Nov 15, 2016


I can't help but think about your hands.  I want them just to be touching me, in some small way.  Caressing my knee, holding my hand, feeling my heart.  I imagine them sometimes disembodied from the rest of you, wondering if it would be the same without you there.  It isn't.  Without you attached they become these strange faceless, anonymous pieces of flesh, growing cold and wrapped around my waist or caressing my cheek as I fall into a dreamless, hopeless sleep.

Sometimes I think about the time we went out, and ended up talking until late at the bar on East Broadway.  It was winter, so I had on some kind of fancy stockings to help keep the heat in.  That day they were some kind of textured lace that made my whole lower half look like a sculpted art piece, attached at the waist.  Feeling my knees, your fingers found the ripped hole in my jeans, and the lace beneath.  I think it surprised us both.

drafted: 4/2013


you asked me about biking in SF and i didn't want to answer because she was mine and you weren't supposed to know about her.  that sort of thing doesn't condense well into three second conversations.

my sf bike was beautiful.  when the shop man roller her out, with her mint handle bars, that was it.  (the guy who sold it to me was real nice.  he's from farther south than i am -- mexico city.)  riding her home from the bike shop was one of the scarier things i've done in a while.  up hill!

her name was beauty.  we went everywhere together.  i loved putting her on the front of buses when it got dark or i was too tired to hoof it up back to richmond.  one night it rained, and we had to wait for a few buses to pass before one with space for both of us came.  i loved her even more after that.  she was mine, in the way that you want to be someone's sometimes.

she was a beast.  fast, lightweight, low, gears that didn't crank up quite high enough, too short in the body, not enough room for foot clearance.  we ate up pavement, and hills, and golden gate bridges.  went on ferry rides.  she would have liked to meet you.

drafted: 6/2013

One Dimensional

I feel so one dimensional sometimes. I know it's not true. That like its the opposite of being true. But cardboard isn't a fun thing to emulate.

Brittle, focused, ambitious. With sharp angles and no one I want to call when it gets late and I feel empty.

It takes two people to make a person, I guess.

drafted: 1/2015

Oct 24, 2016


Vocal lessons today were really hard. I sound as good as ever but I'm struggling with singing words. Still.

Keeping my tongue down while making moving shapes is hard. Usually the consonants blow me out or cause my tongue to rise. As soon as my tongue rises the whole sound I've got going comes apart.

The hardest part about singing is focus. Getting all the parts to work together by focusing. I've come a long way in a few years but this is the part where practice and changing yourself really starts to play a role. Where the amount of time you spend triggering the sensations is more valuable than just getting the sound out.

It's going to get better only if I practice more.

Sep 21, 2016

Dreamy cats

I had a dream that you got a cat. I came over unannounced. You had guests. And a cat.

I don't know what the cat looked like.

I know it wasn't you though, it was some other you, some dreamworld you, multidimensional but in other dimensions than reality. I know the difference, now.

And also just that
you don't have a cat.

Sep 2, 2016


Feynman was born a Taurus so of course the two of you are nothing alike but it doesn't stop me from making comparisons.  You would too, you know.

Feynman was an artist and he knew Mandarin and he kept his time for himself.  Did you know that Maggie gave me a book with a series of lectures by Feynman? Sometimes I wonder how it is that I haven't read and re-read everything that he's written and or said but I suppose that one authorial obsession a year is probably enough.  Besides, I've got this whole book on the Herald Tribune to read.  Someday. Maybe.  Maybe not.

My writing is shit but I don't give a damn. Do you give a damn?  I'm not sure if Feynman gave a damn.  I think it's one of those things where giving a damn is relational to who you're talking to, you know.  I mean, what does it mean to care really.  What if I know the answer to this question but I don't care enough to tell you.

Or maybe I care, too much.

My writing is shit but I'm ok with that.  Sometimes I look back on what I've been up to, writing wise, and I realize that I used to write better.  Or at least, more formally.  And the quality of my ideas isn't necessarily improving, if anything they're less eluciditory.  Or so it feels.

Feynman was probably never a shitty writer. I bet he always just wrote what he felt needed to be written.  The next, logical thing that came to mind.  Or at least, the one that made the most sense at the time.

the time has come, the walrus said. to speak of many things. of shoes and ships and sealing wax, of cabbages and kings. and if the sea is boiling hot and whether pigs have wings.

Aug 2, 2016

I have

...seen the problem now. I had thought that it was with you, or in a thing that I had done, but I realize, now, that the problem is in me. Myself. That is the problem. Perhaps you could point to a problematic action, but those, those were just symptoms of the deeper, the root cause.

The first step is seeing. And just seeing. To sit with just seeing, no judging. To just see. And to be, in that seeing, whatever it is.


May the G train come shortly, and be with you also, in peace.

Jul 24, 2016

Metal meets the rubber; where's the road?

Having a crises about things that can mostly be defined as too much dreaming not enough doing. Sort of. Not enough doing in the right direction.

The rubber has met the metal but it's still a long way off from the road.

What's the problem?  Where's the sticking point? Why are you procrastinating on this thing that you said that you wanted to do, like actually do?

Is it the task or the totality of the thing that's holding you back?  What about this spoken for future are you having trouble coming to grips with?  You said you wanted this thing but now you're not doing the thing. You're not doing the thing.  That's the problem, with everything.  That you're not *doing* the thing.


Do you ever think that maybe the time has come for you to stop being uncomfortable.  If discomfort is the only thing that you know, maybe finding a comfortable place to be, like chilling in the what is instead of the what could be, would be a beneficial thing to do with life and time.

What do you say, dog?  Do you?

Dog says it's hot as balls in here and I couldn't disagree.

Jul 21, 2016

Wherein I confess my deep and true love for pop

I've been having a lot of good dreams lately. I've also been on what feels like an insane schedule.  In bed after midnight, still wired.  Up before 7am to let the dog out, to go on a walk, to make breakfast, to sit and to write.

I'm tired in the afternoons but I love it.  The dreams come, the mornings come, the evenings... they come.  But they don't go.  They aren't leaving me, I am here and I am awake.

You left Austin months ago. We last spent time together over Thanksgiving, when I was in town for a few hot moments. You gave me some books, and told me about how you were leaving. For real, for good. I wondered what it meant.  You, who had weirdly and yet emptily been there for everything.  Parts of London, Brasil, Atlanta, strange cities, and Austin, always Austin.  But you were packing, you were giving out books, belongings, aprons. You who I joked were my constant, my LOSTiean time-stable person who, if I ever got lost in time, would be the person that I would go to find.

You were leaving. It felt like the end of something.  Like a final goodbye. Like I was shut of all the places that I had encountered you.  Like there was no going backward, not now.  All hopes of being lost in time and then found again, left. Evaporated.

I don't know where you are now.  I don't know that I want to.

Your apron was destroyed by a potty training puppy a few months ago.  The book you gave me, I got halfway through before desisting, as I do most times when confronted with anything that even vaguely resembles deep self-inspection.  It wasn't as good as I wanted it to be, this therapist's idea of a book form of things.

I thought that you leaving meant that I was done with the places that you had found me.  That would be here. That would be there. That would be almost everywhere.

I was wrong.  It just meant that you were done.  You were gone. You were leaving.  You were moving on, and I was just doing what I do -- observing. Seeing, watching you get the fuck out.

That did mean something, but as is with most things, it meant less than I thought it did.

There is love in the tiniest breath of the universe.

I came here because I have a confession.  I love pop. I love country. I love the latino channel. I don't really like electronica, or house, or non-nostalgic rock.  These tastes are strong and have endured.

They will not change, they are as fixed as the stars under which we born.

Jul 20, 2016

How about some conspiracy?

Here's some conspiracy for you, brought to you by me, yours truly.[1]

Martha Nussbaum was born May 6th. She is a Taurus. She is a prolific writer, and well-regarded intellectual.  Her first and only husband was a Sagittarius (December 17).

Jane Jacobs is another prolific writer and brilliant observer.  She was born on May 4th.  Her largest foe in the field was Robert Moses (December 18), a Sagittarius.

None of this means anything, but it's kind of fun to have a way to sketch people's lives out on a template that somewhat maps onto something within reach of my own.

I understand people and birthdays and celebrations and what it means for someone to "act like a Taurus".  I don't understand brilliant authors and philosophers and what it was like to be a smart strong academic woman in the 20th century.  But I can understand their birthdays.

Tauruses all remind my of a friend that is no longer a friend, because I did not know how to not let her go.

I spent most of today waiting in line for confession, only to discover that the priest had turned his light off a few hours ago.  I'm not sure why no one passed the message back, down to the rest of the parishioners that had been forced to wait outside, in the muggy heat, but they didn't pass it back or down and there we were, stuck outside.

Oh well.

I'm 98% certain that nothing will have changed by Friday, and that we'll be yet again stuck outside in the heat.

People talk a lot about how writing is cathartic.  It is, but not in the way that other people find it, I don't think.  Certainly, it is an outlet, but for what I'm not exactly sure.  Words that are easy to type are often not easy to say, or even would be or could be said, even if I wanted them to.

There are many things that I want to talk about, but most of all I think that typing is just a way of getting exercise for my fingers.  At times I wonder if this is the sole reason that I do alright as a software programmer -- it's because at the end of the day I so love the small, minute movements that are required to produces, to execute, to make and get paid.  I'm admittedly not very accurate but that's not nearly so important as the need to type to move to put fingers to keys and to feel my thoughts become physical in the depressive act of keystrokes.

Perhaps I would make a great piano player. Perhaps this is why I was good at the bassoon.

But what are perhaps? Perhaps it's time to stop asking.  There is such a thing as being scattered about, but I'm not sure what the answer is to not being so scattered.

The dog is sleeping.  It is also time for me to sleep, poor thing. She waits so long for me to move, to do, to go.

I will be tired again tomorrow, but there is no relief from the ever pounding need to know, to do to execute.

If there is no pride in doing, why do?  If there is no utter joy in the extension of the will into reality, into the physical being, why produce?  If the perhaps have been investigated and fully found out, then why continue asking?  What new novelties await a thing already known?

What questions are these?

There is an excellent profile of Martha Nussbaum in this week's edition of the New Yorker.  It's what started off the thoughts of conspiracy (a deep curiosity to understand more about what her world view might have encompassed), and a deep sense of kinship.

I found it marvelous that one could go into a field that is so welcoming to autobiography as the field of philosophy.  The whole field feels appears to be a large group of people, sitting around pondering how other's autobiographies reflect, guide and shape their own.

How lovely, don't you think?

[1] The best thing to do, in the face of impending doom and destruction is to really dig into what ever it is that you find interesting and delightful and zany about the world.

Jul 11, 2016

The Jams

The only limit on yourself is joy.

I did a lot of things today.
- another blog post.
- PR for a new interview prep question.
- Debugged and merged a tricky PR.
- Talked to some new people, about APIs and chess and application architecture.
- Talked to other people about dogs and music recommendations.
- Went on a run.

- Listened to some Jams.
- Worked on some Yams.

Joy is out there, some where, waiting for us.

Hi Joy. 👋

Jul 10, 2016

an endless tunnel

"What is your life like?"

"An endless tunnel of wind"

I picked up the phone from the table and pressed a button.  The voice that had been on the other side went silent.  Ginger looked up at me from cushions where she was reposing, her gaze an open question; she had felt the static in the room, so ever present, suddenly go out.

Where were we then?  I'm not really sure.  I never much felt bad about hanging up on people, it felt like ripping off a bandaid, a release of tension you didn't know you had been holding suddenly, painfully free of.

I walked into the kitchen and squeezed the avocado.  It had been ready to eat ripe for a day already. I knew this because I had been squeezing it nonstop for the past three.  I enjoyed squeezing it more than the prospect of slicing it open, so I let it ripen.  The day for eating it was not yet.  Not today.  Or, not now, anyway.

I glanced at the time.  The clock on the microwave read 0:43.  Forty-three seconds left until...?  Hard to say.  My roommates have a habit of leaving seconds there, suspended motion.  There were only forty three of them, but it was hard to say how long that they had been stuck there for.  I hit Cancel, erased the promised future of an impending beep.

I whistled for the dog and grabbed her leash and began the long hike down to the outside.  It was probably time for her to pee, again.  She's like clockwork, but not the microwave kind.  Not the kind that you can just hit Cancel and make it forget, make it go back to how it was, but the real, solid tick-tock kind of time keeping that doesn't depend on anyone to expire.

It just does.

Jul 9, 2016


i've been on a lot of journeys, over the years.  one involved learning how to run. one involved learning portuguese. one involved learning to program, android specifically[1].  the journey i'm sort of on now is vocal -- i'm learning how to sing.

there was a point in the portuguese journey, and in the programming journey where i got to where i am now with singing.  that is, where you see that you're not as far along as you would like to get, where you're not sure what the end game is.  all you feel is that you're not where you want to be yet.  there is a moment that i remember well, when I was on a training run along the East River Park, rounding the eastern most point of Manhattan.  There's a building that stands at this point, just a further bit north of the amphitheater.  i had the thought that i didn't really know how to do a certain, fundamental thing in Android programming.[2]

this realization called into question two things.  one, why would anyone employ me to be an android developer since i didn't know this very basic thing.  and two, why i didn't spend more of my free time trying to get better at this thing.  i knew what i was afraid of, and what it would take (sort of) to get better at it.  why didn't i try to do this thing?  i didn't try to get better on my own.  and eventually, i did figure it out.

in my portuguese journey, it was when i went to talk to a portuguese professor, in my sophomore year of college, about what level portuguese she thought that i should take.  i had spent 3 months the previous summer in brazil, and felt that the experience had at least earned me some amount of ability to skip forward, to be in some higher level class than my course work, on paper, put me in.

the conversation did not go well. she could barely understand my portuguese, and i could barely understand what she was telling me.  she switched back to english and finally just said: look, i think you had better take the beginning grammar class with everyone else.

i took the beginning grammar class.  and then i took classes on portuguese literature. and i went back to brazil, and learned how to actually speak.

i am telling myself these stories to remind myself that learning, exploring, growing has never been easy.  that the process is never linear, that jumps in understanding and elucidation comes from hard work, and practice and immersion and continuing to show up.  to taking risks and trying new-ish things.

why did i do this to myself?  why did i push forward to find things out?  because i was curious.  what would it be like to be fluent in a foreign language?  what would it be like to be able to run fast? what would it be like if i could make software applications?  what would it be like if i could sing?

i still don't think i know.  i do know that
i am not where i want to be,
not yet.

[1] i've been delighted to discover that some computer skills, however, are universal
[2] i realized i didn't know how to make a custom view on Android, or even how to make a Java class from scratch (not over-ridding a super class)

Jul 8, 2016

Collection of morning thoughts

Here, I present you with a collection of thoughts, made in the morning:

I think about advice a lot.  In my job, I give a decent amount of it and I've been on the receiving end of a lot of it.

As a child I got a lot of advice from my parents, more of the admonishment sort than the genuine heart to heart sort.  I'd classify them more as 'warnings' and they were never particularly sought after.  I never felt like I did a good job of taking their advice, or even giving much thought to it.  Years later, this morning for example, I'll find myself suddenly re-evaluating it in a way that I hadn't in a very long time.  Suddenly, it seems very useful and wise, but at the time of receiving it, it had very little to almost adverse impact.

Is that the only function of advice though, to act as an echo chamber that can help to second and solidify life observations?  Or perhaps am I an outlier, in that most people tend to take the advice that they are given without much time spent experimenting to see if the advice works or not.

Being that advice tends to be ignored in the short term, and perhaps marginally useful later, is it worth the effort to give it to people?  Giving advice has a cost.  It changes your relationship with the person -- it can either make you into a trusted advisor *or* make you out to be a pompous fool.


As an aside, this piece of writing strikes me as exceedingly dull and poorly done.  There's not a lot interesting in it, it feels like a continual rehashing.  I am genuinely curious how much of this is an elucidation of my own general thinking patterns, like am I this dry and unbearable most of the time when I try to explain things?  More interestingly, are there other patterns of description that can help make this kind of exposition more interesting?

Further, I had a depressing thought about conversations that I tend to get into, and realized that most of the things that I want to say in a conversation are along the lines of blog post type expositions. Perhaps someday I will lean towards turning them more into actual blog posts instead of flattening conversations with them. As a conversationalist, how do you respond to a barrage of words, that someone has clearly thought through quite deeply?  More introspectively, what am I hoping to get out of this sort of interaction?

I went back and revised the 'above the line' short essay on the value of giving advice, cutting out a lot of the self-explanatory words and refining it down to just the bare minimum.  Perhaps the most important thing with writing is not worrying about whether a first draft says what you want it to say, and that the revision process is far more important and elucidating for actual meaning than the original process of putting a few words down on paper.

Why does this kind of writing feel so jagged and difficult?  Even the revised version strikes me as being boring and rather flat.  And god, the things I had to cut out in order to make it feel less stilted.  Writing is hard, perhaps because we are forced to confront the actual sound of our voice or our own stilted logic, written down and encoded and present for you to go back and read and see what it was that you actually said, as opposed to what you wanted and thought and imagined that you said.

Imagination is a difficult thing, particularly if it heavily outweighs reality.

Jun 26, 2016


Follow your heart, they said.

My heart is sad, I said.  Is it wise to follow a heart when the only place it leads is deeper into sadness?

Why is this not what you're supposed to be doing?  Like how is it not what you're supposed to be doing.

I don't know,I said.  Why does this have to be some big huge, thing, some realized goal that is bigger than the rest of it?

The difference between myself and most people, he said, is that I finish things.  Other people, other people don't  They don't finish things.

This has stuck with me.  But I still don't finish things.

Is the desire to leave, to get out ever going to go away?  I don' think that it will.  Maybe I won't write a book.  I certainly didn't do it by the time that I was 25, like I wanted to.  I kind of don't want to write a book any more.  You know, for a long time I wanted to write a book as a way of being in the world.  As a way of getting some amount of notoriety, of existing for a thing that I had wrought.  Somehow this feels not so important any more.  I wonder if that's because I have now created things that exist in the world, in a small way.  I've authored software that has shipped and that has, in some small ways, changed peoples lives or improved their workflows.  I've proved to myself that I know what are important things.  I still don't feel like people believe me though.  Maybe that's a sad thing to say, but it's true.  I don't think that people believe me.  Or maybe I don't believe me.

Or maybe I don't know what work it takes to get ideas through.  Throwing up an idea is the easy part, but actually marshaling *myself* behind it is the hardest part.  Why do I not follow thru?

Blow Baby

Having trouble getting started on this project so I'm re-reading this profile that the Atlantic did on Jonathan Blow right before I moved to NYC in 2012. When I read it then, game development and programming and ambitious projects felt so foreign and exotic, attractive in their novelty.
Four years later, it feels very familiar, almost pedestrian. Not just the style of article, which was novel to me then but now, years of The New Yorker later, feels very par for the course. (I grew up reading the Wall Street Journal, which profiled companies, not people). Even the narrative of aestheticism and self-denial, shrugging off parental coils and exploring physics, Berkeley and the Bay Area tech scene in the 90's is a story I've heard too many times now.
Is it growth? Or just experience? Are these the same thing?

Jun 22, 2016

i would like

I would like to taste
Here on the tip of my tongue
The rare libidinous bloom
Of fresh sea salt
And bodily sweat
Mixed with the putrid flowering
Of yesterday's trash
And tomorrow's cologne.

but alive is

Fresh isn't a thing, but alive is.

You know what live is.

A live a living a livinous.

Lithe and sinuous.

Don't think I don't think I know you.

I do doll.

A live a living a livinous.

Lithe and sinuous.

That's you, all.

Fresh is not a thing.

To what extent

But to what extent does yesterday exist? No more than tomorrow and yet somewhat, somehow both more and less so.

we are now.

I inhale
I exhale .
the moments pass
each in its own

Jun 12, 2016

You cant

But I can, so there.

Thinking back, I have a pretty stellar track record for not thinking things through.

I don't know why though. Maybe it's a certain inability to cope with the enormity of responsibility that is recognizing you have some amount of actual control over your own destiny.

More likely, it's a strong belief in fate, in destiny, in the inevitability of forward motion.

Ok but really, who knows how things are going to turn out? Isn't the criticism of not thinking it thru a bit fatalistic in itself? How do you know what will happen until you dredge for it? Maybe I am an idiot but I like seeing, sometimes how things play out, and I refuse to think that there's some way, in advance of knowing how it will go.

But ok maybe there is some signal coded in my behavior of persisting that is the thing I was supposed to take into account, but don't. Or didn't. And that's the thing I'm "not thinking" about - myself as actor, not observer.


What is your ego based on?  Mine is based on knowing things, on being right, on getting it done (sort of) . On being fairly witty, and word-sharp.


These crackers are really tasty.

Jun 9, 2016

Removing Dead Space

A few weeks ago, the faculty at the Recurse Center did an "Admin" week.  The point of the week is to both give the current Recursers a spring break, as well as take some time as an organization to reflect on what we want to improve or make better for the organization as a whole.

There's a coat closet at RC.  As long as they've been in the new space, it's state is normally one of disarray -- game parts and lost jackets, mixed with broken coat hangers and discarded shoes.  I sit right next to the closet, its hulking presence of disarray a few feet away.

I spearheaded an effort to clear out the closet (which snowballed into also clearing out the network closet and the electronics set up in Turing).  We ordered shelves and organizing boxes a week before so that they'd arrive before the first day of admin week and we could use the entire time to assemble, sort, trash, and re-assemble the contents.

Here's a list of the things that we accomplished during admin week:
- Assembled 4 different shelves (:strong_arm:)
- Donated a carload of stuff to Goodwill & threw out about as much if not more
- Sorted and organized pens, pencils, and dry-erase markers
- Re-located the art supplies to Turing!
- Re-located the games to Turing!
- Found a new home for the Nintendo Wii next to the Apple ][
- Picked up and made a shelf for the monitor/laptop yoga blocks
- Set up a station for post-it notes, pens, dry-erase supplies, and staplers
- Moved the printer onto it's own table gave it some room to breathe
- Hung up a bunch of artwork and posters encountered around the space
- Set up a new storage area for monitors, keyboards & computer peripherals in Lovelace
- Cleaned out piles of junk from Babbage and Hopper
- Moved some personal storage space into Church and Babbage
- Re-arranged the tables in Church for better fung shui
- Put up the 7 desk dividers that Sonali got from some benevolent neighbors (4 in main room, 3 in Church).
- Put up a mail bin
- Hung up the EO1
- Put up IRL scheduling whiteboards on all the rooms
- "self documented" the space with lots of signs
- Painted the closet two (2!) different colors
- Organized the nametags into a box so they're easy to find (and the mess is self-contained)
- Cleaned up the debris from atop the beer fridge
- Organized the library!
- Hung up decorations found in the networking closet
- Folded and organized (by size!) all of the t-shirts
- Reorganized the electronics components in Turing
- Sorted and re-boxed various cables
- Relocated the coat hooks that had been in the coat closet and hanging up all of the ones found in a storage closet (unused)
- Re-organized basically everything in the networking closet, moving large amounts of it to the 'coat closet'

- Increased available coat hanging space
- Freed up 15 plastic bins for Recurser's belongings
- Went from having no available storage space to extra space!
- Turned the closet into a usable workspace!

It's been 3 weeks now, and the space feels a lot more organized. I've been really surprised at how big a difference painting, and removing clutter makes.  The key to making it stick so far has been 1) providing more plastic bins for people to claim as their own for personal storage and 2) creating dedicated space for every type of 'thing'.  It's easier to avoid creating clutter (or at least combat it) when every thing has a dedicated space.

Jun 4, 2016

one sided

You don't know me but I know you. Our relationship has always been one-sided -- that's the nature of it.  If I could change it, I wouldn't.

There's a measure of control that being known  would require giving up and I'm not ready to do that. Not yet.

I won't ever be ready.

Some times when it's growing late and I can feel the closeness that we are to the outside, no matter how thick the walls, I see other places, places that I may not have been but that I know nonetheless.  I know their dark walks, the smell of their summer foliage and the damp underbelly of their bridges, stretched across silent, murky waters. I know the bright corners of their parks, sunny spots of grass that stand at the ready for blankets and gentle basking. Some of them have tall grasses that tickle the backs of knees and worm their way between socks and skin; others are barely patched over the grass a tangled mess of sparsely leaved creepers, where you can watch the insects crawl about.

Did you doubt it? I know you did. Rest assured though, I *know* it.

Just as I know you.


there are no demons
a multitude
of versions
of selves,

all of them
the same in the basic
outlines of who
they are
beneath it all
for real

with all the same faculties
with varying strains of

did you know that
we all experience
the same situations
more or less

did you know that
all that differs
is how
you feel about them

what you hope to gain
what you feel is expected
what you've experienced before
; since before

what is feeling then

what *is* it.

because that is it.

that is all it is
that sets us
so far


in destiny
and outcome
and actual day
to day
to day
to day.

May 29, 2016

Black Masses

An email exchange with an upcoming roommate for my trip to Cali in June got me thinking about Holly Golightly, which naturally led to me rewatching Breakfast at Tiffany's. I had "rented" the film from Google Play and after the film was done, came across the offer for a discounted second movie -- 75% off my next rental! I got $50 in Play Store credits a few years ago as part of some Google promotion that I don't know remember, so none of my movie rentals cost me anything, for now, but 75% off is hard to argue with, though it does miff me a bit that it costs Google almost nothing to provide the film. What am I paying for, exactly? At least no one's paying anything.

Anyway, I ended up watching Black Mass, a recent film telling the story of Jimmy "Whitey" Bulger, a Boston mobman from the 60-70-80's.  He fled Boston when the feds came for him and spent decades on the FBI's most wanted list. He was arrested in Santa Monica in 2011.

Bulger got a name for his ruthlessness in tracking down and killing anyone that talked to the police. Which was ironic because he himself was on the rolls as an informant for the FBI.

He took out witnesses and leaks ruthlessly because witnesses were the lynchpin of the justice system. Freedom depended on your ability to keep the number of people willing to testify about you to zero.

But we're moving away from this sort of a thing. From relying on witnesses to make a case. Now we catch criminals at the moment of action -- the witness was not your friends, colleagues, or passers-by but the space itself -- the landscape watched you and heard you and stands as a witness to your deeds. Computer records are the proof that we have and need.  People putting people away will end, soon.

Now I wonder if Bulger would be able to amass such power, if he would have murdered so many people, if certain kinds of criminals have been largely irradicated -- the bloody, outwardly violent type.

And whether what will replace them is any less sinister.

May 22, 2016

here is a series of thoughts that i have had today

reality is not what you think it is.

my name is neil saitug and i write about things.  i also read things.  most of what i read will never come to fruition as written thoughts.  this thought, in a great company of other sad thoughts, saddens me the most greatly.

here is a series of thoughts that i have had today, and a few recurring thoughts from this week:

- the power of explanation, as expostulated by David Deutsche in his two books, The Fabric of Reality and the Beginning of Infinity, are everywhere.  it is one of the core functions that powers great teachers and great ideas alike.  explanations are cross-cultural; they are universally treasured by humans of all creeds, classes, occupations and concerns.  in fact, I would naively posit that the key to understanding any group or single human being is to understand the explanations that they make use of.  this thought is so deep, that I find it reflecting back at me in almost any media or interaction, both present and past.

- the true revolution that underlies the free software movement (rebranded and watered down in the mid-aughts as Open Source software). this thought is driven largely by finishing off Gabriella Coleman's Coding Freedom.  coincidentally, the Google v. Oracle debate that is occurring right now makes a great stage for dissecting the current day status of copyright vs freedom of speech legal status of open source code; in fact I would argue that the lawsuit is one of the most monumental public and legal moments for open source/free software meets copyrightability that has occurred since Coleman's book was published in 2012.  on a more personal note and as someone who writes code, i found myself deeply reconsidering my own attitudes and proprietary assumptions surrounding the code that i write.  when i write and publicize code on the internet, what is my relationship with the people who find it?  how is that similar (or different) to the relationship that I am assuming right now, with you, my reader?  to what extent is code different than essays?  what is the most important thing about putting my code out in the world: is it freedom of that code to become part of the commons of code that exists for the world to use, or is it recognition of authorship, or monetary?  how much control do i as a creator of a public work do i retain for myself over the work itself?  how much does that matter to me?  are ideas really free, if they have a creator?  or am i just a vessel for the work?  (can you hear it?  the voice? no?  i'll tell you what it's saying: ego, ego ego).  i'm leaning strongly towards allowing the next bits of software that i write to be strongly free, but am struggling with accepting that other people may make money off of them.

- book mania.  i've been buying books like a fiend for a while now, and have been feverishly reading through them.  i'm starting to flag a bit tho, as the number of books that i want to read, while currently in my lifetime an attainable goal (that is to say that given all of the books that i would like to read currently, if i were put a hard stop on the list, i would ostensibly be able to finish all of the books within the end of my lifetime.  there is a point where this will no longer be the case, however.  what that point it is is...?)  so, given that i can read all of the books that i want to read, is there an ordering or certain works that are more important to read earlier than later?  this builds a bit upon the idea that there are certain thoughts or habits that can act as catalysts for further thoughts or lines of inquiry; ideally these generative books would be the ones that i read first, and save all the others for later, where the timeliness for them is less important.  ok, so how do i pick out which books are more timely than others?  i don't have a good answer for this yet, but here's a few general rules of thumb that i've been using: recently written books get higher priority, as they're more likely to be timely/about currently actionable things.  books that are recommended to me by someone else are more important than books i've found via Amazon.  books that pertain to lines of inquiry i find currently interesting are ranked higher.  fictional works have currently taken a bit of a backseat, the thought being that most plot lines are things that I've read before, and assuming that most fictional work is not contributive to 'generative' thought as other works (i'm sorry to say it, but recent experience has proven this to be exceptionally true).  here's a list of the books (and book genres) that i'm currently attempting to find time for: finishing David Deutsche's Beginning of Infinity; a book/dissertation of the results of a generative, social AI experiment (starting to wonder if i wouldn't have gotten thru this faster if it had been in ebook format); a number of books on the history concerning the 34th street district (Macy's, Santa Corp, Empire State Building, Penn Station) -- these have a deadline of next Monday; Pychon's Bleeding Edge; a book of short stories; Hamilton's biography; a book on the engineering systems underlying NYC; Tuttle's beginning Chinese characters; a very recently published book on poverty and racism in America; an ethnography on sex, commercialism and public space in Times Square; there are more but i can't remember them.  Ok so maybe the most daunting thing right now is finishing Deutsche's Beginning of Infinity (it feels like I've been stuck on it for months now).  Unsticking this one should hopefully let the others flow more quickly.  Books that I've abandoned as being not longer relevant or just plain uninteresting: A.O Scott's book on Criticism & Camus' The Rebel.

- ups and downs of having a dog.  i've been a bit down on myself lately for not entirely appreciating the responsibility of having a pet, to say the least.  it is a bit of work, and time and, most prohibitively, a certain amount of guilt inherent in leaving her at home by herself, or not letting her sniff the flowers for as long as she'd like to because i need to get home.  strangely, one of the bigger pluses of having her (besides the companionship and built-in schedule reinforcement) is the removal of the curiosity of what life would be like with a dog. i've been talking about getting a dog for years now, waffling on it you could almost say.  now i rarely have that mental pressure or distraction.  in a way, the relief is a huge validation of the power of doing things and dealing with the consequences than not doing things but forever wondering whether or not *now* is when I should do that thing.  ie: favor action over waffling, because the peace of mind pays dividends a thousand fold.  a strong corollary to this is writing thoughts down -- writing things down and publishing them on the internet has the effect of helping to clear out my mental space, like reducing the pressure in a hose.

May 10, 2016

Killing Your Babies

I've been wanting to write an Erlang serial port library for a very very long time now.  I've probably talked about it, at this point, more than it will take me to *actually* write the thing.  But I've been stymied (forever it feels like) by mental blocks and knowledge-gap blocks and the general dis-ease of not knowing where to begin.

I was fortunate enough to be able to attend !!con this past Sunday.  (!!con is a weekend conference that features short, 10 minute talks on things you find fascinating in programming.)  Watching people talk about the things in programming that they had been geeking out about lately made me start thinking about what it was that I wanted to present about next year.  And I realized it was the serial port project I've been avoiding for years now.

So today, I booted up an AWS instance and downloaded the source tree and started compiling the Debian sources. One of the current Recurse Center batchees stopped by to say hello, and I outright asked them if they knew anything about kernel modules -- turns out the answer was very much yes!

In less than 20 minutes we had a "hello world" working kernel module! Pris (the Recurser who was helping out) asked me what it was that I was trying to do with a kernel module -- and when I explained the bigger project (getting Erlang interop-ing with C code), Pris explained that since I was using serial, there was no need to write a kernel module -- I could just write "plain" C code as my driver for an Erlang API.  And actually, a project that does exactly this already exist, and if I wanted to I could probably just use them.

Boy do I feel silly for telling so many people about how I was going to write a kernel module.  And even more silly for avoiding setting up a VM that could do kernel things on it. (I thought it would be hard!)

I'm not as motivated to write all this code as I was, but I might do it anyway because I am still curious about how the serial API works.

I've been carrying this project idea around with me for such a long time; it's nice to have killed so many hangups and misconceptions about the amount of work that would be required all in one go.  This project seems so much more tractable now.  More importantly, it's amazing how much mental energy has been freed up from worrying about how hard this would be to finish, or if it would even ever be finished.  Guilt and unfulfilled desire finally deflated into an actual, tangible body of work that I know how to start.  Or not, since it kind of already exists.

I just wish I hadn't deleted all that Erlang code a few weeks back.  Oh well. :)

May 7, 2016


Prefectionism is a self-hate crime.  It falls into the category of other self-hate crimes like procrastination and passive-aggression.  (There are no self-hate crimes that begin with any letter other than P).

I'm not sure how to get over self-hate crimes.  I'd refer you to my therapist but I quit therapy in a moment of passionate self-loathing.  We (my therapist and I) haven't talked since then.

They say that hate is rooted deeply in fear; that at its root hate *is* love, just love corrupted and inverted by fear.  That it's a desire to love, so deep and so idealized that it loses its grip on reality and fearfully flips into strong, abject aversion.

When I hear talk about how hate and love are just two sides of the same emotion, I know that you don't really know what you're talking about.  Because love, the unidealized emotion, is birthed from the truest living, momentary and unattached.  There is no way to hate and to be unattached.  These are orthogonal states.

Hatred has no hope of perfection. it can never be distilled from the fear that underwrites it.  It is possible to wholly love but it is not possible to perfectly hate.

(this is a fact that i hate).

May 6, 2016

Gostaria saber

as vezes eu
gostaria saber
aonde a vida teria andado
se eu
tinha respondido
se eu
nao tinha desistido
se eu
tivesse ido
a ver voce
naquela banda de

Apr 30, 2016

Facebook Mirrors

Every time I get on Facebook I can't help but wonder what life would have been like if I had stayed in Texas. I had some good friends in Houston, managed to date more than I've ever succeeded in New York, was building relationships and social ties that in some way would have grown with me as we all grew in the city. I knew a lot of good people there.

So much of Texas life is there, on Facebook, nicely encapsulated. Most people I'm friends with seem married and happy. I am a little in awe of their roundness - their lives seem full, well-balanced. In comparison, mine is definitively lumpy -- not terribly well balanced out. I'm OK with it, it wouldn't be any other way.

And you know, maybe it's a good thing that nothing in NYC worked out perfectly. I mean, things worked out but not in the way I hoped they might. Perfection is a tinfoil goal; it would have kept me from being able to see myself, however eventually I got around to looking.

In hindsight, coming to NYC was ambitious. I don't know why it wasn't obvious before. I *am* ambitious, but most times it doesn't feel that way -- I always figure that someone will stop me when I've gone too far but, and this is the secret, no body is really paying you that much attention. No body really wants to see you fail, but that they're not really rooting for your success either.

Most of us have our own priorities that have little to do with one another and that's OK. You know,

I rather like the freedom.

Apr 24, 2016

Updates from the mindfulness project

Recent events have led to the conclusion
that tripping is not the same as Nirvana. 

Reassuringly, this fits all prior hypotheses; bliss is something else entirely.

It is something worth seeking.

(Magneto waits in the wings)

Apr 16, 2016

Political Lessons I've Learned From TV Shows

Over the past decade or so of TV binging, I've learned a surprising amount of life skills from the various shows that I've watched.  What follows is a short summary of the ones that I remember the best.  I've indicated what seasons of the show that I watched, in most cases it's less than the entirety of show.  Any lessons that I've drawn from these shows comes solely from the seasons/episodes indicated.  You may notice that most of these deal with lessons about interpersonal relationships; why not learn from fictional character's mistakes?

__Suits__ (Seasons 1-3)
Suits is a drama about a high profile corporate lawyer named Harvey, the law firm that he works at, and his 'illigitimate' protege, Mike.  Mike is a first year associate at Harvey's firm, whom Harvey has hand-picked to be his protege.  Mike's illigitimacy stems from the fact that he didn't graduate from Harvard, which is where all associates at the firm must come from.

Throughout the three seasons, Mike seems always to be on the verge of getting into major trouble, either with the partners, or with Harvey, or with Louis, Harvey's rival at the firm.  None of the other first year associates seem to get anywhere near the level of near-misses as far as being tossed out on their asses as Mike does.  And that's the lesson -- if you're not in a position where you're exposed to constant threats to your continued employment status, you're probably not in much of a position of anything.  This is instructive in two ways: first it's possible to keep your head down and coast.  As long as you're not attracting too much attention to yourself or really too caught up in the drama, there's really not much you'll have to worry about corporate wise.  The other way this is instructive is that if you're constantly worried about getting fired or in the midst of some drama or the other, it's totally ok.  There is no position at a firm that is high profile and also not constantly atop shifting sands.  All corporate, positional victories are fleeting.

Network: USA.  Premiere: 2011  Wikipedia:

__House of Cards__ (Seasons 1-2)
House of Cards is a Netflix drama about Frank Underwood, senator from the South with scheming machinations on the White House.  I only watched the first two seasons, in which Frank manages to considerably advance his political standing via some brilliant maneuvers, some more savory than others.  Watching Frank work, one thing that really stands out to me is how much he needs other people to support him.  Frank's brilliance is nothing without other, loyal people; he's constantly on the lookout for more people that he can do a favor for.  To Frank, other's mistakes are opportunities.  For example, in the second season, he develops a relationship with a Secret Service agent who fucks something up.  I don't remember the exact specifics of how this helps Frank out, but I do remember Frank's forgiveness.  Reinvesting trust in people who have broken it is a thing that you *can* do.  One failure and you're out is a quick way to burn bridges.  You can always use more good people.

Network: Netflix.  Premiere: 2013.  Wikipedia:

__The Wire__
There's a lot to this show, but I'm only going to concentrate on one particular aspect of it: Thomas Carcetti's relationship to his deputy campaign manager, Norman Wilson.  Norman is Carcetti's right hand man.  As such, he's largely responsible for sharing bad news, and getting the mayoral candidate out of potentially disastrous social situations.  It's a subtle relationship and probably something that's assumed for a coterie of a powerful politician -- you cultivate relationships with people that will help you out of tight spots socially, so that you can get what you need to get done, without burning bridges or ending up in awkward situations.  Watching Norman work, his ability to be honest and upfront with Carcetti and helpful to him in any and all situations, his loyalty and belief in Carcetti and their mission, his sense of humor and positivity: Norman is a force for good in humanity.  Normans are good people to have in your life; they're also not a bad person to be for other people.

Network: HBO. Premiere: 2002 Wikipedia:

__Better Call Saul__ (Season 1)
I love Saul. Absolutely love him.  His relationship with his piece of shit brother is another thing though.  Without giving too much away, trying to understand why people stand against you is sometimes a deeper rabbit hole than you might wish to go down.  If you find yourself pit against someone who doesn't seem to have a deep seated hatred towards you, but works to block you regardless, look to their broader loyalties -- their actions rarely have anything to do with *you*, per se.

Network: AMC. Premiere: 2015 Wikipedia:

__Breaking Bad__
Check your motives carefully, as your ego is a precious, dangerous, lying, conniving thing.  Little good comes from any ego-driven action.

Network: AMC. Premiere: 2008. Wikipedia:

Apr 14, 2016


of being that person, like Bob Dylan, with a face that is impossible to remember.

Apr 9, 2016

The Lost Child

I've been wanting to write this post since I finished the last of Elena Ferrante's Neopolitan novels in November of last year.  What stopped me was both the belief that I would have the opportunity to have this conversation in person and that publishing spoilers on the Internet was bad form.

I've reached two conclusions: one) any such in person conversation about this would be mostly a platform for me to get it off my chest and hence not a very good conversation, perhaps, for the other participant(s); and two) fear of providing the means to get to the ending without going thru the journey of arriving there yourself, while a very valid and well-founded fear, is hindering my ability to fully express myself.  I realized that until I sat down and typed this essay out, I wouldn't fully know what exactly my thoughts on the novel are; as it is I have some very concrete points I'd wish to make but they're wrapped in a nebulous conclusion.  Curiosity, you are a scoundrel.

Let this be a warning then: I plan to marvelously spoil and lay bare a core conceit of the Neopolitan novels.  If you haven't read them yet, but are planning to, I'd advise you to stop reading now.

The Neopolitan novels are the story of two lifelong friends, and their long, complicated lives together: Elena and Lina.  They grow up in a camorra run neighborhood in Naples, set in the latter half of the 1900's (they're students in the 60's and are directly or indirectly involved in the student revolutions of '68).

Elena and Lina's relationship is complex.  Elena is a smart, studious student who goes on to become a famous writer, leaves the neighborhood for good, mostly.  Lina is her best friend, a searingly bright personality that gets her life wrapped up in the neighborhood and never leaves.  The novels are told from Elena's viewpoint; whether or not there is any correlation to the Elena of the novel and the author, also an Elena, is unclear.

Lina is bright, firey, deeply gifted. She's an inspired creator and artist; when her and Elena make a painting together, it is a clarifying moment of living collaboration for Elena. Elena's relationship with Lina's brilliance is both complicit and complicated. Elena struggles with the knowledge that her first book is a re-interpretation of a book that Lina authored (but never published) during their childhood. Elena's struggle with the tension between her admiration for Lina's brilliance and the deep disquiet of inferiority marks her entire life's work: her writing is not as good as Lina's, but she (Elena) is a writer -- Lina is not.

The excuse for the existence of these books is given that Lina has disappeared and Elena is using her disappearance as an opportunity to tell their story.  Both in their 60's now, with fully grown children and still complicated lives, Lina packs up, leaves her home in the neighborhood, is not heard from again.  Soon after, Elena finds the doll that she had lost as a child, the doll that she and Lina had searched for in grade school, the doll who's loss started the friendship of the two, on her doorstep, decades old but no longer lost.

Elena's most treasured possession as a child, the doll was lost in childhood when Lina threw it down into the cellar of the school.  They search for it together, unable to find it they begin an adventure that is the start of their lifelong relationship.

How would it feel, to discover that your closest friend had based your relationship on a lie, on a trick that she had pulled on you?  That she had hidden the doll and the knowledge of it from you, for as long as you had known her? Would it cause you to re-evaluate your whole life, to question the very foundation of trust?

Or maybe truth is not the most important thing.  How much does it really matter that Lina hid the doll?  Does that change the beautiful work that Lina and Elena did together? Does that alter the fact that Lina has the capacity to build beautiful things? Does this revelation make Elena's life much different, her lived experience altered by knowing now, decades later, what Lina knew the whole time?

In this revelation, of deceit and lies and coercion I feel the deepest sense of sorrow not for Elena, but for Lina.  For Lina had been the one who had to live with the knowledge of her deceit; a lifetime of knowing and of fearing that if Elena ever found out, the deepest friendship of Lina's life may end.  She carried the burden of understanding the depth of her own capacity for deceit, without being able to share it with her friend, hidden until the moment she decided it was time to leave, to disappear, to no longer exist in her life.

A secret, held long enough, hurts no one but the bearer.

Apr 8, 2016

Cellular Automata

Weird strange thought that once we've solved the question of what everything is and there are no more mysteries left in the universe other than "what will I do", what becomes the next most fascinating thing is ... other people. Other people are the final frontier. Think about it. Each of us is one autonomous, inter-actable computer with a uniform interface. There are millions of AIs running around you - characters in your own VR. What will they say next?

Apr 2, 2016

practice, love

Me, questioningly, at the altar of God: what. What would make me better?
Tutor, with quiet authority, in the first row of pews: practice, love. Practice at what you want to be better at.

Strange Stranger

drunken, spun dreams of a tall. towering stranger that told me all wonderful strange and unbelievable things. i woke with a start. it was dark out still. and i couldn’t help but wonder, who was the stranger? was it me? 

if it was me, 
who was i?

Mar 27, 2016

dreams, from moving

Horrible dream of movers with thick foreign accents and ugly leers who came early and then I fell asleep and when I woke up it was 4 hours later and they were still arguing over the best packing tape and then they left to get lunch and didn't come back forever and then we were looking for my new place but it was like a dormitory in a treehouse that was also an auditorium and then it was raining outside and I was awake and it was dark but the rain,

the rain was real.

Mar 12, 2016


Sometimes I really want to write
A list
Of all the things I learned
From you

Because that's all that
to me,
really matters,


I worry that
those that really know you
may say that those aren't you
and that maybe you too
will fail to see
Where in yourself those lessons
And question

Whether they were you you
Or some internal
astral projection.
it's no matter.

I value this reality,
All the same

And maybe thats the biggest thing
Or maybe just the smallest
That would be
On the list.

Alongside stopping to
Let the photographer have
His moment
without me

And alongside
how objective truth
is universally

Mar 5, 2016


[prompt: can a catastrophe be private to an individual? contained? ]

the water had been spiked.  all the water, for the entire city of macon, georgia.  we didn't know it at the time, but it was one of many facts that became clear in the aftermath.  the CDC is still working to determine the exact pollutant.  my friend marty said that it reminded him of the time he took meth while tripping on mushrooms out in the salt flats.

they caught the lady, but we're all still as stumped on motive.  she was of average height, brown hair, sort of librarian looking.  wore glasses and worked from home while taking care of two children.  her husband worked courier during the day, contracting himself out to local construction companies and neighborly errands via some startup's app-centric delivery service by turns.  on construction days he'd take the ford f150; the smart car or bike on the others, his saddle bags cleaned and empty, ready for a day of heavy use.

they still don't know where she got the drugs from.  or why she did it.  she's in the county jail now, but isn't talking about it.  there wasn't any residue at her house.  no large packages delivered in the last six months.  no trace of it anywhere, at all.

macon split in half that day.  literally, the sky parted in two, one part of the sun in each half.  the middle was filled with a black velvet that shimmered, pinioned between the two sides of the sun.  i asked my mom about it, she says that that never happened.  she says it turned violent green.  she's still sunburned for spending so long laying on the grass, trying to reconcile where the land ended and the sky began.

the facts are this: at 9:36 a.m. while on a tour of the local water municipality, the perpetrator gained access to the fluoride supply and contaminated one of the barrels with a neurotoxin.  by 12:10 p.m. the contaminated fluoride was being piped to the entire county.  she had been chaperoning her oldest child's class field trip.

after the sky ripped in half, i went inside to find george.  he had fallen over the back of the couch, and was laying on the cushion, his feet up in the air, his head hanging down toward the persian rug, a modern reproduction of a safavid design.  his eyes were open, tracing lazy lines along the curves of the ceiling, and his mouth hung slack, drool seeping down, slowly toward his eyebrows.  i still can't get him to tell me what he was seeing.  he says it's hard to explain, but it involved something with gravity and the world going all topsy turvy, just for a day.

they pulled her children in for questioning.  by the time they had traced the contaminants to her, three weeks had already passed.  the oldest child couldn't remember anything from the water trip.  she did mention a canvas tote bag, but the authorities haven't been able to locate anything like that. not yet at least.  the younger one seemed to be tripping at the time of the interview -- she wouldn't do anything other than mimic back what the questioners asked her, mimicked it back in bird song.

jill doesn't think she did it.  when the drugs wore off, jill found herself curled up in a grocery cart at the local fiesta mart.  the last 8 hours were a blur of dried pasta rain, ice cream aisle parties and vegetable art.  cans of tomato sauce and black beans surrounded her cart -- someone had made her a fort to nap in, as best as she can figure.  her cheeks were wet -- when the elation wore away, she dissolved into tears over the loss of her last child, miscarriage, again.  can a catastrophe be private to an individual? contained?  her fellow shoppers had tucked her away, laid to rest on a bed of puffed marshmallows.

they say it was a miracle that no one died.  they say we're lucky the insane asylum is miles from the nearest gun shop.  they say that they don't know if it was a terrorist attack yet but that they should know, soon.  for now she's locked up in isolation.

case and i spent the afternoon in the hammock out back deep beneath the poplar trees, twined up together like two cats with bellies full of cream and as much time to idle away as any.  case talked about the book he had been reading, about how our lives were like microcosms of the world yet lived, tracing back all the things that he knew, one by one to their origin's origin's origin.

rumor is that she hasn't been given a lawyer yet.  if they do hand it out, i'll probably get it.  being the public defender means defending all types, but she'll be the first terrorist i've defended, if they decide to go that way.  they retro-tapped her phones and text messages and emails and app content.  both her and her husband.  they say the evidence they found there is totally useless. maybe it was just a part of her destiny, that part picked out for her from birth.  her parents haven't been located yet, otherwise they might give some insight to why they called her catastropha.  she goes by cat for short.  cat, the brilliant mastermind.  cat, the criminal savant.

when the sun set that night, it began from the rifted middle, exploding outward in a steady stream of color: hot yellow, magenta, bloody red, violent violet, then the deepest emerald green.

Trip Report, Boston

This Friday, March 4, I traveled to Boston to spend a day with the papers and ephemera of one of my favorite authors, Jane Jacobs.  The entirety of her archives resides at Boston College’s Burns Library. (How her papers came to reside at Boston College is unclear.)[1]  I was able to spend a good portion of the day going through a fraction of her papers.  I concentrated on looking for new and unpublished ideas.  I ended up spending my time with some unpublished drafts of essays she had written, a lot of drafts and publications that were either summarizations or re-phrasings of theories that are her published works, some personal and professional correspondence, and some royalty statements from Random House.

The reason for my trip stems from an interview she gave in May 2005. The interview was conducted, in part, to get her remarks on the republishing of one of her less well-known books, The Question of Separatism, which deals with the subject of Quebec’s bid for independence in the 1980’s. In the interview, she alludes to the book that she is currently working on: Uncover the Economy.   She died in April 2006, almost a year later, with the book unpublished.  In the interview with Philpot, she makes a few allusions to the questions that this book will address, to wit: 

   “[C]ities never flourish alone.  They have to be trading with other cities. My new hypothesis shows why.”

   “An interesting thing about business cycles is that they don’t exist in small or backward economies.  They only exist in city economies, in advanced economies, and that’s an interesting thing. Why is it?  Another thing to[sic] Uncover the Economy to find out.”

  “I have an entirely new hypothesis on how economies, macro-economies, form themselves and organize themselves, and where this kind of life comes from.  But it’s so different from the standard idea of economic life.  But some people believe it because, for one thing, I haven’t made up my new hypothesis, which I call ‘uncovering the economy.’ Everything in the hypothesis is out there, happening, and it accounts for so many things that are just slid over and ignored in regular economics.”

I wasn’t able to find mention of the draft in the archive’s listings, nor did my hunting through her unmarked drafts, letters and papers turn up many clues to what this new theory was.  The closest I came to it was a letter to her editor, David Ebershoff, dated March 16, 2005, regarding her submission of “PART II” of the book.  In the letter, she talks about her struggle to avoid the allure of re-editing the work she’s submitting, and alludes having difficulty restating past topics, saying that she's “not tempermentally equipped to recycle my own writing. I want to make it re-thought writing, or I lose interest in it.”

I also spent some time perusing the derivative works that her writings had inspired.  In her archives, there was a box of papers, articles and dissertations that others had written based on her works, and subsequently sent to her.[2]  I was curious about what directions people had taken her work.  How much had her writings influenced economic thought?  What new avenues of research were being pursued as a result of her writings?

The answer was a bit disappointing.  A large portion of the work was derivative of her book Systems of Survival, in which she lays out a new framework for human ethic systems.  These were typically submitted by sociologists and philosophers — researchers that are interested in the rise and propagation of value systems.  Other avenues of inquiry came from designers and urban planners, they were mostly based around her ideas in Death and Life of American Cities.  One article, that seemed mis-filed, was a detailed explanation of the mechanics for the West Village Houses administration, rent and mortgage arrangements with HUD and the New York Housing Authrority.  There was a paper on the economics of waste recycling and an article by Malcolm Gladwell from the December 11, 2000 issue of the New Yorker, that used Jacob’s  Death and Life of American Cities as an extended analogy for the benefits of open offices.[3]

My interest in both her unpublished draft and derivative works is related.  I’m trying to discern what, if any, experimental work has been done to prove or disprove her theories of city economy.  I was hoping to find more concrete investigations in the set of academic papers she had been sent, but unfortunately none of them appeared to approach her theories from an experimental angle.  

As for her unpublished works, I was looking for new conclusions that updated or refined her theories of economy, first published in the 80s as two books, Economy of Cities and Cities and the Wealth of Nations. These books, now a few decades old, encompass the bulk of her thoughts on how economies work.  Specifically, I hoped that she might address the Internet, which was much more of a force in 2005 than in 1984, when Cities and the Wealth was first published.  She mentions it briefly in the interview, but doesn’t seem much impressed with it.[4]

My reason for this research is quite simple: I’m interested in real-world or simulated experiments that attempt to verify her ideas about import replacements, cities as the basic unit of economic wealth, how economies grow via city forces, and all the subsequent conclusions she draws based on these few precepts.  So far I’ve been unable to find anything concrete.  I’ll keep looking.

So where to from here?  I’m hoping to contact her editor and inquire about the fate of the drafts of Uncover the Economy.  I might spend a bit more time with the Google Scholar reverse search for research papers referencing Cities and the Wealth of Nations, to see what other derivative research I can uncover.

[1] Jane Jacobs, famously, did not attend college, but instead moved to New York City with her parent’s blessing and became a journalist.  Her connection to Boston College is unclear to me. 

[2] There were 17 files for derivative works in her archive.  If you do a search on Google Scholar, which will pull up a list of papers that reference another work, there are well over 1,000.  Her archive only contains derivative works that were sent to her, typically by their authors.  In that way, it's a small, self-selected fraction of all derivatives.

[3] I read an interesting article on Malcolm Gladwell a few days ago that called him out as an ‘undercover’ ultra-conservative who has been working tirelessly for the past few decades to promote conservative topics to liberal audiences. As someone who finds open office plans to be largely unfriendly to workers, I could see this article touting the benefits of open office plans via a very well regarded liberal’s ideas on city planning (Jacobs) as a left-ward slant on a conservative/pro-business subject.

[4] In the 2005 interview, she addresses to the Internet saying: “[People] love to think that things have changed so that they can forget all their mistakes and not have to explain them any more: oh well because of globalization, the web, etc. [Interviewer: ] Do you think the web has the effect of bringing people together or keeping people apart?  It brings some people together … it’s not nearly as revolutionary as language itself.” 

Feb 15, 2016

income replacement, briefly

A city is formed at a location where there a natural resource is abundant and plentiful.  The human population at this location begins to harvest this natural resource and put it to use.  Eg: Venice and the salt flats.

This city, or human settlement really, comes into contact with another human settlement.  These two groups of humans trade their differing, but equally useful, resources.  For the sake of example, let's say that our imaginary city Veni (which has salt) trades with an imaginary city called Roma (that has cows).  Now Veni has some cows and Roma has some salt.

One woman in Veni begins using the salt that is at her disposal to salt the beef that she now has access to.  Veni has now created a new product or resource.  This salted beef is dried and she begins selling it locally, at the market in Veni.  Soon, other people in Veni are making salted beef.   Salted beef becomes a staple in every Veniese's diet. The Veni traders that source cows from Roma begin to bring salted beef along with them on their trade junkets.  The traders trade their salted beef back to the citizens of Roma.  Salted beef, which was once a local product of Veni, has now become an export.  Veni now has through the discovery of a new invention and happenstance increased their total trade to 2 exports: salt and salted beef.

In order for Roma to afford salted beef, they are now paying more cows to Veni.  With the creation of a new product, Veni has increased the total value of imports that is available to the settlement as a whole.  This process explains how new exports are created (or in the case of Roma, new imports).

Now that Veni has more cows, they are able to produce twice the amount of salted beef.  They begin to trade their salted beef with a neighboring city, Dalma, that has its own salt production but no access to cows.  Veni begins to import woven baskets that Dalma has created, trading salted beef for the baskets.  Over time, Veni's crafts people learn how to create bowls out of weaving, gradually replacing their reliance on bowls from Dalma.  The salted beef that they had to trade with Dalma now goes toward buying Dalmatian dogs, as well as reeds to make the baskets. Veni, by creating new local jobs in the basket making trade, has replaced the import of woven baskets with locally produced baskets.  This is called "import replacement".  Thru import replacement, that is replacing imported woven baskets with locally produced baskets, Veni has expanded their local economy and increased the number of goods that they have available to trade with other city markets.  Additionally, now Veni has yet another locally produced good that they can trade with other markets.  Their total number of potential exports has grown to 3: woven baskets, salted beef, and salt.

It occurs to me, walking thru this very basic scenario of the development of a local economy, that it may not be entirely possible for city such as Veni to produce everything that it trades for.  For example, let's say that another of Veni's neighbors is Lapis.  Lapis' natural resource is beautiful blue stones that are used in decorative jewelry, religious practices and medicinal cures.  Veni trades baskets and salted beef for these stones.  No amount of internal development, however, will allow Veni to create these beautiful blue stones for itself.  Veni may produce master craftspeople that are adept at fashioning imported stones into beautiful jewelry.  Or they may discover a new medicinal use for the stones.  But at its core, Lapis will always be relied upon as a source for the raw material that is the blue stones.

Or at least, this used to be the case.  Scientists produced the first synthetic diamond in the 1950's.  Now, provided that a city has access to the scientific know how and the raw materials that are necessary, any city or location can produce diamonds for themselves.  Ubiquity of the stone should drive down the price, and make cities that used to rely on the value of these goods as a driver for their own imported goods down.  Imagine if Veni was suddenly able to produce blue stones for themselves, or they discovered a source within the boundary of their own city.  Suddenly, Veni no longer needs to trade away salted beef and baskets for stones -- they are readily available for the local market.

There is something here tho, that differentiates the supply and trade based on raw resources and trade based on goods that are created from the combination of a variety of raw goods.  I think it's the reproducibility of that good in other places.  Returning to the first example of trade between Veni and Roma, the simple case of beef and salt creating salted beef.  In this example, both Veni and Roma have the basic resources necessary for both to survive available to them.  Although Veni initially created salted beef, there is nothing stopping Roma from developing their own salted beef industry locally, other than perhaps extenuating circumstances of human politics and work ethics.

Let's investigate some reasons why Roma would not develop their own salted beef production.  Perhaps Roma has no citizens that have the free time to put in the work to produce salted beef.  Maybe Roma's population to too small. Perhaps cattle raising is such a labor intensive production process that there is no spare time left over for Romans to produce salted beef.  Maybe the price of salt is prohibitively high, that is that the amount of beef Roma would have to pay to buy enough salt to produce salted beef is higher than the amount of beef it takes for Roma to buy already salted beef from Veni.  Why might this be?  Perhaps Veni has more people with idle time than Roma, as in the salt trade requires less time than the beef trade does.

Perhaps Roma is a very caste or guild based society and the creation of salted beef does not fit into the existing social structure that Roma has developed.  Perhaps in Roma the social hierarchy is established in such a way that the citizens making decisions about production and economy are different than the ones that do the work, such to the extent that the development of new types of work go unfunded and uninvestigated because it is not something that the 'deciders' would consider possible for the 'doers'.  (A concrete example of this would be an economy based on slave labor).

Note: this exercise is based on the works of Jane Jacobs, particularly her books the Economy of City, Cities and the Wealth of Nations, and Systems of Nature.

Feb 14, 2016

So much tension in the little things

You made it more about who you weren't than who you were. Where you aren't, rather than where you are. Dwelling in the negative space which is always Infinite, rather than the here the now the is, which is decidedly finite

Feb 13, 2016


I've been a lot of places but none of them is California.  Cal-leaf-for-nya.
How do you explain the inexplicable? Like it's a place that just remembering makes a smile play out across the corners of my mouth. It's not the people. It's not the tech industry. It's not the size or the shape. It's something intangible, something expansive. Something resonant, that vibrates a chord back like no other place does or can. Dalmatia was a neighboring note. Austin, a faint echoing fifth, in the triad.
There's a bridge near Seattle[1] that collapsed from vibrations. For a long time they thought (and it's still being taught) that the bridge failed from resonant frequency -- that is that the wind hit the note that a bridges' steel knows how to sing and the whole bridge began dancing with such joy that it broke from its suspended moorings and fell, piecewise, into the sea below.
This has been since debunked. The bridge's undulations was, at root, caused by whiplash that was spurred by high winds passing over the solid metal side girdings. Not being aerodynamic enough. Not enough room to let the wind just pass thru caused its eventual collapse. Galloping Gerties' final ride.
I cant help but remember tho the thought of that most delightfully dancing bridge and wonder: What would it be like, to live in the most perfectly resonant place on the planet?
[1] the Tacoma Narrows

Feb 11, 2016

Beauty probs, a classification

Beauty, a classification of problems
Coloration, evenness. Is your face one even tone? It is unnatural but looks good if you can nail this down. Problem areas: nose (too red) and eyes (too purple)
Blemishes. Like zits, pimples and the like. Usually temporary. Best to just leave them to their own devices til they leave.
Washed out features. ie your eyebrows and lashes disappear. Mostly a problem for people with light hair.
Dry, flakey skin.
Oily skin
Unwanted hair. As in your upper lip could raise money for Movember. Solving this is the least of fun.
Eyebrows: too big or too small. Pen them in or pluck.
Dandruff. White flakes that ruin the sweep of darkness that is your hair and shower your favorite sweater.
Bad cut for your face. Needs to balance your facial features.
Too oily.
Ruined, static-y ends.
Frizz levels.
Badly parted.
Pulled too tight against your face
Weird bumps, not smooth or unartful styling.
Tangled, uncombed messes
Smell. Deodorant? Perfume?
Do your clothes fit you? Forget what your target body shape is -- do the clothes you own now look good on you. Are they too baggy or too tight?
Do you feel comfortable in what you're wearing? This is the most important thing when getting dressed.
Why care about these things?
When you work for the man, you might as well look the part.

Feb 5, 2016


Weird thoughts about reality as introduced by the virtue of co-existing with another creature, for a while now.
I keep wondering what it is like to sleep.all day and what does it mean to just hang out with me all the time (and her with me). I see her napping while I'm working and I remember those days that I also have slept all day and the luxury of watching time pass and suddenly I am also luxuriating in time, too, in the memory of luxuriation.
why doesn't she play by herself I wonder as I too pull out chat and try to see what the rest of the world is doing.
she's the one person I can't call. well, almost.

dreaming of you

It started off with me in some skivvies in the backroom den just hanging out, waiting for a party to start then the crew showed up and I got recruited for a dance routine that I wasn't sure I was going to remember. We didn't end up performing but instead I landed in Denver with my friend Liz who's moving there and we went book shopping and we talked about this book I had read (a book I dream wrote) and she gave me a pair of scissors to cut out the part at the front that wasn't right. As I was cutting an officer rolled up and Liz left but I ended up in a line, another queue, waiting for the safari or underwater adventure. A line formed, and we were a singing class, outside the same book store, carolling but not. I wandered into the wrong section, the sopranos maybe, only to be sent back to the other side and then we became not a class of singers but again a line that I was near the head of. The boats weren't running yet tho, so we all of us, got to talking and a dive computer came out from somewhere but we couldn't use it because it was too heavy and it would weigh you down once you got in the water. Then the front of the line didn't end in the waterfront, but instead a sparsely wooded safari and I followed you down to spy on the rangers cabin, perched on a steep incline. The way over was steep and the porch began to sway precipitously at my ineptitude of walking on it but everyone survived and then we were driving, four or five of us, me in the backseat, cuddling with two new friends and a faceless driver who was talking to KLosse, in the front seat, about the writing seminar she was working on and her latest blog post in a new website. I was listening and decided not to brag about how I had been stalking her lately. As we drove, suddenly I was confused about where we were as it didn't look like Colorado. I tried to check my smartphone but my friends had papered it over with stickers but I managed to take them off and then I saw that we were just outside Columbus, OH and I felt more at home here than I ever had. 

The road wound down thru fields, where we narrowly skirted hitting field hands surveying their handiwork from the vantage point of the road, to winding back up into the mountains, where we narrowly missed a snowplow driven by a septuagenarian woman with the longest face I'd ever seen. Then my cuddle buddy was at the wheel and we were driving across a long narrow rickety wooden bridge on a high pass and I was interrupting KLosse to ask about how you could write, you know really write, if you didn't have a narrative, a strong story, to tell.

Jan 10, 2016


i'm not so sure i want to get things published anymore.  after editing a work, i don't want to see the words any more.  i don't care if anyone publishes it.  why would they publish it?  it's clearly terrible. jesus. look at this crap, all these crappy words, one after the next.  it's really not very interesting.  all of this is gibberish.

i mean, i did just pick a random thing i had written, edit it and then submit it.  jesus submitting is a pain too.  i'm sure it gets easier, but finding a place to get a thing published is hard.  who is my audience? what kind of establishment might be interested in this weird one off piece about me freaking out about stuff on the subway?  publishing things on my personal blog is like all of the reward with none of the work.  the only downside being that i don't really have the 'creds'.  i can't say "i've been published in XYZ".  i can't show up somewhere and expect my name to be known.  to say nothing of the billions of beautiful people that may never read these beautiful words, written one, right after the other.

i bet it gets easier.  like, i bet that if you do it enough, you find a publication that wants your words.  you build a relationship with an editor or something.  you find a niche. a place that you can grow out from, a place that you put down roots and then just start expanding outward from there, branching upward into wherever it is that you go when you write things that get published "places".

submitting things to places is hard because i start to wonder the 'why'.  writing is like breathing, it's a thing that i've done forever and will keep doing, forever, but why.  why do i need it to get published?  what am i doing this work for?  part of it is definitely approval.  some sort of a nod like "yeah, this is publishable.  you write words that are legible and interesting and other people would probably enjoy reading this piece." part of it is the desire to be known as a writer, some amount of credibility when you append the words "writer" to your set of self nyms.

a thought that although publishing a book is more work in the inputs and what not, it's ultimately i think, less work than finding a place to pitch a story every freaking week, then waiting to hear back. eventually, if at all. if. at. all.

and then there's the bigger question.  what kind of writing am i getting published?  do i really want to get poems published?  do i really care if people like my hot takes on all the books i've been reviewing?  who gives a shit about that really clever thing you did where you talked about DFW and then peppered that particular paragraph with enough footnotes to fill half a page.  or would i rather that my short stories got published?  that i had the renown for being a clever dreamer of dreams and builder of other worlds?  or would you rather be known for big political thoughts, for commentaries on the life we all live and your perspectivus on all of itus.  for original thoughts on new topics and fun spins that tell teach preach?  what do you want the world to see you as?  what do you want to work towards?

eh. i'm going to write what i write irregardless of where it gets published.  but. should i try to submit it? is it even really worth it?


Jan 2, 2016

A rose by any other name would smell sweeter

I read an interesting blog post this morning about adopting foreign names.  What would I call myself, if I were to adopt a local name, everywhere I traveled?

Here's a list:
Spain - María
Brazil - Laís
Italy - Martina
England - Kate
French speaking world - Marie
Germany - Marina
Japan - Yuki
Turkey - Esra
Sweden - Ebba
Ukraine - Sveta
Poland - Dagmara
Russia - Irina
China - Mei
India - Mayra
Slovenia - Eva
Croatia - Nina
Canada - Émy


‪some days I remember the lies you told me and i laugh at both of us‬ ‪at me, for wanting so badly to believe you‬ ‪at you, for having t...