Being extremely online is physically quite taxing these days. We’ve got these amazing dopamine casinos that are constantly rolling out the exact animal attention our novelty wired brains crave.
And absolutely the entire world of causes is out there competing for your attention. Everything from sugar water to white nationalism is being sold on social media. And we are just click clicking away not even being concerned about how we are getting radicalized into redder or blacker pills. We are riding all kinds of unhygienic dick and I fear we’ve got some kind of STD that affects common sense.
And while I just made up an entire disease for comedic effect, I do think being steeped in a reactionary culture is bad for our bodies. We can’t always be in fight or flight. We cannot constantly pump the stress hormones. Too much cortisol is at the root of a thousand different inflammatory diseases. And trust me you don’t want one of those. It’s quite literally a pain.
Information warfare is being waged and your eyeballs are boots on the ground. And just like every other grunt in any other Great War, the powers that be think you are expendable.
And you’ve got to ask yourself if you think it’s worth dying for some other man’s culture war. Has he done something heroic for your life? Given you anything? Or is it just all a story being sold to you and from which, sadly, you profit little.
When I was a hippie kid growing up in Colorado I was a fervent believer in a “holiday” called Buy Nothing Day. It was a campaign heavily promoted by a magazine called Adbusters which saw itself a culture jamming organization.
It felt cool and hip and maybe even a bit new to protest excess consumption in the era when globalization hadn’t yet experienced the bitch slap that are the last twenty years of history not actually ending. Teenagers are obviously a bit prone to over simplifying the world and I was no exception.
Now as a jaded veteran of the retail and luxury wars, I think it was the height of white girl naïveté that not shopping one day of the year meant shit. Now I pile all of my shopping into Black Friday. Instead of it being “Buy Nothing Day” it has become “Buy Everything Day” for me. I know how much brands are riding on my choosing to spend and I hold out the bulk of my shopping to extract maximum value.
I bought 2 tee shirts, one cardigan, 3 cashmere sweaters, one pair of silk pants, one cotton robe, 2 slips, 2 bras, and 3 pairs of tights. I bought a jumbo size shampoo and conditioner as well as travel sets. I also bought a luxury face cream, highlighter and other sundry cosmetics even though most of the cosmetics I prefer aren’t even on sale today. We also bought 4 scented candles for the house. Alex bought a pair of Chelsea boots, a new gun safe and a hunting jacket. In other words, we shopped till we dropped. We went full American on the day.
We’d hoped to buy new dishes and a few pieces of furniture as this has also been the year of outfitting the house but alas we just couldn’t figure out enough deals ahead of time. Black Friday is often a mess of confusing offers and marketing bullshit. It’s been made dramatically worse by the wave of direct to consumer brands who claim to give you better deals but often do little more than obfuscate where you are getting ripped off. It’s lowering trust by insisting that you are getting something better when you know you are not.
It’s with that knowledge in mind that I’ve come to terms with the reality of American consumption. I’ve come full circle on Buy Nothing Day. I recognize that shopping is the full contact sport that drives everything else around us. And so long as I’m embedded in that system it serves little purpose to be obstinate or contrary. But equally it serves no purpose to be taken advantage of by these brands either. Getting a deal is a very American kind of battle I’d rather win. As of yet there is no option to remain off the battlefield. But one day it may be gone for good. Until then I’ll buy my cashmere in discount.
Noblesse oblige. Literally translated from the French as nobility obligates. It’s commonly understood to mean that aristocracy has a responsibility to act graciously towards the civilization which has granted them status.
No one is sure if they are nobility or peasantry. No one is noble or good. Which means nobody deserves anything they get. Which is about as close to the war of all against all as I can imagine. Hobbes would be pleased.
Humanity has always been rather clever at inventing new classes. We need fresh blood from the bottom to keep revolutionary sentiment in church. Every century we are finding new ways to fight it out for new types of status and virtue.
Business values money. Old money values class. The intelligentsia values intellect. Hipsters value taste. The religious value faith. And around we go with status games as we trade social capital for actual capital just so we can get something to eat.
There is always an emerging new game that upsets the underlying order. The printing press destabilized the church and its priestly cast. The internet destabilized the media and it’s editor cast. You know the drill.
Right now there is a massive internecine fight over which order rules over Twitter. And depending on whose camp you fall into you are probably signaling different things. And that lack of shared cultural values is leading to some pretty silly reactions. A lot of dickriding is happening across every major faction.
Which if you take away the reactionary specifics, is totally understandable. If one class of person values money but the competing group values taste than you aren’t really fighting for the same things. Different values are different.
But you’ve got to be careful with your own reactions. Ask yourself if you are responding out of some shared cultural loyalty that is overshadowing your own common sense. Your attention is valuable and powerful people recognize your attention for the commodity that it has become.
Don’t buy into bullshit just because it’s your team. The chance that someone is making a buck off of your attention sure ain’t zero. And America being a free country and all means you shouldn’t be living enthralled to someone else’s priorities.
As chaos continues to unfurl around the world, the tendency towards hero worship is getting out of control. Cults of personality are having a moment absolutely everywhere, even as we are treated to even more spectacular variants of the Emperor Has No Clothes. You’d think the recent flameouts in finance, technology and politics just this week would make us all a bit more skeptical of authority and yet that does not appear to be the case.
If you are not familiar with the term, being a dick rider means praising absolutely every move of someone you perceive as having more power than you. Dickriding is a particularly uncomfortable form of reply guying wherein you praise absolutely every move of the person whose dick you are riding.
It’s especially virulent among regular people without personal expertise or exposure to the problem at hand. Not knowing any better is not however a prerequisite for dick riding. You can lend your credibility to someone else by using your expertise to rationalize just about anything.
Humans love power and hierarchy. I guess it makes us feel safe to believe that someone knows what the hell they are doing when we are afraid. But the sad reality is that we are all human. Even the most accomplished and brilliant among us are still saddled with bias, self doubt, insecurities and blind spots. If you are inclined towards the religious, we are all sinners. Though I’d recommend you combine that with a side of grace as I don’t mean this to be judgmental.
I realize it’s pretty funny to bring up the redeeming power of grace in the context of sexually explicit slang. But I do think it’s helpful to remember that even the worst of us have redeeming qualities and even the best of us have flaws.
The social contract in America is breaking down but none of us have agreed on the new rules yet. Of course, some populations have never lived within the consensus social contract in America.
And yes there are a lot of Americans that don’t live inside our social contract. Being black or queer (or god forbid both) even in 2022 means speaking a foreign language in your own land. If you aren’t familiar with the term code switching I’d encourage you to look it up.
I’ve almost always lived within consensus norms. At least appearance wise. I pass as a nice white lady with a nice seems white husband. He’s Jewish so only the incredibly woke or the incredibly racist disagree. Though eventually even that protection may give way if we don’t have children.
Code switching isn’t cost free. You’ve got to think about your audience constantly. You adjust who you are based on the acceptable norms of discourse. And it’s an exhausting exercise if you’ve never had to do it.
One of the reasons Twitter has been such a combustible place is that people code switch all the time. If you get caught in a context collapse situation where what you said is fine in one community and heresy in a another you might find yourself getting canceled. Speech norms have always been context dependent.
I’ve recently become more aware of how much code switching I do because I’ve been trying to solve a problem that isn’t considered polite to have in rich stable white American society. If you follow me closely you know it’s related to immigration.
I really need to fix this problem so I’ve been asking around quietly and obliquely trying to sense my way around adjacent communities with rules that won’t turn me into a pariah. And it’s a ton of work. It requires the kind of sensitivity and social graces I’ve previously prided myself on only to discover it’s just the rules for the Western upper class whites. Everyone else knows justice isn’t for them.
As you might imagine plenty of people live with entirely different contexts and social graces than the Eurocentric worldview. And they are all fully and completely aware of the indignities of my problem and the varied ways in which one solves for it. And no one is judging me for it. But it’s been a bit shocking to me. I fully believed playing by the rules would eventually reward me. And of course that’s the real reasonable we code switch. Because different rules apply to different people.
I like mathematics. I’ve got very little talent for arithmetic but formal proofs were something I could feel my way through. I only learned this by failing regular calculus so badly and getting rescued by my roommate who is the scion of a very important family in algebraic topology. Bet you didn’t know that was a thing did you? He showed me that mathematics isn’t about numbers at all but about the logic of the universe. Also he kept me from flunking out. Thanks Tom!
I know the above sounds silly, but in academic circles math is one of those “purest” of institutions where cognitive processing power matters a lot and absolutely nothing else. They are some of the most deeply impractical and removed from reality types of humans you will ever meet.
I’m autistic enough that I found the company of this type of human deeply comforting as they comforted me though my shame based need desire to be normal. Literally no one will make you feel more normal than someone that works in formal logic and it’s adjacent philosophy of decision theory. I bet a lot lot of pretty girls with daddy issues have found this to be true if the LessWrong community is to be believed.
Because of how close I was to my roommate (and still an even though we don’t see each other enough) I got to spend time with a lot of utterly bizarre math people. And it really runs the gamut from those who are functionally pirates who can barely feed themselves to the founders of Renaissance Capital. They are a good time generally speaking. Extremely chaotic people who drink thousand dollar bottles of champagne from solo cups while discussing science fiction are my definition of a good hang.
But they are not what you’d call standard issue humans. If you’d like to know exactly how, ask them to explain how being three standard deviations from the mean has affected them and don’t interrupt them for thirty minutes. I am an outlier in many ways. But I don’t hold a candle to some of the folks I got to meet.
The reason I titled this post Newcomb’s Paradox is because it is thanks to early exposure to mathematics that I got to explore the complete irrationality of rationalism. Newcomb’s Paradox in its simplest format tells us that in an irrational system it is not rational to behave rationally. It is a paradox because this is both true and not true.
If you have some common sense you are not immediately knocked on your ass by this revelation but it turns out to be so unnerving. Unfortunately for some folks at the edge, which is most folks who are mathematicians, it might also break their brain. Effective altruism is now being blamed for its adjacency to the entire Sam Bankman Fried committed fraud at FTX scandal because they took the paradox entirely too literally and not at all seriously.
And given the dangers that can come from extremes perhaps more of us should be spending time with mathematicians. Math pirates when combined with high finance and potent philosophies might need tempering by those of us only two standard deviations out.
Some neu-feminine viral thread arguing women are not meant to work structured 9-5 jobs because of our reproductive cycle hit my Twitter feed today. The author argued menstrual hormonal cycles represents an innate biological need for longer creative and restorative cycles in women. Or something. I am not here to argue biological essentialism.
The thread itself wasn’t all that weird just a bit of a throwback. I am all about working with your normal cycles and not against them but I just can’t get to “this is why raising children and the home is our natural environment.” Normally I’d view this sort of thread as standard natalist “be proud of being a woman” stuff and move on. I even kind of agree that we have ignored women’s hormones to our detriment.
But the way it came into my feed was a bit wilder than your usual retvrn dork. A Christian Nationalist personality that I keep tabs on had retweeted a Nazi larper (no really his avatar is the Gigachad with a Swastika chest tattoo) who had commentary about the biological inferiority of women based on this thread. He made some lewd jokes about how any attempt to live beyond the home and our children was clearly a lie.
This whole mess of muddled ideologies hit my feed just as I was enjoying a bout of PMS anger and I strongly debated responding with a well actually “we also hot chip and twerk” but I wasn’t entirely sure I needed to give them the attention of an outdated meme format. Which is also why I’m not linking to any of it. Sorry you have to take my word for it but you can probably search for it with these details.
The constant thrum of reactionary throwback accounts is pretty typical on Twitter. The casual disdain for anyone outside of your immediate in-group (which in this case was so small it literally excluded all women) has become so normalized it’s honestly not a shocker I’m seeing natalists, dominionists and Gigachad Nazis on my Twitter feed advocating for increasingly wild viewpoints.
Muddled hate is part of the appeal of the internet. But also damn if it’s not also the worst part. But if you ignore and block all of the worst bits you might be surprised to discover that actually people still believe all kinds of wildly hateful shit. And I’d rather know so I can stay ahead of any pogroms. But that’s just me. Don’t forget to vote in the mid -terms!
One of the nastiest tricks we play on women is teaching them to be nice. You catch more flies with honey than vinegar turns out to not even be true literally let alone as a metaphor. That explains why my fruit fly traps all contain apple cider vinegar. Attracting others is just as much about being firm, and even unkind, as it is about nice.
I got the “nice” beaten into me in the workforce in my twenties. I got lots of advice about being more nurturing. I was told you will only succeed if you are well liked. And I tried adapting myself to be more accommodating. I suppressed a lot of my natural personality, and not terribly well, in an attempt to conform to the strictures of being perceived as nice. Nobody bought it and it made me miserable.
I’ve spent the back half of my thirties learning to get it back. As it turns out being nice is mostly in the eye of the beholder and has little to do with if you are actually an asshole. I learned slowly that having firm boundaries is important in both life and business and if someone reads that as you being mean or unkind well that says more about them than you.
I’m doing more to take care of myself so that I can approach every situations with as much empathy as possible. That way if I have to tell a hard truth and be “mean” at least I can do it with as much emotional presence as possible. I don’t have to be liked or even cater to someone’s emotions. That was always a lie. Being too nice might just end up babying someone.
Now I take care of myself so that others can take care of themselves. There is no attracting with honey or vinegar. There is just taking care to be truthful about who you are and what you offer.
It’s been a minute since I posted about the mild annoyances of shopping to outfit a new house. Because we have upgraded the amount of space we live in by two or three times and we are hoping to use some of the space for hospitality we’ve bought a lot of shit recently.
I have shopped a large assortment of direct to consumer retail brands. Included in the list is Brooklinen, Havenly, Italic and Merit in the last month or so. And the varied state of quality and service in the venture funded retail space is such a mixed bag. The most pleasant experiences have been from older brands and retailers like Carharrt, Ariat and Sephora.
I would entirely recommend Havenly as an intermediary service for both design and furniture shopping as the returns are relatively simple and they consolidate a ton of retailers into the interface. But they are so good at their jobs you mostly don’t need to return stuff. We bought a cheap fake antler chandelier to see if it could be pulled off (against the advice of the designer) and were promptly told by everyone to return it. Which lets be honest was good advice all around. We did have to dismantle it which I’m told was quite the IKEA style effort.
I cannot say I have the same praise for direct to consumer brands that are still attempting to make margins happen in the middle market. I’ve had some amusing fails on that front and it again reminds me of the danger consumers are beginning to feel when they shop brands with less social awareness. This is a real issue for direct to consumer brands as they fight it out with less venture dollars compared to the past. It’s going to hurt their lifetime customer values.
Merit is a much covered cosmetics brand which has some star products I liked (their foundation is terrific) but some really low rent packaging. So I wanted to return a couple items. Merit made returns so challenging I might just eat the cost of half the products that I don’t want to use. Merit’s customer care team literally wanted me to write reviews of each product I wanted to return to begin the process. Damn girl but ain’t nobody has time for that.
Ironically I had already done that on their Yotpo product review prompts a week earlier but didn’t save them (why would I) so when it came time for returns I just said fuck it as I didn’t want to retype my 500 word a piece reviews again just to return the items. It’s been sitting in my inbox for so long I’m afraid they won’t accept it. A huge and amusing fail to integrate basic customer retention tactics and your order options. I expect it will hit their lifetime customer value and require a fix soon. I literally haven’t overcome the inertia just to get my $70 back and perhaps they know that. Which is a dick move.
By far the most clever return mechanic I’ve seen is from Italic. I’ve loved their cashmere and their sheets but some of their other odds and ends were just bad fits. And it turns out they know it. They offered a 50% store credit on an item if I just gave it to a friend. Alas it is a dress that doesn’t work if you have breasts. Which is clearly a challenge to hand off to anyone.
The other irritant that Italic had though is that it shipped in four separate orders and insisted that we ship it back in four separate orders which is wildly wasteful even by e-commerce standards. And it has the unexpected effect of me accidentally returning a pair of cashmere pants I didn’t even try on as I forgot I bought two different cuts and ended up returning both as they came in separate orders over the space of a week. Oops! That’s $150 they won’t get from me. I frantically texted my Alex asking if he had them still but nope I might try to rebuy them but now I don’t trust I’ll be able to even figure it out.
Shopping is going to get extremely weird over this holiday season as brands have significant depths to overcome come past supply chain issues. But as the economy struggles with inflation I’d expect to see more tricks like Merit on the negative end and clever loyalty gambits like Italic on the positive. So keep that in mind as Black Friday approaches.
My courage is uneven at the moment. I have a specific professional project that I am struggling to push myself on. I tell myself that it is something I want, but if the truism “having is evidence of wanting” is any indication, I am struggling to convince myself I really want it. Except I am fairly sure I do want it and I’m just scared.
I used to love it when people said no to me. I was the kind of “chip on my shoulder” young person that used a no to fuel myself. “I’ll show them” was somewhere between a mantra and a battle cry.
But now I find myself anxious to publicly go out and see just how many people will say no. I don’t know if I find it as motivating as I used to. I tell myself I don’t mind but perhaps some other unexamined element of reaction makes me afraid.
This could all be an elaborate ego protection ruse on my part. Maybe I still love the motivation that comes from no. Maybe I hate it. But I have not really done enough fucking around to find out yet to know one way or other.
My gut instinct is to simply declare in public my goals and a timeline to force myself into it. But then I’ve been working through my tendency to rely on willpower and force to motivate myself. Perhaps a big forcing function will simply send me back into my old coping mechanisms of addictive overwork.
I’ve always punished myself by doing things. If I am anxious I almost always find ways to kick a hornet’s nest to force an action rather than gentle build momentum.
Whatever I do I would prefer I do it with as much gentleness and respect for my inner child as possible. I am prone to abusing my inner child’s feelings by disregarding her fear or her desire to keep distance from the rest of the world. I deserve better than forcing misery onto my inner child.