Sep 11, 2017

sound reflecions: observations from SF MOMA's Soundtracks exhibit

karthik and i went to the SF MOMA today to check out the last few bits of the soundtracks exhibit. we saw this great video work that i can't stop thinking about. the musical content itself was quite cloying but the technical set up of it was quite marvelous -- both in execution and in display. it was a large, dark room with many screens set up. each screen showed a musician, each musician had on a pair of headphones and had been set up before a video camera in a different room of a large mansion. this mansion was in upstate new york.  the music was the repetitive chordy folksy type that seems to be the exclusive purview of brooklyn types' pastoral imaginings.  there's a total of 10 cameras, some of which watch the actual house's occupants who are hanging out on the porch while the rest of their abode is transformed into a stage set for rural music cum art ambitions. only two of the participants on the porch have headphones on, the rest seem to run the gamut from gently enthusiastic to relatively uninterested. they're playing at dusk, and as the sun sets they wander outside to let us all see the stars.

the best part of the exhibit was the spatial organization of the video feeds. within the exhibit, one could wander between the large project screens (10 all told) and gain a different vantage point of the musicians and the house. it felt like a real re-enactment of a virtual reality trope of floating video screens that you can observe by moving yourself physically through space.

in some ways, this physical movement is something that AR (augmented reality, usually delivered via a cellphone app) gets right.  the recent apps i've seen being made with the ARKit that Apple has launched -- photos suspended in space based on where they were taken, physical sound clouds that you can move your phone through -- all of these give a physicality to digital actions.  unlike VR, where you're trapped in 4 foot by 4 foot snow-globe of visual and sensory delights.  i get it, they're different techs.  VR lets you completely create a new reality, but gives you a constrained box to experience it in; AR lets you work with the surrounding reality, superimposing a new world order atop the new.  it's like a superset of reality, as opposed to an entirely different universe.

the mounted video portraits were VR like in their suspension of reality, but AR like in the physicality that moving about the display room permitted.  eventually the musicians all assembled for a self-conscious cracking of champagne (what were they celebrating, other than an aspiration of display was left unclear) and then a maudlin parade out to the porch then down into a field, gathering everyone together into a destinationless jaunt through the field at dusk.  the sunset on something at that old mansion now overtaken by artsy, aspirational 'types'.  figuring out on what seemed to be left as an exercise to the viewer, such as we were.

other favorite parts of the exhibit: a 14" sphere entirely wrapped in audio recording tape, of the likes you used to be able to find in cassettes.  there was a wheel that spun the ball and a single cassette head that read the tape as it rolled past.  the construction of the sphere and its entirety of covering was impressive.

spheres seemed to be a theme for the last few exhibitions; someone had made a set of three spheres, suspended by a set of audio cables, each one plugged into a tiny, half inch speakers that thickly studded the outside of the sphere.  each speaker played a clip from the oeuvre of the composer that the sphere 'represented'.  by leaning in close and moving your ear over the surface of the sphere you could listen in to varying works by Mozart, Wagner and ... the last I can't remember. Really a stunning piece.

On a whole, the entire exhibit was more than worth the time; I highly recommend checking it out.

Aug 13, 2017

typing speed

according to my journal entries on 750 words, I can type out three pages or 750 words (lol) in about 16 minutes.

If a book is 80,000 words, that's a little under 27 hours worth of typing.

27 hours worth of typing to get an entire first draft of a book.  That's pretty fast, isn't it.

That's less than a week of work.

Makes you think, you know. Like how much more do you think that you'd need to put into a book, other than 750 words worth of typing in 16 minute intervals for 27 hours straight.

I guess plot and structure are probably important.

I wonder what part of book writing time is spent just re-reading what you've already wrote. I feel like, if I were to write a book, the thing would grow to a certain point and then stop as I'd no longer be able to re-read the thing and still have time to be productive.

How many times do you think an author reads their novel before they release it out in the world?

Hard to say, monkey, hard to say.

Jul 20, 2017

blank canvas

this canvas is blank. does that mean it's time for me to start afresh?

that's one of the side effects of blank canvas -- it brings thoughts that you can start afresh. we both know that's not true. there is no fresh starts, not for you. not for me.

fresh starts belong only to those who don't even know that they're starting. the point at which you're like 'ah what a fresh new canvas'; ie when you know and recognize that this canvas is in fact blank and empty, you have lost the ability to start truly fresh.

we all have baggage; the canvas is but a new place to put it.

or not put it, as the case would have it. but it's there, whether you place it down or carry it with you or leave it behind.

i went to a talk with Jose Diaz once. i didn't used to understand why people went to see favorite writers and thinkers talk, but then my friend found out i had read about Oscar Wao and we went, we went to see Diaz.  Diaz said a lot of things that day; he talked about activism and color and writing. he talked about characters. it surprised me, the number of things that he said and that i found fundamentally both true and novel.  it's as if the words that writers write are a part of what they've got, to put on a canvas. and seeing them in real time was getting to get another, unedited, unpredicated part of that genius.  i like going to see authors talk now, especially ones that write true and novel things.

Jose Diaz said something about characters that day. he said "when i write a character, i think about what it is that that character will not talk about; what is the thing that that person doesn't say".

what is the thing that you won't say on that blank canvas.

there are things that you aren't saying. the question is which of them are you holding, what is the baggage that you hold so close that its shadow gets cast out alongside your own, such that the shape you throw has morphed and grown to include it.  and which is the baggage that you've put down, that which you have disowned, what you've walked away from.  what have you abandoned or forgotten about on the way to this canvas, to this place, to this moment. it may not be a thing that you subscribe to, but it's there, it's a piece. it's a part of the larger story, just the same.

Jul 5, 2017

dig deep

dig deep and roll
grind with it
diggi diggi roll

grind deep
roll with it
deeper deeper dig

til the homes come
grind with it
dig it dig it dig

dig deep and roll
grind with it

I talk a lot of shit
like i mean a lot of shit
only shit just shit

the shittiest part of talking shit
is how you make the non shit talkers
feel about all the not shit
they be talkin

Jun 28, 2017

these thoughts are not fit for human consumption

i need a new space. a new digital space. somewhere where i can publish things that feel something or another but not this nor that.

i think what i mean is that i need a diary.  there are explicit thoughts that i want to record, but that aren't fit for human consumption.  i need to write about things so that i can live with them. i need to publish things that i write. but i cannot publish the things that i live with because that is not how the internet works.

these thoughts are not fit for human consumption.

writing here, on this blog will mean watering things down to the meta, like i'm doing now, instead of delving into the actual.

maybe it's time to pull back out 750 words.

my god time just moves doesn't it.

Jun 3, 2017

my favorite interview with Jane Jacobs

this has been copied without permission from  the appendix of the 2011 edition of The Question of Separatism. It was conducted with Jane in 2005, shortly before her death in 2006.  It is one of the few mentions of her unfinished book: Uncover the Economy.  The drafts of the first few chapters of these books were recently published in a compendium of Jane's works; Vital Little Plans.

Twenty-five years after this book appeared and ten years after Quebec's second referendum on sovereignty in 1995, Jane Jacobs graciously agreed to an interview about Quebec and her book. The interview was conducted in her home on Albany Street, inToronto's Annex district. Jane Jacobs talked freely for more than two hours with a forty-five minute break while she underwent physiotherapy fora hip ailment.

Q: How did people react to your 1979 Massey lectures and to the book, which came out in favour of sovereignty-association? Did the book get the coverage it deserved at the time?

A: Reactions were from Anglophones. I'm one. But I'm terrible at French. In fact, there was practically no reaction. My husband was a hospital architect and he was working on some hospitals in Alberta, and I told him to try to find out what they thought about separatism. He would come back on weekends. He said "well, I think I found out how they feel about separatism. I brought it up at lunch in the cafeteria, and everybody at the table was silent and then somebody said 'Let's change the subject'." The best thing is not to think about it. They don't even want to engage in talking pros and cons and why people feel this way.

Q: Does that explain the lack of reaction to your Massey lectures and your book?

A: It's the same attitude. Don't want to think about it. It's an unwelcome subject.

Q: What do you attribute that attitude to?

A: It's a fear. And this I don't have to guess at. Because there were lots of programs over the course of the two referendums and the general tenor of them was that if Quebec were to separate, then Canada would disintegrate. So that was the fear that there would be no identity anymore, for Canada. It was foolish, because there are so many examples of separatism, and nothing has disintegrated, unless they went to war.

Q: Do you mean that disintegration occurs when people go to war to oppose it?

A: There are a great many cases, I was counting them up to myself the other day, and couldn't even count the ones in central Asia, so many, and they end in *stan*. But even discounting those, there were over thirty of these cases in very recent times since Quebec, since the issue of Quebec was raised in 1980.
  So we have to ask what's going on here? Why? I don't think this is pure coincidence. It's a phenomenon and it's widespread and it's so deeply felt. And there are so many different reasons the people feel to explain why they want to separate. But what do they have in common? And what is it all about? The world is usually not like this.
  So trying to put together what they do have in common and what they don't have in common, here's what I come to. It's feedback from the world of some kind. What they have in common is that larger units are not satisfying people, they feel that these are out of control and what they seem to want in common and what they're happy about when they get it,and they calm down, which they do if they're not taken to war, is the satisfaction at last at having their own sovereignty.
  You have to take examples. All except the would-be controlling states are very happy about this outcome. In the Balkan for instance, take the whole break-up of Serbia. The only people who are unhappy about it are the Serbs and they're unhappy because they're not in control of others any more.
  But the Slovenes, the Croatians the rest of them are very glad to be independent.

Q: So teh danger is the will to control of would-be controlling states?

A: Yes and they're the ones that make war.

Q: Do you see Canada as a state that tends to control on this question?

A: Sure. English Canada has always wanted to control French Canada. English Canada conquered French Canada. So let's face the fact that this is a conquered country, and conquered countries often never forget what happened to them. Neither the conquered nor the conqueror ever really forget.
  Now, I wrote about Norway. Norway was the very early example. And Norway and Sweden behaved in a wonderfull civilized manner. They could easily have gone to war. Tensions were very stressful prior to 1905. The other example of a very early case was in the United States, which was its own secession movement. And that did lead to war, the most hunaly destructive war that the United States has ever had. The highest death rate. That has never been forgotten. There it was in the last election The most recent election. [2004] There's still the confederacy and the union. Wars don't settle these things.

Q: Violent or autocratic ways of opposing do not settle these things?

A: No. And the victor in these things always thinks they will but they never do.

Q: Is the Irish question similar where the British thought they would solve the problem by partitioning Ireland?

A: Yes, and they didn't solve it.


Q: You make a convincing case about the similarities between Sweden/Norway and Canada/Quebec. You write: "To its great credit, Sweden neither then nor afterward banned the Storting or tried to suppress its elections, never attempted to censor its debates or interfere in its communications with the Norwegian people, and did not poison NOrwegian political life with spies and secret police or corrupt it with bribes and informers." Can we say the same thing about Canada?

A: No!

Q: Please expand.

A: Well let's see in those indictments you can't level at Sweden, they never tried to ban the constitution or undermine the settlement that they wanted. Well you can't say that of Canada. Any indication of revolt on thepart of Quebec was either bought off, with a good deal of corruption -- this is not a new thing [reference to sponsorship scandal]* -- or suppressed in some other way. And very often by trying to, and succeeding in, undermining the self-confidenceof Quebecers. That's exactly what [Pierre] Trudeau did. That was his whole method. And unfortunately [Rene] Levesque had so little self confidence in Quebec and in the people themselves, that he fell for that and, yes, he'd say, you know, it might be ruinous for us economically.

* The interview was conducted shortly after public hearings held by the Commission of Inquiry into the Sponsorship Program and Advertising Activities, known as the Gomery Commission. The "sponsorship scandal," which rocked the Government of Canada led by Jean Cretien, revealed that millions of dollars were funneled into Quebec to promote "Canadian identity" over Quebec identity. Leaders of Canada's Liberal Party and PR firms linked to it had also set up a kickback scheme to help fund election campaigns.

Q: So he feel for that because he lacked confidence in the Quebec people?

A: Yes and also because he didn't understand why things do collapse. It's usually a very banal reason why things do collapse. It's not a grand reason, why they collapse economically, at least in the West. The reason is usually that the entrepreneurial investors of the time just want to repeat themselves indefinitely and don't know when to stop. You can't do that. And so finally the housing boom, or the auto boom, or whatever it is that's been carrying things along, runs out of customers.

Q: And they haven't planned renewal or replacement?

A: Actually, replacement is not planned, it just happens. But they haven't found ways to encourage it. In fact they find ways to suppress the possibility of replacement. Just like the oil copanies now going in for the oil sands and at the cost of God knows how much money. Think what that same amount of money and encouragement would do with non-fossil fuels. But no, no!
  I was at a party sitting beside a guy involved in tar sands. A man from Edmonton. I asked him why he was so confident. He said it was because of the price of oil. Then I asked if he would advise a young person to get involved with it for the rest of his life. Why was he confident? Well, he said, because China was interested. I replied: you know China has gotten into a lot of things that were wrong in the past century. Why are you so confident? Well he just is. He has an exploitative attitude towards China. Maybe they are suckers, but we've got a good thing going for a while. He didn't say so in so many words.

Q: You don't think he should be so confident?

A: No. I think the fundamentals are against the success. The veryfact that it costs so much to develop. That's not an argument in favour of it. That's against the law of diminishing returns. You can't bank on diminishing returns.

Q: Are you an economist by training? What is your formal training?

A: Very little. After I graduated from High School in Scranton, Pennsylvania, I didn't want to go to school any more. I was tired of school. I was getting very rebellious about it. My parent ssaid I didn't have to go to college. They said they had saved money if I wanted to, but that I didn't have to want to. I think that was very good. And after a few years of working, five years of work -- I was a young worker -- but I could work as a secretary because I had learned touch typing. I had also gotten out of school in Februrary, and so I had half a year for business school and so I learned a little more, and I was equipped to get a job as a secretary. So I went to New York. Also because Scranton was a coal town -- anthracite coal, superior coal. There were laws in New York that it was the only kind of coal that could be sold. During the First World War, all those regulations had been broken. So Scranton was in a depression on that account, soon after the First World War and well before the great depression set in.

Q: So you're self educated? All your theories and books, you've worked on that alone?

A: And with help from other people.

Q: In your recent book 'Dark Age Ahead' you have a chapter entitled "Credentialing versus Education." You feel that "credentialism" has been bad for education and prevents people from having the curiosity and the intellectual probity that allow them to develop new ideas.

A: I've gotten more and more radical on this myself. 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. But I don't know, yes I do know why I do it. It's interesting in the first place; I think truth is more interesting than baloney.

Q: The original Massey lectures were entitled "Canadian Cities and Sovereignty-Association". In those lectures and in the book you come to support sovereignty because of your idea of how cities work. Do you think that what you wrote in 1980 about Montreal and Toronto has proven to be true? You posit that Quebec's need for Montreal to be a metropolis independent of Toronto requires that Quebec be able to operate independently. Do you think that still applies today?

A: Yes. And I think it is partly because of currencies, national currencies. And Toronto does swing the Canadian national currency, and that's often to the detriment, nobody's intention, just the automatic detriment to the cities it trades with.

Q: Because the value of the currency is established by what goes on in Toronto? So you favor a Quebec currency, though the way things are going with the Euro, would you still favor a Quebec currency?

A: Yes. And I think it's a mistake for the Europeans, the Western European countries, to blot out so many currencies in favour of who knows which one is going to win out. Maybe Frankfurt. It will not favour all the other countries. Europe had something really wonderful going for it with the different currencies. Look at all the development in Eruope over so many centuries, and yes they got into these wars and that pretty well ruined it. They also had an awful lot of relationships which didn't involve fighting each other, but involved learning from each other, and building on each other's successes.

Q: If you were in France now would you vote in favour of the European Constitution or against it?

A: I would be against it. But I don't see much use in being against it unless there's a great deal of talk and debate about it so that people are educated as to why, otherwise into the vacuum will come really nasty reasons of hatred and bigotry, etc.

Q: You get interviewed frequently by the media. Do they ask you about Quebec?

A: No. Practically never. You're the first one!

Q: Yet there are very few books in English that broach the subject as you do?

A: In  my research, I couldn't find any in English that went into it.

Q: So people are not interested in knowing why you reached this conclusion. Do you know Montreal very well?

A: Not well. I've been there a few times. I think in Quebec journalists were a bit interested. Elsewhere no.

Q: Do you think that with the new buzzword of "Globalization" the situation has changed since the 1980s?

A: No. You know people ignore the common threads that run through economic life and we're still in the primitive early stages of these things. Globalization is one of the first things that ever showed up. Way back when trade began to revive after the Dark Ages, it was very international. Sardinia sold cheese to every European city and every available market, and nothing but cheese. I call places like that "supply regions". And I give an example of how powerful the force is when a lot of cities act as one, which they do, in getting what they want from a supply region.

Q: So this idea of globalization where the markets become international, it's basically the continuation of what's gone on?

A: Yes, globalization has gone on since around 1200 or so. It went on in classical times, before the Dark age.


Q: You are originally from the United States. How would you say the United States will react to a sovereign Quebec?

A: I think that people in Canada who are frightened may be right to the extent that the United States will try to take advantage of this and aggrandize and maybe scare Canadians into falling in with their plans. After all the United States is irked with Canada these days because it hasn't fallen in with its ware in Iraq.

Q: So the United States could try to take advantage of a weakened Canada?

A: They could try.

Q: You don't see that as inevitable?

A: No. And if it does do that, if they succeed in it, it will be only if Canada is so scared and docile that it allows it to happend.

Q: I've interviewed people with political power in English Canada for a book and they've said that Quebec cannot separate from Canada, because Canada would disappear. You don't give any credence to that unless Canada decides to give up?

A: Yes. Exactly. But of course, countries do that sometimes; they decide to give up. I feel some urgency in my new hypothesis, yet I'm so dubious it will be accepted. If it is, the wrong kinds of reasons will explain why it is accepted. So why bother, why interfere?
 Well, I've had to ask myself that. Ordinary people are capable of wonderful economic things wihtout even knowing they're doing wonderful things.  You know, the next thing is not planned. It just seems to happen. It is very seldom planned.
  I would like it to be understood, and increasingly understood as time passes, that all our economic achievements all our human economic achievements have been done by ordinary people, not by exceptionally educated people, or by elites, or by supernatural forces, for heaven's sake. Yet without understanding this, people are all too willing to fall for the idea that they can't do this, they themselves, or anybody they know, because they're too ordinary.

Q: They're own self-image stops them from seeing that they can do something?

A: Yes.

Q: Do you think that is what happened to Rene Levesque? That it was a lack of confidence in what he could have accomplished with the Quebec people?

A: Yes.

Q: In your book Dark Age Ahead, you also talk of subsidiarity and fiscal accountability. Very interesting points! They too would argue once again in favor of Quebec sovereignty.

A: Absolutely. Look how the inability to face this and solve this in a civilized way is corrupting the whole country. [Reference to Gomery Commission and the sponsorship scandal; see note above].

Q: Please expand.

A: Well, one way that English Canada, or English authorities, or frightened authorities operating in Quebec, have tried to put this whole thing to rest, and say it's all settled, which it obviously is not, is to try to buy off Quebec. That seems the most promising way, more than the use of force. Trudeau, as I mentioned, managed this quite well. And it's the way of selling Quebec. Forget about sovereignty. Show them that their interest is somewhere else, their economic interest. It's largely a matter of buying Quebec. Well when you buy people, and particularly try to change their deep principles by buying them, it becomes very corrupt, automatically, by the nature of the transaction. They have to be kidded about what's happening to them.
  Now a friend of mine who's been making some business trips to Montreal and has visited some of the sessions [of the Gomery Commission], says that it's very instructive to watch the Quebecers, and see how furious they are. Their faces are so set, they're not enjoying this, they're so angry. So I say, what are they angry at? In fact, they realize they've been had. They realize for the firt time, they've been had over and over again in the past.

Q: Would you agree that what the Liberal Party has been doing with the sponsorships is by no means a trivial matter?

A: Yes. It's been their policy. It continues to be their policy. They'll continue to do it. It's all they know how to do.


Q: What are you working on now?

A: The name of my upcomin book will be "Uncovering the Economy" in 2006.  And the next book ought to be a really fun one to write. It will be, "A Sad but Short Biography of the Human Race". SO far short. It's not my anticipation that we're into evolution for a short run, it will be long, but it's been short up till now. And we're much closer to our beginnings than we realize. We think we're so advanced.
  I think that I was saying our economies haven't changed since the beginning and certainly globalization is not a new thing.

Q: Why do you think that economists, politicians, and public people bandy the word globalization about so much? This is a major change in discourse.

A: They love to think that things have changed so that they can forget all their mistakes and not have to explainthem any m ore: oh well because of globalization, the web, etc.

Q: Do you think the web has the effect of bringing people together or keeping people apart?

A: It brings some people together but it keeps others apart, just like language, just like other types of communication.  And it's not nearly as revolutionary as language itself.

Q: Comparable to the printing press?

A: I don't think it's as important as that. Because with the printing press, just think what that meant to communications, and how fast it happened. There were sixty new publishers in Vienna, I think, in no time. And this had not been planned by anybody. One of these enormous changes that just seemed to occur when their time has come. When ordinary people start doing something, they don't really know that it's happening.

Q: When you say "anecdotal evidence is the only real evidence," what do you  mean?

A: What other kind of evidence is there? There is statistical evidence in economics. But when do people get interested enough to do statistics? If you don't count things, you never have them. That's the problem. THere hasn't been enough interest to count what should be counted.

Q: People don't count the things that need to be counted?

A: Right, because they're not interested.  They  only get interested based on anecdotal evidence. That's the only evidence there is until people begin to get interested.

Q: And even statistical evidence is based on anecdotes, because statistical evidence is based on the story of somebody doing something..

A: And whatever it may be, it may be very tenuous, something that economists already do, like counting the amount of money in circulation. But why do they care? Some anecdote has piqued their curiosity.

Q: In political economy and political scinece, everything appears based on polls these days. Don't you find that that flies in the face of what you say about the importance of anecdotal evidence? People bring out the latest polls to prove something.

A: And polls can be rigged according to the kind of question that is asked. But some sort of anecdotal vidence has piqued the curiosity to ask the question. 61 percent of Canadians believe bla-bla. Where did the idea of bla-bla come from? The all-powerful creator? It comes from stories people tell.

Q: You make that point strongly in Dark Age Ahead in the wake of the heat wave in Chicago?*

A: And I've never gotten any feedback from that. And I do think that it's quite frevealing that Chicago thing. The problem in Chicago was due to "credentialism". It was prescribed and the wrong prescription. But all those who did the study had their credentials.

* In Dark Age Ahead Jane contrasts an official study whose "findings are worse than useless" on the high number of deaths among the elderly poor in Chicago during a heat wave with that of a young sociology graduate who then published a book entitled Heat wave, A Social Autopsy of a Disaster in Chicago.  The young sociology graduate 'spoke with fresh truths drawn from the real world", according to Jacobs

Q: The Yes side campaigned in the 1995 Quebec referendum on the slogan "oui et ca devient possible," "Vote yes and it will be possible". Symbols or images of peace, work, flowers or a map of the world represented what would be possible. In your opinion, what would become possible if Quebec were sovereign?

A: Well. Lots of things are  not possible for municipalities, suburbs, or collections of them now. Theyare not possible and they would become possible, because they would have more authority. They would hav ethe same authority as a province now.

Q: If Quebec became sovereign, Montreal and Quebec City would be granted greater power?

A: Yes well, there would be one level of government that would be missing, one less level of government. The municipality would become the second level.
  One of our troubles now is that we try to make municipalities that are totally different from each other all act as if they were the same kind of creature, with the same kinds of possibilities. Not so. Some of the large ones in Quebec can contain within them most of the answers to their own practical problems. And so lots of different possibilities for doing things in a practical and different way become available.
  It's not true of very small places. They just don't have the skills, the connections, the diversity.

Q: You refer to Montreal's becoming a regional city with regard to Toronto. If Quebec were sovereign, would Montreal take on a different role within Quebec?

A: Just the way in Europe, Paris, Copenhagen, and Stockholm, and Frankfurt, possibly and Berlin, certainly, all had important roles, because of independence. Because they were depending on themselves.

Q: Not feeders for another metropolis?

A: You see, cities never flourish alone. They have to be trading with other cities. My new hypothesis shows why. But also in trading with each other they can't be in too different stages of development, and they can't copy one another. Backward cities, or younger cities, or newly forming cities in supply regions, have to develop toa  great extent on one another's shoulders. This is one of the terrible things about empires. Empires want them only to trade with the empire, which doesn't help them at all. It's just a way of exploiting them.

Q: Would you describe the logic of the relationship between Toronto and Montreal, the Golden Horseshoe and Quebec, as one that resembles that of an empire?

A: Yes!

Q: The way to break that logic is for Quebec to become independent and be able to trade equally with Toronto? You also say we have to stop fantasizing that English Canada could shut out Quebec as the United States did to Cuba because it would be harmful for everybody?

A: Sure it would be harmful. A good trading situation can't be done without a certain amount of independence. It can't be done constructively. Instead of being a win-win situation, which a good trading situation is, it becomes too competitive, it becomes a lose-win situation, maybe even a lose-lose situation.

Q: You mena if there's not a cooperative situation established?

A: In its very essence, healthy trade is a win-win situation.
  When people who get their jollies and interest out of life by fighting only with other people, they're very poor traders. They only want to dominate, instead of finding a way that everybody benefits. So in that sense globalization is not the same as it was in some innocence past.

Q: Because globalization has come to involve domination?

A: It's come more and more to involve domination.  And that doesn't work and so the imperial power, which is now the US, collapses.

Q: Do you foresee that?

A: Yes.

Q: What kind of horizon?

A: The collapse will start out as a banal thing. These investing entrepreneurs, want to keep doing the same thing they've always been doing. There aren't enough customers for condominiums at one point. So it gets to be a business cycle. 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 for "Uncover the Economy" to find out. It's the same in that respect as the explosive growth in cities. Things have reasons for being.
  Economics, orthodox economics, is a travesty, a joke. Nothing to do with reality, it has to do with wishes. What we wish the economy to be. It's not related to what we see in real life, or explaining any of these mysteries.

Q: You wrote The Question of Separatism, Quebec and the Struggle over Sovereignty in 1979 and 1980. If you were to writ eit again today, would you come to the same conclusions?

A: Yes, not becase it's in my head, but because that's the way it is in the world, and it still holds.

May 31, 2017

dream log

I got an email from an old friend regarding a request for marriage to her friend Vaim Nevrutu. I agreed, sight unseen, because it sounded like a fun time. A few weeks later we headed out on a train trip to meet up with the betrothed. He was nice & clean cut and showed me the wedding invites that at first i mistook for some Airbnb party. Everyone I recognized on the guest list worked at Tumblr though. The train took us all (there were a bunch of us on vacation) to a house in the desert where we watched TV, talked and tried not to step on Ginger. My sister let me pick out a dress from her closet -- none of the white ones fit me though. My friend let me borrow her makeup and said i was lucky I had such nice strawberry blonde hair as it framed my face just so. I did look nice. Later i caught sight of myself in the mirror and something horrid had happened. It looked as though someone had given me a bowl cut with a long back - like a bowl mullet. It was intense. Vaim liked me anyway though i could never exactly work out how I felt about him. He was excited and I was ... talking myself into how anulments were perfectly normal and in fact expected, if it didn't work out how i wanted.

May 30, 2017

we used to all

What was it like. To be alone in this world before. Before the nets came to our houses on the backs of copper cables, warbling chromatic chimes that rang out our anonymous intentions.

To sit on in the airport concourse alone, with only your thoughts and the realities of what is before you, suggestions of what isn't come only from the depths of your own ponderous mind.

How dark and deep seduction must have felt, just you and no one else but those strange burning sensations, the few short brushes of their hand, grasping for purchase on a shared arm rest.

No where to go but further into yourself, or, if you're lucky, the heavy tome you brought with you for moments such as this when the brutal force of other pounded into your own imagined solitude, from the inside of your temples, out.

There was no way of knowing of any beings other than those that you did encounter. The encountering itself was magical. That you should find someone who made you feel such unknown depths. That they should in fact exist, this thing you didn't know existed but that your deep dark soul had hoped, so unknowingly, for. And now it's here at your elbow, by happenstance. As luck would have it.

We used to all be lucky.

May 26, 2017

dream log

too good to retell. but I'll do it anyway, for science.

It was based in a school classroom. I got abandoned there with you. we hadn't ever really talked but it was interesting to get to know you. fun, almost. we spent the night under old blankets that smelled musty. it was cold and i was glad you stayed.

I didn't leave but just woke up, alone

May 24, 2017

dream log

I was back in NYC and Liz was visiting from Houston. We were hanging out and then we got word that her husband, who is secretly (?) Croatian had been in Dubrovnik visiting family when the bombing started. We didn't know if it was ok it not but Liz was pregnant so there was at least that and I thought this is what it's like to be in a WWII romantic drama.

There was more to it that involved books by JJ and other stories but i can't remember it right now and probably won't ever.

It's funny though, I still remember that unwritten dream from half a decade ago where we ended up making pipe cleaner art in my aunt + uncle's ranch house. Yours was very good and you left before i got a chance to make mine and then i helped my uncle put up Christmas lights indoors with one of those utility company basket robots that you raise and lower while riding it. Then a storm came and we camped out in the van to avoid the lightning.

May 14, 2017

bothersome bugs

there's a bug that's been bothering me.  i fixed it, i solved the problem on Thursday but today, Sunday it's still nagging at me.  At this point i'm not really sure what it is about the bug that's digging into my subconscious so hard. I can explain why it happened, the fix that I put in place feels a bit hacky but works. Why is it still bothering me?

I can't help but wonder if it is / was my initial reaction to the problem that's a bother. When I first saw the bug happen, I shrugged it off. It happened again, but I wasn't able to figure out a pattern as to when it triggered.

It took a third time to see it before I acknowledged that there was in fact a problem, however small, with the code. This disbelief in what I had seen with my own eyes bugs me. I can't get over how willing I was to just let it slide.  I figured out a replication case, which was key to solving the problem: Knowing the preconditions for occurrence.

Yet what was it about me that made me think that I didn't need to dig into it? That it wasn't a real problem? Why was this a non-problem problem? I mean no, it didn't affect the functioality, just the visual appearance.  It wasn't obvious what made it happen.

The deeper problem was with the fix. Did I fix it right? What else am I missing about the situation? clearly i was wrong at the outset about it, what else might i be wrong about? i know why he fix worked, i think, but was it the right fix? is there not a more elegant way to solve the problem?

the issue was that there's a flag that gets flipped when an element is moused over or moused out. in react you use a flag to communicate this state change to the drawing engine.  when i clicked on a button, it dispatched a view redraw without triggering the 'mouse out' action so on the next drawing pass, the 'isHovered' flag was still set.  when i activated a second flag (turning off my mic for example) then the notification that's supposed to pop up when you hover over an element showed up, but it showed up without triggering the layout code that dynamically centers it over the element beneath it.  so there are really 2 problems that i'm trying to solve. one that the notification was showing up when the target item wasn't hovered (which i figured out what was going on and fixed). the other, unanswered question, is why the dynamic centering code wasn't being called. (it's done dynamically because the width of the element is calculated via the view engine aka CSS, and is dependent on the length of the text in the element, which is variable. by waiting until the element has been rendered and then using the total rendered bounds to calculate placement you can get it to hover precisely over the midpoint of the anchoring artifact)

here's some guesses: the element did not recenter because the props didn't change -- since the isHovered was flagged to true at both the inception of the item and when the variable that displays the item was switched to true, checking if the 'show' element has been updated misses the case where the show was on at the beginning.

in other words there still is a bug in my code, i've just removed the cases where it can get triggered. is that why it's been bothering me?

who knows.

May 12, 2017


i realize now that you deleted my number long ago. i don't know why it never occurred to me until now but having the optionality of contact so available has been part of the process of never letting go. i'm going to delete it, i will, i tell myself, knowing that even if it were to disappear into the ether as it is about to, i swear it, that there will still be your instagram and your twitter feed and all the other ways of contact that exist, in the world.  maybe i should shut things down and block it off but just the thought of severage brings the echo of deep, unmitigated sobs.  the hurt is still there. the hurt is deep. the world is big but it is not so big as one in which to lose you. knowing this gives me some amount of comfort, however painful.  it is deep and it is strong and that is all that i have ever wanted but it is empty and hollow and rings when you touch it with a deep and brassy pitch.

we will all die, some day, darling isn't this a thing that you know, deep in your bones.  why are we marked out to suffer.  why.

the answer lies but in another universe. and i but wish to follow. there is no happiness in the present only deep and unreal, regret.

May 10, 2017

I drank too much last night

I drank too much last night but I finally came out and told someone about the art projects that I've done recently. It's funny to me how easy the project was to do (in Portuguese you'd say to mount): no funding or promotion required, you just do it.

One was an interactive photo exhibit posted to my OKCupid profile. The photos were screenshots of selfies in the Edit mode of Instagram. They didn't get posted to IG, rather just used as a staging ground. I then arranged them in OKC with a caption, and took a video recording flipping through them; I then posted the video of the IG selfie screenshots posted to OKC to IG. Net response to the question posed through the photos on OKC was zero. As an experiment to provoke interesting dialogue I mostly consider it a failure, but as a piece it feels complete and true. At any rate it's published and completed. Titled: What Do You Think Your Face Says?

The other is an on going performance piece that involves some audience participation. I go to stand up comedy every Sunday. It's mostly an exploration of what happens when you lean in and show up at a small community show every week. Are the jokes still funny? I also go because I messaged one of the hosts on OKC and invited him along as my date. He's there every week so it's like a standing appointment with a man that I'm seeing, technically but not actually; his lack of responses to my subsequent online messages have shown him to be definitely uninterested. This piece is evolving, I'm considering inviting friends along, one at a time, to see the show with me, thus subjecting the piece to an expression of what dating in the Internet age is like, irony being that none of them, other than the poor host fellow, will have been sourced from the actual Internet though to him maybe it will look that way.

I call this piece "Dating in the Age of the Internet".

May 8, 2017


Y'all I have a super power. I don't like to talk about it a lot because it feels rude to tell people about something they probably don't share. Also it's hard to talk about because I don't really know how it works, it just does.

My superpower is that I can get a taxi cab almost any time that I need one. Walking out of an apartment complex, overloaded with dog toys and boom there's a taxi cab unloading right in front of me. New Years Eve in NYC, everyone's complaining about Uber surge pricing so I put out my hand and *boom* there's a fucking cab.

It happened just this past Friday. It was just past midnight in SF and I'm walking around Upper Haight with a friend, complaining about how much public transit late at night in SF is a smelly trash heap of unwashed bums and mourning the fact that my phone died when boom. There but by the grace of my miraculous cab fetching superpowers there's a taxi coming up the street with its light on.

I guess you all should be grateful that Travis Kalamazoo didn't have this power cuz then you'd all be stuck in a world without an app.

There's some limitations to it tho. I only get one chance at the cab. Like Friday, if I had hesitated that cab would have been gone and no new cab would have come in its place. Even the greatest powers have limits. It happened once that I was with a bunch of ppl trying to get somewhere and a cab appears and I'm like yo do we get it and we didn't because they had already requested a car and some people don't take changes in plans lightly so the cab rolled and then there were nothing but occupied cabs on Broadway for 10 minutes straight as we waited for this designated cab to make its way through rush hour traffic to pick us up.

Maybe I'm wrong though maybe every body has this super power it's just unexpressed or unused because they don't have a great need. One way to find out is to try it, like I do, all the time.

May 3, 2017


There's something absolutely beautiful about grafitti. Random citizens spend money (or steal) bottles of vibrantly colored liquid, and then wait until dark to create beautiful, cryptic messages and territory markers across their neighborhoods. Sometimes multiple people team up to create huge murals. They risk arrest, discovery by rival gangs, jail time, death.

And for what? These things take time. They take a monstrous amount of planning. They're against the law, largely. High risk so what's the motivation?

Therein lies the beauty. Whatever force, or motivating impulse, to be seen, to express, to make, that is beautiful.

Nothing further.

May 2, 2017

morning thoughts

i told my friend elizabeth that i would mail her a book. i have not mailed the book yet because i'm having trouble letting go of it.  it's one of my absolute favorites - Jane Jacob's Economy of Cities.  I went to the bookstore yesterday though and got them to order me a copy, so it, in theory, should be easier to part with.

thinking about mailing the book, though, it felt irresponsible to send it off without adding a word or note about what about the book makes it so incredibly good.

Jane Jacobs is one of those rare writers that I absolutely admire.  That I want to emulate.  She's a smart visionary who's observant and well spoken.  She's not afraid to speculate or craft alternate theories for reality that are grounded very much in acute, acurate observations of the world we live in.  Her writing reveals how much attention she pays to the world.  It's rare to find an author who's so just flat out observant and curious about the reasons why things work the way they do.

I love Jane because her writing is feminist just by the nature of her being.  Reading Jane is to step into the observant world of a woman; she sees things differently than men because her position in life is not that of a man.  Her work is stronger because of her viewpoint.  She writes like a woman: clearly, richly, observantly, clairvoyantly.

I think Houston is a great place to be and be reading Jane Jacobs.  Houston, in my not unbiased opinion, is one of the most vibrantly exciting metropolises in the United States right now.  It's got growth and verve and the right amount of rooty space and lack of media coverage that really lets weird, quirky, projects and experiments grow into life.  I'm excited for Houston; I'm envious in some small way that you are there and are deeply embedded into the community that I left behind.

I'm sending you Jane because I want to see her come alive in Houston, through you and maybe through the people that you know.  She's right about how cities work, about how communities grow, about what makes a fun and vibrant economy.  It's my hope for Houston that it can be all of these things (more so than it already is!)

That's a lot of hope to put on you; to put on a yellow-jacketed book.  I hope you're forgive my audacity at hoping to make you into a vessel.  There are much broader and grander things in your life than this small book.  If it is useful, please disregard my grand ambitions and know only that I truly, deeply believe that this book is worthwhile, that it is right; that its lens for looking at the world are truly transformative.  Because if she is right about how cities form, and how technology disrupts then we, as people, can make better decisions about how to stay prosperous, how to be a booming and generous economy.

On second thought, maybe this book doesn't need an intro.

Apr 22, 2017

real talk

ok so real talk. i think moving out of Houston to go to Hacker School was kind of a mistake.

or at least, there was a lot of potential energy that I had in Houston that I gave up to go to NYC.  I don't regret leaving Houston; being in NYC was like living four lives in the span that I think most people live just one.  it was a rich and enriching experience and i checked off so many boxes on things that i've always wanted to do.  i fucking *did* the things.

but i think there was some amount of emotional or interpersonal growing up that i gave up by hiking up my skirts and getting the fuck out of H-town.

i loved my time in Houston.  i hung out at the Hacker Space. I had friends at work that were totally rad and some amount of backing from the partners. being a girl at a very masculine consulting group was not a good fit, but there was a lot of other promising shit in Houston. like friends, and connections, and dating people. i had more of the weirdly awkward chance relationships that span a huge amount of time and circumstances in Houston than I ever cultivated in NYC.  I mean, I met a lot of people in NYC, but the range of depth and time of those connections (people I went to college with, high school friends, new work friends, professional connections, people I had dated, weird fun new friends in the art scene, favorite coffeeshops, rodeo dates, casino trips, Business Networking Events, hacker space pals) never got replicated. i mean, how could it?  high school friend networks don't exist half a continent away.  or rather, the people that i knew from high school and college that made it to NYC just weren't friends.

NYC was magical and big but it felt really void of the network of people or even of big ideas.  maybe this sounds heretical to people that find it to be the complete opposite. i know lots of people that have expressed this exact sentiment to me, but about NYC.

i am a realist though. i mean, i did visit houston and check in with my friends who are there, who have been there.  it feels like they've lived their one life and i've lived literally four.

i don't regret leaving Texas and Houston to move to the East Coast, but I am now realizing what a trade off it was.  that there were things I gave up by getting out.

in Houston I would wake up really fucking early and drive to a nearby neighborhood that had really smooth pavement and rollerblade around like a bandit at 6 in the morning. i joked with my work friend aaron about getting a cape and a mask.

I went running around Rice a few times a week and the smell of cut grass and the humidity and the oppressive car-exhaust heat were as good as I remembered it being as a kid in cross country.

I started barefoot running, because the fancy tennis shoes i had bought absolutely destroyed my knees and i couldn't find any Vibrams that would fit my feet. i convinced myself that socks were like a poor man's vibrams. i went on a 3 mile run in the rain in socks, which I eventually took off and left on the sidewalk of a really tony neighborhood and laughed to think what the residents would think when found them, what story they would concoct for my abandoned socks.

i wore heels to work the next day and could barely walk because of the blisters. it was dumb and hilarious and no one at work wanted to believe that i actually was as big of an idiot as i said i was.

i got picked up at the grocery store by this guy named Scott who took me out to dinner, and we went swing dancing and he was terrible which pretty much was the end of that. a few months later i ended up working at his company as a 'consultant'. i found his email through the employee database and sent him a note letting him know i was there (just so there wouldn't be any awkward run ins!). he had moved down to corpus christi.  like fuck that was fast.

i went salsa dancing with this guy i met on the internet and i had an absolute fucking ball but later in his car when we were about to head home he told me he thought that i was high when we first met because of how spaced out i was.  that kind of soured me on the whole thing and got me started thinking about what the fuck was wrong with me such that on first impressions i came across as a fucking space cadet.

i'm still a fucking space cadet but i think it's cool now.

i went out drinking with a co-worker and it was late so we got tacos at this 24 hour place and they were the best food i think i've ever eaten. almost.

i went to my first tech conference, one of the biggest a Houston, held in the downtown University of Houston campus, the same place that I had gone to a Model UN conference in high school.  on that high school trip, i had a phone interview with an alumni from the McCombs School of Business Honors Program that was basically a vetting call as to whether or not I would get into the program, one of the most pickiest higher ed programs that existed in Texas.

this time there were tons of demos on .NET technology because that's what most companies in the area used. i went with my work friend Aaron. he was really impressed by the Ruby community; i got totally tripped out by the dependency injection demo. the guy wrote a test for the print line statement which his hella fucking hard.  there was a great demo on git that basically proved life saving later on.  my love for git started here.  anthony, a friend, worked for the same guy that gave the presentation.

i made friends with anthony and chris and we made big talk about software and programming and i spent a lot of time teaching myself Android, trying to understand what an 'Activity' was and a 'Service' and a 'ContentProvider'. I read the Head First Java book and the Design Pattern one and we had code dojos at work that were the most terrifying and yet inspiring thing.

when I got sad, which was often, i'd hop into my silver honda fit and go for a fast drive on the highway loop that surrounded downtown, blaring latino pop and seeing how fast i could weave in and out of other cars.  i loved highway driving, punching the accelerator to make a gap, figuring out which lane was more likely to move ahead the fastest, working as hard as possible to stay the fuck out of anyone's blind spots, but especially 18-wheelers and SUVs because there wasn't any coming back from that kind of mistake.  and it wouldn't even be my mistake to make.

one of the clients that we had worked with had a really great boss named David. the client ended up folding or at least laying everyone off and couldn't pay us (consultants) because they did some shoddy accounting shit but when David heard I was leaving he told a friend that he would have hired me to come work at the company he had landed at, as a web programmer.

i saw a lot about influence and corporate politking and gender and how not everything is necessarily black or white in my short time working as a consultant and i loved it and i hated that i felt so much like an outsider the whole time that i was there. i brought a friend of mine as a date to our christmas party and he remakred how it was like walking into a room full of sharks. i've forever after wondered how much of a shark i am that i thought this was a good group of people to sign on with.

i had some good friends there.  they're still good friends.  later i helped one of them get a job in NYC when he and his wife moved up for her medical residency.

when i told people at work that i was leaving for NYC to learn how to become a hacker, brian, the guy on our project who i thought was the most smartest and fastest and bestest programmer i had ever met, told me that he was sure one day I would be a great programmer, much better than him at any rate.  it was the nicest thing i think anyone has ever told me.

you know i say that i lived four lives for the one that everyone else lived, but looking back, I sure did pack a lot of life into 11 months in H-town.

Apr 21, 2017

Dream log

I dreamed we were on a cruise. It was a dangerous cruise because the weather was understood to be bad but we had time before it got bad so whatever.

It was me and you and my sister and a new husband (she had gotten remarried to a Spanish professor?) and Ginger my dog and some of your friends. People I didn't know. It was a weird week of sailing. I don't remember leaving the small floor on the boat that we were occupying. There was cereal to eat. We almost ran out of dogfood.

My sister's new husband (wat) was a professor and he spoke Spanish but it was one of those subtle things where he only spoke to communicate effectively not to exhibit his skill. 

After the boat ride we went to a restaurant reservation in a shopping mall in Houston. We had made a reservation; it was more like a small catering company than a restaurant. In the back space there was a big Indian wedding going on. We could hear the talk. They had set up a big table to the side for the 12 of us (it was a family reunion). You tried talking to the host in Spanish because it was Texas after all. I couldn't tell you that the guy was a light skinned Iranian, Persian probably. It didn't seem important. He looked confused but just accepted your crazy.

Apr 19, 2017

Dream log

I had you. It was surreal. I got pregnant and my mom came to watch over me. We lived in a big house in the mountains, more like a resort. There was a scoreboard and I hit the right numbers. You had blue eyes and my eyebrows. We talked in Spanish and you were tiny the first day. I thought I had lost you because I fell asleep but mom woke me up and took me to the nursery and there you were. So small.

I took you all the places¯\_(ツ)_/¯, like Ginger and was both good and terrible at it. Then we started watching the scoreboard again and I had to start looking, for something.

We ended up at a hostel for gamers, rooming with a man whose persona was Wolverine. We met him on this secret app that prompted you both for shared secrets. He offered and then I responded, like secret agents saying 'red light's, 'green'. He started with Wolverine's slogan, I responded with his motto. There were 6 right answers but I only knew one.

It didn't seem important though since shyp (that was his name) was more interested in telling me what he knew than figuring my secrets out. I watched him teach cards to the kids and it felt, more than ever like that trip we took to Universal Studios years ago now, when we rode the Hulk rollercoaster in the first row in the pouring rain and the water cut into our eyes like searing hail. Now, looking back, I'm impressed they let us ride it at all.

Your name was my name and it surprised no one. The hardest part was realizing you would come to hate me too, in time, as all people do, eventually, hate their mothers.

Apr 11, 2017

Living in Beverly

I just woke up and, in what truly feels like a first, I know the name of the song playing in my head.

There's always a song in my head. I rarely know the words, never know the name.

It will play for hours sometimes, usually just a few bars on repeat, endlessly.

But this morning, this morning, for once, I knew what it was: Weezer's Beverly Hills.

If thirty brings me nothing but the power to Know what song is on my the internal radio, I think that's something worth waiting for.

Man people build some really boring technology. Is anyone working on stuff that would let me figure out what song is playing inside my head, without having to try to vocalize it? Let's solve some hard problems and remove all the incentive I've ever had for learning to sing.


You do realize all this 'technology' people talk about in such glorious terms is just a graphical user interface for the telegraph, right?


Mar 28, 2017


I'm at the DMV early but without a book. Of all the things to forget, the book I was reading seems like the best thing to leave behind. I panicked a bit about forgetting a pen, but there was one that had evaded the pen purge of past October still there.

Some state/federal agencies don't care when your appointment is for, they let you in as soon as you arrive. Or at least, this is the case with the passport processing office. The San Francisco DMV doesn't seem to work that way; I've got a good 45 minutes to wait.

The book I meant to bring is Mike Davis's City of Quartz, an ambitious attempt to reify the forces that operate on and within LA. It's weird how some books either fit well into your current context or don't, at all. I feel like I've been hitting a lot of books at the right time lately. Like synchronicity but for "content".

I spent 24 hours in LA last June. While there, I walked the whole of Downtown, past the Capitol building and the LA Times. I met up with my friend Tow, short for Roberto, who lives there. He works as a social media coordinator for the Metro & took me to see the the big dig that they're doing for one of the new Downtown subway stations. We were walking around what I now know is Bunker Hill, which Eli Broad and Walt Disney have crowned with two monuments to "culture": a concert hall and an Art museum. (Tow let me in on a little localism: Broad is pronounced like "toad"). I went by the central museum, walked through the "Mexican" tourist town across from the train station, Union Station, the early 1900s train depot that I'd later return to to catch Amtrak's Coastal Starlight train North to San Luis Obispo, aka SLO (pronounced "slow").

From Downtown I caught the new blue line out to Santa Monica. It took forever, almost an hour, to ride the line from end to end. Looking back along the track (most of it is above ground), the Downtown district receded into the distance; the view remiscient of New York City's skyline from the PATH train in Jersey. LA is built on a scale that rivals only Houston, the US's other car-bred metropoli.

I spent enough time in Santa Monica to eat some tacos and get a feel for the overbuilt retail interests that lined the main drag, then headed out to the pier and down the beach. I hiked from Santa Monica to Venice, stopping just short of the long pier that jutted into the ocean just south of there.

Venice was my favorite neighborhood, even the Google office there seemed attractive, with surfboards lining the wall, just inside the gate. It was just the right blend of urban, hippie, and beachy.

So now I'm reading this book about LA, right? One that outlines the power structure and the lines of cultural influence. It hasn't gotten to the part about celebrity yet, but I trust we'll get there, eventually. Then, just this weekend, I watched the new OJ Simpson series, recently released to Netflix. The OJ drama takes place, of all places, in LA, capturing through a different prism the police tensions, endless highways (car chase with a Ford Bronco), the consequence of celebrity and notoriety. The story is incredibly LA.

There's more to say about celebrity, but I'll save that for later. My numbers just been called at the DMV, I'm here to trade in my New York license for a California one.


a manual for cleaning women, in review

lucia berlin writes well. almost too well. her prose is descriptive, the imagery is fragrant, concrete, but repetitive. is all writing that isn't fantastical eventually autobiographical? or maybe there is no exception.

this book of short stories is like reading Lucia's autobiography, told in bits through many lenses but ultimately it's the same voice, the same rhetoric, the same scene again and again.

a sister dying of cancer, oakland, alcoholism, beautiful dark Mexican men, exotic waters and fragrances, the slow march of time, deep tight human connections that end, always, tragically.

it's too much lucia, too much closeness, by the end you're suffocating in the dismal regret that she claims not to feel, not to have.  her prose is loneliness, self-reflection and suicide, played out in characters that are really mirrors of her own life.

will it stick with me? yes but in a hazy constellation of melded autobiographical prose.

Mar 26, 2017


when i go out on blind dates i often wonder what my tell will be. what the other person's tells are is often easy enough to figure out. what it is that when you talk to them will tell you their story.  will it be their awkward laughter or their tendency to blab some kind of deep secret after a few drinks. will they say nothing but deprecating comments.  will they talk endlessly about themselves.

city of quartz, review of ch 1 & 2

i've just finished the second chapter of Mike Davis' strange treatise on L.A. and thought it would be worthwhile to get my thoughts out on paper before diving into much more of it, as the book is quite dense.

the first chapter traces the cultural hegemony of L.A., from the 1880's to the 1990s.  the second, called 'power lines', traces the sweep of power in the same period.  both chapters are densely packed with references to names and places, given up more as a reference to other work than as any way of explanation.  it makes it difficult to truly parse because the density of information that Davis' prose rides on top of. i'd almost rather that he would expand out his own writing, bringing the relevant stories and explanations into the book as a way of better pinning down, explicitly his point.  the chapters are packed because there is much to unpack -- characters, movements, waves of new money.

notice how culture and power are considered as separate spheres; there are power dynamics in play in culture, however.  perhaps a better term for the 'power' chapter is something along the lines of money-land-politic figures.  the family that owns the Times, the developer cabal, the Westside hollywood contingency.  the importance of promoting L.A. / SoCal as a desirable location because of property values.  as in, if you can drive demand for tract houses and suburban lots than the value of the thing that you already own is worth even more.

perhaps one of the most striking things is how strangely relevant the characters are today, on a national scale.  in the list of players of foreign money that flow into L.A. real estate in unprecedented amounts is one Donald Trump, with a multi-million dollar tower play in downtown LA.  there's Lew Wasserman, the "Supreme Being of Democratic fundraising in Hollywood".  i'm guessing there is much relation between this Wasserman of Democratic glittertown funds and the recently disgraced Deb Wasserman, chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee.  a daughter, perhaps? or a close niece?  and if you've been following congressional opposition to Trump, surely you'd recognize the name Maxine Waters; she gets a passing mention in the Prologue (and as the index assures me, much more coverage in later chapters).

then there's the theme of Anglo supremacy, the unspoken but now pointed out rationale behind the siren song of the SoCal coast.  come to SoCal and embed yourself into a suburban White utopia. at least, that's how the land developers and tract kings peddled their wares to the Midwesterners that funded the first wave of migration thru the 1920s and 1950s.  there was more to it than white supremacy, but not much.  it's eye-opening to discover how much of the past is ever present.

Mar 20, 2017

dream log

We were out on an outing with everyone else. This was late dream, after I had been on the carride and moved apartments and had that strange hotel experience. Then we were dancing out in a courtyard beneath string lights and blossoms. It is springtime after all. I wasn't supposed to dance with you, but we were all there together and your date was off doing other things. We left to go get cake from the shop nearby as everyone else had gotten some while we were on the dance floor. It was just the two of us in a back booth, laughing. They had a last call for cake, fruity cake, and I wanted to get up and get fruity cake and fruity tea but you stopped me, forcibly, and said: are we doing this?

And I asked: what about your girlfriend?

And you said: two envelopes mailed.

I nodded then you

Jumped into a dialogue about how I needed to know that you were a nerdy geeky thing who loved crochet. Like totally manly crochet but it was hard to express that because so much of the crochet market was just not, and you meant *not* manly.

I noticed I was holding a list of restaurants and it was short and then I needed to know if this was it, if this was the sum total of places you eat at and you said yes mostly but we both agreed that maybe it was more like a template, a pattern for finding restaurants you'd enjoy.

I forced myself​ awake then because I was nervous about not knowing what might come next, how things wouldn't work out after working out so well, so fast.

Mar 18, 2017

an offer for help

someone on the internet posted an offer for help on personal projects. i'm interested in getting help, or at least engaging in conversation for conversations sake. i don't really have a project that i need help with. i mean, sure, i've got plenty of projects but none of them are ones that i really feel like i need help deciding direction or approach.  

On the other hand, none of them are getting done, so maybe I do need help.

Oh well

Mar 17, 2017

stories of your life and others, a review

i just finished ted chiang's book of short stories, aptly titled stories of your life and others.  it's a masterpiece, not so much in the telling of the stories, but in the characters and the conceits.  the framing is impeccable. unfortunately, the dialog and cadence is not -- often the narrative feels driven by the underlying message more than a natural progression.  that Chiang's vision overcomes the obvious weaknesses in his prose speaks strongly to clarity and unbridled compulsion behind his tales.

broadly speaking, these stores are amatuerish prose driving deep, biting, provocative thoughts.

technical mastery aside, several of the stories circle the theme of the limits of intelligence, and what alternative forms of perception might feel like.

what he reveals says much, in my own estimation, of how we perceive and understand intelligence.  chiang's collection could be seen through the lens of really questioning the limits of human cognition, driving at what about human interactions changes when we move the boundaries of intellect.  what struck me the most forcefully about his projections was how much forms of 'more' or 'less' intelligence relied on barriers between the levels; a character's perception is as much defined by another's lack.

what is intelligence? is it speed of thought?  ability to see patterns? capacity for recollection?  in what ways do these skills become more or less important, depending on context?

ultimately, intelligence *is* context driven; pushing the boundaries of how we think is a test of how permeable and transposable that context is.  chaing's tales reminded me of an anecdote I read years ago, probably from one of Jared Diamond's books, of how IQ and SAT tests and the like would roundly be failed by an aboriginal or Papa New Guinea native; conversely a man who had done well on the SAT had little chance of surviving for long in the outback without assistance.  Forest dwellers can identify plants and tell what way is north with an acuity that 'civilization' dwellers find uncanny.  what you know is only as important as the requirements of the environment you find yourself.

ted chiang's construction and description of intelligence, while acknowledging the contextual nature of any intelligence, still insists on creating a world where 'higher order' thoughts become unintelligible.  there's a boundary at which thoughts of a higher order require a faculty that most do not possess.

however, such a construction is in direct contradiction to what we can observe about intelligence in the real world: that while new ideas contain within them the power to alter our fundamental understanding of the world (a point that Chiang hits with remarkable clarity), the ability to clearly and concisely communicate them in such a way that they are readily dissemenable is a hallmark of the genius.  Richard Feynman's diagrams often come to mind.  what chiang then seems to be proposing is a future where the context of our selves has shifted such that we cannot communicate.

and perhaps this future is not as far off as it seems.

Mar 14, 2017

dream log

It was raining and I went to the hacker house alone, a large drafty house thing with high eaves and stuffed full of antique furniture and boxes of left over conference t-shirts.

LHogan came by later to help clean it out, when everyone decided they needed to move on. She  wrangled boxes and people; it was crowded as everyone had come to say goodbye.

It was raining and my apartment wasn't water proof so we hid the carpet and a mostly dry comforter in my closet, which was suspiciously the same size as the closet I had had growing up.  My parents were in the kitchen until a fire happened and the firemen came so we bundled up and went down beneath the highway to talk and get lost. I tried really hard to not think about what would happen next but curiosity got the better of me and I had to know what your intentions were, this time, and you told the truth because I asked.

Nothing lasts, at least, not how you hope it will.

The whole place smelled like DUMBO in the spring when there's a fresh.breeze blowing in off the water and the sun is bright but weak, anemic without the full force of summer behind it yet.

Mar 12, 2017

dream log

Ginger broke a leg and we were riding around on bicycles to get to a meeting. She kept trying to walk on it, so I had to keep an eye on her so that I could come pick her up and carry her whenever she wanted to move. I kept thinking we should go to the vet to fix it but there was always some bigger emergency looming that got in the way of taking her to the vet.  Or maybe we were underground and going to see the doctor wasn't on the list of things that we could do, at least not without risking everything.

I'm not sure how much more I should tell you.

Unrelated to dreams, I went to the acupuncturist several times this week for a very very stiff/painful neck and they fixed it (mostly).  It feels sore now, but it's entirely usable; the sharp immovable pain is largely gone.  The needle poking continues apace, however, as it's still not gone gone gone but I want it to be, desperately.

I don't know why acupuncture works but it does.  It seems to point out that our current understanding of how the body works is incomplete.  My inkling is that there's something mental or neurological that's attached to pain and poking at muscles with tiny needles triggers some widely missed connection between the self and the body.

When they poke you with needles it's like having your skin pinned more firmly to you, like a tanner pinning a hide to a board.  It's like having a half dozen lightning rods affixed to the plain of your skin, so that you can breathe out energy through more holes than just your nostril.  It's also none of these things because by and large they are unnoticeable.

The place I went for acupuncture in Manhattan's Chinatown had a machine with electrodes that they'd hook up to needles across a muscle and send pulses down and into it, a flood of alt-signals all attempting to coax your frozen muscle fibers to stop sending out distress flares, to relax, to forget about what they were mad about and just chill the fuck out.  This new place doesn't do that but I wonder sometimes what it'd feel like to get those pulses into the very core of soreness and tenseness that comes from holding up my head.

Mar 10, 2017

Dream log

I dreamt about this life for the first time and it was good, if not deeply weird.

I rode on a bus in my pyjamas and left flowers on the street and almost lost my glasses case but the driver stopped to hand them over. He didn't think that he'd see me again. There was the rising sinking floating motion of a bus on a long avenue, heading towards the ocean on undulating hills. We had a conversation about my dilettantism and no one was in a hurry.

Mar 3, 2017

so sad today

I feel devastatingly sad today and I don't know why. Things feel really hard and out of control and I don't know how to fix it. I'm stressed about coming up with money for my stock options at my new job. I asked for and was granted an early exercise but now I need to find the cash to exercise but I just blew a bunch of money on a move and a security deposit on a new apartment and a bunch of furniture. I'm struggling to find a groove with my co-workers at my new job which sucks because I really really like them but feel like I'm unable to just chill out about everything. I can be really stubborn and judgey and I don't want to be those things.

I got two parking tickets and I need to get one dismissed. It's for not having a plate on my bike; it fell off last October and I didn't get it fixed til now. A new plate holder arrived earlier this week. It was the wrong size so I had to buy some drill bits strong enough to drill a hole through the back plating. I did the job yesterday and it worked fine. I took it out for a spin after work and it was good to be moving again. When I got home, the emergency cutoff switch wasn't working which was terrifying until I remembered to just turn the key, like a car. Tomorrow is Saturday and I'm planning to drive it to the nearest precinct to get my ticket commuted.

Moving is a lot of paperwork. I've been consolidating bank accounts too, one step involved printing a form with all kinds of personal information on it and mailing it to all involved parties. I did what I usually do which is mail it to FedEx and then walk to a store to self print it on a machine. I was counting on security by obscurity but the self serve file server was broken so now the clerk has enough information to open a new credit card or bank account in my name or just rob that other account of all my money. How great is that. I feel like a moron.

I have no Internet at the apartment because my doorbell is broken and when they came by on Monday to turn the cables on I didn't hear them. I had put up a sign and called the company to leave my phone number but there's only so much you can do in the face of insurmountable communication barriers. When I called to inquire about where they were, I was incorrectly assured they'd be there the next day. When I called the next morning to double check they said they'd call me back. They didn't call back. Twice. Finally  a very unapologetic customer rep let me know the earliest they could come was that Friday and it wouldn't be until the next Thursday that I'd actually have Internet. It was Tuesday and I had signed up over a week ago; I had picked them, a small local ISP, over Comcast because I really do believe in putting my money where my values are. I got mad at the rep and he just laughed at me so I hung up and called Comcast. They promised me Internet as soon as I could get a compatible router -- either rent one with them or buy one on Amazon. I went the Amazon route, as with shipping it promised to be there by Thursday and it'd pay for itself in 6 mos of service. Thurs came and went; my router made a round trip from West Sacramento to Portland and back again. Rumor has it it'll be here by Sunday but I've completely given up hope at this point. To add insult to injury, my phone data bill was double this month due to all the photos of horribly lit Craigslist furniture I've been looking at while at home.

My rent is really expensive and I'm looking for roommates to help split things up. I have a few leads for the two other bedrooms but they feel paltry and I'm worried no one will come live with me and this apartment will turn into a boondoggle. It's the not knowing that's the worst.

Drew was planning to come to SF to visit. He would have arrived today if I hadn't broken up with him last week. I'm just sad because it in no way was a good thing but it wasn't awful either so now what.

Feb 21, 2017

Dream Log

I dreamed last night that I was given an assignment for class. We were responsible for putting together a 5 or 15 minute show that we then performed, twice. I chose not to get a team and instead mounted a 15 minute sung monologue about being a grandmother, mother, daughter. It spanned several classrooms and sets, and involved several badly invented songs of my own creation. The worst part was that I hadn't prepared - I attempted to wing it which unfortunately involved false starts and a definite lack of coherency. It was hard to tell where the storyline was headed. I performed it twice, the second time it ran long, as the embellishments piled up.

The audience of 10 people or so followed along anyway, trailing me from room to room with their chairs; critical reviews were mixed.

Feb 12, 2017

Blackberry, Avocado, Mozzarella Breakfast

I threw some random things in a bowl this morning and it was delicious. Here's what I had:

- handful of blackberries (8-10 berries)
- about 1/3 of a small fresh mozzarella ball, sliced into chunks about the same size or smaller than the blackberries
- half an avocado, also sliced into chunks like the mozzarella cheese. i recommend using not haas avocadoes as they have too much flavor
- a pinch of salt
- grade A maple syrup, about a teaspoon

Put the blackberries, mozzarella, and avocado in a bowl.  Sprinkle the salt on, aiming mostly for the avocado & mozzarella chunks.  Drizzle the maple syrup on top. Enjoy with a spoon!

This works because the blackberry provides an anchor flavor for the avocado and mozzarella.  The salt and maple syrup soften the punch of the avocado & mozzarella, which make for a very satisfying breakfast!

Feb 4, 2017

Words about Artifice

No artist who sells their work can ever be certain of their motives. 

This is known in artistic circles, and something actively discussed.

I keep circling back to how money corrupts. Because of what it represents. It represents favor or slyness or cheating or charisma or maybe, just maybe, the attainment of expression of inner, absolute beauty, or transcendent emotive.

The question what is beauty is not so important as is the surrender to the emotions that arise. Here, now, in front of your screen, if not in the moment of Revelation.

I read an anecdote once of a man at the seashore with a friend, an Easterner. He remarked on the beauty of the sea and his friend replied: why is it that Westerners circumscribe their range of experience into only that which words express.

People will pay for emotion, regardless of whether their words, or their souls, can also equally describe it.

Does money talk?

Feb 3, 2017

NYC Retrospective

If you talk to enough New Yorkers about what they like about living in NYC, most of them mention the dizzying array of things that there are to do in the city: Broadway shows, art festivals, museum exhibitions, dance parties, speakeasys, booze cruises around the City in the summer, book launches, author speeches.  I could go on, but I won't; even reciting the list is exhaustive.

I often heard this defense of the city and thought that I must not be doing enough things, I must not be 'involved' enough in my community.  On reflection, though, I find that that is simply untrue.  This post is to serve as a reminder to myself of all the things that I was invested in.

I started learning how to sing.  This was an adventure that spawned many things.

I sang with a community choir for two and a half years.  I tried out being a first soprano, second soprano before finally landing on first alto.

I took voice lessons for a few years from a Julliard trained soprano.

I discovered that I am a mezzo-soprano.

I was in the chorus for two operas that were performed on Long Island during the summer.

I went to two Broadway shows, and more than that off Broadway.

I preformed in two off-Broadway shows, one of which "the man who played Snape in Harry Potter" attended. In the chorus, but definitely still on stage!

I took ear training lessons, very briefly, from a talented musician that later got a job with Cirque du Soleil.

I took a couple of classes at the 92nd Street YMCA, an ear-training class and beginning piano for adults.

I went to electronics classes at NY Resistor, and learned how to make vector art games at another class.  In one of the classes we built a fucking awesome light up, programmable LED umbrella.  It gets untold compliments when I walk around with it.

I subscribed to the Boldport Club with some friends, and we did a few soldering parties.

I learned how to solder.

I spent two years running with the New York Road Runner's association.

I took running classes with the NYRR, doing speed work in Central Park one weeknight during the summer.

I went to a barefoot running meetup and met a man who ran ultramarathons, barefoot.

One year, I ran all 5 borough's races (3 half marathons, a 10k and a 10 miler) and got some fridge magnets to prove it.

I trained for my first marathon in NYC in 2012 and I ran the NYC marathon in 2014.

I became a tour docent for the Muncipal Arts Society, and went to one of their summits on Urban space in NYC.

I joined a small art start up, and thru them got to see one of Rhizome's 7 on 7 conferences.  We also did a company trip to Storm King and the New Museum's Triennial.

I went to the first ever Catskills Conf in upstate New York and met a lot of great people, and learned how to identify wild plants.

I went to see Junot Diaz talk in person about activism and  how he writes characters.

I read Robert Caro's Robert Moses, and got heavily invested in Jane Jacobs' writing about cities, even going so far as to take the Amtrak up to Boston for a quick trip to visit her archives at Boston College.

I fell in love.

And out of it.

I grew some gigantic tomato vines in a tiny NYC tenement.

I attended the Recurse Center.

I spent a few months working with a very small startup in the music space to try and become something bigger.

I volunteered for Black Girls Coded, and met some really great young women.

I was active in the Android NYC community.

I gave a couple of talks at meetups & events on things I had learned.

I was a guest on a YouTube series about Android developers.

I got a dog and learned a lot about dog training and how to move a small dog around a large city.

I took puppy to an A+ agility class, for a few weeks in the winter.

I incorporated an LLC, but failed to put anything up for sale.

I met a lot of wonderful people and made some great friends and allies.

I am sure there are things that I'm missing but the gist of it is I don't think I missed out on what NYC has to offer.

Jan 23, 2017

apartment hunting dreams

i went to look at a really promising apartment in the perfect neighborhood, almost as far West as you could get. the building was big, and wooden, but Flatiron-like: when I walked to the corner it wrapped right around, heading back almost in the same direction at a very acute angle.

it was colorfully colored, with big windows and big, like a city block.

i was to live on the second floor, but the whole thing was rabbitly warren like, and colorful.  there were high ceilings and an infinite showering of sunlight on hard wooden floor. the ceilings were slanted up against the roofline.  there was an elevator that i went to get in -- it wasn't so much a box as a concrete beam tied to ropes that jumped onto when the doors opened.  it started falling when you hopped on -- i just barely stopped myself from falling after you.

you stopped it in time, and came back alright.

i took the stairs.

and discovered the most magical small office with a dark-blue tiled with gilded accessories water closet, with a matching, rainbow-mosaic water basin.  the office next door had glass windows, and an antique wooden door with a delicate, intricately wrought brass handle (the lever type). in the bedroom next door, i was delighted to discover a fire escape just out the window, just like my first New York apartment, where I used to climb out to escape the oppressiveness of my tiny bedroom in the shared, oversubscribed apartment.

i climbed out to the roof, and then farther, onto a small spit-like platform to get a better look at the road and treetops, far below, and lost my nerve to come back from the edge.  i sat there paralyzed, feeling the edges of the platform i was on (no side rails, of course) looming close in my subconscious and my muscles too weak with fear to get up or even start inching my way towards the window I had crawled out of in the first place.   it was dumb, being stuck in a mental puzzle of 'what would it be like to fall' and too terrified to move, untrusting of my muscle's own, separate intentions.  curiosity is a hell of a drug.  i laid down, closed my eyes, and let the panic wash over me.

i made it back, eventually, after the wave subsided and i managed to forget to look down, and we explored the first floor where you, the realtor, lived and played on the staircase, knocking over the colorful pillows that had been stacked like stairs to reach the landing.  you weren't too mad at my carelessness, just exasperated.

i woke up to a grey sky and the soft-shusshing sound that cold wind makes when it blows strongly against the plastic wrap I used to patch up the A/C vent a few weeks ago.

Jan 7, 2017

a certain unwillingness

i still continue to discover things
thru you

one of which
i've most recently uncovered
as Jane would say
is a
certain unwillingness to

let go of the past

the past which
expresses itself
most pressingly

in my own preferences
in the present

Jan 1, 2017

A Year of Reading In Review, Vol. 2

Continuing from last year, here's the stats and short synopses of books that I read (or didn't read) this year.

According the Goodreads, I read 52 books for a total of 16,746 pages.  This is more than I read in 2015 (41 books, 15,048 pages), and averages out to 1 book per week.

This year I'm including all of the books that I decided not to finish reading, or that I started and am saving for later as reference or what have you.  The total number of pages read is off by a good bit, as the biggest book on my list is one that I didn't finish reading.

It's worth mentioning that the books listed here encapsulate only a small part of the total amount of reading I did in 2016.  I read 2-3 news articles a day (probably more), and subscribe to the New Yorker (which I read occasionally) and follow a number of people on Twitter, which is where most of the news articles I read come from.

I've also really enjoyed using Twitter as a way to follow authors that I like.  This year I started following David Deutsche (Fabric of Reality, Beginning of Infinity), Carrie Fisher (Wishful Drinking, RIP) and Nicolas Taleb (Antifragile) on Twitter.

Taleb's book Antifragile talks a bit about how things from the past are more valuable because they've managed to survive in our collective conscious for more than a few years. Based on the histogram of publication dates below, I'm reading a good deal of more recent work, which suggests that the absolute value of what I'm reading is probably fairly low, in that many of them won't survive being re-mentioned a few years from now.  On a whole, I'd agree with Taleb that this is a fairly accurate assessment.  For the chart, I've used the original publication date for a work, not the publication date of the edition I read.

What follows is a quick overview of the book, a rating (out of 10) and a quick explanation of where and how I came across the book to read (where possible).  These are roughly ordered, with no guarantee of time period.


Looking back, there's a few themes.  I continued an interest in urbanism, especially things related to Jane Jacobs.  I finished out books written by Jane, culminating with the publication of an anthology of previously unpublished works that was released this October.  Some of the essays I had already read on my trip to Boston this March to look at her archives at Boston College.

After reading Mari Kondo's classic on cleaning, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I got way into interior design and space making.  It's not listed here, but I also took out a subscription to Architectural Digest and Architectural Record.  In some small way, I do think that this is an extension of my fascination with Jane Jacobs and her exploration of space-making on an urban scale.

There's also a number of books on New York City, that reflect the work I did to be certified as a tour docent for the Municipal Art Society's Tour34.  While we covered a lot of material in class, I did some extra reading to get better grounded in the history of the area.

My top picks from this year: 

Cities and the Wealth of Nations, Jane Jacobs
The Fabric of Reality, David Deutsche
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Mari Kondo

Book Synopsis & Hot Takes

Capitalism: A Ghost Story Arundhati Roy 2014

Activist's account of the devastation that globalization and a stronger centralized state has brought to the impoverished in India (and the impact that it's had on the Indian landscape as well).  A great alternative account for understanding some of the geo-politics shaping India today.  Made a good companion reader for the other book I read about India, Behind the Beautiful Forevers

Picked up at a bookstore


The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science Kenji Lopez-Alt 2015

This book makes pretty good reading, although it doesn't feel as thoroughly done as the Joy of Cooking is.  Sometimes the sections feel disjointed, and it's not as comprehensive with regards to the recipes offered up.  Overall though, I loved the scientific approach to cooking that Kenji takes, and his photos of his processes are really insightful.  Great present for anyone you know that likes cooking.

Twitter recommendation (via @marcprecipice who tweeted about the book release)


Cities and the Wealth of Nations Jane Jacobs 1985

It feels like eons since I read this but, it turns out I just finished it in January. One of Jane's best books on the implications of local trade and global economy, I highly recommend this.  You'll get more out of this book if you read her other work on city economy first (The Economy of Cities).  If you're looking for a first book to read though, start with Death and Life.

Sought out by me after reading The Economy of Cities


Systems of Survival: A Dialogue on the Moral Foundations of Commerce and Politics Jane Jacobs 1992

This is another one of the books that I read this year that keeps haunting me.  Written as a dialog between dinner party guests, it's a philosophical investigation into two types of morality that Jacobs uncovers in her extensive readings.  It puts the motivations of different political groups into stark contrast, and helps to highlight what *exactly* makes the mafia such an unethical organization.


Steering the Craft: Exercises and Discussions on Story Writing  Ursula K. LeGuin 1998

A practical guide for improving your writing.  Each chapter is devoted to a different exercise or technique, with exercises to follow.  Probably best done in a writing group.  I think I would have liked this better if I didn't find LeGuin's writing to be sub-par.

Personal recommendation (C. Marc)


Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity Katherine Boo 2012

Personal account following the story of a family in a Mumbai slum.  Really great portrait of the economics of poverty in the 'dark' economy of a city.

Found in a book shop while picking up books for Christmas 2015


Monster: Living Off the Big Screen John Gregory Dunne 1997

Personal account of a screenwriter and his journey to write a screenplay for Disney on the life of a newscaster.  It takes them 8 years and 11 drafts.  It's a really great insight into the world of movie making, something I'd never really heard of before.  It's shaped the way I think about movies and TV shows, to be honest.

Amazon recommendation?


The Fabric of Reality: The Science of Parallel Universes--and Its Implications David Deutsche 1996

One of the best books I read this year.  The super-sharp Deutsche lays out a high-level overview of the 4-strands of human thought, and provides some clues as to how they might all be linked together.  Also lays out his theory of the multiverse in layman's terms.  Mind-boggling and riveting.

Personal recommendation from a friend who doesn't remember recommending it to me.  Maybe he recommended it in a different universe?


The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations That Transform the World David Deutsche 2011

I read this much later in the year, but it's so close in themes to The Fabric of Reality that it made sense to list it here.  Great book and more updated, but I liked Fabric better.  He really expands on the theme of 'explanations' in this book -- every scientific theses is backed or discovered by evidence that proves an explanation. Explanations are created by humans, not by the evidence.

I went looking for more Deutsche after Fabric of Reality


How to Win Friends and Influence People Dale Carnegie 1936

I read this book a few years ago, but it's the sort of thing that's worth looking back at from time to time.  It's got practical advice on how to treat other people, and ways of being an effective communicator/salesperson.  Personally, I find How to Talk So Children Will Listen.. to be more actionable, but I find Carnegie's stories and pointers to be a good reminder of how people work.

Book club with some lady dev friends


Georgia O'Keeffe Georgia O'Keeffe 1974

A printed selection of Georgia O'Keeffes works.  It wasn't nearly as riveting as the other book of her work, Georgia O'Keeffe: Art & Letters.

Found through a search looking for more of her work, inspired by reading Georgia O'Keeffe: Art & Letters.


Growing Artificial Societies: Social Science From the Bottom Up Joshua M. Epstein, Robert Axtell 1994 -- Did Not Finish

This is a dissertation write-up of an experiment building an 'AI' society from basic principles, adding more complex rules to the agents until an entire society has been formed. Not as interesting as I'd hoped it would be -- the rules were interesting from a microscopic level but there didn't seem to be much that would contribute to drawing broader conclusions that were more applicable to designing human systems.

Personal recommendation (B. Newbold)


Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other Sherry Turkle 2011

A researcher gives an account of the things she's learned about how humans and robots interact and grow together.  I found the delivery very dry, and the conclusions not very insightful.

Personal recommendation (K. Rahjerdi)


Mindfulness in Plain English Henepola Gunartana 1992

Great book on what it means to be mindful, with some practical advice on how to meditate and what to focus on.  I don't meditate as much as I should, but reading this book helped put me in the right mindset to get a lot of of the few times that I do.

Recommendation from an email chain


The New Voice: How to Sing and Speak Properly  Alan Greene 1981

A friend of mine sent this to me when I let him know that I was struggling with my singing career.  I had just tried out for a solo for the choir I sing in, and had been rather devastated by the recording I made of it.  This book helped me realize how much of sound production is really mechanical -- that making good sounds is a matter of training and muscle exercises.  I can't stress enough how helpful this book was.

Personal recommendation (A. Broussard)


Functional Unity of the Singing Voice Barbara Doscher

This book covers the most up-to-date knowledge of how the body makes sound, from a very scientific way (even going so far as to list the anatomical parts involved) but in an approachable manner.  I found the discussion on tonal composition and vibrato particularly cool.  (Apparently no one really knows what causes vibrato).

Recommended to me by my voice teacher (J. Schneiderman) after I told her about The New Voice


All Who Go Do Not Return Shulem Deen

Memoir of an ultra-conservative Hasidic Jew who leaves the community.  Based in upstate New York and Brooklyn.  Great look inside of a culture that I encounter regularly but don't know much about (I live in Brooklyn).

Gift from a friend (N. Bergson-Shilcock)


Bleeding Edge Thomas Pynchon 2013 -- Did Not Finish

Novel about tech startups in New York City.  The style of writing was too self-referential for my tastes, so I quit around the 20% mark.

Personal recommendation (B. Newbold)


The Rebel: An Essay on Man in Revolt  Albert Camus 1951

Famous novel by Camus about the nature of revolt.  I didn't get past the 10th page.  The style of writing felt very dated.

Found at a bookstore.


Better Living Through Criticism: How to Think about Art, Pleasure, Beauty, and Truth A.O. Scott 2016

This book wasn't very well written and I found it hard to discern the point of it.

Amazon recommendation


A Burglar's Guide to the City Geoff Manaugh 2015

An account of burglars written in a journalistic/semi-autobiographical style.  Made more mentions to other works that give accounts of interesting heists than it spent time actually talking about the heists.  I had high hopes that it would be more of a practical guide to breaking and entering than it was.

Amazon recommendation


Wishful Drinking Carrie Fisher 2008

Personal memoir of the early life of Carrie Fisher, growing up as the daughter of Debbie Reynolds and her beginning career as Leia in Star Wars.  Entirely witty and very endearing.  Carrie died in 2016, so it made reading her novel earlier that year feel oddly prescient.

I can't remember if I found this randomly, or if I found it because I started following Carrie on Twitter


Coding Freedom: The Ethics and Aesthetics of Hacking  Gabriella Coleman 2012

Great first-person account and analysis of the Debian community.  Written in the style of an anthropological study.  It's a really good portrait of what Free vs Open Source software terminology means.  I found it gave a good background for the Google v. Oracle lawsuit that happened this year, as well as grounding some of the discussions that I overheard while attending the mentor summit for the Google Summer of Code.

Personal recommendation (B. Newbold)


The Works: Anatomy of a City Kate Ascher 2005  -- Did Not Finish

 Pictoral study of the systems that keep the city of New York running. Really great, but a bit dry as it lacks an overarching narrative (that's by design).  I haven't finished it, but found the section on the steam system of the city really great.

Found while searching for books on urban areas


When the Astors Owned New York: Blue Bloods & Grand Hotels in a Gilded Age Justin Kaplan 2006

Survey of the history of the Astors.  I found it hard to keep all the Jacobs and Waldorfs straight, but a pretty good read nonetheless.

Required reading for class


The Santa Claus Man Alex Palmer 2015

Story of a man who created the Santa Clause Association in New York City in 1915 and his eventual downfall as a con-man.

I think my roommate recommended this -- he knows the author.


Conquering Gotham: Building Penn Station and Its Tunnels Jill Jonnes 2007

Book that recounts the story of Alexander Cassatt and the building of Pennsylvania Station in NYC.  Great book, with good details and background on the characters.  I use information from this book a lot during my tours of Penn Station.  It doesn't focus so much on the eventual destruction of the building, but on the genesis.

Amazon recommendation (I was looking for info on Penn Station)


The Late, Great Pennsylvania Station  Lorraine B. Diehl 1985

This book memorializes the late Penn Station that was built by Alexander Cassatt in 1911.  It's got great photos of the destruction and final years of Penn Station before it was demolished in 1965.  The prose isn't top quality, but the photos are outstanding.

Amazon recommendation (I was looking for info on Penn Station)


The Empire State Building: The Making of a Landmark John Tauranac 2014 -- Did Not Finish

I read this to have more info to tell people on my tours (I give tours and the Empire State Building is one of the landmarks on it). It wasn't very easy to read, so I gave up about 1/4 of the way through it.  I saw the author speak at a class I took while in training to become a tour guide. His presentation was as disjointed as the book itself.

Personal recommendation (T. Mineau & J. Tauranac)


Macy's: The Store. the Star. the Story  Robert M. Grippo 2009

Big picture book that tells the story of Macy's the department store. Fun and informative.  I read this to get better background on Macy's to have more information to talk about during my tours (I became a docent for 34th street tours given by MAS this May).  Fun fact: one of the Strauss brothers was responsible for making pasteurized milk the standard for commercially sold milk.  Two of his children died from unsanitary milk.

Found via Amazon, while searching for books on Macy's


Programming Erlang Joe Armstrong 2007

I've been wanting to learn Erlang for a long while now, and I finally spent some time this summer going through Joe Armstrong's book on it.  I read a number of different books on Erlang; this was by far the best in terms of helping to build a solid understanding the reasons for the OTP APIs.  If you're going to learn Erlang, start with this book.

I sought this book out, having heard Joe Armstrong talk a few years ago


A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction Christopher Alexander, et al. 1977

This book attempts to highlight the components of buildings, towns, and homes.  The central idea being that when designing a new building or part of a community, you can decide what elements (as illustrated in this book) to include.  For each component it gives considerations and limitations.  It's well intentioned, and the premise is compelling, but in practice it was a bit of a dry read.  Which make sense, as it's meant to be used as a reference book.  Overall, the tone and writing style felt very dated.

Unknown, maybe a Twitter recommendation?


Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right Jane Mayer 2016

Read this book.  It's an indepth look at the far-right's plutocrats and the mechanics they've been using to infuse money into the political field for decades.  It tracks the money behind the Tea Party (and why it seemed like a grassroots organization).  A frightening and very necessary read.

From a New Yorker review.


On the Run: Fugitive Life in an American City Alice Goffman 2014

Personal account of living in a predominantly black neighborhood, from the perspective of a white woman who integrate herself with a group of black men.  It's a great narrative that explains the plight of the black population in relation to the police.  I found that it really put the Black Lives Matter movement into perspective, particularly in relation to the over-policing and catch-22 situations of illegitimacy and being hunted for warrants that being a black males seem to find themselves subjected to.

The New Yorker?


Makeshift Metropolis: Ideas About Cities Witold Rybczynski 2010

I came across this while looking for  criticisms of Jane Jacobs' theories on city planning.  This book does an uneven survey of city-planning trends, with small jabs at Jacobs.  It felt very much anchored in a 'planning is good' way of thinking, and didn't offer up much in the way of critical thought in its dismissal of Janesian urbanity.

Amazon search


Eyes on the Street: The Life of Jane Jacobs Robert Kanigel 2016

Biography of Jane Jacobs. Does an adequate job, but I found the tone and editorializing off-putting. Largely misses her greatest contributions to the field of economics.

Gift from a co-worker (N. Bergson-Shilcock)


Beyond Backpacking: Ray Jardine's Guide to Lightweight Hiking Ray Jardine 1992

If you've ever wanted to get into ultra-light backpacking, nothing beats R. Jardine's book.  One of the original lightweight backpackers, Jardine talks through how he and his wife managed to cover 50-60 miles a day on long treks.  I'll give you hint: it's all in the number of pounds you bring with you.  Practical and eye-opening, with some good anecdotes, this book is really good.

I bought this book a few years ago, when preparing for a cross-Sierra hike but only cracked it open this September when I was contemplating an Appalachian trek.


The First 20 Hours: How to Learn Anything . . . Fast! Josh Kaufman 2013

This basically amounted to a listicle of advice with personal anecdotes detailing how the author applied them.  Instead, I'd recommend reading anything that Scott H Young has written -- his blog on completing MIT's coursework in a year and learning how to make realistic portraits in a month is really phenomenal.

Recommendation from another Recurser


The Peregrine J. A. Baker 1967 -- Did Not Finish

Sometime this year I got mildly obsessed with the film director Werner Herzog.  He has a film school with a required reading list, and I set out to read some of it, starting with the Peregrine.  This is man's novel about tracking a peregrine falcon.  I got close to 20% done with this, before I realized it wasn't something I was really interested in reading.  I may come back to it when I'm not feeling so much pressure to read other books.  (During this time period I was trying to finish up a bunch of books on NYC to get approved as a tour guide).

Required reading, W. Herzog's Rogue Film School


Make Space: How to Set the Stage for Creative Collaboration David Kelley, et al 2011

Great how-to manual for building collaborative spaces drawn from lessons learned at the, Stanford's design studio.  I used this a lot when heading up a re-organization of the Recurse Center space in NYC over the summer while I worked there as a facilitator.

Personal recommendation (N. Bergson-Shilcock)


Cubed: A Secret History of the Workplace Nikil Saval 2010

This book purports to tell the history of the office, but does a better job of describing work trends in and around NYC. There's a good deal of side-tracking into films and gender norms. It was great side reading to learning about the history of NYC architecture and a good overview of Taylorism's impact in the early 1900's.

Personal recommendation (A. Jones)


Antifraglie, Nassim Nicolas Taleb (@nntaleb) 2012

Hard to read because, as he admits in the book itself, Taleb shuns editors.  I'm sure he's got a good reason for it, but it makes him exceedingly difficult to read.  This book was great, and eye opening, lack of coherency aside.  I'd highly recommend it.  As an aside, I started following Taleb on Twitter shortly after reading this book, and got to see him in person a few days later when he gave a talk at a Bloomberg Quant BBQ.  His speaking is highly reminiscent of his writing (highly digressive), but he's doing cutting edge work on the consequences of large tail probabilities (or something. I didn't quite follow)

Gift from a friend (C. Eidhof)


Interaction of Color Josef Alber 1971 -- Did Not Finish

This book is a phenomenal resource for learning about color theory.  It's a hands on, practical demonstration of how color interactions can be used to varying effects.  I've found it really instructive for work I'm doing on interior decorating at the moment.  I haven't finished it yet because it's a bit dry, and I feel like I should be doing the exercises that each chapter presents.

Recommendation from an email chain


The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing Marie Kondo 2011

This book changed my life, and got me interested in the theory of interior design.  Since reading this book, I've cleaned up my home space. It made it easier to start throwing things away, like books that I started and am not going to finish, or even books that I'm probably not going to finish.  I've never been as organized as I am currently.  But enough about me, this book is delightful.  What makes this book so powerful isn't the suggestions on how to be tidier (which are good) but the philosophical shift that she asks you to make while going through your personal belongings.  I tried talking to my sister about this book, but she said it was too much mumbo-jumbo for her.  So maybe it's not for everyone, but it's made me much happier.

Personal recommendation from a friend (H. Cooper)


Seeing like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed James C. Scott 1998

This was one of those books that started off really slow, but reached a great conclusion. Scott traces the rise of organizational systems to a need for 'visibility' by the state, and presents a compelling case for less transparency at an organizational level.  It takes an unforeseeable twist into championing local determination (as opposed to specialization and bureaucratized decision-making).  It felt very much like a conclusion that Jane Jacobs would have approved of.

Twitter recommendation


Vital Little Plans: The Short Works of Jane Jacobs Jane Jacobs, et al. 2016

I was really excited to get this book, the final set of speeches and unfinished drafts of books that Jane Jacobs had been working on at her time of death, and wasn't disappointed. The editors did a great job of setting the speeches, articles, and essays of Jane's into a coherent framework, and their introduction to the book was some of the best writing I've seen on her.  Her earlier writings were good, but it was the unfinished drafts that I was most excited to get my hands on.

Personal recommendation (N. Storring)


Apartment Therapy: The Eight-Step Home Cure Maxwell Gillingham 2006

Step-by-step book that gives you an overview for revamping either your entire living space or a single room.  Lots of great tips for making your space more livable.  One of my favorite is probably the suggestion to buy fresh flowers for your home every week.  The 'therapy' is based on 8-weeks of planning, preparing, and doing.  Offers good tips on how to pick a contractor, budgeting for work, and setting up a deadline to ensure the work actually gets done.

Personal recommendation (A. Hanlon)


Domino: The Book of Decorating: A Room-by-Room Guide to Creating a Home That Makes You Happy  Deborah Needleman, et al 2008

I picked this up based on the strength of the Amazon reviews (I was looking for books that might have good examples of living space arrangements).  Overall, really disappointing.  I found the book's style to be quite outdated or at least not remotely near my personal taste.  Probably the only thing that I got out of this was ideas for hall entryways (always include a mirror).  What a bummer that my current apartment doesn't really have space for a mirror.  Would not recommend to anyone.

Amazon search


The Traffic Power Structure 2016

Interesting outline of the inherent power structure in transportation decisions, but there's not much in the way of a counter-proposal to the automobile.  I was really hoping for more concrete suggestions on how to change the existing power structure.

Found while browsing a bookstore


The Things They Carried Tim O'Brien 1990

A memoir of the author's time fighting in the Vietnam war, but also a great study on great writing.  One of the better written books I've read in a long time.

Gift from a friend (S. Elbien)


The Book of the Unnamed Midwife Meg Elison 2016

Fictional tale told about the diary of one of the few women left alive after a plague kills 99% of the human population.  Decent, but not outstanding.

Personal recommendation (D. Minnear)


Play Anything: The Pleasure of Limits, the Uses of Boredom, and the Secret of Games  Ian Bogot 2016 -- Did Not Finish

Personal essay type book on the power of games.  Purports to tell you how to make life more enjoyable in a 'game' like fashion, but spends more time waxing philosophical than giving practical tips to defining your own games.  As with most books that I found disappointing, this one promised more than it delivered.  Might be good if you're interested in philosophical ruminations on the meaning of life (I'm not)

Amazon recommendation


sound reflecions: observations from SF MOMA's Soundtracks exhibit

karthik and i went to the SF MOMA today to check out the last few bits of the soundtracks exhibit. we saw this great video work that i can&...