It’s your nature to be Tirin, and my nature to be Shevek, and our common nature to be Odonians, responsible to one another. And that responsibility is our freedom. To avoid it, would be to lose our freedom. Would you really like to live in a society where you had no responsibility and no freedom, no choice, only the false option of obedience to the law, or disobedience followed by punishment? Would you really want to go live in a prison?
Ursula K. LeGuin, The Dispossessed
Why we are all so tired
Today I went the store to buy coconut milk to make a smoothie.
I’ve already weeded out most brands of coconut milk because they have gums in them. But, there was a new brand that I wanted to examine because the package was much bigger than my normal brand. I thought it might be easier and cheaper than having to buy 3-4 little packages.
The new brand was very proud to announce it only has two simple ingredients: coconut and water! So wholesome. So fresh and natural and simple.
But….does there need to be water in coconut milk? How is coconut milk made? Is water a required part of the process? I thought it was made by basically wringing out coconut meat, no water necessary…but I wasn’t sure.
So I trundled off to get my usual brand. It had 1 ingredient: 100% coconut milk.
At this point I felt like I had no idea what coconut milk even is.
So I started comparing macronutrients to try and figure it out. The serving size on the usual brand was marked as 1/2 cup. The serving size on the new brand was 1/3 cup. Of course. The usual had 17g of fat, while the new one had 9 grams of fat per serving.
So maybe the new brand was a lite coconut milk, without saying “lite” on it? Nope, the new brand also had a lite version, which I didn’t even bother taking a look at. It seems the new brand’s regular coconut milk was actually watered down coconut milk? What even constitutes coconut milk then? Does there have to be a certain fat percentage?
…ok, see? See how hard buying one simple thing at the store is, and how much brain power I had to expend to make a single purchase. Everything in our capitalist life is like this. I ended up not even looking at the prices, which were vastly different and I’d have to do a bunch of math to compare which was the better value, especially counting for the fact that one was watered down. And since I was also watering down the usual brand when I use it because it is slightly too fatty, the best choice might have been the new brand anyhow….
Fitting everything in a day, shopping, working, civic engagement, keeping up with friends and family now happens on 2-4 social media platforms, texts, group chats on multiple messaging platforms, voice messages, voice calls, occasional birthday cards, and video calls. It’s all too impossibly overwhelming much.
So that I know what the hell it is that I am drinking, I’ve now looked up what coconut milk is, and hey, there are kinds:
When it comes to cooking, canned coconut milk is typically king. For many, it’s a pantry staple, as it’s shelf-stable and can be added to so many recipes. Canned coconut milk is a bit thicker than its boxed counterpart, imparting hints of coconut flavor and creaminess to a dish. For canned coconut milk, you may open the can to find that it has separated, with thick cream on the top, paired with a milky liquid, but adding it straight to a saucepan while cooking will bring the separation back together into its creamy form.
Boxed coconut milk, on the other hand, which is often found on the shelves in a carton, is typically used for quicker recipes. It’s not as thick or creamy, but it makes a great milk alternative for cereal or smoothies, or even coffee if you just need a light addition. Its flavor isn’t as strong as canned coconut milk, since it doesn’t normally present the thick cream you see in a can, and often, it may have higher water content or other additives. A powdered form of coconut milk is also available and can be mixed with water, but it’s not as prevalent at the grocery store as these other two options.
After being very uncertain of my worldbuilding next steps, I took N. K. Jemisin’s advice and made a map. That was super helpful, for some reason, so I also researched flooding, and found this great tool the state of Rhode Island has created to map our ever-approaching doom!
While it’s outside the scope of my story–I think–it’s super interesting to me that local governments are seriously thinking about climate change, and their plan, instead of managed retreat, appears to be to just continue adapting to more and more water. I don’t know if that’s really viable, but it is interesting.
The weird part is that it seems to just be an interview with Chris Hedges. At times we watch Hedges speaking, and at other times we watch sometimes random, sometimes artsy, and sometimes germaine video images instead.
…the Humanities at their best are about teaching people how to think, rather than what to think. They’re about teaching people to challenge assumptions and structures. The discipline of the Humanities is subversive–it’s meant to be subversive.
As a clear blue sky waits for rain, so too shall I wait for you.
Yilun Fan, “Speechless Love,” Sunvault: Stories of Solarpunk and Eco-Speculation
Unfortunately found out the way things really work
Yesterday I thought and thought about my Solarpunk Story #1 theme. I had a couple vague, barely there ideas about what could maybe happen in the story. I was thinking about committees and bills and laws and voting and technology.
I did a little researching on participatory democracy (or direct democracy) compared to representative democracy. I had the stunning thought that voting is incredibly binary–it’s yes or no and that’s it. No nuance when citizens vote on a local referendum or when representative vote on a law.
The nuance, then, is all about who is in the room when a bill / proposition gets crafted. Which made me think. Who is in the room? I think it can be anyone, technically, but usually it’s the representative and probably lobbyists? Right?
In all, these copycat bills amount to the nation’s largest, unreported special-interest campaign, driving agendas in every statehouse and touching nearly every area of public policy.
The investigation reveals that fill-in-the-blank bills have in some states supplanted the traditional approach of writing legislation from scratch. They have become so intertwined with the lawmaking process that the nation’s top sponsor of copycat legislation, a member of the Pennsylvania General Assembly, claimed to have signed on to 72 such bills without knowing or questioning their origin.
For lawmakers, copying model legislation is an easy way to get fully formed bills to put their names on, while building relationships with lobbyists and other potential campaign donors.
For special interests seeking to stay under the radar, model legislation also offers distinct advantages. Copycat bills don’t appear on expense reports, or campaign finance forms. They don’t require someone to register as a lobbyist or sign in at committee hearings. But once injected into the lawmaking process, they can go viral, spreading state to state, executing an agenda to the letter…
Copied bills have been used to override the will of local voters and their elected leaders. Cities and counties have raised their minimum wage, banned plastics bags and destroyed seized guns, only to have industry groups that oppose such measures make them illegal with model bills passed in state legislatures…
Model legislation has flourished as gridlock in Congress forced special interest groups to look to the states to get things done, she said.
Great. I mean, it helped me refine my theme in a burst of rage-fueled clarity, but….ugh, that’s gross. If there is a way to game the system, someone will eventually do it.
(Which is what I really wanted my theme to be, but solarpunk is about optimism, so I had to dig deeper….)
Winter is approaching and while it’s still pandemic-y out there, I suspect I will be going Outside more than last year’s winter. Having just moved here at the beginning of the pandemic, I really don’t have appropriate winter clothes.
I really hate shopping for clothes, and everything in plus size seems to be all exactly what I don’t want to wear and / or exactly what will make me look the most horrible.
But this rise of cottagecore and shops that want to purvey it might save me. Here’s a couple link-filled articles I found:
I want my clothes to be simple and easy to clean, but I am also sick of my shirt-and-jeans look. I also don’t want TOO many ruffles. We’ll see where this goes, I guess. (Probably right into dark academia, but we’ll see!)
If you have made it this far, you are a brave reader.
David Wallace-Wells, The Uninhabitable Earth
If a man attacks you, would you rather have the man next to you step up and defend you, or would you rather that the first man never attacked?
I’ve been thinking about this a bit after a scene in the book I was reading. My instant thought to the guy jumping in front of the gal when she was threatened was pretty warm and fuzzy. It made me like the character more. But wouldn’t it be better that no one at all leaps to violence? Society and gender roles are the absolute worst.
What could go wrong? I mean, if it works out, great. I have doubts. Many of them circling around the fact that this billionaire Really Wants Everyone To Know How Awesome He Is For Making America Great Again! I’m quite sure he will at the very least require a statue built to him, because we all need to know who this is really about.
I am terrible. I’d love to live there, if it were real, and if it weren’t Yet Another Way for rich people to abscond from society with all the cool stuff.
Half of me wants to be sympathetic to people with Real Problems that actually need Dealing With during the pandemic. The other half would like to take this opportunity to whine. To whine about how I have serially managed to accomplish 0 things in my life beyond making sure I have food and shelter and am relatively empathic towards others. Climate change is coming, the world is an unjust colonizer capitalist hellscape, and really the only things I’ve proven myself good at are listening, home baking, errands, and reading fast. What the f am I actually doing with my life? It would have been nice if someone had just told me that getting into college was the last accolade I would ever, ever get. Maybe then I wouldn’t have taken that accomplishment as some sort of stepping stone toward fulfilling my potential, and 25 years later I wouldn’t feel like I’ve let down myself and everyone I’ve ever met!
Maybe a museum isn’t quite enough.
I could bake! Once Covid is less awful
I had no idea King Arthur had an outpost running classes in the PNW.
This entire process is controlled entirely by AI who are only programmed to maximize profit. The content doesn’t matter at any point in all of this. No one is plotting the ideological endpoint of the colonization of your attention. No one even knows what you’re looking at.
The algorithm doesn’t understand if posts are political or comedic or left or right or fake or real. It literally just doesn’t know. The only thing it understands is how long people are looking at the screen because that’s where the money comes from and the only thing it was told to do was generate profit. It’s doing it’s job according to the parameters of success we laid out…
We programmed them to be customer obsessed because profit supposedly indicates value, but when you’re being a person instead of a customer, it thinks it’s failing. When you’re engaging in a politics that isn’t as profitable and addictive and online and reductive it feels like its failing and it wants the customer to come back. So the algorithmic solution to this is to turn every aspect of being a person into a customer behavior. Your feelings, your friendship, your love, your politics, your thought, every…fucking everything.
The internet isn’t just entertainment. It’s where we learn our politics, enact relationships, experience friendship, express our fears and our hopes, and that’s customer behavior and it’s being streamlined. Our souls are being streamlined into profitable groups as much as possible. It’s altering us. It’s more complicated than addition. It’s your soul.
What do you want me to say, bitch?
We programmed the AI to be customer obsessed. So it wants us to behave as customers. Which means consuming reliably, predictably, constantly through their medium. But the medium is also inviting us to be people on it. To engage in politics, in learning, in thought, in feeling and friendship and love. In being.
So–our souls are being streamlined into recommendation holes.
I have too much in it and everything in it is threatening to tip out or mix together and absolutely be forgotten and lost forever. Let’s de-tangle all this and get it out, huh?
Keyboards keyboards keyboards
Yesterday after 4 days of furious note taking on my computer, my hands started to do the thing they haven’t done for years; my fingers got aching and tingly, so did my palms and the backs of my hands. Do I slam down on the keys too hard? Clearly so. As my plan is to write novels, this is a problem I need to fix now.
So I did some keyboard research, and this is what I found:
Keyboards in general are designed for people with regular to large sized hands. At a length of 6.5 inches, my hands are definitely smaller than regular.
Hence, ergonomic keyboards often have small-handed people reaching to hit all the keys, which kind of negates a lot of the ergonomic part. Reports on Reddit by small handed people note that some of the most celebrated ergonomic keyboards (the Moonlander, ErgoDox, and Kinesis Advantage 2) did not work for them.
Orthogonal keys are keys on a keyboard that are stacked in a straight line instead of staggered like on a regular keyboard. So, for example, Q-A-Z keys are in a straight line above and below each other. I feel like this could possibly help, but I’d have to order a whole keyboard to try it out.
There are really not a lot of ergo options for small-handed people.
Which are all really so far down into custom build-your-own keyboard kits that they are Daunting. For a less DIY solution, the Microsoft Sculpt was a suggestion. But it doesn’t have low-force keys, and I think that is what I need to stop the tingling in my fingers that pretty directly seems to come from pounding my keys all the way down into the floor of the keyboard for hours.
My husband handed me a Razer Huntsman Tournament Edition he had lying around, and I’m typing on that now. It took a bit to get used to over my Apple Magic Keyboard–they are very different animals. Not having to “bottom out” the keys and needing to use only about 60% of the force seem to be helping the tingly sensation in my fingers, but my hands are still sore. These are also linear mechanical keys, and not having any feedback from the key to know I’ve pressed it just far enough to get a letter to appear onscreen is bizarre, and I feel like I’m using a good bit of brainpower trying to regulate my keystrokes. But I don’t have to look down at the keyboard quite as much. Though my hands are all over it. BUT I am using more fingers than I do on my Mac keyboard, possibly because it takes so much force to slam those babies down.
So this will be a less than fun experiment to find what works, and while I’m not looking forward to it, it is necessary.
All the thoughts I’ve thought and words I’ve written and things I’ve watched about Inside, and I only had the barest clue what it was really about
Honestly there are so many whirlpools of thought careening around my head after watching CJ The X’s video essay Bo Burnham vs Jeff Bezos that I am still processing and don’t really have a ton I can articulate yet. Here’s a snapshot:
It’s interesting how intellectually I really started to buy into the idea of building a platform and monetizing but unconsciously could never motivate myself to even take the first step toward actually doing that
I’m really glad I never had kids because between this and climate change what have we done omg
Is it interesting that the rise of the internet and corporations turning us into transhumance cyborgs for profit pretty much sort of happened at the same time as climate change? Or is that just capitalism hollowing out every single cell of all life everywhere?
I need to watch this 16 more times, because I do not gut-level get it, but I’m pretty sure I heart-level get it. And I’m pretty sure that if I want to appeal to the people I want to appeal to in my writing, fully getting it would help
….am I a little sad that I will never be a transhuman cyborg?
My social media plan, revised
Ok so after watching Bo Burnham vs. Jeff Bezos, I’ve re-thought my social media strategy. To say the least. I was contemplating doing little 5 minute essay like things on YouTube about interesting, little-known historical figures as a platform to gather in an audience who might also be interested by my novel which will have little-known history in it. As a way to show people some work of mine while trudging through the novel trenches and not having anything to show to an audience for years.
Nope. That is now not the plan.
The realization is that I don’t really like posting on social media (right now). I don’t feel like I am making any sort of meaningful connection through it, not even with friends and family I’ve known the balance of my life OFF of social media. What I like doing is making these crazy blog posts where I can empty out my brain of all the information I collect like a magpie with shinies and to be able to reflect on some things that I have stumbled upon and enjoy them and make some connections. I really like the fact that there are no comments and that I’m not “interacting” and feel free to say what I think without having to justify any of it to anyone. And I really like the fact that those who don’t care or agree with me can just not be in this little space on the internet.
I’m going to make a Twitter account which will be nothing more than posting links to new entries, so that people can find me on the social media and can chose to click and read the post or not. When I have things to announce, I’ll announce them there.
Eventually I’d like to have a Patreon for any sort of fan interaction. No algorithm, no AI, a closed community of people interacting because they want to. Maybe it’s not the best, but feels more right than performing my life for profit.
My working plan, revised
I also had the thought today–seriously, it’s taken me 3 hours to unwind and layout a morning worth of thoughts that were just collectively melting my brain trying to keep a hold of them–that working in back-to-back sprints might be a little too intense for me. Especially because this Uninhabitable Earth book is maybe the most depressing book I’ve ever read about how we are all no-fixing-it screwed and we just keep getting more screwed every single minute. I’m finding myself completely wiped out after 2-3 hours of reading and note-taking.
But I’m working in sprints, so why do they need to be back-to-back? I want to try 1 sprint every hour of the work day instead. I should still get the same amount of work done, but I’ll be able to process more and relax my tingly (still, even with this fancy gamer keyboard) fingers & hands, and get some of the other things in life done that also plague me. I’d start today, but I had to stay up late watching the video so I slept in then I had to finish the video and whoops there’s my morning gone and then all the info overload and now it’s 2:30, and I’ll be lucky to get 2 sprints in today, because there’s some other things I was going to do this week that I haven’t even started.
It’s rather fascinating to watch what happens when the idea of utopia as conceptualized by a single person manifests itself into the real world. In this case, only about a quarter of the original plan was built, and only a handful of people live there instead of the thousands planned for. The Italian architect who envisioned this place was a master and also accused of sexual assault. Some people who live there now consider the place done as-is, while others want to continue to build toward the original vision. The community makes money by crafting and selling bronze bells worldwide, and the now-elderly first generation is trying to figure out how to hand down this legacy to a bunch of over-educated white millennials who brought WiFi and VR.
The previous video led me to another about Earthships, houses built out of trash in a community in northern New Mexico.
The house designs are brilliant in their sustainability and livability with all the comforts of modern convenances. I mean, I don’t think they generate enough power to, say, mine for Bitcoin 24/7, and there was mention that baths instead of showers require some water budgeting, but they are still pretty impressive.
The ironic part is that they call the houses Earthships because they are self-sustaining, like a spaceship. But most visions of self-sustaining spaceships contain families and communities. These houses are built for loners who clearly are contemptuous of society and eschew community–one woman who let the crew in to see her house had never had a single visitor to her house before.
I love the sustainability, but people need people. You can claim to be a hermit all you want, but your life is still possible because a network of people–from doctors to car line workers to people who make solar panels to grocery store workers who stock the food the Earthship people don’t grow–do the work to make it happen. Opting out of that completely feels dishonest and disrespectful.
Sadly, life costs money
And only a tiny percentage of people are getting paid enough to live.
Each of these models starts with data about current sources of greenhouse emissions. They include cars and buses, auto rickshaws, airplanes, power plants, home furnaces and rice paddies. The models also include assumptions about international trade, prices, and the costs of new technologies.
Then the scientists force their virtual worlds to change course, by introducing limits on greenhouse emissions. The models then try to satisfy that requirement in the most cost-effective way, as long as it’s technologically feasible and doesn’t run up against limits like the supply of land or other natural resources.
The good news is that the models found a way to meet that target, at least in scenarios where world governments were inclined to cooperate in meeting their Paris commitments. In fact, according to Keywan Riahi, at the International Institute for Applied Systems, in Austria, they found multiple paths to zero carbon.
Homeownership is supposed to mean security, opportunity, and a sense of investment in your community. But often, the pressure of tying your family’s financial security to one asset incentivizes homeowners to behave selfishly and antisocially, opposing important public works that could provide significant public benefits.
I got cookies from this local chain, and noticed that I didn’t feel so great after eating them. So I looked up the ingredients. It looks like their original Cow Chip cookies, which are chocolate chip cookies, are made from excellent Real Food ingredients. But the other flavors….what the heck is going on there?? They barely qualify as food. Lesson learned.
War was ugly, exhausting, and above all else, tedious–an odd thing to say about a situation in which there were more explosions and adrenaline than you knew what to do with. But for all the strategizing, for all the narrow escapes and near misses, when you boiled it down, war was nothing more than an argument in which no one had landed on a better solution than killing each other. The suffering, at some point, became commonplace.
Becky Chambers, The Galaxy, And The Ground Within
I’m feeling awful today, but I have a few items that have come up, and I wanted to get them down.
Traditional Irish food
After about a month worth of no IBS attacks, I had a monster one today. This got me thinking more about my Eat Like Your Ancestors project, and how I really haven’t been doing that as much and should get back to it. I looked up my great-grandfather’s date of birth. I don’t know when he immigrated to the US from Ireland, but he was born close to 1900, so I figured that was close enough.
Huh. Metformin has antibiotic properties. Some of the things I read said it might help dysbiosis over time, but yeah while that’s getting cleaned up, lots of sad bathroom time. Also that pre- and probiotics help quite a bit when taking metformin. Interesting.
Don’t these Blueberry Sourdough Muffins sound tasty? Too bad I feel like crap and don’t want to eat much of anything today and didn’t end up baking them.
What is the future of the single family home? Architect Philip Johnson: “This idea that you should plop little houses around on tracts will go, I think. There’s no–it’s a totally wrong use of land. Everybody has a little bit of lawn on four sides of his house. Nobody has any privacy. No one has a garden of their own. No one, no architect builds houses now, it’s all done by builders and developers and they build them all alike, as you know, they call them ticky-tacky houses in the song. But there’s no future to that, because the cost of servicing the house is growing by such leaps and bounds that the taxes on that house can nowhere near pay for the services the town has to put there with their water, sewage, roads. So the house is a thing of the twentieth century.”
If he really wanted a picnic in Leafturn, she would have to arrange one. She wished every day that Sher were not free of her control, not realizing that it was because he was that she loved him.
Jo Walton, Tooth and Claw
Jo Walton and a tradition of people in SFF being awesomely subversive
I’ve been reading Jo Walton‘s Tooth and Claw. I got it free from Tor. I’ve actually never heard of the book or the author, and I read it as a filler book waiting for my husband to finish the one I had planned to read next. As I was reading it I thought: oh it’s all dragons instead of humans. And the dragon people with their fancy hats and wealth and titles are interesting. The writing is pretty good, it’s not an amazing book.
Then I got to the end where the gentile but down-on-its-luck family all make good marriages and end up rich and suddenly like an idiot I realized this is Jane Austin but dragons!!!! (I looked it up on Wikipedia and she’s actually not writing in the style of Austin but of Anthony Trollope, who I’ve never even heard of.)
If I wasn’t feeling dumb enough, then I read the bit at the end of Tooth and Claw about her Sulien books: “‘Arthurian’ fantasy without Arthur, in a fantasy setting not unlike Dark Ages Britain, but with just a few more option from women to have agency–up to and including being warriors.”
That’s when I realized what I want to do with my writing is part of a long tradition in SFF, one that I mainly know through Sherri Tepper. But she is only one voice in a very large crowd of writers working to push boundaries, show new visions, and shift the Overton window in their works.
It is far and away time I started exploring these authors more. I mean, assuming I somehow get time to read more. I almost want to make some sort of list of SFF authors who are pushing boundaries on diversity, or taking on real-world problems in their works.
I mean, I need another project like I need a hole in my head, but….oh how I want to.
This is an hour long video. Many things were said. I could probably write a whole essay, going back over the video and picking things out. But what’s going to happen is my initial impressions and some ideas that I had about it.
So Angie says right up front that she is viewing CRT through a Marxist lens, and through that lens, CRT is Not Great.
To give a very poor summation, her point seems to be that CRT stomps all over the entire concept of universality, or colorblindness. That in a backhanded way it enshrines race as a thing that we will never be able to heal or move past. Angie admits that the ideas of colorblindness and universality have been disingenuously used by Some People to ignore real discrimination, but that doesn’t mean we should throw out the concepts entirely. With a Marxist lens, CRT is a stalking horse meant to divide the poor and working class, meant to keep the workers fomenting at each other instead of all coming together to overthrow the capitalist oligarchs making the world a misery for everyone.
To sort of back up her point, she mentions that CRT doesn’t really have a desired outcome. CRT’s loudest call is for equality, an equality measured against what white people have now. Angie says following that idea to its conclusion would be an equivalent number of poor Blacks with the same “advantages” and “privileges” as poor whites, an equivalent number of working class Blacks, middle class Blacks, and rich capitalist Blacks as there are to white people in each class.
(She also says a lot about CRT scratching some unfathomable itch for white progressive shame and guilt, and it’s a very compelling observation.)
So. There’s a lot. But my first big thoughts are these.
There was nothing explicitly said about how a Marxist solution would handle racism, but I have an idea it would be something along the lines of: if we get rid of these rich capitalist clowns in power who are heavily invested in pitting us against each other instead of them, if we don’t have an establishment nurturing these false divisions, if We Labor all rise up as one and make a true equality, the racism will just die out. Fall to the wayside with other useless pseudoscientific ideas like phrenology. (This is an assumption, not research.)
My Jungian lens says that is not likely. I think just like the outcome of CRT could be unequal class structure for all, the outcome of Marxism could easily be a shadow complacency, an assumption of post-racial life that in reality sees the patterns of covert racism unconsciously being played out. It would be just like how most progressive whites up until last summer thought that ever since the Civil Rights movement in the 60s the lives of POCs was on a slow yet steady rise ever upward into equality.
In other words, while I believe in the “workers owning the means of production” side of Marxism, and certainly believe in the pain of all workers being crushed by a capitalist system, I don’t believe racism will disappear under a tide of worker’s rights without a reckoning. In this I agree with the side of CRT that says we are all racist. There’s no way we can’t be racist, because we are being fed a whitewashed history and shown a whitewashed culture that barely acknowledges that POC exist. When they are mentioned, most of the attention is on their forced labor in cruel conditions or mass killings or genocides. We barely understand the diversity of what everyday American life looks like even today, because our only frames of reference are people we personally know or what we see in media. Never mind what it has looked like for various groups of people throughout our history.
If CRT says we should own the full scope of American history and culture and teach that to our kids, I am behind that 1000%. What I am not behind, as Angie says, is shaming and guilting as performative play, or as how to teach kids about racism. I’m also not behind an equality that leaves people equally badly off and equally crushed by the system. And I’m not behind the idea that we all have to be racists forever.