A humbler existence

Published Wed Nov 21, 2018 01:34 AM CST

I retire, now, from the great city of San Francisco, which I have made my home for the last thirteen years, to a simpler life, in the town of San Luis Obispo, California. It's halfway between SF and Los Angeles. It's a college town. It's practically rural, surrounded by lots of wine country and beauty, not far from Big Sur. It has a lot of the comforts of suburbia... street parking, I can easily drive to any store I want and buy anything I want, same-day, from a pleasant-acting cashier. Absolutely everyone here is nice, and enjoyable to be around. It's quite a striking difference from the inner-city life I'd been living, which featured daily rants and yells from the neighboring homeless, who made about 50% of the foot traffic on Market Street nearby... not to mention endless car alarms, police and fire sirens, loud motorcycles, street traffic, cars parked outside blaring music, and a dire state of the nearby sidewalks. No, I'm living somewhere relatively civilized now, and it's a breath of fresh air.

I don't know how long I'll stay, exactly. I have a year lease, and that might be enough, before I move on to somewhere else. I don't really have a proper "home" in life, due to the situation of my family, but SLO is the closest to it. But part of me wants to make a new home in Montana, or Idaho, or Oregon, or maybe somewhere else, or a variety of places. My career might afford me the possibility to wander, and I don't have any strong roots remaining in any particular area.

As for my career, I'm still not quite sure what'll come of it, but I've been doing a lot of writing, and building a small community... if push comes to shove I'll try remote work, but I still have some time to pursue what I desire. Hopefully I won't have to return to urban life any time soon for work, but even if I had to, I'd choose a nicer part of town than the one I lived in; so either way, I'm glad to be out of that apartment.

Being as it is Thanksgiving, this year I'm back in the Chicago area, which is my true hometown. I really enjoy the cold and the snow, I miss it so much. It adds such character to the society that surrounds it, makes everyone a bit more somber, more serious. Endless sunlight and good weather creates an attitude of triviality.

Anyway, I look forward to this new chapter of my life, and say goodbye to the old one, which, despite its faults, took up much of my youth, and had its enjoyable elements. Thanks for reading.

What I am owed

Published Thu Oct 4, 2018 10:11 PM MDT

In our society, we so frequently talk of rights, and liberties, and entitlements; just what we as individuals are owed from other individuals is a matter of constant debate. Some may be expecting me to take the more traditional "edgy", extremely individualist tack that we are all owed nothing. But no, I'm going to go in quite the opposite direction. We are all owed a number of things from our fellow human beings, and I'll list some of them now:

Yes, I do believe that not only must everyone treat others with respect, they must also express their thoughts. I am quite adamant about these beliefs and I see myself as something of an enforcer of them. Since I go around, determining if other people are in compliance, they tend to get one of two types of interaction from me. Those who treat myself and others with respect, and allow myself and others to speak our minds will find me polite, friendly, and sociable; those who either do not treat myself and others with respect, or do not allow myself and others to speak our minds, will be treated with scorn. It's really just that simple.

So, some people like to tell me that they don't owe me anything, and I insist that yes, yes you do. You owe me quite a lot. I am entitled to certain behaviors from you, just by virtue of our living in a civilized area. And if you don't exhibit those behaviors, you don't belong in a civilized area. You belong amongst people who don't value these things, where you should be quarantined, until such time, God willing, you come to realize how corrupt your mentality has become.


Published Sun Sep 16, 2018 02:47 PM PDT

A key lesson in recent years has been: never apologize. The dynamics of apologizing are pretty interesting, but in nearly every scenario, the person who apologizes comes out worse than if they hadn't.

Today, the political divide could be described elegantly as between two types of people: people who apologize readily, and people who refuse to apologize. These are basically the two fundamental responses to accusation. Accusation has become a powerful weapon used to ruin people, but the funny thing is, it only fully succeeds in ruining them if they apologize.

Consider for example, a situation in which a person has been accused of murder. If you apologize for murder, then you effectively confess to it, and are expected to serve some penalty for it; and even if you're forgiven for the crime, you're expected to make amends to never murder again, under the watchful eyes of justice. Therefore, whether the charge is true or not, it's more common for people to deny a murder accusation. It's preferable to not even defend yourself empirically, unless forced to before a court.

One particular type of apology, the sort of "half-apology" or, perhaps better called the "conditional apology" has become a common "middle-ground" attempt to satisfy critics without owning up to the crime. This never works, because the accusers will reject this apology, and it just makes you look worse to them. The form of this apology is, "If I offended anyone, then I'm sorry." The only form of apology that will be accepted is: "I offended people, and I'm sorry."

Of course, this should never be done in public. If you genuinely want to apologize to someone in private, or if you want to apologize to God in a confessional, that's one thing. But never apologize in public, because it simply invites more accusations, and ultimately makes a person into a sort of slave to accusers. They spend all their life living in fear trying to avoid accusation, and if the accusations start to become based on nothing, or close to nothing, they'll either have to sacrifice their dignity completely and apologize anyway, or face the same sort of exclusion from the camp of accusers as those who never apologize in the first place.

The better option is to welcome exclusion from the camp of the accusers. Those who would dare accuse you, should be disassociated with. An accusation is the same thing as the termination of a friendship. If someone accuses you (or indeed, shows accusatory behavior towards others) then you should immediately begin the work of severing them from your life. They should be scoffed at and ignored as much as possible. It doesn't matter how long you've known them, or how close you are.

The President

Published Sat Sep 8, 2018 01:28 AM PDT

I first became interested in Trump with the Apprentice. I watched some episodes of the show while visiting my dad over the holidays, and both of us liked it because we like business and tough talk and all that.

When Trump announced his candidacy, and said he wanted to temporarily ban all Muslim immigration until we could figure out what was going on with all of the Islamic terrorism that was happening at the time, I was on board immediately. I've always liked Trump, and I never understood why the left was so fond of Islam, and so apologetic (and even in denial) about terrorism.

I followed the Trump campaign mostly through online communities. The foremost of these was a website that had funny, intellectual commentary from people on the right, originating as an offshoot of the Something Awful forums. The site was extremely pro-Trump and all of the discussion was focused around boosting his chances. At the beginning they thought it was a long shot, and it was amazing to watch it slowly become a reality.

Around this time, nearly everyone I was interacting with IRL was supporting Bernie (and thereby openly embracing socialism), with the exception of some friends at church who also liked Trump. I just avoided talking politics with colleagues or liberal friends because frankly, it was neither safe nor constructive to do so. They'd still bring it up of course, often just assuming I was on board with them (why, I can't imagine), but I mostly kept my mouth shut.

There was also 4chan, Youtube, and Twitter. Anonymous Twitter was a really fun place to be in 2016. I made quite a lot of friends there, and those were mostly the people I celebrated election night with. Since Twitter ended up banning most of the Trump supporters, we've mostly moved to Discord, which is a great service for the time being, and allows quite a lot of cross-cultural interaction. I talk to a wide variety of people about politics there on a regular basis.

The far-left forums, like the explicitly Marxist-Leninist ones, actually celebrated the success of Trump. They just hate liberals that much, I guess. And as for DSA members, I basically lump them in with liberals -- I know they hate that, but that's half the fun.

Honesty time: I wasn't sure that he'd win. I'm not prophetic. I perhaps found it more likely that he'd win than liberals did, with their hilarious certainty. But I was in agony during the hours before the results. I knew my life was going to change dramatically for the worse if she won. I remember watching that NYT meter move slowly. I felt a tremendous sense of shock and relief more than anything.

What else is there to say about the President? A lot of people hate him. The people who are vocal about it, I've mostly had to distance myself from, sadly. I don't like dealing with their snark, and I think they genuinely want to hurt me. Lord knows what the future holds, but I wouldn't take it back for anything.

Being Catholic

Published Sat Sep 1, 2018 03:15 PM PDT

I became Catholic five years ago. This was a conscious decision that was made long after the "abuse scandal" was publicized. I have a number of reasons for this which I'll go into now.

  1. All the people I dislike tend to hate the Church. The media hates the Church. Crazy fundies hate the Church. Vulgar people hate the Church.
  2. I wanted to work on my life and I thought the structure of the Church would help. I challenged myself with, "I wonder how hard it would be to live as a Catholic." It seemed like a whim or curiosity.
  3. The Church has clear teachings you can read, and a clear leadership. All of the interpretations are accessible online and there's a huge community of people discussing it. The knowledge and coherency of the Church is vastly greater than any other Christian denomination, or mainstream ideology. I kept looking up Catholic interpretations when I wanted the "most official" Christian stance instead of the half-baked opinions of a dissident.
  4. I like the idea of Christian unity. I never really seriously considered other denominations. They all seemed silly by comparison.
  5. Churches are beautiful. The Mass is beautiful. The music is beautiful.
  6. I want to feel 100% sure I'm in good standing with God. I don't like how I feel when my soul is in a bad state.
  7. Other religions seem foreign to me, and ultimately not as appealing to my values or my conception of God.

I'm sticking with the Church. I don't really care about its reputation. I've always been the sort to defend "the underdog". Being part of the Church is better than being part of mainstream society.

My ideal company

Published Mon Aug 20, 2018 10:31 PM PDT

If I made a company, it would be something like this: first, it'd be entirely remote. Second, it would have a maximum of 25 employees. The pay probably wouldn't be San Francisco tier, but I'd hope to make up for it with culture. Or anti-culture, perhaps I should say.

The tech industry is dominated by shadowy VCs who own and direct everything. It's also filled with people who contribute to a very unhealthy culture. I know there's lots of engineers who want to make a good living without buying into every mandate from the cultural zeitgeist. So long as I could put food on the table, it's possible.

Yes, it'd be a "lifestyle business", for sure... I don't have desire to make megabucks. I mean, I wouldn't turn down millions if it were offered to me (unless from an investor), but it's not necessary. I just want enough to live comfortably, own a home, travel a bit, (maybe?) raise a family, if I ever get around to that. The clock's ticking, it's been ticking, and in fact the clock might be broken at this point, but it's still something I see as a possibility.

But I think there's an opening for a tech company that doesn't bow down to everything demanded of them by wider society. It wouldn't be edgy -- it'd be the opposite of edgy, completely neutral. Totally on the up-and-up. Focused on business. Just the facts, ma'am.

Employee selection would be key. You let the wrong sorts in, and everything gets bad. But anyway, this is all "theorycrafting" at this point. If I ever actually produce something of value (doubtful), I'll let you know.

My contemptible mediocrity

Published Sun Aug 19, 2018 10:52 PM PDT

For most of my life I believed I was destined for some great purpose. This dream faded a bit when I entered my 30s, and I suppose reality is going to set in even further soon. I tended to believe that I was going to write something game-changing. I think the written word appealed to me mainly because it was the easiest form of art, and I'm a pretty lazy person. I'm good at software engineering, but technology always seemed like a practical matter to me. It doesn't reach me at a deeper level. I can be passionate about engineering decisions, but it's mainly because I get frustrated with how others think. I get just as passionate about management, or design, or anything else where I have to interact with other people. But it's not really what I care about. I would leave all that stuff behind if I could just write something useful.

The people I respect the most, the ones who've most informed my core thinking, were writers. Mainly, they were philosophers. Some had the gift of writing stories, which I clearly don't. All I'm capable of doing is writing down my thoughts in a relatively clear way. I suppose I have a natural honesty, which could be useful to humanity somehow. Maybe people will gain something from my thoughts. Maybe, at the least, they'll be amused for a little while. For this reason it's probably a good idea if I get back to writing more often.

I don't know who my audience could possibly be, and to some extent I disdain the idea of having an audience. I don't want to be beholden to the ideology of certain people. There's definitely money to be made in what I regard as "propaganda", which is just writing something designed to make people feel good about their current ideology (or, perhaps, feel righteous indignation about it). But I feel like if I'm making money with my writing, I'm probably writing garbage anyway. It seems much more pure to make no money, and to be read by nobody. Well, I'd like it if people picked up what I wrote a hundred years from now and said "he was right about everything" and founded our new civilization on it. I guess that's a silly dream I can at least die having. But first I need to write some stuff.

The vast majority of people have a life that is basically without what could be called a significant purpose, in the grand scheme of things. Maybe they add a small bit to the world, like someone voting in an election adds to a final tally. But it's infinitesimal. People who have children can at least hope that their children (or their children's children) will somehow change the course of human history for the better. They can then check out of the game and die peacefully knowing they've sired a future Augustus. But for a complete biological failure like myself, there's only this stupid realm of ideas, which are good at infecting people's brains and spreading around. But I like this idea, it appeals to me. I like the immateriality of it, it seems to exist in a higher realm, the Platonic realm. Just by putting pen to paper I can shift things. Realistically, this isn't likely to happen at all, but hey, it's worth a shot.

So maybe it is narcissistic... I'm not going to deny that. But I think a little bit of narcissism is healthy. I mean, sure, humility has its place as well. But shouldn't people believe in themselves to some extent? Why live a totally empty and pointless life. At least afford me the illusion of doing something useful.

The world is a really messed up place, I think we can all agree. Nobody agrees why, but at least that's something? Maybe something can happen there. Most of the written word we see today seems to be of the "propaganda" form I mentioned earlier, so maybe the world will benefit from a little bit of honest posting, I don't know.

On the "realness" of human beings

Published Sat Aug 18, 2018 11:02 PM PDT

I've been thinking about this a lot lately, and wanted to write about it. It's a bit abstract or complicated, but seems worth commenting on... the idea has proven illuminating for me, particularly with regard to social interaction.

Perhaps because I tend to be a bit narcissistic, or self-centered, my view of the world has for a long time been what I'd describe as "romantic". I've always loved dramas, and great stories. Anyway, my view of the world has always struggled for what psychologists call a "narrative identity", a root purpose of my existence, a "causa sui". While I always certainly recognized that other people were real and alive, the focus was very much internalized on my own emotional feelings and thoughts. That remains true, but this idea has helped me see other people in a different light.

Increasingly, I've tried to separate my interactions with other people from the "grand narrative" of my own life. They are no longer simply players on the stage, but rather, people living alongside me, in the same moment as me. And the way I act around them, doesn't have to conform to some internal struggle with profound significance. It can simply be two people who are sharing a time frame, and a place, and so increasingly I see how what I say or do can fundamentally shift the tone of relationships, and conversation.

Perhaps this is basic "awareness" for most people, and I'm sure I've been cognizant of it many times throughout my life, in my healthier mental states, but at times where life was perhaps difficult for me, my self-absorption would triumph over the appreciation of other people. It's only recently I've started to understand this idea intellectually or rationally, and see how my words and actions can be useful in interaction, to help heal the other person, outside some grand romantic narrative.

Maybe my love of art and existential philosophy helped fuel my self-centeredness, or maybe it's something innate in me. Or maybe, it's a product of some trauma in my life, or something like that... or maybe I'm just maturing a bit. I wouldn't describe this newer ideology as "materialist" because it seems quite compatible with the spiritual elements of my life. Nor is it "egalitarian" or anything like that. It's more just an understanding of my own control of my own words and actions, and how they influence the people around me.

This doesn't dismiss the idea of a grand "divine plan", rather, the idea seems to help me to embrace it, to see another person as my brother, so to speak. Oddly enough, I've always ranked very highly in compassion in personality tests, but it seemed my compassion was reduced to a subset of people, based on circumstance. Mostly, my compassion has always found itself strongest when consuming art, in solitude. Around people, my general strategy has been to remain aloof, and even, I admit, to be difficult.

There are exceptions, of course. Particular people who I felt a kinship towards, people who were unusually friendly with me. But my general tendency to judge and dismiss others is stronger and more developed than that of most people. This is the thing I want to work on, both for realist and religious reasons.

The core idea is to realize that despite your current emotional state, you can always direct your thoughts a little bit towards the feelings of those who you are interacting with. This is true despite the circumstance. You can make them feel loved, if you really want to. I've noticed a cyclical tendency in my thoughts; whenever I read the things I wrote years ago, I often have the same "epiphanies" over and over. But, it never hurts to write down these thoughts again.

Thank you for reading.

My political thoughts

Published Fri Aug 17, 2018 08:48 PM PDT

In my years of posting on internet forums, I was frequently accused of being a troll. I was also called a contrarian. People thought I just made up my opinions for effect. I will admit that sometimes I enjoyed people's hysterical reactions to my ideas. And my ideas were also highly variable, because I would often think from a variety of perspectives. Every now and then, someone who usually disagreed with me, would be surprised to find themselves agreeing with me on some subject. So I was often asked, "Just what are your true beliefs?" And I never really had a clear answer. I was never totally sure what my true beliefs were. I was too indecisive, too young, too immature, still busy exploring the basics of reality, and its various ideological systems. I'm sure the ideology I have now isn't going to be exactly the same as the one I have thirty years from now (If I live that long), or even five years from now. But, I might as well go into some of the general things I have found myself coming to believe over time.

  1. Environmentalism. I do think the environment and Earth are important. I played a night elf druid in World of Warcraft, which is a character that is heavily integrated with nature. I think it's important to preserve and appreciate natural beauty. I wouldn't describe myself as a radical on this subject, but it is something I take seriously.
  2. Opposition to war. I generally disapprove of war. I understand that sometimes it might be necessary, but I prefer diplomatic solutions first. I think it's important to understand your geographical enemies. I think war causes a lot of unnecessary death, injury, poverty, illness, etc. And I'm also very skeptical of the motivations for war.
  3. Opposition to the unnecessary use of force. This is the "libertarian" side of me. I don't like when people are forced, by the government or otherwise, to act or say something, at threat of violence. I know that sometimes force must be used for a greater good, but I am very skeptical of, for example, the taxation system, which I see as a kind of institutionalized robbery. I see the government for the most part as sort of a successful gang. I think a lot of people see it this way too, but most people just lack the scruples to criticize it, and would rather join up with the gang and enjoy the benefits.
  4. Love of history. I really enjoy the history of humanity. I have studied most of the world's religions, cultures, languages, philosophies, literature, art, and so on. I have a good map in my mind of the history of the species. It informs my decision making and teaches me a lot about the true nature of humanity. Without studying history, it's easy for many people to get lost in the trends of their age. People tend to think the movements of their age will be victorious and celebrated by the future. But analysis of history shows this is often not the case. What's interesting to me is those institutions that have managed to survive for a great deal of time. I think they must survive because they have something important and true in them.
  5. Appreciation of experimental art. I will admit that this is arguably my more "depraved" side. I have been open-minded to a wide variety of "indie" or "controversial" subjects. I find them amusing to think about, especially since I find most art to be rather dull and repetitive. For this reason, I look for great classic works, but also great experimental works. It's fun finding something that is fresh and seeing it grow in popularity until it becomes mainstream. I really enjoy the Internet because it gives me access to these new and exciting ideas.
  6. I love technology. I am a very advanced user of consumer technology. I try to avoid spending a lot of money in general, but when I find that something has sufficient value, I will seek it out. I am an early adopter of certain technologies that I think are sure to become widespread. However I am also very critical and skeptical of technological ideas and products. For this reason, I often find myself at odds with other people who love technology. I try to balance my "minimalism" with my advanced technological lifestyle.

Well, this is a very basic overview of some of my key values in life. These values inform how I treat the political world. I don't see any of these values fundamentally changing. Perhaps I will write about political topics more specifically in the future. Thank you for reading.