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Politics Travel

Day 491 and Uncanny Valley

If you’ve been following along this week you might have noticed I’m in Bozeman Montana with some friends. I’m hoping to find a homestead. My father loves to call Montana the last best place. He moved up to Whitefish a few years ago for retirement from Boulder Colorado. Our boomers know the score. He knows the last best places are dwindling as the frontier turns into subdivisions.

Growing up in Colorado was about as close to paradise as it gets. We had clean air, plenty of open space and a laid back uncrowded atmosphere. My brother was born there but my parents made a brief detour to Silicon Valley where I was born in the eighties. But Chief Niwot’s curse must have called to my family as we moved back to Colorado when I was still young. My dad thought Boulder was a better place to live than San Francisco or Palo Alto. No one who has been to Boulder escapes the curse.

People seeing the beauty of this valley will want to stay, and their staying will be the undoing of the beauty.”

What is Chief Niwot’s curse?

I call myself a Boulder native even if it’s not technically true. If you count the sojourn in the Bay Area, I’m one of those Californians that ruined Colorado even if my family had arrived long before I did. But we certainly didn’t arrive before the Arapaho. Perhaps I wasn’t in the wave of Californians that turned Colorado, and Boulder Valley in particular, into a boom town in the aughts and teens, but I’m still part of the undoing of the beauty of this valley. Anyone who is descended from immigrants has contributed to the curse.

The reason I chuckle at my father calling Montana the last best place is because the state is following the path that Colorado took. Bozeman feels exactly like Boulder did during my childhood. It’s no surprise to me Colorado folks are moving here to recapture what we’ve lost. If you came of age in the mountain west before urban sprawl and yuppie gentrification you yearn for a return. Boulder Valley has been undone by those that loved it’s beauty. And so we seek new frontiers.

In twenty or thirty years will the Gallatin valley and Bozeman face a similar fate? Almost assuredly. If anything, it makes me confident in putting down roots here. Maybe then my kids can call themselves Bozeman natives the way I do with Boulder. Maybe they can complain about the high housing prices and the arrival of tech workers and tell tales about how their family got here in the roaring twenties before all the Coloradans ruined the place.

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Politics

Day 488 and Life

I woke up today feeling betrayed. I’ve never been concerned that my reproductive health would be decided by anyone but me. It’s been a luxury not to fear my own body knowing I had a right to chose for myself. It was my belief my family would do it’s own planning.

And we did plan. We did fertility treatments and it went catastrophically badly. Four years later I’m just barely stabilized from the attempt to extract eggs and freeze eggs and embryos. The vast majority of people have to cope with our reproductive health in some capacity. Having a family is pretty standard issue. Mine just happened to be a little more dramatic than average. But I never had to worry if it was my life or my unborn child. Or who would get to chose. I never got that far and now I’m a bit afraid I never will. I’m afraid to be pregnant in a world where my health decisions are not my own.

In case you missed the news, last night someone decided to leak a draft opinion from Justice Alito (supported by the conservative justices but without any indication where Roberts stands) that would overturn Roe vs Wade. Abortion would no longer be a federal question but devolve to state authority if Roe is overturned. After 49 years it looks like a major reversal is possible. To be clear it is a draft and while Chief Justice Roberts confirmed it’s authenticity, he said it’s not final or representative of any current justices or the courts final authority.

But it didn’t fucking matter what anyone intended. Chaos has absolutely ensued as various parties look to assign blame for such a massive breach of judicial norms. Everyone is jockeying for position and speculation is rampant. A topic like when life begins is guaranteed to generate strong emotional response. Who gets to decide is a big question. But I’ve generally fallen onto the side that the woman has autonomy over her own body. A fuck ton of other people felt about the same as I did. I’ve seen social media erupt in fear and hurt.

I’ve got very complex feelings on abortion. I’m against it in principle (and I’m deeply grateful I’ve never been faced with that choice) but I am not convinced a fetus is a person. Lord knows if an embryo is a person I know I’d have a very different opinion. I’m not even sure I would have been comfortable doing IVF if I thought an embryo was a person.

This is all complicated by the fact that I don’t think any of society’s crucial issues should be legislated by courts. They enforce laws they don’t make them. We have a legislative body for a reason. Why won’t we try passing federal legislation for anything? Like honestly I’m sick of the courts having to be a backstop. I think most people are. I just don’t get it.

I don’t fully understand how we build out laws to enumerate natural rights but I’m pretty sure it’s meant to be an amendment. We have sucked at this amendment thing traditionally and I don’t really grasp why.

I failed Constitutional Law so my opinion maybe doesn’t count. In my defense, I took it with Will Baude as a fellow classmate as an undergraduate and well now he is is famously a world class constitutional scholar. He absolutely wrecked the curve for my class of twenty. But maybe I understand the issue marginally better than I imagine. Just not as well as say someone tapped to regularly review how the court operates. I don’t know! But at a certain point the contentious shit is going to be an amendment right?

I don’t have a tidy summary to any of this except to say I know this is hard for everyone. I wrote this post because I’m scared and hurting. I can now imagine a world where if I’m faced with crisis like an ectopic pregnancy it’s not clear that the choice to terminate to save the geriatric mother would be in my hands. And I don’t think that’s right.

Categories
Politics

Day 486 and Open Road

I’d love to thank Eisenhower for having the foresight to build the interstate highway system. It’s one of the most crucial pieces of infrastructure that America has ever built. And it’s also absolutely gorgeous. Truly shameful we’ve not embarked on anything so ambitious since the Highway Act of 1956. Did you know it cost $114 billion dollars to make the interstate system? That’s $535 billion in 2020 dollars and who knows how much more know in 2022 with current inflation. But sure Biden can have 2 trillion for infrastructure as long as it keeps the interstate open.

I spent most of my day on the interstate. I traveled north on I-25 and then headed west on I-90. I’ve done several cross country road trips in my life including, California to Colorado, Colorado to Illinois, Colorado to Texas, and of course New York to Colorado. I’ve done I-70 as well as 80. It’s my hope to do many more trips in all possible directions.

The romance of the road is so foundational to American culture that I’d recommend everyone enjoy an interstate highway trip to a national park. There’s simply no joy quite like speeding along a wide open road with vistas as far as the eye can see.

The only sour note of the trip is the high cost of gas. The lowest I saw was $3.90 and the highest was $4.19. Diesel was substantially more expensive at $5.59 a gallon. I didn’t see a lot of trucks on my trip but my route isn’t particularly crucial as far as supply chains go. I mostly saw Amazon and Fed Ex trucks. Most goods are coming into Seattle so this stretch of land appeared to be given over e-commerce deliveries. I’ve been worrying over rising gas and it’s impact on well everything. Empty interstates seem an ominous sign

Categories
Internet Culture Media Politics

Day 482 and Vibe Shift

A month or so ago a piece written by a New York marketing executive titled Vibe Shift went viral among the chattering classes. The premise is that we are on the precipice of a cultural change that is upending everything from politics to fashion. And depending on your perspective, this shift might include crumbling dystopian decay or vibrant fuck it optimism. Or in the case of web3 absolutely both.

I think the Vanity Fair piece on the New Right is chronicling one of the first emergent vibe camps to emerge from the vibe shift. The article is a look at the art, intellectual environment and personalities of the “not quite conservative” new right. And it’s a largely positive even glowing send up.

If you believe the Citadel is a corrupt institution and moral moral crisis then the Vanity Fair piece should have been negative. It’s a surprise that it wasn’t. Not long ago we were subjected to intense narratives about the dangers of nRX neo-reactionaries and it’s infiltration of Silicon Valley. It was a real and urgent issue that the center of so much money and power might doesn’t align with the cultural values of media or academia. If you don’t speak this language the Citadel is code for the left leaning creative and cultural institutions like Hollywood, academia and media.

So why isn’t it a crisis any more that there is a new breed of influential “not quite” conservatives? If anything the right in America has shown itself to be capable of so much more than just boat parades and goofy hats. Some of these fuckers were expanding the Overton window on peaceful transitions of democratic power on January. It might actually be getting worse.

Except now the left fucking sucks too. Now I’m not justifying fascists. These Christian Nationalists are trying to roll back modernity and pluralism. Fuck them. They fuckers don’t even have a demographic majority. So it pains when I say the vibe shift is showing the left as the worst version of themselves while the right is showing a new cultural ascension.

To a lot of normal moderate people the left looks controlling, scolding, frigid, and conformist. Everything from mask politics to gender relations has started to make the left look insane. It’s entirely rational people would be seeking a vibe shift for something more welcoming.

My theory is we are about to see a massive resurgence of affection for all kinds of conservative hobby horses. Especially of vibes that used to be the province of the traditional left. Everyone is sick of being shamed while they go about living their lives. And whoever wins that vibe war will win America.

Categories
Politics

Day 478 and Extremists

Over the past twenty four hours I have spent time in two communities known for attracting extremist viewpoints; immigration reform and education. And I feel a bit demoralized by the level of discourse that I’m having in person.

I attended an event on Friday for an organization I’m excited about as I wrap my head around why the American immigration system is so broken. I wrongly labored under the assumption that our system was flawed and inefficient, but still had the occasional success story. Now I realize it’s a hopelessly broken set of incentives wrapped inside heavy emotional baggage.

I don’t think the average American can conceive of how bad it is until dealing with it personally. And it’s crushing our competitiveness as a country. In twenty years when our population continues to age we will regret not fixing it. It’s actually an existential problem for our country’s future.

But somehow the entire debate centers around comical battleground partisan issues where they argue for the least relatable shit. We will never find common ground if we leave it to the extremes on either side. We are letting a crucial issue get sidelined.

I experienced something similar on the education front as well. Families are arguing over truly crazy shit that you cannot imagine any same adult bringing to a classroom of children. But this manifests in small ways too. We fixate on the purist forms of educational pedagogy instead of being pragmatists about protecting our children’s sense of self.

I only bring this up because sometimes I assume that real life must be better than whatever discourse is happening online. That social media must be reflecting some unnatural tendencies we only see thanks to access. But alas I’m seeing these fights happen in person. In communities that know each other. But we are adopting some of the tenor and habits of “the discourse” with our neighbors. And that worries me a little.

Categories
Medical Politics

Day 475 and 4/20

Last year on April 20th aka 4/20 aka the day America celebrates weed culture, I wrote an post on using medical marijuana for my ankylosing spondylitis. It’s a thorough look at how I incorporated THC & CBD into a pain control regimen for an inflammatory autoimmune disease. I’ll recap some of it here as my views haven’t changed at all in the intervening year.

As a libertarian I’m pro-legalization but I likely wouldn’t have chosen to use THC recreationally except that it happens to be a drug that has demonstrated benefits for my condition and is comparatively less dangerous than other pharmaceuticals I am also proscribed (namely opioids and high dose NSAIDS). For some context, despite being a native Coloradan I had never smoked weed till this year. As a kid it just didn’t seem appealing (that’s what hippie boomers do), and to be candid as I got older I didn’t love the idea of tying a health need to something that wasn’t legal everywhere.

I spent months testing everything from bud and regular joints to elaborate butter and shatter concoctions in an expensive Pax vape. None of it achieved the desired effect which was pain mitigation and minimal head highs. It was expensive and demoralizing. It was hard to manage dosing and consistency and I was unsure if it would remain a part of my medical regimen. I wasn’t sure weed was ready for prime time but I did feel it was important to document it all both for my own biohacking purposes but in case it could help others.

After all of that experimenting, I settled into regularly using patches. It’s one of the least celebrated formats and, because that’s how it works, the last format I tried before settled into a routine. I use a brand called Mary’s Medicinals that makes an excellent 50-50 THC to CBD blend. It is completely reliable on dosing and effect. It has little to no head high. And it lasts for eight to nine hours. Basically as close as I can get to a pharmaceutical. Turns out I wasn’t kidding when I said I really was in it for the pain relief.

I genuinely hope that THC continues to cement its place in American culture and medicine. It’s a cheap easy and effective drug that replaces a lot of expensive and potentially dangerous pharmaceuticals. Of course we’d have powerful interests working to ban that. It’s a a national shame and I’m glad Americans have fought back. I’d rather weed replace alcohol and tobacco. Why get drunk and wake up feeling shitty when you can get calmly high and feel better in the morning. But it’s a long path and sadly it’s still viewed negatively by some. I hope to do my part on 4/20 to encourage folks to see it’s benefits.

Categories
Politics Travel

Day 435 and Coming to America

I’ve had occasion to try to get an appointment at the consulate in Frankfurt. I’m helping someone with a visa situation. And holy fucking shit I had no idea how how hard it was to get a hold of someone, literally anyone, at the state department. Now I grant maybe they are a little busy at the moment but I’ve spent over 10 hours over the past 24 trying to get ahold of a person.

First I tried calling the consulate. I got lost in the phone tree several times. After finally learning the proper branches (it’s four steps in) I was able to get to an operator line. It rang. And rang. And rang. And rang. I let it ring for ten minutes. Nothing.

I decided to try another tactic. I went back into the phone tree to see if there was another number. I kept trying permutations. I hit dead end after dead end. Finally I got lucky. They provided a phone number. I took it down. I asked someone else to listen to it to be sure I hadn’t misheard. Our numbers matched. I called. “Your call cannot be completed as dialed.” Ok weird. Maybe let’s try with another country code. Nothing. If anyone can figure out what 032221093243 is supposed to be I’d very very grateful.

So the phone was a dead end. I began emailing. I was able to find a basic visa email for the consulate. The auto response said it was deleted.

In the meantime I had emailed constituent services at my Congressman’s office. I live in Colorado’s Second Congressional District so I am represented by Joe Neguse. They asked for proof of my address and my social security number. I had no idea if the website was secure but fuck it I hit submit. I got a response from a constituent services person. She said she would reach out to the consulate. Amazing! I felt like I was on a path to victory.

Ok….so now what? I emailed the consul again with a different format on a tip from an internet friend. This auto response had a link to a google sheet explaining how to write an email with the proper code to get a response! I sent in an email with the correct formatting to prevent automatic deletion. This generated an automated response. But that email had a a link to a live chat! Fuck yes! I opened the live chat. A bot responded. I answered a series of questions. The bot decided it was time to send me to a live operator. Please hold for a live operator.

I waited. And I waited. And I waited. After 48 minutes in the live chat box a human arrived. Fuck yes! I explained the situation. He said he would check on appointments. Please hold. I waited for another ten minutes. There were no appointments at all. He explained that this meant there were no available appointments. That sadly 999 days till the next appointment meant that there were no appointments. There was nothing he could do.

The next day my congressional support person emailed back saying she had heard from the consulate. So clearly constituent services works great! Alas the news from the consulate was bad. They confirmed what the live chat had said. There was no appointments to be had. They included the same live chat link. The best advice they had was to keep checking back for appointments but it was unlikely to open up. We could check other cities but most of them also listed no available appointments. And they issued a warning. You cannot reschedule too often as after more than two changes to the system you are forced into a six month waiting period before you are allow to try again.

So that’s the end of my Kafkaesque twenty four hours. With no resolution in sight. If any of my friends have friend at the state department that can figure out how to schedule an appointment for visa services at the consulate in Frankfurt (though we will happily travel to any other German city too) hit me up. Until then I think I’ll be lobbying Congress for a bigger budget for our consular services. Maybe even try my hand at immigration reform.

Categories
Finance Politics

Day 430 and History Rhymes

If you aren’t following along I am in spending the month working from an Airbnb in Frankfurt. I picked Frankfurt on a whim when I decided to go to Europe. I wanted to work from “somewhere” else after two years of being home. It seemed like a nice central city and I’m a finance nerd (it drives my investments in crypto) so the home of the European Central Bank felt like a great pick.

When I booked the trip the war in Ukraine wasn’t even on the horizon. I was simply trying to get a change of scenery after two years of Covid lockdowns. But now I feel as if it might have been accidentally prescient to be here. Like I’m in some world historical nexus as Europe reorients itself to the next era of geopolitical reality. I couldn’t have picked a better place to absorb the zeitgeist that is going to drive the financial future.

I am going to spend my time here absorbing everything I can about about the currents of past intellectual movements like the Frankfurt School. I am going back to Weimar history and the interwar years. I will go further back to Goethe.

I have this gut sense that there is something I am supposed to learn about history so I can navigate the next decade. While I founded chaotic.capital on the thesis that the world was going to become more complex and thus inherently more unstable I didn’t expect those trends to unfold quite as fast as they did. I thought I had a decade. It turns out the future was already here. History doesn’t repeat but it does rhyme. And if I’m going to predict the next stanza I better start with the past.

Categories
Politics

Day 379 and Red vs Blue Poverty

I’ve been scouting for homesteads so I have been making forays further from the city enclaves and blue liberal towns that are my normal haunts and out into rural America. Poverty in the context of blue cities has generally meant homelessness and panhandling. But poverty in rural america looks different.

NIMBY (not in our neighborhood) cities won’t let you just pull up a double wide on the outskirts of town. That brings down property values. I mean theoretically so does tent cities, but that’s an argument for another day. But I haven’t really seen a lot of RVs or mobile homes simply because I’ve lived in yuppie Boomer cities. NIMBY land has “standards” and if you can’t meet them we’d rather you be unhoused than accommodate uglier but more humane options.

As I’ve driven through industrial western cities I’ve seen a fuck ton more rural poverty than I expected. Which is naive and stupid of me. I’m aware of median American incomes. Not everyone can afford suburban townhouses and most developers aren’t interested in building that kind of housing outside of well gentrified places.

As I’ve gone further afield to towns that rely on commodity products like oil or minerals or cattle, I’ve noticed a reliance on temporary or low cost housing. You see a lot of decent well maintained working trucks. But a lot of the housing is as bare bones as you can imagine. And it’s ugly as sin to the NIMBY eye but at least it’s fucking housing. I’ve seen a lot of trailers in various states of decay but I’ve got to imagine it’s better than a tent.

I don’t have a real point here other than to say that America is hurting. No one can afford inflation and if we’ve got stagnating opportunities it’s going to blow up in our faces. Blue cities should be embarrassed as fuck by allowing massive unhoused populations when we’ve got prefabricated options. But the American crumbling is bad in any form.

Categories
Politics Preparedness

Day 367 and Flat Out Grossings

December was a pretty gnarly month for me. I tore a ligament. I got Covid. A fire burned down two entire towns. I’m emotionally burnt out right now and letting myself feel it because tomorrow I go back to work. So apologies if this is even more stream of consciousness than usual.

When I was a teenager I wanted to be a reporter. So I talked my way into an internship at our local television station Channel 8. I loved it. I got to be the assistant for such glamorous events as city council land use meetings. Which is how I happen to have the misfortune of knowing how Boulder became surrounded by suburban sprawl. I don’t have a grand unified theory. I just witness a lot of little decisions that compounded into unspeakable disaster no one could have predicted. Except we did.

There used to be a crappy mall in Boulder. It had a Macy’s and a Foley’s but it couldn’t sustain its anchor tenant department stores even in the late 90s and early aughts. Now big developers and chain stores knew that Boulder was fast becoming a wealthy town and wanted in. Maybe we could upgrade from middle market to premium retail. But Boulder is run by a bunch of hippies and wanted no part of upgrading big box stores. City council meeting turned into an endless parade of “no” to various folks coming in attempting to take over the mall on 28th street. It languished for years.

Eventually the developers gave up. Decided to construct a mall outside of the open space belt outside of the city. You see Boulder is the prototype for NIMBYS. We literally bought up a bunch of land that the town owns and can never ever be developed so no one could sprawl the town. It’s gorgeous and amazing and expensive to maintain and makes Boulder a haven for its natives and an impossibly expensive place if you didn’t buy real estate in the 60s. But I digress. This is about the mall.

The developers called the new mall out on the prairie beyond the town’s open space Flatiron Crossing. It’s an homage to Boulder’s signature feature the flatiron mountains. And the views from up town highway 36 into town driving back from the mall are amazing.

And Boulder honestly felt like it won. The ugly box stores went up around it. Our town was saved from Costco and Chuckee Cheese and Ann Taylor. We all snobbishly called it Flat Out Grossings. We thought it was a nasty money grab. It was wise we let them develop outside the open space band and protected the town.

Except that mall and all the box stores turned into the anchor for all the surrounding towns. We called them the L towns. Well that and Superior. And that’s where the growth happened. That’s what enabled Colorado to thrive. And that’s exactly how an urban fire that was started on Boulder open space ended up destroying so many homes. We pushed out the development thinking we’d done a good thing.

I actually have to stop writing this as I can’t make the point I want to which is that Boulder brought much of this misery on itself. We wouldn’t let the land be developed in town. So someone else did outside of town. And now that land got wiped out from a fire in our open space. And everyone is going to be snide and awful but our policies have consequences and by pushing out our development to Flat Out Grossing the law of unintended consequences has taken over. And I’m sick to my stomach knowing the well intentioned hippies ended up doing so much more damage.