I’m not entirely sure when or even how it happened, but I’ve been eating nothing but takeout. I think it’s some “emotional exhalation” around food. When the pandemic first hit I was in Manhattan. As wasn’t yet clear how Covid spread, we locked down in our apartment and cooked every single meal for three straight months. Probably a record in my life for going without ready made meals. But boy did I miss takeout by the end of it.
I’m sure both facts say something about the privilege I have. I can afford to have someone prepare all of my food in restaurants. And when disaster struck I had the time and ability to stay home and cook. Most folks chose their food based on budgets, literal and time.
As I’ve been concerned about the looming supply chain crunch I now think it might be time to flex the cooking at home muscles again. Letting fresh food linger in the fridge without a plan is wasteful. Whether or not I can afford the waste isn’t the point. It’s offensive to the energy and work of the many people who put their livelihood into feeding others.
I feel this especially acutely as my milk and produce come directly from local farmers. I feel like I’m letting down Daphne if our milk isn’t turned into yogurt or ricotta (or at very least put into my morning coffee). Although I will say I have no good plans for the sheer volume of peppers and chilis my farm share produced. In Colorado it is the chili that’s the crop that goes overboard in your CSA box not zucchini or some other squash. I genuinely have no clue what to do with some of more exotic peppers so send me recipes!
I reached out to my mom suggesting to her if she had any major purchases or repairs to do so now. She’s been intending to get the shocks replaced on her husband’s truck and moved up the appointment to get it scheduled today. I went through my various preparations for emergencies and realized I was in very good shape. Maybe I could upgrade a pair of boots or consider a new winter parka to upgrade from Uniqlo to LL Bean.
But there just wasn’t much I needed to do. If we had food, fuel, or medication shortages or delays like Britain is experiencing, I am prepared for that. I’m not in a place where I can sustain a full civilization collapse (I haven’t convinced my husband to move to a homestead yet), but I’d definitely be fine if we had a month or two of cascade issues. I am thinking of scenarios like a big winter storm knocking out the power grid and impacting downstream systems like water treatment. Or I-70 gets blocked for a week or two and we have shortages at stores because truckers cannot get over the pass. I mention those two because both happened this year calendar year. These issues are it as rare as you think.
And it struck me how incredibly lucky I am that I can consider something like a supply chain crunch and rather than struggle to afford things like a car repair or a winter coat I can simply buy them. The privilege I have to be a prepper (or a doomer) is significant. And I really genuinely don’t think that should be the case.
America makes big claims to exceptionalism but we regularly have disasters that make us look like we’ve barely achieved a stable economy with functional infrastructure. So if you can prepare for a disaster please do so. The life you save may be your own. But in reality it’s probably more likely to be your neighbors. And we owe it to each other to take the strain off the system so when a disaster hits so we can do better together.
Hurricane Ida made landfall in Louisiana today on the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Watching disasters in other cities has the sad side effect of making me go through my emergency gear. After living through Hurricane Sandy in New York I felt it a civic obligation to be prepared for emergencies. Ready yourself so you can help others is my philosophy of prepping.
I spent the morning doing a complete overhaul of my go-bags pharmaceutical set up. It has been a while since I had rotated out some medications and I wanted to add in more drugs for situations where it might be some times before we could reach a hospital or medic. Worst case scenarios crossed my mind.
Disasters often get portrayed as these dramatic events but more often it’s just neighbors helping each other through a bad time. That means I stock a trauma kit along with shit like anti-diarrhea drugs and cortisone. More likely to be itchy and have an upset stomach than a trauma bleed so prepare for the basics first.
But I’ve had the basics down for a while. I’ve been prepping now for several years with increasing seriousness. So sometime this year I decided to prepare for worse. I thought it wise to have a stash of prescriptions for situations where doctors aren’t coming, maybe at all, including antibiotics, steroids, antihistamines, NSAIDs, caffeine, and an array of drugs that are, well, controlled substances and I swear I have legitimate prescriptions for all of them and am monitored by several physicians who work in coordination. But you know, the good stuff.
I say that as if it is remotely recreational to break a leg and require an opioids or be suffering from shock. If someone is having a panic attack because their world is coming down around them I think fuck it this is why it’s good to have an Ativan. No judgements.
Disaster hits a little different when you have a chronic disease. You have to think about scenarios where you are actually in the most vulnerable groups. That those worst case scenarios you see on TV could actually happen to you. Shit hitting the fan would actually mean your life if you didn’t prepare. And so I’ve scrapped together a small pharmacy over the past few years. I’ve rationed doses and asked for extra refills. I’ve squirreled away a dose here and there between insurance coverage and extra days. It’s actually quite hard to be able to have as many additional drugs as the CDC recommendation for an emergency. No seriously they suggest 7-10 days of extra medication. Can you imagine most Americans affording that? It’s a fucking slow moving American tragedy we are told how to survive but hobbled in being able to enact any of what the Fed suggest. It’s no wonder Americans don’t trust the government for anything.
The pandemic has solidified this sad truth for me. So I’ve learned new skills. I worry that it’s hard to rely on community when most communities are struggling already. It’s an impossible ask. And so we are forced into another circle of individualism and personal responsibility because really what other option can you imagine having. Because next time it won’t be some other persons disaster on the TV. Next time it might be yours.
I found myself eating an entire pound of chilled organic bing cherries in bed while binging episodes of Downton Abbey this week. Watching the British aristocracy cope with modernity poorly seemed like an excellent balm for the climate anxiety that has been gripping me during the consecutive heatwaves inflaming the American West.
I’m a doomer and a prepper but recently I’ve felt completely defeated by the looming impacts of climate change. And I’ve been manifesting it is a kind of orgiastic panic of consumption. We had a windfall this year and it has soothes some of the panic I’ve had about having the resources to survive. Maybe it will be miserable but we might have enough wealth to avoid dying.
The excuse I’ve been using is that I’m concerned (nay convinced) none of these things will survive the next 25 years except as extreme luxury goods. If I can see the changes coming should I not enjoy the access I have to food that will no longer be available in my fifties? If I can see the end coming why conserve? I’m not Exxon or BP or some giant mining extraction concern in China. My forgoing small luxuries as an individual will do nothing to stop the catastrophe and I would like fond memories of the taste of a cool tart cherry in my twilight years. Burn me at the stake for it I guess.
One of the reasons we named the fund we invest out of Chaotic Capital is because I’m obsessed with cascade failures. In complex systems one small change can ripple out in unexpected ways. As players scramble to accommodate these shifts, opportunities for power realignments emerge. This is particularly exciting in systems that are man made as we can only create so much complexity in mechanical systems (unlike biological ones). Most startups are built on technology or engineering that are simple complex systems.
The absolute best description of the risks of a cascade comes from the science fiction television program The Expanse and a botanist named Prax. He is describing a failure in the hydroponics system (which both feeds the people and produces oxygen) on a space station on the moon Ganymede.
Because it’s simple it’s prone to cascades. And because it’s complex you can’t predict what is going to breakdown next or how.
While I’m a doomer and a prepper so it was bound to happen, it was this insight from Prax got me into hydroponics. Cascades and chaos and lettuce fuck yes!
But jokes aside, we’ve got a number of complex systems under strain right now. Supply chains, the financial system, our power grids coping with climate change, and even unemployment benefits are all examples of simple complex systems that are experiencing cascade failures.
I’m not in the mindset to lay a Grand Unified Theory of Simple Complex Systems tonight, because I did experienced one today. Colorado just set another heat record today and my air conditioner crapped out. As I set about closing blinds and checking electrical breakers I worried about how my own survival and comfort depends on cascades not occurring.
What if it had been electrical and my refrigerator went out and not just the air conditioner. Then my $5000 a dose immunosuppressant would go bad. If I can’t have that my spine will swell. Then I’ll be in too much pain to walk. Sure this isn’t a simple complex system exactly but I think it beneficial to go up and down the systems that keep our lives intact. If one system goes down do you survive?
You probably aren’t prepared for some of the cascades that come as the works gets more chaotic. And no we cannot predict it. Shit is way too complex. It’s fucking chaotic as hell. So get some bottled water. I’ve made it easier. Here is what I keep in my go bags. Do it before the next cascade hits. You won’t regret it. I think Prax would agree.
Earlier in the week I tried getting up at 5am to beat the heat. But even first thing in the morning it was still over 80 degrees making it downright unpleasant to go for my usuals hour long wander. So I haven’t been outside for several days except to sprint into my Subaru and then into an air conditioned doctor’s office. Frankly it’s driving me insane. My body hates it. My mind hates it.
I’m a cold weather person by temperament and culture. I blame it on my Swedish ancestors and growing up in a mountain town in Colorado where I don’t think we even had air conditioning when I was a kid. Now twenty five years later I haven’t turned off the air conditioner in weeks.
I am grateful we haven’t yet started fire season. Though I know it is coming. All this time indoors should have me going through disaster supplies. And indeed we did redo our medic kit and trauma supplies this week. We even made our list public if you have been considering doing some preparedness of your own. But disasters have a way of blunting your capacity to do anything. So I’ve been pacing inside, my mind racing but accomplishing very little. Fuck this heatwave.
I think I have a naturally immunity to the friction of inertia. The slow stickiness of life doesn’t seem to impact me as much as the average person. Generating momentum is my natural state. I guess this means my X-Men doppelgänger is the Juggernaut.
Startups suffer particularly from inertia around them. The world pushes back actively against changes. Think of inertia like eddies in the stream of linear time. You must get unstuck or you will circle forever alongside the stream, never getting anywhere while watching as others get ferried down the currents. That’s why I recommend to startups that they simply do whatever is necessary to generate momentum. Get the fuck out of the eddies of inertia.
When you are pushing against existing reality to make something new, you already need to significantly reduce friction just to get a shot on goal. You need to change opinions, learn new skills, bring together a team, work well together.
And that doesn’t even mean you will make the goal, even if all preparation work that goes right. All of that momentum you generated simply to have an opening. Yeah even then you can still fail. The market, your underdeveloped skills, your competitors, sheer dumb luck all have a chance to block your goal. That means you need to be undeterred by failure. You need to overcome friction consistently.
Overcome the inertia and the friction to keep taking more shots is your best chance. Probability likes your odds from five shots better than one.
As my friend Seyi wisely said; sometimes your life gets chosen for you and sometimes you choose your own life. So try to chose your own life as often and as soon possible before someone else does. This challenge seems especially relevant as the culture wars rage on and regular peons like you and I can become collateral damage.
I’ve known for a while that I wasn’t going to be a fit for institutional settings like big tech corporations or civil service. I struggle to to be anything but myself. I mouth off too much. I’m not very good at kissing the ring. It’s not that I can’t engage in behaviors or manners you’d expect, I merely find it tiring. I’m also saddled with some physical limits. I’ve got the kind of medical conditions that gets a lot of virtue signaling from corporate communications types but isn’t really all that appealing except as a token. So unless I wanted to be miserable in middle management I knew I needed to opt out of the game. And that meant winning on my own terms.
Here is a harsh truth that the panic mongers in the cancel culture debate don’t want to say out loud. You cannot expect to survive a system and certainly not a culture war unless you take sides. Humans are riddled with bias and institutional self preservation is strong. The only side you should take is your own.
But you must accept that choosing your own life has consequences. Living out loud as the full uncensored you may cut off certain opportunities just as it opens new ones. Be aware of this reality and do not complain that you are a victim of circumstances when you have more choice than you realize. I’m not suggesting all areas are open to everyone nor that we shouldn’t fight for legal rights and protections. Merely that we are limited as individuals by the cultures and institutions of our time. Social mores move slowly even when pressed by revolutionaries.
My best advice? If want to be an edgelord. Be a real one. Go full crypto. Middle finger to the law. Fuck the police. Start a newsletter with monetization. Find your tribe. Learn some practical homestead skills.
You want to play corporate ladder? Play by those rules. There are dress codes and “ways things are done” and hierarchical structures you must obey. Get their credentials and be excellent at the values the organization wants.
You cannot straddle both worlds. This didn’t used to be a controversial statement. It wasn’t an affront that you had to put on a suit and say “yes sir” until pretty recently. Sometimes you just have to play the game. Go read the 48 laws of power and get back to me.
Trying to express who you are publicly if it’s not within bounds of the institutional norms might get you fired. Or maybe you take a stand that gets you promoted if you judge what norms can be pushed. Depends on the institution. So know that if you set onto the path of “choosing your own life” the consequences might be a lack of access and options. Or it might open you up to an entirely new world where you work and live with people who like you. But straddling the middle is recipe for emotional misery.
If I were you I’d begin to do the work to walk the path of the life you want now. Before someone else chooses for you.
Around 3:30pm MTN yesterday I heard sirens. I didn’t think much of it at first as I’m used to the noises of Manhattan even six months into relocating back to my hometown of Boulder. Then I got a text from a friend in Texas “you aren’t at the grocery store are?”
I asked what store. “Where?” And I scrambled onto Twitter. The Boulder Police Department had posted that they were responding to an active shooter situation at the King Soopers on Table Mesa. I told my friend no I was at home but the grocery store was just 2-3 miles down the road. We had picked up takeout from the shopping center just yesterday from a favorite pub Southern Sun. It’s a staple of the community. I had dinner at its sister restaurant Mountain Sun after I ditched prom in high school. One of the servers snuck us a beer in our hideous outfits even though it was clear we were in high school. The detail feels important for some reason. I don’t know why.
I quickly found a livestream and police scanners to monitor. I opened the door to our porch and heard the unmistakable sound of helicopters. It was the “whack whack whack” of the blades that made me realize it was serious. News choppers wouldn’t be on scene so fast. But medical response scrambles fast. Especially in Colorado where search and rescue leans on helicopters for rough terrain.
My husband Alex was on a call I couldn’t interrupt but I desperately wanted to get his attention. Partially, and I’m sure this will upset a few people, because I wanted to make sure he retrieved and loaded his daily carry. A small part of me considered whether we should break out body armor and get further into our interior rooms. The police had asked folks to avoid the area and stay home.
I closed the curtains so I wasn’t likely to catch the attention of anyone on Pearl Street below. I wanted to be away from windows and with barriers between me and the street. We’d actually given thought to this kind of emergency which is why we own guns and armor. We don’t advertise it but the threat of unrest and violence is something we plan for in our preparedness efforts. Especially in the wake of the January 6th insurrection it’s felt wise to be armed.
America fixates on gun violence. But not the kind that happens in areas with crime or drug violence. We like a media circus around mass shootings. Especially if it involves children. You see this isn’t my first mass shooting. I lived in Boulder during Columbine. I still remember the lockdown at school as we got word. Kids whispering who they knew. Who went there. I’ve seen this before. I’ve had proximity before. I don’t even want to get into it here as it makes my family sound a little cursed when I recount the close calls. But maybe it’s normal and other Americans have had similar close calls.
I was shaken all night as the news got reported. I checked in with my family. The only person who wasn’t worried was my mom. She knew we didn’t go grocery shopping on the South Side of town. She hadn’t considered that we would do pick up at the Mountain Sun. I spent an hour pulling tarot cards with a friend to keep my mind off of social media. We watched the press conference. We put our phones outside of the bedroom so we couldn’t doomscroll.
I had already become incensed by a viral tweet from Meena Harris the sister of Vice President Harris discussing the urgent need for gun control. Urgent my ass I thought. Why can’t any community have its tragedy and be graced to account for its grief in peace? Why do we need to discuss policy and regulations when I don’t even know the names of who was murdered yet? Fuck off Meena Harris these are my neighbors.
Without my phone and thanks to the wonders of Ativan I slept well. I woke up to a new press conference. A phone full of national news alerts. Great, I thought, the New York Times is going to fixate on this isn’t it. I had texts from all over the world. People I play games with online had heard the news. People wanted to know how I was. I wasn’t great.
We got names in the morning. I recognized one name but I wasn’t sure if it was the aunt of a schoolmate or just had a similar name. I went on Facebook. It was a different woman. Media frenzy was at a peek as we learned 10 people were dead. Somehow this was worse than the originally reported 6. It felt more mass. I got a new round of texts from folks. As if it wasn’t clear how bad it was last night.
I knew there would be attention and media. A mass shooting in a wealthy white liberal town with a history of trying to pass municipal ordinances against assault weapons is zeitgeist bait. Of course the narrative isn’t quite true. I wondered if the media knew that Table Mesa was in the shitty side of town. That a town like Boulder even has a shitty side. Alex thought the shooting was further away than it was because when we were house hunting I said I wouldn’t consider living on the south or east sides of town. Those parts of town had been othered by me and I didn’t even realize it. Because I prioritized us living in the “good” parts of town. I wanted to live where my childhood self had dreamed I would live a kid. Whether it was conscious or not I wanted to live in the wealthiest, whitest and safest part of town. I didn’t feel guilty about it at the time. It seemed prudent and I had always wanted to live on Pearl Street. As a teenager I worked on the local tv station’s documentary about its history. My mother saved the poster for the 25th anniversary which now hangs on my wall. That was in 2002. A lot of time has passed.
Of course the coverage is sensational. I should have known it would be. The media tends to prioritize wealthy liberal white lives. Boulder is a wealthy liberal white place for better or worse. Add in the A-15 for the shock value (for some reason they really freak out folks who don’t own guns) and the fact that it was in a grocery store and we’ve got the ideal blend of fear and banality. Grocery stores have been the safe place of the pandemic. A shooting at a grocery store felt particularly violent. So he’s is all anyone was going to talk about today.
Despite it not being something that was happening to any of them. It was however happening to me and Alex. We live here. This is our town. This tragedy belonged to Boulder and everyone who calls it home. I felt like we deserved to grieve in peace. To have our anger.
But I was going to have to live through everyone I knew demanding gun control on social media. Talking heads butting in. Because American media treats these acts of senseless violence as if it’s a shared moment to discuss gun policy. But it’s not. It’s a time for the people affected to have their own feelings without the glare of political opportunism. I knew this in a hazy sense before but I know it in a visceral way now. This shooting isn’t your opportunity. It’s our tragedy. I turned off my phone and slept all afternoon after finishing my workload. I felt too sad to be conscious. And everything hurt.
Preparedness is a hobby in our household. We have go bags for fire season and a solar powered portable generator for bug outs and power outages. We think ahead on common emergencies and prepare.
Because we find this to be a fun time, we decided to explore hydroponics to grow herbs, vegetables and fruits inside during the winter. It’s more a pandemic hobby than a preparedness hobby but why not get double the enjoyment? Our first step in learning about hydroponics was to purchase a table top AeroGarden for herbs. Nothing like a little fresh cilantro to dress up emergency rice and beans. But really it’s about having fresh basil to put on a salad or thyme for a roasting chicken or mint for strawberries. We sprouted 6 different herbs and watched them go from seedling to full grown plant within six weeks. From there we had more trouble keeping the dill trimmed and the mint from choking out its neighbors. This experiment went so well we wanted to try out something bigger.
For Christmas we decided it was time to go big. A friend of ours recommended a type of hydroponic system called a LettuceGrow. It’s a farm stand tower with circular growth rings that takes up just 2 feet by 2 feet and looks like something you’d see on a spaceship.
We had been a bit worried it would be too hard to grow a full 18 plant hydroponics system. But it was easy to make picks and we felt like we didn’t have enough space. We had decided to grow two types of kale, red & green leaf lettuce, spinach, bok choi, cilantro, strawberries, green beans, and chives. We’ve got jalapeño, peppers & tomatoes planned for summer.
It was easy to set up the hydroponic stand (it’s just a water pump and a timer for the lights) and even easier to start with already sprouted seedlings from LettuceGrow. We placed it next to an end table where a small bookshelf used to be. It took up about the space you’d expect a large fern to require. It’s more decors than elaborate equipment in feel. Though it takes a few week to reach its full potential. When we seeded then it didn’t look like much. Definitely more alien ship than lush vegetation.
But within three weeks the seedlings grew with 14 hours a day of red light. It was a source of much enjoyment each day to check on the seedlings sprouting each day. Highly recommend for long bouts indoors. And the growth after just 21 days is almost ready to eat. Without using much electricity. We calculated it out to an additional 14 cents on our bill.