what I'm doing now

#journal Mentioned in what I'm doing now

Life

My weight loss progress has slowed. I’m going to be patient and keep working on small, daily habits that have worked so far. Playing soccer, going for walks, eating vegetables, eating more slowly and mindfully, and not finishing my serving just because it’s served.

After a month of not playing soccer, I was excited to get back on the pitch. At my first game back, there was a middle-aged man

recording the game

man with a custom tripod

#journal #people #soccer #seattle #hobbies Mentioned in what I'm doing now

At my soccer game recently there was a middle-aged man recording the game from the sidelines with a camera mounted on a tall tripod. Turns out he films local Seattle soccer matches as a hobby and uploads them to his YouTube channel. When I emailed him, he told me he uses a Sony camcorder, a set of Arduino micro-processors, and Play Station 2 controller to control the pan, tilt, and zoom.

My goal is to film soccer matches so the play makes sense and the camera doesn’t distract, I enjoy both the technical and artistic challenges. I’ve used the pole camera to film other stuff such as high school band performances, or migrating birds outside my office window, but soccer has been my main focus. Over the last year I branched out from filming my old team and started doing matches in other [Greater Seattle Soccer League] divisions. It’s a bit strange to just show up and film, but mostly the response has been positive.

In the recording of my game, you can hear a player telling him “we appreciate you.”

from the sidelines with a camera mounted on a tall tripod. Only a few weeks ago I was wishing I had videos of my matches from years past. Since watching this recent one, I’ve been working on moving off the ball better. Adjust my position in anticipation of where the ball will be next.

I still haven’t gone snowboarding this season, but I went with Z, Z’s mom, and Z’s stepdad to

Harrison Hot Springs

hot springs

#journal #places #people #resorts Mentioned in what I'm doing now, what is this site? #2

Hunched against the cold in our hotel bathrobes and slippers we crunched over the snow between the pools, looking for the hottest one. Of course, it turned out to be the one everyone was crowded into. For a few hours we crouched in the hot water avoiding eye contact with the multitude around us – a family reunion, couples on anniversary weekend getaways – trying to convince Z’s mom and stepdad that renting was a better option than buying in their current circumstances.

In the evening Z and I went for drinks and dessert at the hotel’s lounge, The Copper Room. We sat among the other couples at one of the cloth-draped tables surrounding the big empty dance floor. The waiter glided from table to table cracking jokes with his head cocked. The band started playing another oldie and a couple in their thirties came out onto the dance floor. They danced clumnsily near the edge of the hardwood rectangle, far from the stage, near our section of tables. The man smiled blankly as he tried leading his partner, who was grinning in embarrassment and bowing her head while she went through the motions. I suppose we shouldn’t have been surprised when she took a tumble, such was the lack of coordination between all components – music, limbs, lovers. They scuttled off the dance floor only to creep back on a couple songs later to join the couples they’d inspired onto their feet.

. The Vancouver area is stunning after a good snow. The hills speckled with evergreen and white, and the snow-capped mountains beyond. We stopped at Bridal Veil Falls on the way back. They were frozen solid, it was a sight.

Z won tickets for Canucks vs Blackhawks from a raffle at work, so we went to our first ever

Canucks game

hockey game

#journal #sports Mentioned in what I'm doing now

I liked analyzing the game’s tactics and patterns from my ignorant perspective. The production, too. From speakers hanging above pop music blared whenever the game paused, even if just for a few seconds. As soon as a referee dropped the puck again, the clocked resumed and the music evaporated. They also managed to squeeze in two performances from local country music singer, Antonio Larosa. He sounded good, but no one in the stadium seemed to care much.

This was my second time at an NHL game and my main memory of the first one, back in middle school, is being baffled when it ended after three periods, not two, or four. This time, I went in knowing a bit more, including the offside rule: players on the attacking team can’t cross the thick blue line into other team’s third of the rink unless the puck is already there. Watching the Canucks, I noticed that, right before crossing the blue line, attacking players would often fling the puck into the opposing end and swarm around it. It irked me how often they did it. I wanted them to keep dribbling. I’ve since learned that they do this because the defensive team can’t just dump the puck back out. They first have to regain possession and get it back across that blue line. Only then can they launch it into the other team’s end. Then the cycle repeats at the other end. It’s funny how

games are designed

to avoid certain behaviors and can end up transforming the tactics of how the game is played.

. It was novel for me. The only sport I watch regularly is soccer. I’ve been watching all of Arsenal’s games. It’s been really interesting to observe Mikel Arteta build and develop his team. His tactics and strategies are pretty complex and they evolve constantly. There’s a hilarious moment in an interview from a few months ago in which a reporter asks him about the new formation he is using and he replies that his team used “36 different structures” in the game and he had no idea which formation the reporter meant. So far, his system has been working and adapting well.

Work

Took a few weeks to get back into the groove. My mind started running wild. What if I went to grad school? I got my calm back when I got more interesting tasks to do. I’ve been almost two years working on Loop and I can see myself continuing for another year at least. It’s the best job I’ve ever had.

Coding

I revamped the design of my app Muze Radio. Still waiting to hear back from Spotify regarding my request for an extended quota, which would allow any Spotify Premium user to use my app. I submitted it back on January 9th and the expected turnaround time of six weeks has now elapsed. Hopefully they’ll get back to me this week.

I started working on hoverbox previews for this site. I want them to look like the previews on Wikipedia or Andy Matuschak’s notes. I’m excited.

Reading

I’ve been reading a lot lately. I have about a dozen books on the go.

I sped through

Stella Maris

Stella Maris (2022)

by Cormac McCarthy

#reviews #books #fiction #literature #philosophy #mathematics #science #subconscious #mortality Mentioned in what I'm doing now, what I'm doing now

I’m 120 pages into this book and so far it has consisted purely of dialogue between a psychiatrist and a patient who has voluntarily checked herself in. Dialogue between these two I expect will fill the rest of the book. It’s an exciting endeavor to witness Cormac attempt.

He published this book alongside The Passenger in 2022 as a “companion novel” known also as The Passenger #2. I tried this one first though because among its topics are math and philosophy. It is set chronologically after The Passenger, but my impression, assembled from fragments of scantily skimmed book summaries, is that reading them in either order is fine.

(Even more than novel summaries I avoid movie trailers. They reveal far too much. I’d be happy to watch them if instead of crudely summarizing the story and undermining its telling they showed a short sample of the movie. A scene at most and no more.)

This book is clearly a product of the years Cormac spent at the Santa Fe Institute (SFI) in conversation with scientists and researchers discussing consciousness, mathematics, physics, language, and philosophy. Much of what the protagonist Alicia says – about the unconscious, Wittgenstein, Heidegger, mathematics – Cormac himself says in conversation with SFI’s President David Krakauer in this interview from 2017. The interview is good companion material to the companion novel.

This book reminds me of another, which I intend to return to when I finish this one: A Dialogue on Personal Identity and Immortality, in which a philosopher lying on his deathbed argues with his friends against the likelihood of an afterlife. In Stella Maris death also looms – not just over the protagonist but also its author. Cormac died six months after this final publication.

in a few days and now I’m reading The Passenger. Cormac McCarthy’s last two novels. A lot of what Alicia says in Stella Maris Cormac himself says in this interview, e.g. the subsconscious is “a machine for operating an animal.”

I’m two thirds into The Death and Life of Great American Cities. I’m taking my time, letting the ideas sink in, and observing their relevance to Seattle and Vancouver.

In the background, I’m reading a couple books that lend themselves to slow incremental consumption.

The Relationship Handbook

what makes a good relationship?

#notes #books #relationships #psychology #insecurity Mentioned in what I'm doing now

Dr. George Pransky in his book The Relationship Handbook writes:

[M]aintaining a sense of well-being is all it takes to make [relationships] enjoyable and easy.

That seems a bit easy, no? If a couple fights a lot, shouldn’t they resolve the issues in question? Not according to Pransky.

[S]o-called “issues” in a marriage are symptoms and not causes of disharmony.

Interesting. If it is true that relationship issues are merely symptoms, then yes, we should attempt to cure the underlying illness. But what is the illness?

[Poor communication and unexpressed emotions and habit patterns from the past] are the symptoms of relationship distress, not the cause. The cause, the real bad guy, is insecurity. Painful memories, negative emotions, habit patterns and bad communication are all symptoms of insecurity.

Pransky goes further:

If you want to understand why people do as they do and feel the way they feel, you need only understand the role of insecurity in life. Insecurity is the source of distress and all counterproductive behavior…Insecurity is the generic human mental illness.

and Italo Calvino’s Mr. Palomar. I was ready to ditch the latter but on a whim I gave it another shot and loved chapter five, The blackbird’s whistle. I intend to post about it on this site at some point.

Meanwhile, I’ve been listening to David Lynch’s biography-memoir Room to Dream and Mary Norris’s memoir about working at the New Yorker.

Flirting with starting Circe, one of Z’s favorite books. I’ve put Infinite Jest on probation. I feel neither compelled to commit nor ready to ditch.

Also reading New Yorker articles here and there. What the Doomsayers Get Wrong About Deepfakes makes a good point: new technology rarely aligns with our panicked predictions of catastrophe but often inflicts harm more insidiously and narrowly. This article about tipping – originally “To Insure Promptitude” – was really interesting. And this one about polyamory’s popularity. Finally, this one about the “philosophical-counselling movement.”

A guy from my high school posted an insightful mini-essay about how social media robs us of precious “idle time.” Reminds me of the concept of “ambient thought” and the ideas in

this mini-essay

where do ideas come from? #2

#notes #writing #subconscious #creativity #problem-solving Mentioned in what I'm doing now, what I'm doing now

There was this little voice whispering to me that the book was really good, and if I didn’t finish, I would regret it forever.

In his book

On Writing

, Stephen King recounts how he broke through the writer’s block he encountered 500 pages into writing his book The Stand:

I started taking long walks…looking at the same old trees and the same old chattering ill-natured jays and squirrels. Boredom can be a very good thing for someone in a creative jam. I spent those walks being bored and thinking about my gigantic boondoggle of a manuscript. For weeks, I got exactly nowhere in my thinking. It all just seemed too hard, too fucking complex. I had run out too many plot lines and they were in danger of becoming snarled… I circled the problem again and again, beat my fists on it, knocked my head against it. And then, one day when I was thinking of nothing much at all, the answer came to me. It arrived whole and complete, gift-wrapped, you could say, in a single bright flash. I ran home and jotted it down on paper…I was terrified of forgetting.

Fellow American novelist Cormac McCarthy and many other creatives tell

similar anecdotes

of receiving a solution to a conundrum from an invisible source inside their mind. Consistently, the conundrum was something the person had been mulling over in their conscious mind before their subsconscious found the solution. Tech entrepreneur Paul Graham talks about the importance of keeping the right conundrum at the top of your mind.

that I posted on this site.

I’ve also spent more time reading articles published on smaller profile websites. Some really good pieces about software: An App Can Be A Home-Cooked Meal, about programming as a practical skill for use in personal life. The Rise of “Worse is Better”, about a counterintuitive yet effective approach to buidling software. Reminds me of Skateboard, Bike, Car, which I’ve mentioned before. Finally, Situated Software, about another counterintuitive software development philosophy: built to not scale.

Writing

Book

Stella Maris (2022)

by Cormac McCarthy

#reviews #books #fiction #literature #philosophy #mathematics #science #subconscious #mortality Mentioned in what I'm doing now, what I'm doing now

I’m 120 pages into this book and so far it has consisted purely of dialogue between a psychiatrist and a patient who has voluntarily checked herself in. Dialogue between these two I expect will fill the rest of the book. It’s an exciting endeavor to witness Cormac attempt.

He published this book alongside The Passenger in 2022 as a “companion novel” known also as The Passenger #2. I tried this one first though because among its topics are math and philosophy. It is set chronologically after The Passenger, but my impression, assembled from fragments of scantily skimmed book summaries, is that reading them in either order is fine.

(Even more than novel summaries I avoid movie trailers. They reveal far too much. I’d be happy to watch them if instead of crudely summarizing the story and undermining its telling they showed a short sample of the movie. A scene at most and no more.)

This book is clearly a product of the years Cormac spent at the Santa Fe Institute (SFI) in conversation with scientists and researchers discussing consciousness, mathematics, physics, language, and philosophy. Much of what the protagonist Alicia says – about the unconscious, Wittgenstein, Heidegger, mathematics – Cormac himself says in conversation with SFI’s President David Krakauer in this interview from 2017. The interview is good companion material to the companion novel.

This book reminds me of another, which I intend to return to when I finish this one: A Dialogue on Personal Identity and Immortality, in which a philosopher lying on his deathbed argues with his friends against the likelihood of an afterlife. In Stella Maris death also looms – not just over the protagonist but also its author. Cormac died six months after this final publication.

and

movie

The Elephant Man (1980)

#reviews #movies #trauma #abuse #disease Mentioned in what I'm doing now, Wild at Heart (1990), what I'm doing now

John Hurt’s performance resonated with me like wine lingers in your gut. There is such a tenderness in the way he speaks to the few who are kind to him. The prosthetics are impressive, and Hurt’s acting brings them to life.

The movie has its flaws. It moves slowly and rather sloppily ends the story of the devious night porter. Apart from the last one, however, the sequences with the porter are brilliantly written. For much of the movie, he is an anonymous, unpredictable figure that pays cruel visits to the Elephant Man at night. No hospital staff is ever there to witness it and the Elephant Man never says a word about it. Is he is a projection of the Elephant Man’s terror? It’s a chilling effect and one not reversed by the revelation that the nightmarish figure is a hospital employee. No doubt there are demons haunting the Elephant Man that can’t be defeated with a silly bonk on the head.

reviews,

vign

hot springs

#journal #places #people #resorts Mentioned in what I'm doing now, what is this site? #2

Hunched against the cold in our hotel bathrobes and slippers we crunched over the snow between the pools, looking for the hottest one. Of course, it turned out to be the one everyone was crowded into. For a few hours we crouched in the hot water avoiding eye contact with the multitude around us – a family reunion, couples on anniversary weekend getaways – trying to convince Z’s mom and stepdad that renting was a better option than buying in their current circumstances.

In the evening Z and I went for drinks and dessert at the hotel’s lounge, The Copper Room. We sat among the other couples at one of the cloth-draped tables surrounding the big empty dance floor. The waiter glided from table to table cracking jokes with his head cocked. The band started playing another oldie and a couple in their thirties came out onto the dance floor. They danced clumnsily near the edge of the hardwood rectangle, far from the stage, near our section of tables. The man smiled blankly as he tried leading his partner, who was grinning in embarrassment and bowing her head while she went through the motions. I suppose we shouldn’t have been surprised when she took a tumble, such was the lack of coordination between all components – music, limbs, lovers. They scuttled off the dance floor only to creep back on a couple songs later to join the couples they’d inspired onto their feet.

ettes

hockey game

#journal #sports Mentioned in what I'm doing now

I liked analyzing the game’s tactics and patterns from my ignorant perspective. The production, too. From speakers hanging above pop music blared whenever the game paused, even if just for a few seconds. As soon as a referee dropped the puck again, the clocked resumed and the music evaporated. They also managed to squeeze in two performances from local country music singer, Antonio Larosa. He sounded good, but no one in the stadium seemed to care much.

This was my second time at an NHL game and my main memory of the first one, back in middle school, is being baffled when it ended after three periods, not two, or four. This time, I went in knowing a bit more, including the offside rule: players on the attacking team can’t cross the thick blue line into other team’s third of the rink unless the puck is already there. Watching the Canucks, I noticed that, right before crossing the blue line, attacking players would often fling the puck into the opposing end and swarm around it. It irked me how often they did it. I wanted them to keep dribbling. I’ve since learned that they do this because the defensive team can’t just dump the puck back out. They first have to regain possession and get it back across that blue line. Only then can they launch it into the other team’s end. Then the cycle repeats at the other end. It’s funny how

games are designed

to avoid certain behaviors and can end up transforming the tactics of how the game is played.

,

notes

what makes a good relationship?

#notes #books #relationships #psychology #insecurity Mentioned in what I'm doing now

Dr. George Pransky in his book The Relationship Handbook writes:

[M]aintaining a sense of well-being is all it takes to make [relationships] enjoyable and easy.

That seems a bit easy, no? If a couple fights a lot, shouldn’t they resolve the issues in question? Not according to Pransky.

[S]o-called “issues” in a marriage are symptoms and not causes of disharmony.

Interesting. If it is true that relationship issues are merely symptoms, then yes, we should attempt to cure the underlying illness. But what is the illness?

[Poor communication and unexpressed emotions and habit patterns from the past] are the symptoms of relationship distress, not the cause. The cause, the real bad guy, is insecurity. Painful memories, negative emotions, habit patterns and bad communication are all symptoms of insecurity.

Pransky goes further:

If you want to understand why people do as they do and feel the way they feel, you need only understand the role of insecurity in life. Insecurity is the source of distress and all counterproductive behavior…Insecurity is the generic human mental illness.

, and a couple of

mini-essays

what are rules?

#notes #chess #games #rules #design #law Mentioned in hockey game, what I'm doing now

In chess, there’s a niche rule with an untranslated name that amusingly befits its esotericism: en passant. Many casual chess playes are unaware of it. It seems to exist as an afterthought, scribbled in to prevent a pawn from escaping an oncoming enemy pawn by leaping two spaces. It is itself a consequence of another weird rule: pawns in their starting position can move forward two spaces in one move. Why? To speed up the game and relieve some pawn-pushing tedium, I’m guessing.

Chess rules are clean and simple other than the two exceptions above and a third: castling. Under the right conditions, the king can move sideways two spaces, double his usual quota, towards one of his rooks and, inexplicably, in the same move, the rook can leap over the king and nestle beside it. Huh? This move seems normal because of its ubiquity. Casual players usually know it. And yet they are more baffled by en passant, which, compared to castling, is only a small deviation from the core rules.

Once we know the rules of a game, we accept them and quit questioning. The better you internalize the rules, the more easily you can abide by them and get to the business of playing the game. But games are full of weird rules. In basketball, there’s a limit of how long the attacking team can have posession in the other team’s end. Oh, okay. Players on the attacking team in hockey can’t cross into other team’s third of the rink unless the puck is already there. If you say so. In soccer, an attacker must not go beyond the second-to-last player on the defensive team if they want to be passed the ball. Unless they are in their own half, then it’s okay. Sorry?

Weird rules are less weird though when you realize they’re added purposefully to facilitate certain behaviors and prevent others. This applies to laws and regulations, too. They are not corollaries of moral truth, but ways of incentivizing behavior in favor of particular goals. In happy cases, the goals are fairness and fun. But rule-makers are only trying to please the crowd when they themselves are incentivized to do so, by ticket sales, by votes, by social pressure. So next time you encounter a weird rule and you’re curious about its existence, ask yourself: who made this and what are they trying to make me do? And next time you write a rule, ask yourself: what new exploitative behavior will I be incentivizing?

, including

how to use restraint

how to use restraint

#essays #writing #mediums #audio #psychology #hemingway Mentioned in what I'm doing now

Even though Spotify categorizes it as a podcast, Random Tape is something else. It’s a collection of audio recordings that don’t have much to do with each other apart from having fallen into the hands of David Weinberg. They’re strangely engaging. I haven’t listened to the show in a while but I cherish it as a testament to the power of pure audio as a medium.

Recently during my routine cleaning of Google storage forced by their 15GB max and my determination to stay in the free tier, I came across a video that was all black. It was 1 minute and 34 seconds long and had retained its place in my Google Photos purely due to its audio. I had recorded it purposefully with my phone in my pocket during a recent Christmas trip I took with my mom and younger sister to Puerto Vallarta. In it you can hear only our voices and the sound of the beach.

I stripped the audio from the video and kept that instead, reducing its size 100 times. Inspired, I tried the same for a video I took that same trip of a live band at River Cafe, where we had dinner. The result was not only much cheaper to store but also more evocative.

Audio is not just a good alternative to video when storage is scarce, it is, sometimes, a superior medium. Sure, we’ve all heard it, Less is More – but how so? Because excessive information is noise? But how much, or which, information is excessive?

Locating the line via some analytical calculation seems an intractable task. And though I think there is likely an objective explanation – be it psychological, neurological, cognitive, or of some other kind – I’d sooner look to the intuition of artists to answer this question. Even if they can’t tell us where the line between sufficiency and excess is, they can help us develop a feel for where we are in relation to it.

Hemingway is a remarkable example. The restraint in his writing is so strong that it is sometimes radical. He wrote with a plainness that risks boring the reader but often succeeds at stirring their curiosity and drawing them in. This is intentional. Hemingway makes more from less by leaving plenty of space for the reader’s imagination to fill in details from their personal bank of sensory images. If the writer

provides too much

, they block the reader’s unique contribution.

, which I plan to revise because I lost sight of my point towards the end.

TV

The Wire, seasons one and two, some of the third. A reminder of several depressing facts of American life: police brutality, perverted hierarchical bureacracies (“Chain of command!”), the ravage of drugs in poor communities. One of the great things about this show is its multitude of characters and lack of a permanent protagonist. Another is the show’s vividness. The shipyard and its workers in the second season feel so real.

Season one of True Detective. Really interesting character foil. I think Lynch would adore the concept of The Taxman, the detective that carries around a surprisingly large notebook and bears his duties like a holy burden. Does not believe in Christ but hangs a crucifix in his apartment to contemplate “that moment in the garden.” The Taxman is at the center of an aesthetically breathtaking action scene in Episode four. Not surprised to see a lot of talk about it online, e.g. Breaking Down the Best Scene in True Detective.

Rewatching Arrested Development, again. Still catching some jokes for the first time. Also watching the new season of The Eric Andre Show.

Movies

Anatomy of a Fall was fantastic. Two and a half hours long but engaging all the way through. A lot of dialogue. Beautiful to look at.

Talk to Me was also very good. It’s now one of my favorite horror movies. Reminds me of Insidious for obvious reasons and Hereditary for more subtle ones.


What’s next?

Work.

Keep playing soccer, going on walks, resume bike riding. Go snowboarding!

Keep reading, keep writing.

Continue working on Muze Radio. Implement hoverbox previews on this site.

Plan this year’s trips with Z.

Going to an improv class for the first time. Z signed us up after doing one with friends recently. She thinks I’m going to love it.

Continue nurturing my social life in Vancouver. Play chess and watch Lynch movies with friends.

Keep watching Arsenal games. It will be thrilling to see how the rest of the season plays out. It’s so tight at the top. Hopefully Arsenal will still be up there next time I write a personal update.

Super excited to see Ethiopian keyboardist Hailu Mergia in Seattle with my friend, who is also Ethiopian. I might go to a couple other live shows, too.

I’m looking forward to it all. Things are good and spring is coming.