Categories
Culture

Day 698 and Looking Ahead

I’ve got the sense that people are writing off big chunks of time. The long now has so thoroughly burned out everyone that who cares about achieving anything in the medium term right? December is a wash. Heck I’m talking to folks who have wrote off all of 2023 and even into 2024. The now and the long term are all that matters.

And I’m actually quite amenable to this viewpoint. I’ve still got to get things done before the end of the year. I’ve got fundraising to do and deals to close. I’m excited for how 2023 will go as a down market is a builder’s market. But I understand the frustration with trying to plan ahead when everything feels like it is crumbling. The medium term feels like a sand trap sucking in your attention and emotional energy.

It takes a guts to walk through a dark valley of despair. And we’ve got a lot to feel despairing about at the moment. But just because it is all doom and gloom doesn’t mean we’ve got no reason for optimism. People are resourceful and humans as a species are shockingly good at problem solving.

So I guess what I’m saying is I’m feeling good about looking ahead. Maybe it all takes longer than I’d like. But maybe it stops me from engaging in brute force efforts that are going to burn me out. We all just need to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Categories
Culture

Day 686 and Code Switch

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.

Categories
Internet Culture Media

Day 685 and Brainworms

I am very good at media. It’s a passion as well as one of my few hobbies that has stood the test of time. If I wanted a regular job I think I’d enjoy for more than a couple year stint I’d probably pick publicist. I say this add context to the topic I plan to discuss.

Because I’m so experienced (and also naturally talented) at the attention disciplines, I can spend time consuming information that isn’t mentally or emotionally hygienic for the average person. I have outstanding informational immunity. I stare into the abyss so others don’t have to. I monitor it all, from extremist groups to the most normie mainstream media. I have always made my living by intaking and organizing information.

Unlike your drunk uncle or wired Gen Z nephew, I can withstand information environments designed to “pill” you and hijack your dopamine responses without ill effect. Frankly I’m disappointed I’m not a literal William Gibson character as I certainly feel like Cayce Pollard existentially.

So I hope you take me seriously when I say I think it is time for all of us to pull back from extended raw regular Twitter consumption for a little bit. It has become an info-hazard rapidly and almost accidentally as its new management attempts to reinvigorate features and drive cost cutting (some of which I support). I don’t know if it is going to collapse or get reinvented but Twitter as it is right now is unstable.

The degradation of features and rules of engagement is happening too quickly and unpredictably for me to surf continuously like I have in the past. Context collapse is pervasive. There are gaping holes in informational hierarchies from experiments to both nerf and boost accounts through verification chaos. Responses from trusted accounts don’t make it to my alerts. I used to browse on reverse chronological non-algorithm view but it appears so broken in my feed it’s unclear how or why things are being surfaced.

And these concerns barely scratch the surface. Twitter’s immune responses to competing agendas, trolling and chaos agents are broken as the duct tape and physical labor of its team has been slashed. Raging information infections that typically remain contained to their ecosystems are spreading to main feeds. You cannot control your information environment when it is collapsing all around you.

You are going to get brain worms if you are not careful. If even a twenty year professional with exposure to the darkest corners of content (from 4chan to Gawker to groypers) no longer feels safe in this information war zone than you might want to consider restricting your own consumption for your own mental and emotional safety. I’ve decided to cut down on browsing until the platform stabilizes. I’m rebooting my email inbox and newsfeeds. I am choosing to open news apps directly rather than waiting for my networks to surface news. I just don’t feel safe drinking from the raw feed on Twitter right now.

In other words, if it’s not safe for me then it is definitively not safe for you.

Categories
Chronic Disease Politics

Day 658 and Time Perception

I don’t know about you, but my sense of time has never really recovered from the pandemic. Time got distended and warped in ways that were hard to appreciate at the time. I struggle to tell if I’m making progress or if I’m standing still.

If I’m really honest with myself, I started losing the thread on time when Trump got elected. I was one of those people for whom that fractured my reality a little. Not because I couldn’t conceive of him winning but because I could. That was my first moment where I felt like I was beginning to split from shared reality as I was so sure he would win and so desperately wanted him to lose.

Somewhere midway through Trump’s term, my health got fucked up. My sense of reality fracturing combined with my first taste of time being distended was when my health went sideways. As I stopped working somewhere in 2018 but it’s hazy. As I spent more and more time in hospitals, doctors offices and in bed, and less time at the office, the usual ways I used to tell time degraded further. Reality had already shattered so no reason not to let time shard too.

So I can’t entirely blame my sense of displacement from time on the pandemic. My sense of instability absolutely predates it by several years. By now much I couldn’t exactly tell you. Between my health and Trump I ended up a step or two off of consensus reality.

This did end up being lucky. As the pandemic was inbound I was prepared before it hit. I had tied myself so effectively into the immune system of the information environment I knew it was coming in December.

But I wasn’t entirely prepared for how much I’d up end my life as the second order effects of the pandemic kicked in. We did the first few months in an apartment, the first summer in a vacation house on the Hudson River and then decamped for my home state of Colorado.

It’s only just as we’ve decided to commit to Montana that my sense of unreality is easing a bit. We’ve got a home that we own and a set of preparations that makes it stable through some gnarly potential futures. So why isn’t the time dilation is easing? Why does it always feel like there is never enough time and also far too much time all at once? If anyone has the answer I am listening.

Categories
Medical Preparedness

Day 629 and Working in Chaos

If you have been following along for the past couple of days you may have noticed I’m at a wilderness medical first responder course. I’ve been soaking up an inordinate amount of information. Part of the reason I am here is personal enrichment, but equally I am here because I’m working to understand chaos driven industries and the opportunities they present.

And the class is not disappointing. As we’ve have absorbed more skills and are moving further into the course, the chaos factor is being ramped up. The particularly enjoyable aspect of the specific course I am doing is that it is not just imparting book smarts. It’s designed to be much more hands on.

If it were a business school class they would probably refer to the methodology as case studies. But instead of ruminating on what you would do if you were management you are reacting as if you were the actual first responder on the scene. And the cases are getting more and more complex.

We started out with with the basics. We were deducing issues and imparting stabilizing treatments. But as we got more comfortable with figuring diagnostics and rendering basic aid the complexity ranked up. At the end of the day today we were presented with a car accident and four patients.

As we ran (literally) onto the scene we had to not only unravel what had happened but also treat several patients in varying degrees of distress. One of our patients didn’t make it. There was nothing we could have done. But we didn’t know that going into the scene. When we arrived we had no idea what happened and had to untangle the triage ourselves.

I was surprised at how challenging it was to leap into action. As the chaos of the accident presented itself our group of first responders had to decide on organizing ourselves and our resources. But the instinct is to simply begin rendering aid.

And that tension between acting and organizing in a crisis never goes away. You just get better trained at how to approach it. Working in the chaos is the job. I honestly thought I’d be better at it. Taking charge and working in uncertainty is something I enjoy. But as with any new skill, it takes work and practice. A certain amount of pressure is the only thing that teaches you how to work in chaos. And I’ve still got a long way to go.

Categories
Preparedness

Day 626 and Learning

I’ve been slowly making my way through a Korean show on Netflix called Extraordinary Attorney Woo. It’s about a young woman with autism who has a gift for the law. It’s warm hearted and charming and a bit of a relief to watch if you have autism or are on the spectrum. I highly recommend it.

The show really pulls on my heartstrings. The episode I am currently watching features the struggles of 10 and 11 year old kids who are at after school academic centers. I won’t ruin the plot but a young man sets out to “liberate” the kids by letting them play. I found myself tearing up the show went about discussing the need for healthy playtime.

I hated going to school even though I love learning. I found so much of the pressures of school upsetting. Being inside, being around lots of people and loud noises, and just generally being obligated to things like homework and deadlines to be exhausting and anxiety inducing. I found myself tearing up watching these Korean kids in similar situations.

I was quite lucky to have a mother who sent me to Waldorf schools and even the occasional home school year. When I could pace myself I’d would rapidly out run the curriculum. I just needed breaks and playtime and my own opportunities to self direct. I hated discipline from the outside but had plenty of my own if given the chance to be self directed.

I’m still an autodidactic type as an adult. This week I am taking a wilderness medical incident certification course. I’ve got some strong sense that this is meant to wrap around some wider learning experience about the practicalities of living in a more chaotic world. It’s a bit of learning by doing. Some perspectives have to be unraveled first hand.

Categories
Finance Preparedness

Day 608 and What Timeline

I’ve been obsessed with a movie called Margin Call this summer. If you haven’t seen it, well it’s on Netflix, and it’s an exceptional piece of cinema with a top notch cast reflecting on why finance is so prone to boom and busts. It’s a great office drama even if you have no interest in banking. And it’s only an hour and forty odd minutes w two key Pete Davidson SNL skit criteria. It is both Tucci Gang and a Short Ass Movie.

One of the clincher scenes is Jeremy Irons explaining his job as the bank’s CEO to Zachary Quinto the young rocket scientist turned risk analyst.

I’m here for one reason and one reason alone. I’m here to guess what the music might do a week, a month, a year from now. That’s it. Nothing more. And standing here tonight, I’m afraid that I don’t hear; a; thing. Just — silence

Margin Call

I found this particular scene rather riveting as it reflects both the seeming ease and intense dangers of being in charge. Your entire job boils down to making a few big calls exactly right over a time horizon your average working stiff doesn’t even have the luxury to consider.

I’ve been considering my own preferred time frame on which to make decisions. I’m no Jeremy Irons. I don’t make exceptional calls on what will happen in a few months. I do however have quite a nose for what will unfold over much longer time horizons. I’d trust myself to make the right call over a decade. I scan the horizons.

Which if you are following along with some of my life choices should be modestly unsettling. I moved to Montana to a rural homestead. I invest in early stage startups that fit my chaotic thesis. I am comfortable being labeled a doomer and a prepper because catastrophic emergencies are in inevitability in complex systems.

And it’s hard to imagine a time when complex systems like climate change, geopolitics and macroeconomic trading pressure held more sway than now. Like Jeremy Iron’s character I am listening for the music. And my ear is trained on the silence coming down the pike.

Categories
Preparedness

Day 605 and Inventory

I like to be prepared. It’s my personal opinion that this winter is going to be a bit rough. There is no single issue but rather a patchwork of intersecting crisis points that make me a little edgy.

You’ve got crop yields all over the place from another wild climate change year. You’ve got the rising costs of fertilizers. You’ve got an energy crisis brought on by the war Russia is waging against Ukraine. You’ve got whatever China is up to with its Covid policies. And then of course you’ve got our lingering economic fuckery and well you can see why I’m worried.

I went through our emergency food stores today and did some turnover and replenishment. We didn’t opt to move some things with us to Montana (some items had expiration dates necessitating donation) so it’s been on my to do list.

I’ve got a spreadsheet that includes fats, starches, sweeteners and less glamorous proteins like beans and canned fish. It theoretically calculates our our caloric needs and what is provided for in our supplies so we can more easily assess if we have enough on hand for different scenarios. In reality, I’ve never actually had full inputs clean enough to generate an output I trust. So I kind of wing it with this basic level of precision.

I’ve tried to abide by basic best practices for emergencies. Ready.gov is a surprisingly decent resource even if it might shock you what you should have in hand. You need supplies for a three day disaster like a snowstorm or hurricane. You need three weeks of supplies for an interruption that takes a bit of resolve. And you ideally three months of food on hand if something goes really wrong. The Mormon Church says you should keep a year of food on hand.

I don’t think we’ve quite got a year of food on hand but I have taken a lot of tips from the LDS suggestions for food storage. We’ve got pounds of wheat (and a hand crank grinder). We’ve got 25lbs sacks of rice. We’ve got big jugs of cooking oils. We’ve got sugars. We’ve got spices. I’ve got quite the collection of dried legumes.

I feel like I basically have what is necessary for a bad winter in Montana. I hope we’ve got enough for any supply chain constraints that might make it harder to get things to our modestly more rural homestead. But in truth I’m just following lists and hoping if something happens I didn’t fuck up too badly. And I’d we did well we’ve got shotguns and ammunition and the local deer are a little too cavalier about their safety. For now.

Categories
Preparedness

Day 578 and Tactical Errors

I’ve moved somewhere in the area of forty times over my life. And you’d think this would make me excellent at it. But no matter how careful your planning, the execution will be filled with tactical errors. It’s the nature of the beast and you’ve just got to roll with it.

The first and most crucial tactical error we made was not buying backup air conditioning and fans. We’ve never lived in a house that was entirely without air conditioning. Apartments have been either small enough for a window unit or had central air. The town house has installed mini splits. But Montana has not traditionally required central air or mini-splits.

We arrived on the hottest day of the year. The upright air conditioner we bought simply died within five minutes of unboxing. We had multiple fans but those 2 fans are only enough to help with one room if it’s large. And of course, buying fans or air conditioning in a heatwave in a smaller town is impossible. So we are a bit stuck with it until they can arrive on Wednesday from Amazon.

Most of the other tactical errors are similarly environmental. Moving boxes are dusty. There is dust everywhere from everything including books, outerwear, crap you didn’t realize you were lax on cleaning regularly. We’ve got two air filters running full steam and my eyes are red and puffy despite that. I’ve got hives on my eyelids. Finding the appropriate antihistamines and attempting to fight the dust is a losing battle that nevertheless must be fought.

I am confident we will find plenty of other ways in which we’ve fucked up the basic tactics of the move. That it’s mostly dust and heat is a bit of a blessing in some ways. Murphy’s Law is strongly enforced during times of routine disruption.

What can go wrong will go wrong.

Moving is inherently a process of fighting entropy. A new place and a new house are ways humans fight against the decay of our lives. It is a losing battle. Physics is pretty clear on that one. But we fight on as overcoming tactical errors is just part of living.

Categories
Politics

Day 575 and Harm’s Way

I got put in a hotel room for the final days of packing up our Colorado townhouse. I’m useless at lifting heavy things right now. I find this to be vaguely insulting as I used to be an avid power lifter.

But I can’t dispute that the high cost of my energy makes it uneconomic to involve me in physical labor. My family and friends reasonably want to keep me out of harm’s way. My role in our groups is to be Tom Sawyer not the paint brush brigade. Or if you prefer a story with less moral grey area, I am the mouse Frederick from Leo Leoni’s classic tale about story tellers and community. I scan the horizon and organize people. It’s probably the original professional path for the disabled. We’d have gone instinct in a Darwinian view of simple capacity and yet here we remain.

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to mitigation of tail risks recently as the person tasked with keeping our group out of harm’s way. The average prepper isn’t much more convinced that the world is ending than your average person. We simply think that probability being what it is, it is worth doing some work to stay out of harm’s way if you can. Complicated worlds have complicated risk profiles. Buying insurance is just doing the math.

Not everyone is convinced that moving to Montana is staying out of harm’s way. A marketing executive and Vice contributor recently wrote a viral essay about how people like him (and me) are walking into some kind of a Trumpian civil war. I am skeptical of this position having been raised in the mountain west that things are quite so dire in Montana. It’s not Idaho.

But I agree with the basic gist that culture wars are getting hot. But I’m also a native of the West and deserve to be there as much as anyone. I code just as much right wing as I do left wing. My plans are to integrate back into country living. I am all for good neighbors and church and building sustainable communities. But I am also virulently anti-MAGA as populism tends to go badly for diverse populations. And I believe the only way we keep anyone out of harm’s way is by simply resisting simple narratives and taking sides.