. It’s the rush and the comedown of opening up to someone. It’s a rhythmic celebration of love.

-——————

“Black Sands” by Bonobo

Recommended song to try on either Spotify or YouTube: “Kong”

Why this one? I feel like I’m traveling when I listen to “Kong”, experiencing different cultures, eating foreign foods, smoking cigars in far away places, watching people go about their day. It has a dark undertone to it, kind of like how you can never quite get the full picture of the lives people are living.


Published on August 17, 2021

Change one thing at a time

Every New Year people flock to the gym in the hopes of getting in shape, but only a handful stick around long enough to see meaningful change. What do these people do differently?

I have no hard data I’m afraid, but I do have a strong suspicion. People like that don’t get frustrated to the point of quitting when they aren’t seeing results from their labor. They continue to go to the gym, trying out different approaches until something sticks. That means that the end result isn’t what they obsess over, but rather their process.

What do most people do when they say they want to get in shape? They psyche themselves out telling themselves that THIS TIME they’ll CRUSH their goals. Nope. Not happening. You’ll stay stuck in the same cycle. Try something. Get discouraged. Stop. If you feel you can’t change the part of you that’s only interested in results, you should give up on ever becoming fit.

The annual probability of an obese man attaining normal weight is 1 in 210. That’s a 0.476% chance of getting fit. It’s 1 in 124 for women (0.806% chance). The odds for morbidly obese men and women are staggeringly low, at 0.077% and 0.147%, respectively.[1] The mechanics of weight loss are known to virtually everybody, which means it’s not a knowledge issue, but a behavioral one.

Once a habit has been formed it’s hard to change it into something else, especially because our habits are informed/triggered by the environment we live in. I have two particularly strong environmental triggers. One is after dinner. I always crave something sweet after dinner. I scour the kitchen cabinets and fridges for something sweet, but because I hardly ever buy any, there is none for me to devour.

The other trigger is if I happen to be in front of a TV and can’t occupy my hands with something, like a game controller. Sometimes I crave something sweet, at other times something salty or fat. It’s because I’ve primed myself with eating those things in front of the TV doing fuck all else. It sucks because now I’m stuck with those cravings, possibly for life.

What would it take to unlearn that?

It would be like unlearning how to drive a car once you’ve already mastered that.

You can’t.

You’ll never forget how to drive a car once you know how.

People basically get only one real shot at forming healthy habits when they’re young. It gets progressively more difficult the older you get.

All I can realistically do is replace the relatively boring task of watching TV with something more stimulating. I don’t know what to do about that craving for sweetness after dinner, aside from ignoring it for a few hours. It does pass. Although, writing about it right now makes me long for dessert again. Funny how that works. Let’s not be quick to blame sugar. It’s you. It’s me. I know, I know. That’s a hard thing to accept.

You have to completely change the way you live your life to get in shape. It’s not optional. The body listens to environmental signals. If your body consistently found itself underneath heavy weights it would get the message of “if you don’t adapt you’ll die”, but since yours consistently finds itself seated or lying down, it has no reason to adapt but grow fat instead.

I know, I know. It fucking sucks.

Why can’t we just eat a humongous amount of donuts without consequence? Why can’t I scarf down bags of chips every night without worrying about becoming unhealthy? Why must I pass on all the sweet looking pastries after dinner? Why does all the good stuff require preparation for it to taste good? Damn it.

But the body’s state also affects the mind.

We can’t neglect either one, or our quality of life plummets.

It’s in our best interest to take care of our body as best we can.

You can do it.

It may take a decade.

It may take less than a year.

But you can do it.

IF you stop obsessing over results.

You must instead obsess over improving your habits one day at a time. That way you can take a hit of disappointment much more easily, and you won’t get frustrated as much either. What does obsessing over your process look like, then?

You need four things to successfully get in shape: a healthy diet, sound sleep, consistency, and (workout) intensity. In that order.

Start with a healthy diet first. Forget about gyms or hard exercise. Make only one small change at a time. An example goal could be swapping your daily Coca-Cola intake with water. For some this is an already seemingly insurmountable challenge. This simple, but difficult, change will already net you noticeable results. You’ll feel less constipated, less bloated, less foggy, and your skin will clear up.

Next up would be changing your breakfast to a vegetarian one. You really don’t need the insane amount of protein people are consuming these days. It’s much more important to get an adequate amount of veggies into your system and understand how much food your body actually requires.

If you’re a heavy dude or dudette be warned. Your body requires an insane amount of food to maintain that weight. It’s advised to not calculate what your body would need at a normal weight, but less than what you’re eating to keep the weight you’re at. That requires counting calories. I know, I know. It fucking sucks …

Suck it up.

Once you’ve mastered that you can move on to something else to improve on. I picked dinners. I am thankfully lucky enough to be able to afford HelloFresh. It only takes me about five minutes a week to plan my meals thanks to HelloFresh. They make it stupendously easy to eat healthy. They also tell you how much each meal has in calories, so it’s easy to track that too.

All I track at the moment is breakfast. That’s not hard.

I don’t mind cooking. I do mind doing groceries and the stress that comes with choosing what to eat. Now I’m basically guaranteed an adequate intake of vegetables every week and get my groceries delivered. Win. If you can afford HelloFresh or something similar, invest in that, I beg of you. You need to have a system in place to win this fight. I doubt you can do this if you’re poor. I’m sorry. I truly am. Being poor fucking sucks.

I’m still stuck on getting lunch right. I’ve been trying for many years. No real success. I’m able to eat a vegeterian or vegan meal for lunch usually a couple times a week, but never consistently. I’ve tried rotating between meals but life’s much too exhausting to keep that up. I’m not too concerned about lunch though, as long as I manage my intake and get dinner and breakfast right.

Despite not having mastered lunch yet I can safely say that this result is “good enough” territory. The next target for you to master is sleep. Prioritize good sleep hygiene and go to bed on time. I could fill an entire post on how to sleep well, but for now it suffices to say that sleep is of paramount importance to get right. Your body won’t transform the way you want it to if it doesn’t get adequate sleep.

The only thing I recommend adding before mastering your diet and sleep is simply moving more. For instance, I bike and walk everywhere. Anything under 25km away from me is still doable by bike. I haven’t touched the car in months!

So to recap for a moment, focus on diet first, but only change one thing at a time. Then get your sleep habits under control once you’ve made strides in your diet. While doing all this you just need to move more than you did previously. I’m not talking exercise. Do nothing that requires a change of clothing.

What’s next?

Hard exercise.

The balls to the wall type of exercise.

Intense “I want to die” type of exercise.

Life-affirming exercise.

You get the picture.

I enjoy running, but I don’t do it consistently enough to see any major changes, despite loving it. I can’t do it consistently yet because I’m struggling with my mental health. I tire easily thanks to CPTSD. Dealing with that is a major pain. I don’t stress over it though. I focus intently on making small improvements to my diet and sleep routine. I run whenever I get the chance.

If I can manage to perfect my sleep and absolutely nail my diet then maybe I’ll have enough energy to workout consistently. Perfecting the routines that keep my body from falling apart will ensure that once I get serious about working out I’ll have the emotional bandwidth and the energy reserves necessary to improve my fitness. That’s the hard part of getting fit, managing your energy levels until they improve enough for you to not have to care about that anymore, but getting fit requires you to stay consistent.

You must show up week after week to enact meaningful change.

That fucking blows, doesn’t it?

I personally believe a fit body is out of reach for most people. It requires vast resources, a focused mind, and an unbelievable amount of work that the vast majority of the working people don’t have the energy or money for. We’re not even there yet. Once you’ve mastered your diet, sleep, and workout routine, you’ll have to up the intensity for the body to say “you know what? These fat reserves are a liability, they must go!”

Unfortunately, most people don’t have it in them to push themselves to their limits. That’s okay. It’s much easier with a trainer coaching you, or taking a class. It’s just that these services cost money. Out of reach for most. Getting in shape fucking sucks. It’s a difficult behavioral problem, but also an economical one. You need money, and lots of it, to buy healthy foods, and access to required services (e.g. trainers, classes).

If you’re a smart cookie then you can apply the same principle to any other hard problem that requires a change of habit. Focus on incremental change over long periods of time. That’s how Rome was built.


Published on August 16, 2021

You’re going to fail

Learning anything truly challenging hurts; it can make us feel inadequate, and leave us feeling confused about more than just the subject matter. I understand not wanting to do that when life itself is already challenging, but that comfort comes at a cost.

Ignorance is bliss, but only if your world is tiny and stays that way. We don’t live in that world anymore. We’re a global people. Someone in China ate a bat and birthed a global pandemic that’s already taken millions of lives, illustrating how interconnected our lives are. We can’t afford to stay ignorant. Lives depend on it.

Many times in my life have I had to rebuild my entire worldview from the ground up. It’s a dark place to be in when nothing makes sense anymore. It’s confusing, but most of all, painful. It helps that I was deeply apathetic growing up anyway to numb the pain of childhood trauma. I felt detached from the world most of the time. That numbness helped me be comfortable with learning unsettling things about the world I occupy.

Now that I’ve made progress in therapy learning anything that challenges my worldview has become significantly more painful. I feel much more than I did growing up thanks to therapy. Feeling more has become a significant hindrance to my learning. Looking back I see a graveyard of mistakes made in an attempt to be less ignorant of the world I live in. I sometimes wonder whether it was worth it but then I remind myself that staying ignorant prevents me from adequately navigating an ever changing world. It helps just enough to try again.

I have big dreams and challenge myself accordingly. I fail daily, at an ever increasing rate. I need you to understand that you will fail doing anything of note. You have to work at it when nobody’s watching, perhaps for years, possibly decades before you can reap the rewards. What’s worse is that you’re not guaranteed a good outcome. You can work hard at something for decades and continue to fail until the day you die. It is a burden that you must carry alone.

Learning how to fail with a little grace is quintessentially human and hard to master. You need a healthy dose of humility, self-awareness about the limits of your understanding, unrelenting curiosity, and the willingness to suffer. Be a brave soul. It doesn’t really get any easier with age as far as I can tell. If you’re comfortable you’ve grown complacent; you’re not challenging yourself enough.

Ask hard questions, learn hard things. We can’t afford to be ingnorant in this world. See climate change, collapsing ecosystems, covid19, vaccines, the potential for antibiotic resistant super bugs, and so on. Our lives depend on our willingness to be comfortable with failure and learning from said failure.


Published on August 15, 2021

One month

It’s been a month since I started blogging daily.

None of my fears came to pass.

Here’s to another month.

Today I’ll be putting my energy towards a long-form essay on how to make your life a little easier.

I use Nudge Theory to ensure that basic life tasks (e.g. cooking, showering, cleaning) require only a minimum amount of energy to complete.

I need to do this otherwise there’s no energy left to work, write, or do literally anything else, but I figured it could be helpful to anyone looking to free up time.


Published on August 14, 2021

Music series (3.1) - When Life Gives You Lemons

What is this?

One day I’ll die. I write to leave myself behind, or as much of me as I can. This entry is a continuation of a series on music I liked growing up.

Entry 3.1 Music as education part II

Yesterday I talked a bit about how music’s more than just entertainment. It’s a way to feel, to express, and to learn new language constructs and concepts to orient yourself with. Today I’d like to highlight a few songs that have stuck with me for one reason or other.

#1 “Yesterday” by Atmosphere. Listen on Spotify or Youtube.

This song’s beat is antithetical to what’s being communicated. A song about remorse and grief backed by catchy loop that somehow makes me happy. It hit me like a ton of bricks the first time I listened to it despite still having a father. Makes more sense when you listen to it intently.

Yesterday was that you? Looked just like you
Strange things my imagination might do
Take a breath, reflect on what we’ve been through
Or am I just goin' crazy ‘cause I miss you?

And when you left, I didn’t see it coming
I guess I slept, it ain’t like you was runnin’
You crept out the front door slow
And I was so self absorbed, I didn’t even know
And by the time I looked up, it was booked up
Put it all behind you, the bad and the good stuff
A whole house full of dreams and steps
I think you’d be impressed with the pieces I kept

You disappeared but the history is still here
That’s why I try not to cry over spilled beer
I can’t even get mad that you gone
Leavin' me was probably the best thing you ever taught me

I’m sorry
It’s official
I was a fist-full
I didn’t keep it simple
Chip on the shoulder, anger in my veins
Had so much hatred, now it brings me shame
Never thought about the world without you
And I promise that I’ll never say another bad word about you
I thought I saw you yesterday
But I know it wasn’t you ‘cause you passed away, Dad

#2 “Dance with the Devil” by Immortal Technique. Listen on Spotify or YouTube.

Immortal Technique (I.T.) tells a story that would be befitting of a short audiobook. It’s over 9 minutes long. It’s intense, intriguing, incredibly violent. My mind was blown when I first heard it. It’s a work of art, a masterpiece of storytelling.

I.T has commented on the song saying that it is “really about how we are killing ourselves and destroying the most valuable resource that the Latino/Black community has, our women." [1] This song marked a deepening of my interest in hip-hop music. The opening lines still give me chills.

I once knew a nigga whose real name was William
His primary concern was making a million
Being the illest hustler that the world ever seen
He used to fuck moviestars and sniff coke in his dreams
A corrupted young mind at the age of 13
Nigga never had a father and his mom was a fiend
She put the pipe down, but for every year she was sober
Her son’s heart simultaneously grew colder
He started hanging out selling bags in the projects
Checking the young chicks, looking for hit and run prospects
He was fascinated by material objects
But he understood money never bought respect
He built a reputation ‘cause he could hustle and steal
But got locked once, and didn’t hesitate to squeal
So criminals he chilled with didn’t think he was real
You see, me and niggas like this have never been equal
I dont project my insecurities at other people
He fiended for props like addicts with pipes and needles
So he felt he had to prove to everyone he was evil
A feeble minded young man with infinite potential
The product of a ghetto breed capatalistic mental
Coincidentally dropped out of school to sell weed
Dancing with the devil, smoked until his eyes would bleed
But he was sick of selling trees and gave in to his greed

#3 “Shook Ones Pt. II” by Mobb Deep. Listen on Spotify or YouTube.

A brutal song about what it takes to survive on the streets. This song is a testimony to raw aggression.

Scared to death, scared to look, they shook
‘Cause ain’t no such things as halfway crooks

Living the live that of diamonds and guns
There’s numerous ways you can choose to earn funds
Some get shot, locked down and turn nuns
Cowardly hearts and straight up shook ones, shook ones
He ain’t a crook son, he’s just a shook one

“Shook one” refers to someone who acts tough until they’re actually in a tight spot. It’s what Mike Tyson meant with “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face.” It’s something I can relate to, and have trouble communicating to others, as a person who grew up under the constant threat and presence of (extreme) violence. I personally believe that this song covers the traumatic nature of being poor.

#4 "‘Till I Collapse” by Eminem. Listen on Spotify or YouTube.

I cried my way through college. I never learned what boundaries were until my world collapsed. I grew up oblivious to the concept of “limits”. I only stopped when my body gave out. The body and mind can take decades of abuse until they stop functioning. On the road to total collapse you occasionally find yourself near cliffs.

You stare into the abyss.

The abyss stares back at you.

What do you do?

School mandated I perform otherwise I wouldn’t graduate and my dream of becoming a scientist would be in jeopardy. In those moments I needed a boost to get me through the night of work ahead of me. I cried, hit my legs with my fists, and listened to songs like ‘Till I Collapse to keep me going.

‘Cause sometimes you just feel tired, feel weak
And when you feel weak, you feel like you wanna just give up
But you got to search within you, and try to find that inner strength
And just pull that shit out of you
And get that motivation to not give up, and not be a quitter
No matter how bad you wanna just fall flat on your face and collapse

#5 “Porcelain” by Tonedeff. Listen on Spotify or YouTube.

A song about heartbreak, but primarily about the expectation that boys don’t hurt. As a boy I didn’t understand why I was expected to “tough it out” regardless of what I was experiencing. I felt broken. I didn’t feel tough at all.

I felt like … porcelain.

Vulnerable.

Easily broken into a thousand pieces, never to be put back again in the same way.

Days Pass and
Time Goes on and on
You might think my skin
Was strong enough
But there’s something you don’t understand
I’m porcelain
I’m porcelain

You know that if I could
You know that sky looks over the sea
I don’t think there’s one thing in this world
That’ll make you notice me
You can wield that sword in any direction you damn well please
You don’t understand that my heart is in your hands
And I’m beggin you not to
Squeeze
Please don’t squeeze


Published on August 13, 2021

Music series (3) - music as education

I’m continuing the music series until I get sick of it.

I don’t remember how I got introduced to rap music. It’s not something you’d expect a nerdy white boy to be interested in. I had a friend in my late teens who was equally obsessed. We both spent a great time listening to rap music and making lists for each other to critique. I’m grateful for him.

I specifically remember feeling inadequate discussing music.

People seemed so certain about what constituted “good” music. I objected to the sense that there’s a clear distinction between “good” and “bad” music or that the lyrics were at all important to the enjoyment of music. I spent more time arguing that it’s nonsensical to rate music than I did talking about music.

I sat down with pen and paper in hand trying to make sense of the lyrics as an exercise to myself. I first started doing this with Eminem’s records, because they seemed approachable, most notably The Eminem Show and The Marshall Mathers LP while on holiday with my family. That’s atypical behavior for the average fan; I was fast becoming obsessed.

Listening to hip-hop was more than entertainment to me, it was an education.

I was suddenly exposed to a world I myself had never witnessed: gang violence, poverty, oppression, racism, rebellion, even if it was mostly subliminally. Hip-hop, indirectly, gave me a way to situate myself in a world I had no control over or was privy to, but that wasn’t even its most important contribution to my development as a person.

I was introduced to new language at a critical time in my life.

I actually suspect hip-hop to be driving much of our adoption of new words. That’s worth looking into some other time. What I can say with certainty is that I partly owe my understanding of the English language to the countless hours I spent listening to and transcribing rap songs.

There is no shortage of gifted lyricists out there. Have a look at Aesop Rock’s “Daylight”, for instance. Try to get a sense of the lyrics first before you listen to the song on YouTube or Spotify.

Yoput one up shackle me, not clean logic procreation
I did not invent the wheel I was the crooked spoke adjacent
While the triple sixers lassos keep angels roped in the basement
I walk the block with a halo and a stick poking your patience
Ya’ll catch a 30 second flash visual
Dirty cooperative Neptune blue head hurt splits
Ridiculous fathom the splicing of first generation
fuck up or trickle down anti hero smack (Cracking!)
I paste the game to zero all completion green (Splash!)
Took an early retirement pick a dream
American nightmare hogging the screen
I’ll hold the door open so you can stumble in
and you would stop following me around the jungle gym
Now it’s an honor and I spell it with the ‘H’ I stole from heritage
Marry crutch stolen wretched refuge refuse my teaming resonance
I promise temperance storm breed with a leaning conscious
In a credence relax responsive with my sports outsource the wattage
And I’m sleeping now (Wow!) And the settlers laugh
You won’t be laughing when your covered wagons crash
You won’t be laughing when the buses drag your brother’s flags into rags
You won’t be laughing when your front lawn is spangled with epitaphs
You won’t be laughing
And I hang my boots to rest when I’m impressed
So I triple knot them then I forgot them
This origami dream is beautiful
but man those wings will never leave the ground
Without a feather and a lottery ticket, now settle down

Note how difficult it is to decipher what Aesop’s talking about, but add sound to it and suddenly you “get the vibe”. Now let’s have a look at the chorus.

All I ever wanted was to pick apart the day,
put the pieces back together my way
All I ever wanted was to pick apart the day,
put the pieces back together my way
All I ever wanted was to pick apart the day,
put the pieces back together my way
All I ever wanted was to pick apart the day,
put the pieces back together my way

What he wants is freedom. He wants control over what his day looks like. The rest starts to make more sense that way. He’s raging against, and critiquing, the system that robs us of so much, from the constant advertisements, to the war machine, and how lucky you have to be to escape it all. It’s all there.

That settles it, I’m starting a mini-series on just the hip-hop albums that have made significant contributions to my development as a person. I’m looking forward to tomorrow!


Published on August 12, 2021

Music series (2) - The Smalls

I had so much fun writing yesterday’s entry about Iron & Wine that I really wanted to do another. Remember that these entries are attempts at documenting important moments of my life for posterity’s sake. I’m not here to promote one band or another, but to give the reader a glimpse into what music shaped the writer.

Today I’ll be covering a Canadian hard rock band/metal called The Smalls, a stark departure from Iron & Wine’s mellow folk sound. I was introduced to this band by a Canadian friend on a music forum. I distinctly remember being blown away by them and turning up the volume on my headphones every time I sat down to listen to them.

When you listen to “Waste & Tragedy” (1995) you’ll undoubtedly be pulled in by the band’s intense energy. I’ve been told by the person who introduced me, who was many years my senior at the time and had seen them perform, that their live performances made people absolutely lose their shit. I can only imagine.

I deeply regret that I’ll never get to see them.

The Smalls were a brilliant band drawing inspiration from a wide-variety of genres, from country music, to jazz, speed metal, rap and many others. The band didn’t like to be pigeonholed. Here are Corb Lund’s thoughts:

“We’ve outlived a bunch of different scenes that people have tried to lump us into, but we’ve never seen ourselves as part of a ‘scene;’ we’ve never been really into the punk scene, or the speed-metal scene, or the rap-metal scene. People just try to fit us into whatever music happens to be playing at the time, but we’ve never really paid too much attention to that." – Wikipedia

I think I was about 15-16 years old when I first listened to them. I wasn’t having a good time at school. The bullies in my class hated my guts. Listening to music and exploring my interests outside of school is how I managed to cope for a little while.

I felt deeply apathetic and empty at the time. I wanted to feel and any band that made me feel something became my obsession du jour. It’s not like I was aware that that’s what I wanted, or needed. It’s just what I intuitively felt most drawn to and filled my time with. I was operating on little else but willpower.

The Smalls made me feel like there was still life in me.

Their songs are generally so high-energy that you can’t help but be moved by the sheer intensity of their sound. I encourage you to listen to the whole “Waste & Tragedy” album on Spotify or YouTube with a good pair of headphones on cranked up high to get a true sense of what I listened to and experienced during a time of great hardship.

For a mere glimpse of what they sound like, listen to “Never Be Ready” on either Spotify or YouTube.

It’s gonna be fast
And you ain’t gonna last
It’s the end of the line
It’s the end of your time, friend.

I’m gonna tear you in two with a fury
And a vigor that you’ve never known
It’s gonna rip you apart with a merciless
Assault all on your pleasure dome

And you’ll never be ready
You can never be ready
No matter how steady you can ever be

It’s gonna be fast
And you ain’t gonna last
It’s the end of your line
It’s the end of your time, friend

A crushing attack it in the plans to do
Some damage you can never fix
It’s coming in sharp with a heavy handed
Trip; you’ll feel it when it hits
It’s gonna mess with your mind, man, with
An ultra violent bite

In retrospect I understand why I liked them so much. Look at all that rage on display! That’s what I felt underneath the mountain of pain that was preventing me from feeling much of anything. It makes so much sense now. This song perfectly encapsulates hatred; I daydreamed about hurting my bullies.

I’m actually taken aback by how powerful a force my intuition has been, always pointing me in the right direction even when I couldn’t be consciously aware of it due to being stuck at the bottom of the ocean. I mean this is just one example of many, but still, the extent of it is staggering.


Published on August 11, 2021

Music series (1) - Iron & Wine

I said I would do a series on music that I love/loved. This is the first entry in the series.

I’m not a huge fan of Iron & Wine anymore, but I was really into their music for a time; perhaps because most of Sam Beam’s songs have this twinge of sadness to them, even when they are meant to convey happy moments in our lives. I still like Sam’s music, but other genres dominate at the moment.

The most likely answer for why I liked Sam’s work so much growing up is that his early work is so delicate and saddening it’s painful to listen to, and that’s what my life amounted to at the time, pain. I was in dire straits and listening to music that made me feel what I needed to feel was how I coped.

As a child I never really listened to the lyrics, until I hit my “rap phase”. I would go by how songs made me feel. In my teens I had a rap phase, a metal phase, and a folk phase. If memory serves the folk phase came first, then rap, then metal. Not one of them felt “right” to me, but they all shaped me in different ways.

Sam Beam, the lead singer of the Iron & Wine group, always made me feel sad, and sadness is what I felt in my bones all day, every day. Listening to his songs felt like the equivalent of a tuning fork finding that acoustic sweet spot. His songs hurt in all the right places without knowing why.

Let’s take a trip down memory lane.

I was an active contributor to an online music forum. I was among the youngest at 13-14 when I first joined, with some contributors being adults in their late 20’s. We talked a lot about music, life in general, but mostly music. I couldn’t contribute much at that age, but I enjoyed being part of the conversation.

We shared records we liked. That’s how I got introduced to Iron & Wine. I went to support them years later (18-20) and bought their records on vinyl. The first song I’d like to share is “Faded from the Winter” from The Creek Drank the Cradle released in 2002.

Daddy’s ghost behind you Sleeping dog beside you You’re a poem of mystery You’re the prayer inside me

Spoken words like moonlight You’re the voice that I like

Needlework & seedlings In the way you’re walking To me from the timbers Faded from the winter

You can listen to it on Spotify or YouTube.

Listening to it with today’s ears I’m blown away by the middle verse, Spoken words like moonlight, You’re the voice that I like. In my teens (17-19) I was in love with a girl called Kristina whose voice made my heart sing. I don’t specifically recall liking the song for that reason, but I wouldn’t put it past me either.

In my younger years it was his delicate delivery that drew me in. He sang the way I felt at the time. No matter what I did or how I happy I was in the moment, I felt like I was draped in a wet blanket of sadness and despair. The lyrics didn’t matter to me. What mattered most was how the song made me feel.

Next song is “Upward over the Mountain” , another favorite from The Creek Drank the Cradle. It’s about a boy and his mother. I wonder if I was able to connect the dots at fourteen. Did I like this song because of my own straining relationship with my mother? Doubtful. Sure hits different at age 32.

Mother don’t worry, I killed the last snake that lived in the creek bed
Mother don’t worry, I’ve got some money I saved for the weekend
Mother remember being so stern with that girl who was with me?
Mother remember the blink of an eye when I breathed through your body?

So may the sunrise bring hope where it once was forgotten
Sons are like birds, flying upward over the mountain

Mother I made it up from the bruise on the floor of this prison
Mother I lost it, all of the fear of the Lord I was given
Mother forget me now that the creek drank the cradle you sang to
Mother forgive me, I sold your car for the shoes that I gave you

So may the sunrise bring hope where it once was forgotten
Sons could be birds, taken broken up to the mountain

Mother don’t worry, I’ve got a coat and some friends on the corner
Mother don’t worry, she’s got a garden we’re planting together
Mother remember the night that the dog got her pups in the pantry?
Blood on the floor, fleas on their paws,
And you cried ‘til the morning

So may the sunrise bring hope where it once was forgotten
Sons are like birds, flying always over the mountain

You can listen to it on Spotify or Youtube.

Moving on to Our Endless Numbered Days, an album released in 2004. The first song I’d like to highlight is “Sunset Soon Forgotten”. It’s about cherishing the moment. It has a very distinct acoustic melody that’s lodged inside my mind.

Be this sunset soon forgotten
Your brothers left here shaved and crazy
We’ve learned to hide our bottles in the well
And what’s worth keeping, sun still sinking
Down and down
Once again
Down and down
Gone again

Be this sunset one for keeping
This June bug street sings low and lovely
Those band-aid children
Chased your dog away
She runs, returning, sun still sinking
Down and down
Once again
Down and down
Gone again

If I recall this song added a tinge of relief from the cruelty I was experiencing. It simultaneously conveyed a sense that the pain wouldn’t last and that I could still enjoy the moments in which I was afforded a reprieve from the agony.

Listen to “Sunset Soon Forgotton” on Spotify or Youtube.

Up next is “Fever Dream”.

Some days her shape in the doorway
Will speak to me
A bird’s wing on the window
Sometimes I’ll hear when she’s sleeping
Her fever dream
A language on her face

“I want your flowers like babies want God’s love
Or maybe as sure as tomorrow will come”

Some days, like rain on the doorstep
She’ll cover me
With grace in all she offers
Sometimes I’d like just to ask her
What honest words
She can’t afford to say, like

“I want your flowers like babies want God’s love
Or maybe as sure as tomorrow will come”

Again, if memory serves, this song hurt like nothing else did in my late teens, possibly early twenties. I was going through heartbreak and this song reminded me of the fact that you’ll never really know someone, prompting me to deep dive into philosophy with questions like “can I be sure other people experience the world the way I do?” with dire consequences. It was a dark time.

You can listen to “Fever Dream” on Spotify or YouTube.

Let’s move on to “Passing Afternoon”, the closing song on Our Endless Numbered Days.

There are times that walk from you like some passing afternoon
Summer warmed the open window of her honeymoon
And she chose a yard to burn but the ground remembers her
Wooden spoons, her children stir her Bougainvillea blooms

There are things that drift away like our endless, numbered days
Autumn blew the quilt right off the perfect bed she made
And she’s chosen to believe in the hymns her mother sings
Sunday pulls its children from the piles of fallen leaves

There are sailing ships that pass all our bodies in the grass
Springtime calls her children until she let’s them go at last
And she’s chosen where to be, though she’s lost her wedding ring
Somewhere near her misplaced jar of Bougainvillea seeds

There are things we can’t recall, Blind as night that finds us all
Winter tucks her children in, her fragile china dolls
But my hands remember hers, rolling around the shaded ferns
Naked arms, her secrets still like songs I’d never learned

There are names across the sea, only now I do believe
Sometimes, with the window closed, she’ll sit and think of me
But she’ll mend his tattered clothes and they’ll kiss as if they know
A baby sleeps in all our bones, so scared to be alone

He takes you on a journey through the seasons, each highlighting a different aspect of the love he had lost. This song hit like a ton of bricks at the time. I had just been rejected by Kristina and desperately needed an emotional blood-letting. I cried rivers listening to this song. Thanks, Sam. Truly.

You can listen to “Passing Afternoon” on Spotify and YouTube.

That’s it for today. I’ll be sure to revisit Iron & Wine another time because there’s lots more to discuss.


Published on August 10, 2021

Getting things done

Are you a procrastinator?

Of course you are, only the lunatics among us aren’t.

Yesterday, I posted about feeling too drained to sit down and write, and continued to postpone until the deadline was getting near. Despite my exhaustion I was still expecting myself to be at the top of my game!

Silly brain.

Always demanding the absolute best from himself.

Managing my energy levels has been critical in ensuring I continue to get work done, but there’s one trick in particular I’d like to talk about that’s helped a lot in the past:

Lowering the bar.

Just for today’s work.

For me that would mean not getting stuck on a title for today’s post but rather defaulting to a template that makes titles optional (e.g. “entry #23”). Removing the expectation of having the perfect title (for SEO purposes) lowers the treshold at which my gears start moving.

When you feel like giving up, lower your expectations, and get something done. It doesn’t have to be good, it just needs to preserve your momentum.


Published on August 9, 2021

Feeling discouraged today

I’ve spread myself too thin. I felt like giving up a moment ago, yet here I am, writing today’s entry, not caring about how good it is but ensuring that I maintain momentum. A reminder that tiredness clouds your judgment.


Published on August 8, 2021

How to escape poverty

Short answer: organize and cooperate.

Long answer:

I am of the firm belief that you can’t escape poverty by yourself. Individuals are frail. Networks are resilient. The individual is one accident away from being wiped out, whereas networks can survive any catastrophe as long as it stays coherent. I will make the case that to escape poverty you must organize and cooperate.

In the past the family unit consisted of people all fulfilling their expected role; women managed all household affairs, children went to school to prepare for a well-paying job given the chance, and men went off to work for a paycheck. Life’s changed significantly since then. It’s beyond the scope of this blog post to go over how life’s changed. The takeaway from this is that society was set up for people to greatly increase their wealth; the underlying mechanism that made this possible was the family unit as the de facto support network.

What’s required to escape poverty in today’s ever-changing world? You must design your own support network.

Rally people to your cause

To design your own support network you must first get people to believe in you. If you have a functioning family unit then you are already well on your way; you must argue that working together with other families is their best shot at improving their circumstances. If you have a dysfunctional family unit then you must carefully choose who to collaborate with and whom to leave behind; then you must aggressively increase the size of your network in whatever way you see fit. If you have no family to rely on you must learn to make friends or convince the friends you already have that organizing is the best way to escape poverty.

Assign roles

Once you have a group of people to work with you must assign each member a role. It would be best to assign roles based on what any one member is best at. You should prioritize skills that are marketable in today’s world. I call them “value creators”. The “value creators” need support and leadership to succeed. Leadership is responsible for uniting all members under a common cause. The “support members” form the foundation of the entire operation. The goal is to become owners; owners of a business, property, financial instruments (e.g. stock), or land, because assets are the true drivers of wealth.

Let’s say you have a member who excels at, or has shown interest in, programming. That’s an in-demand skill. Then they should work closely with another member who excels at selling/marketing. Ideally, either one would also possess leadership skills. If not, you’re going to need a third member; preferably an entrepreneur. Together they have a shot at creating a successful business. The fallback plan is for the programmer to take a high-paying job as a developer, but again, the goal is to become owners of a wealth creating asset, not to find jobs that pay well, although that may help in the short-term.

Adapt to become resilient

Networks grow resilient when members share in the responsibilities required to keep the network alive and adapt to change quickly. Value creators aren’t just value creators, support members aren’t just support members. They fulfill whatever role is necessary in the moment. Assigning default roles is helpful though. That way everyone is clear on what purpose they fulfill, which makes it easy for every member to direct their attention where it’s required. It’s vital every member feels like their contributions are appreciated and equally valuable; that’s leadership’s responsibility.

I would assign at least one member to be responsible for household tasks. That’s a full-time job when there are many members working together under one roof. Assign one member to be responsible for groceries, food prep, and meal management. Every member should take part in cleaning the toilet and bathroom, to serve as a reminder to be respectful towards everyone pitching in. We’ve so far assigned three people as value creators and two as support members, with no money coming in; what gives?

You’re going to need a handful of members working jobs to keep everyone afloat. I would assign at least four to work whatever job they can. One works to pay for utilities, another for rent, another to save, and plan, for retirement of the entire group (including looking into investment strategies), and one more for stuff required to live a decent life (e.g. entertainment, vacation). That should account for most of the expenditures, but you’re going to need a buffer to function as a shock absorber. I understand that assigning four people to work everyday jobs that don’t pay much is quite a challenge. Make do with what you have, but I urge you to recruit more to your cause. Many hands make light work.

Plan for the future

Money must be set aside for future use. Use whatever remains after all checks are paid to shore up your savings account. The group will be without work at times, but hopefully never all at once, whatever was set aside will function as a buffer to absorb the cost of living while being without a job. Those in charge of creating a business and obtaining assets should, upon achieving success, lift the entire family/group out of poverty.

Create or buy assets

The “value creators” can’t succeed without the support of the entire network. You must pick members who are knowledge-hungry, smart, resourceful, and preferably charismatic. They should focus on learning how to create online businesses because they scale much more easily than other types of businesses and they insulate you from risks normal businesses are exposed to (e.g. a pandemic stopping people from reaching your brick-and-mortar store).

Imprint this message on your retinas: build businesses that scale. A store that sells goods is difficult to scale. You would have to rent another property and manage an ever increasing number of resources. It’s costly to operate businesses like that. Online businesses don’t have that problem. All you need is a computer and an Internet connection. You may need to rent a server computer too, but not necessarily so, and they’re dirt cheap. The point is that an online business hosted on a single server can serve millions of customers with today’s technology, a single brick-and-mortar store can’t do that.

Never give up

The average entrepreneur fails about 17 times before they achieve success. Continue to support the “value creators” until they strike gold. Invest some of the money earned into the business, but reserve some of it to improve the living conditions of every other member; buy homes, buy land, buy stock, buy other businesses. Buy whatever value-creating asset you can afford and learn how to manage that new wealth. The value creators must then find people to manage the day to day tasks required to operate the business. Then they’re free to help the “support members” reach a higher standard living as well. They might even be able to quite their jobs entirely! That’s the dream, and the social contract you sign when you become a member.

Remember: networks are strong and resilient, individuals are not.


Published on August 7, 2021

How to recognize an obsession

It’s 11:07pm.

I’m cutting it close today.

But I’m no less enthused.

Even though I’m half asleep I still feel like writing. I’m wondering whether I’ve passed into obsessive territory. How do you recognize an obsession?

The easiest way is to look at the language you’re using. Your thoughts betray the type of relationship you have with your chosen object of affection.

A thought experiment I’ll have to continue another day. I’m no longer writing with my eyes open. I must abort.


Published on August 6, 2021

The Bath Item Gift Hypothesis

What does your idea of happiness look like?

Mine can be seen in episode 11 of season 02 of The Big Bang Theory when Sheldon, a brilliant theoretical physicist, gets an unexpected gift. Sheldon’s an admirer of Leonard Nimoy, who plays the fictional character “Spock” in the original Star Trek series; Sheldon loves the actor to death.

Penny, the “girl next door”, unexpectedly gifts Sheldon a napkin from the Cheesecake Factory where she’s gainfully employed. At first he’s underwhelmed, like everyone would be when presented with an ordinary napkin, but then he’s asked to turn it over and his feelings change.

I want to be that happy about anything one day, if only for a moment.

What he’s holding is not just a napkin, but a napkin with Nimoy‘s autograph on it and a message to Sheldon.

He’s astonished at first, to the point of needing to sit down on an armrest, but then Penny lets him know that the napkin he’s holding was used by Nimoy himself, which Sheldon interprets as him being in the possession of Nimoy’s DNA and finds himself unable to contain his feelings anymore.

He jumps up from the armrest absolutely beside himself with glee. His face contorts into different shapes from sheer disbelief. His hands begin to shake from excitement. The thought of being able to create a clone of his beloved hero sends him flying into a vortex of emotions all fighting for supremacy; his ordinarily stoic countenance reduced to a mounting heap of happy tears.

Sheldon abhors physical intimacy of any kind; it disgusts him and doesn’t understand why people seek it out. We learned from previous episodes that he is a massive germaphobe. At this point in the show you would deem it unthinkable for Sheldon to willingly touch another human being.

Yet his gratitude for Penny is so vast that he attempts to hug her (!!).

That’s the kind of happy I want to be. Paradigm-shifting happiness. Earth-shattering happiness. Life-giving happiness. I wonder what it would do to me and ponder the implications. What would I suddenly be willing to do that I’m now fervently against? Speak in front of thousands? Try sex again? I don’t know. The thought that experiencing a happiness like Sheldon did could happen to me exhilarates me to no end.

You can watch the scene on YouTube if you’re interested.


Published on August 5, 2021

What to do when you feel overwhelmed

Today, I’ll let a former Roman Emperor speak for me.

“Do external things (…) distract you? Give yourself time to learn something new and good, and cease to be whirled around.” – Marcus Aurelius

I’ve found this to be true on more than one occassion. I usually pick a new technology to learn because it might end up helpful, but it may actually be better to learn something just for the fun of it.


Published on August 4, 2021

A life well-wasted

Make the most of today because life is short!

Hold your horses.

People mean well when they say you need “to make the most of it because life is short”, but living according to this maxim requires you to adopt a sense of urgency, which puts you in a state of suspense, but the anxious mind can’t grasp anything fully, thus we must reject any maxim that forces us to live with urgency.

Every day is a new life, a new chance to redraw yourself with the experience you’ve gained from yesterday’s challenges. Life has always been that way. Every human being who has ever lived has gone through the same whirlwind of emotions that we call “living through our experiences”; to have lived well is to survive today.

If you are lucky you will wake up tomorrow. Yet another day to feel what we need to feel. Paradoxically, to “make the most of today” you must abandon your sense of urgency. You must learn to slow down, never hurry, and focus on what you’re feeling; everything else follows naturally.


Published on August 3, 2021

Meaningful discourse

Two words have been ringing in my ears lately, “meaningful discourse”. I’m not sure what it means yet. I thought about it one night before bed, wrote down “meaningful discourse” in my notes to continue the next day, but by morning I had forgotten what it meant!

Perhaps I wanted to engage in conversation with a positive return on investment and not find myself wishing for a better connection. Perhaps I was looking to filter the noise ahead of time that comes with becoming a well-known writer. How do you meaningfully engage with your readers when you have thousands of them, millions even?

Readers who add disproportionate value to the writer’s life should be rewarded. I’m certain that engagement gives birth to further insight and yet more topics to write about. Selecting for those who add value would vastly reduce the required effort to maintain a readership while also providing additional value to said readership.

That quality is important to me, and not because I wouldn’t want to engage with every single reader, but because I’m incapable of doing that. I only have a limited amount of energy to spend every day, and must choose wisely otherwise I burn out or must forego other worthwhile endeavors.

I don’t know why I keep thinking about this. I thought that writing about it would help, but nothing new came to mind.


Published on August 2, 2021

Future planning

It’s foolish to think that life will go like you think it will, but I still feel there’s value in planning for your future. It gives you something to direct your attention and energy towards.

I previously covered how I manage my time in the short-term and introduced the concept of a “focus block”, a distinct unit of time of indeterminate length. I use a similar unit to plan for the long-term, simply called a “future block”.

It makes more sense given some context.

I always wanted to be a scientist. I needed a dream to work towards to endure the pain I was in when I was just a child. I remember lying in bed dreaming of a better life, and what came to mind was the idea of becoming an archaeologist, since I had a fascination with dinosaurs at the time.

I didn’t know how I was going to achieve my dream.

My grades sucked, so much so that some teachers floated the idea of me having a learning disability requiring specialists. A deeply traumatized and bored child won’t show interest in their education; obvious to anyone with half a brain, but my teachers were none the wiser.

I’m going to skip ahead to the moment where I received a Master of Science degree. All that’s left to achieve is PhD status. I want it, and must plan for it. It’s been quite a few years since I graduated, which might become an issue if I continue to postpone getting a doctorate degree. So when, exactly, am I planning on doing this?

Impossible to say, hence the concept of “future blocks”.

I’m currently trying to achieve financial independence. That’s the “future block” that’s currently in play. I didn’t have a particular interest that I wanted to explore when I graduated. What I wanted was financial freedom, and planned accordingly.

One of two things could happen. I either achieve my dream of financial independence on time or my circumstances change and I’m forced to reconsider.

If the latter case comes to pass then the “achieve PhD status future block” moves up the timeline. I would have to abandon the dream and do something else to get money rolling in. I have a playbook ready in case my current dream becomes unachievable. This playbook is routinely reconsidered and tested. What does that mean?

It means that I regularly explore my options. I throw a wide net and see what sticks; that may mean applying for jobs I don’t actually want. The great joy of life is that it’s unpredictable. You’ve got to the roll the dice and see where it lands because you can’t know what you truly want ahead of time. There are too many variables at play to know with certainty.

I didn’t become an archaeologist like I thought I would. I could have though! I was on track until it was time to pick a university to go to. I went down the “information systems” road instead, after much trial and error. I’m a product of our time and the experiences that have led me to this point. That’s life.

I still managed to become a trained scientist. Next on my list of ambitions is to get a PhD. This particular “future block” might become active at 35 or 40, perhaps even later in life, but the exact time is irrelevant. What matters is that you start identifying blocks of time in which you’d like to achieve one goal or another.

I don’t know when I’ll achieve my dream of becoming financially independent. I’m behind on my original planning, but that’s okay, as long as my circumstances remain favorable I’ll continue down this path and push the “reach PhD status block” down the timeline. Remember that your circumstances inform when your chosen “future blocks” come into play.

I recently started playing with the idea of going to France for my PhD, but whatever my chosen place will be, the end result is the same, I’ll be a scientist who was awarded a Doctor of Philosophy title and fulfill the dream planned in way that’s compatible with life’s unpredictable nature.


Published on August 1, 2021

Not enough room for nuance

Writing daily has been an interesting and rewarding experience, but I regret the lack of nuance present in my posts.

I recently wrote about how “the dark“ doesn’t sway me as much anymore as it did before, needing only a little help “to find the light”, but this is an incredibly myopic view of my life as a whole and the situation I was in and could find myself in again.

It’s not like I’m suddenly at peace because I sought help for my issues.

No.

I feel rage coursing through my veins every minute of every day, and it doesn’t take much for that rage to start leaking, to the detriment of everyone around me. That’s just one aspect of living with severe trauma that makes daily life hard to navigate even with all the progress I’ve made in therapy.

When that rage turns inward I get depressed. When it turns outward I become unpleasant and terrifying to be around. I don’t get violent, ever, but you won’t feel at ease either. I can spew words that cut deep, especially when my rage erases the person I’m targeting. I don’t see you as a human being anymore when I’m enraged but something I need to destroy to ensure my own safety. No amount of “light” will negate the decades of conditioning that led to the basal “fight” response ever present within me.

There are no guarantees that you can even escape “the darkness“ when it finds you and swallows you whole. Life isn’t a fairytale in which a good ending is guaranteed; life itself has no concept of good or evil. You’re one unlucky decision away from living the rest of your life in pain. For me it was my parents’ decision to put me in school early because they thought that graduating young would be an advantage that I could leverage in my teens. I stayed back a year as a result of my traumas, thus graduating at the same age as everyone else in my cohort. All other things being equal, their decision caused me an incalculable loss of life, wealth, and health without conferring on me the benefit they thought I would have. Who knows what horrors will befall me next? Perhaps I’ll now live a life free from devastation and further ill health. Perhaps my life will be brutish and cut short. Nobody knows.

Bruised, battered, scarred and angry I navigate this life with every ounce of kindness and bravery I can muster. It’s not “light” that pushes against the “dark”. Life can’t be reduced to a dichotomy. We brave the world alone; within us an amalgamation of experiences dictating how we behave today. Through that lens we try to make sense of who we are and our place in the world. It would be an insult to everyone coping with life’s challenges to suggest that adding a little “light” to their lives is all it takes to escape the pain of living with scars on our souls.

These blog posts provide a running commentary on the challenges I face, which includes fleeting and incomplete thoughts, but it would be a grave mistake to forgo nuance altogether. I need to make room for it whenever possible and perhaps properly label unnuanced thoughts to make sure the conversation stays true to life.


Published on July 31, 2021

Don't make decisions when you wake up

I start my day with a routine: wake up, brush teeth, take care of cat(s), clean the house a bit, shower, shave if necessary, moisturize, eye drops, and eat. I go about it slowly (~90 minutes). After that I may choose to align my mind with my chosen goals, or get to work immediately.

I do this because I usually wake up groggy and exhausted as hell. If I were to make a decision about what to do on any single day based on how I feel in the morning I would get nothing done. I postpone all decision making until I’ve completed my routine. You should do the same. You’ll feel more in control of your life, more productive, and happier.


Published on July 30, 2021

Monsters in the dark

My favorite part of today was riding my bike at night.

My sister lives in a village outside of town. I came to visit her after dinner and left late.

Facing the dark is a frightening prospect for me. There be monsters hiding there.

I felt the vastness of space weighing down on me as I rode my bike home. Yet the blackened sky on this summer’s eve enveloped me like I was no longer a stranger to it.

I’m intimately familiar with life’s horrors. I know all too well what horrors lie awake in the dark; the mind doesn’t have to imagine. There is a strange comfort in that. The sky above me, with all of space bearing down on it, reminded me that although I was born in darkness I managed to find the light with a little help.

If or when the darkness returns, I know what to do to banish it again.

Riding my bike through the dark has never felt peaceful until now.

What a time to be alive.


Published on July 29, 2021

Benefits of feeling bored

Today was a wreck.

I did most of the work planned for today in the morning. I was supposed to help my sister after but that help was no longer needed when I got there.

I felt too drained to continue to work.

Boredom set in.

I’ve grown to like the feeling of being bored, as long as it doesn’t turn into restlessness or apathy.

Boredom signifies to me that I still have life in me. It’s a desire to be doing something purposeful, but you’re either unclear on what you want to be doing or you’re prohibited from doing it, like I was today.

Today was a reminder that I have a lot of life left in me, an eagerness to create and add something beautiful to the world.


Published on July 28, 2021

What does love mean to you?

Today I rode my bike through the rain after a long hard day to help my sister out. I didn’t take the car because I absolutely despise driving it.

I told her that if her future boyfriend isn’t willing to do the same then he doesn’t love her and she should bail.

This is what love looks like to us as a family.
My dad’s the same. He’s always there, always willing to lend a hand, even at great cost to himself.

What does love look like to you? Think about it and act accordingly.


Published on July 27, 2021

Writing in the dark

My site was unreachable today for a number of hours.

Cause unknown.

There‘s a possibility that someone’s tried to tamper with this site.

I felt … perturbed by the thought of being a target yet again.

But not discouraged.

The site went dark, but I architected this blog with resilience in mind. I can publish whenever I want as long as I can upload files to the server. Today’s issue wouldn’t have prevented me from doing that; it’s just that readers would be barred from seeing it until the issue’s resolved.

I think about that a lot: resilience. How to become more resilient myself, and how to bake it into the systems I create, natural and unnatural alike.

Despite the numerous setbacks I’ve had to endure over the past two decades I never once wavered from trying to achieve my goals; goals I set as young as 10. Today’s outage had me writing for an audience that couldnt be reached, possibly due to a hostile actor; yet I felt no more or less driven to write, and confident that I could publish today’s entry all the same.

That’s resilience.


Published on July 26, 2021

Put a soundtrack underneath your life

Everybody dies.

I want those that survive me understand my life through the music I played when I was still drawing breath. 

I have records that immediately bring me back to key moments in my life. Wouldn’t it be neat if loved ones could access those records and read about why they were significant to me? 

I play music all the time. I have a playlist for every occasion. From cooking, to cleaning, to working out, to getting in the right head space to work. Each playlist is significant in its own way and enriches my life. It makes even the most boring task somewhat compelling. 

Putting a soundtrack underneath your life can also help with memory retention, grief processing, and developing gratitude for the life you’ve lived. 

Convinced yet? 

Go listen to some music.


Published on July 25, 2021

We made rocks think

Computers are magical.

If you could time travel and tell the average person from the 1900’s that we would one day make rocks think they would most assuredly call you crazy and ostracize you for being a lunatic.

I personally find it worthwhile to read about history to develop an appreciation for the progress we’ve made as human beings. I read history because the news makes me angry. The news highlights how destructive we can be, but I think our capacity for destruction is eclipsed by our drive to innovate and overcome the technological challenges of our time.

The computer is one of our most astounding inventions.

Did you know that computers can only do addition?

Yet somehow we have created an entire virtual world for us to live in, connecting the entire world through devices that fit in your pocket.

How the fuck did we do that?!

Think of a computer as a complex network of integrated circuits.

Integrated circuits are made of stuff that helps control the flow of electricity.

Transistors chief among them.

Transistor circuits allow us to define logic gates.

It is through the magic of logic gates that computers understand more than just addition.

We’ve made remarkable jumps in capabilities since the birth of the first computer.

The Apple II in 1976 could do little more than load spreadsheets in color.

Today, computers are capable of processing natural language (!).

All thanks to the ongoing development of integrated circuits.

Those circuits are primarily made of silicon.

Silicon is made of sand.

Silica sand to be precise.

Silica sand is a type of quartz.

Quartz is a mineral.

A rock is a solid mass of one or more minerals.

We made rocks think!

It’s confirmed.

Humans are wizards.

We live in a magical world. It’s only through the study of history that you can learn to appreciate the world you’re living in, and you’ll be happier for it; so get to reading.


Published on July 24, 2021

How to be of value part 1

Try not to become a man of success but rather try to become a man of value. – Albert Einstein, LIFE magazine, 1955

Albert Einstein was interviewed by LIFE magazine in 1955 at his home a few months prior to his death. The interviewer was named William Miller; his son Pat Miller and Professor William Hermanns of San Jose State in California were also present. The quote was given in response to Pat’s desire for guidance.

A natural follow-up question would have been, “how to be of value?” A question that needs answering. Especially in today’s world where yesterday’s life trajectories no longer guarantee a roof over your head. I will answer this question through a series of blog posts over time.

Today’s focus lies with how to be of value even when you’re in between jobs or can’t work a normal job. Lots of men struggle to find their worth in the absence of a job or career trajectory that sets them up for success; for some that means not ‘playing the game’ at all, because the ‘game’ feels rigged, but I digress.

I think every human being wants to feel valued. If only because without it it’s hard to feel like living is worthwhile. A lot of us get caught up in the idea that we’re only of value when we have a job that pays; worse, we conflate our job title with who we are. That’s a recipe for disaster in a world where automation is going to eat our jobs.

The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existence. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery each day. Never lose a holy curiosity. Try not to become a man of success but rather try to become a man of value. He is considered successful in our day who gets more out of life than he puts in. But a man of value will give more than he receives. – Albert Einstein, LIFE magazine, 1955

Note that Einstein didn’t mention having a job; not even in the full quote, as you can see. We should be rethinking the way we attach ourselves to whatever we do that brings money in. I believe that Universal Basic Income is inevitable, and we must prepare ourselves accordingly. We should shift our attention to whatever our community needs and let go of the labels we attach ourselves to.

The easiest way to add value to your community is to focus on unburdening its members. The family unit is part of that community, I would start there. Cooking, cleaning, managing household affairs, are all jobs you can do that provide tremendous value to the household you’re likely sharing. Jobs that we in the past associated with women staying home while the husband worked for a paycheck.

Cooking dinner is a job that requires focused attention, effort, and skill. Nothing about that is either masculine or feminine. If you’re finding yourself without a job and feeling low, look towards unburdening your friends and family, and ask to be thanked for it from time to time. Being appreciated for what we do is of paramount importance. Shift your focus, give it time, and notice what changes.


Published on July 23, 2021

Have not seen my reflection in six years

It’s been six years since I last saw my reflection. It doesn’t matter why I stopped; I deemed it necessary at the time, that’s all that matters. The day of reacquainting myself with how I look is coming near.

I wonder how much my face has changed. I wonder if I’ll cry. I wonder if it’ll still be foreign to me despite years of hard work in therapy.

I’m scared.

I’m excited.

But mostly just curious.

That’s a good place to be in after spending so many years absolutely terrified and disgusted by my own reflection. I’m aiming for child-like wonder, as if I’m seeing my beautiful self for the first time in my life.

I have some more work to do before I can pull this off, but the day of becoming whole is fast approaching. And on that day I’ll tell you the whole story, about how this came to be and what I learned from it.

Until then I’m holding on to my cursiosity.


Published on July 22, 2021

Climate change induced existential dread

Today started off great, until the news hit me hard, which made me delete today’s entry for a chance to rewrite it.

We’re probably going to hit 1.5C+ global average temperatures in the next five years, which means the Paris Accords are nothing but a pipe dream.

Five heat domes are currently wrenching the life out of people and animals across the Northern Hemisphere.

Catastrophic floods have wreaked havoc in Europe and China.

The news surrounding our climate reads as if we’ve reached The End Times; it’s a lot to take in for a single person.

I’m not here to raise questions about climate change; I don’t want to talk science, but I do want to talk about the impact reporting on extreme weather events has on the psyche.

Some journalists argue that we must not lose hope, but perhaps we should.

All hope does is create an expectation about the kind of future you’ll have, which puts you in a state of suspense, and suspense creates fear. If you want your days to be peaceful you must let go of hope.

The future you think you have doesn’t exist.

Death hangs over you. It has always been that way. You need two things to navigate life with confidence: relative safety, and trust.

What do I mean by relative safety? There’s no such thing as true safety in our world. As history shows, you can easily be robbed of your freedoms, plunged into a world that is no longer yours to control. We live amongst dangerous animals, murderers, rapists, and all-around cruel people.

You can feel relatively safe by becoming dangerous yourself and surrounding yourself with people who will have your back. Groups are the very definition of relative safety. The pack you choose impacts how much leverage and influence you have on the world. Become their leader and you suddenly wield tremendous power.

The other thing you need is trust.

Trust in your senses, your body, your mind, and emotions. Trauma can significantly impact your sense of trust across all domains, but the damage can be remedied with long-term therapy. You can do anything when you trust yourself, and feel amazing, even in a world that feels like it’s collapsing.

I have a new message for those experiencing existential dread when faced with the news surrounding our rapidly destabilizing climate:

“We do not hope for a better future; we trust in one.”

Develop trust in yourself, join or create a group, and you’ll live happy, even when the world is ending.

P.S. This entry has sparked ideas for a much longer essay, which I’ve started work on.


Published on July 21, 2021

How I organize my time

Life is what happens to us while we are making other plans. - Allen Saunders

I don’t like planning my day down to the minute. Life always gets in the way, or perhaps more accurately, the universe doesn’t care about my pitiful attempts at planning for the (near-immediate) future, she does as she pleases.

I still think it makes sense to plan for the future. I have ideas about what I’d like to be doing at 35, 40, 50, 60, and 70. Beyond that seems a bit too optimistic for my taste. All of those plans are based around what I value.

Values change over time, but generally not by much. For example, I value my health, and always will. How I’ll go about maintaining and improving it does change. I love running currently, but I don’t know how long I can keep doing it. Maybe I’ll injure my knee some day and have to adapt.

My calendar is meant to remind me of my long-term commitments; be it birthdays, deadlines, or appointments. Nothing else is on there. I first started doing this in college when I was taking on more credits (89ECTS) than the average student (60ECTS) and succeeded.

I organize my day around ‘blocks of time’. I allocate one ‘health’ block, and two ‘focus’ blocks to any single day. It doesn’t matter when I do them. This blog post was written in the wee hours of the morning. It only took me about half an hour. I don’t care about how many hours I work on any single day, as long as it’s focused and deliberate. When I get back home, around dinner time, I’ll get a second ‘block’ of work out of the way.

It’s truly enjoyable to live this way, my productivity is off the charts, and I get to spend time with loved ones when it matters. I wish everyone could live like this.


Published on July 20, 2021

How to find your purpose

I don’t believe we have an innate purpose. Purpose is what you must invent for yourself. Don’t delude yourself into thinking you are here with a purpose granted by a force greater than yourself. That idea is easily dismissed by thinking of the many 1-year olds that have died throughout the ages. What was their purpose? To live an unusually cruel and short life? Don’t worship anything that would have you abandon your humanity.

You find your purpose by focusing on anything that gives you a sense of progress. Curiosity drives progress and enjoyment. Writing and programming feel good to me because I’m intrinsically attached to the idea of creating a world with words. You have to take on the responsibility of self-improvement and aim your energy at whatever makes you curious to create. Focus on improving a skill that gives you joy; all else will follow naturally.


Published on July 19, 2021

Not all opinions are equally valuable

I, unfortunately, do not have the mental bandwidth to be everywhere, but as Seneca put it, “to be everywhere is to be nowhere”. Choosing where to be and how you spend that energy is a vital decision that impacts your well-being. I can’t spread myself too thin in fear of burn-out, loss of focus, energy vampires, and unhappiness.

I understand the need to be connected to existing networks, in the sense that I need to be where my audience is to engage with them, but do I need to be on all Social Media platforms to reap the benefits? And does being on those platforms drive traffic to my content? Most sites link to a whole range of platforms, but me being a single party, does that make sense for me too? I don’t believe so.

The question I asked myself is, “does the data support Social Media being the main driver of network traffic?” And the answer is … Not really … but also, it depends. If your content isn’t evergreen (eg news) then you’ll benefit from a Social Media focused approach. For everything else good SEO and brand awareness (resulting in direct traffic) are the two biggest drivers of traffic and growth, which means that getting involved with a community of your choice and nailing SEO for your niche will do more for you than heavily promoting your work across all Social Media platforms.

Overview of what types of sources drive network traffic.

Be where your audience is and nowhere else.

For a more nuanced take on what drives traffic read the associated source with this image.

I chose Reddit for this blog. I’m afraid to engage with the communities I’m mostly a lurker in though, which brings me to the topic of today. That fear is rooted in the need for safety, which I’ve addressed in therapy and will dedicate a separate post to, but also in having no interest in spending an enormous amount of energy to address every interested party with something to say.

One way of looking at it is to not consider their opinions at all.

Gasp.

This may alienate potential fans, which I don’t want to do. I’m happy you’re reading my work, and thankful that it is interesting to you. Readers should be rewarded for investing time in me. That’s why some readers will be invited to become part of my Circle of Trustees (placeholder name), among other benefits I’ve yet to confer (up)on them. Their opinions will be treated the same way I treat those of my most valued friends and family.

That way I too can invest energy where it matters and ensure that I won’t feel drained or overwhelmed by any attention coming my way.


Published on July 18, 2021

Noise tolerance

Church bells.

It‘s been a full 45 minutes.

Ding.

Ding.

Ding.

A handyman is going at it with his drill.

Cars zooming the streets.

Airplanes coursing through the skies.

Children screaming at the top of their lungs from laughter.

The bells continue to ring.

Ding.

Ding.

Ding.

The body aches.

The mind itches.

Fatigue washes over me.

It’s only because I expect quiet to come again soon that I still find myself in good spirits.

This is a reminder to value, respect, and protect the quiet in your life.


Published on July 17, 2021

Motivating yourself

Every day is a new life.

When I wake up the mind is clear from yesterday’s worries but also from whatever was driving me to take on yesterday’s challenges. It’s becoming increasingly clear that I need to reflect on my values every single day to get into a state of preparedness and eagerness to work on my goals.

Motivation doesn’t last for more than a day, but now I can take comfort in knowing that I can recreate it at will. This, again, isn’t a nuanced take. I just don’t have the time today. I’m helping a loved one move, which, on top of my other responsibilities, doesn’t leave much room for reflection.


Published on July 16, 2021

Consistency in a world of chaos

I think it’s common knowledge by now that to master anything you have to remain consistent. Even Marcus Aurelius mentioned this in his Meditations, progress is wrecked or preserved by a single day and a single event.

Today was ruled by chaos; yet I still sat down for a minute to write this entry. This is progress. There will be a time for a more nuanced take on how to achieve consistency, but that time is not today.


Published on July 15, 2021

When can I call myself a writer?

A writer writes.

That’s it.

The burden we feel to “be the best” or “outperform” other men is self-inflicted.

If competing brings you joy and meaning, then by all means, compete, but remember that praise changes nothing.

You’re no more or less of a man if you aren’t competing.

In the grand scheme of things your achievements are insignificant.

Focus on what gives you joy; praise is extraneous, enjoyment makes curious.

The curious mind will naturally improve through concerted effort.

But becoming better at writing is not a requirement for calling yourself a writer.

You enjoying yourself is the only thing that matters.

Write for an audience of one.


Published on July 14, 2021