Zuihitsu, 2023-02

Technically, zuihitsu are longer reflections than what I tend to collect. But, the general idea is right. Here’s this month’s installment. If you want the complete set, please download the fortune file.

  • It is easier to make a bad habit impossible than to not do the possible.
  • Good thinking requires discomfort.
  • Let your mind wander.
  • Being heard is so close to being loved that for the average person, they are almost indistinguishable.—David W. Augsburger
  • Listening is where love begins: listening to ourselves and then to our neighbors.—Fred Rodgers
  • Never offer unsolicited advice. Even solicited, advice is a dangerous gift.
  • A man forgets his good luck the next day, but remembers his bad luck until next year.—E.W. Howe
  • Diplomacy and decisive action go hand in hand.
  • Unless the threat is immediate, observe and analyze.
  • Politics poison everything they touch.
  • Be last to judge and the first to embrace.
  • All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.—Blaise Pascal
  • Don’t give advice, do acknowledge reality.
  • On the utility to signal spectrum, the more the cost, the more signaling.
  • Better tools, better information.
  • The tall poppy gets cut down.
  • Rest is resistance.
  • Focus on making children string over fixing broken men.
  • We all have three voices: the one we think with, the one we speak with, and the one we write with. When you stutter, two of those are always at war.—John Hendrickson
  • Thought is formed in the mouth.—Tristan Tzara
  • Without mercy, there can be no mistakes.
  • Simple solutions in a complex world aren’t solutions.
  • Devalue effort and all that remains is morass.
  • Wonder is the helpmate of learning.
  • The best way to defeat the opposition is to lead it. 
  • Happy or smart. Choose one.
  • Always be willing to change your mind —especially if you’re smart.
  • We decide what to believe by deciding who to believe.
  • No need to separate the art from the artist, if the art is bad.
  • Social constructs, such as gender, race, etc. are picked up from our society. None of us escape them, except with conscious, courageous effort.
  • Peace is the product of clear boundaries.
  • It’s never going to be perfect. Do your best and let it go.
  • Conspiracy theories are the insecure person’s defense against a confusing world with too many competing narratives.
  • Specification is for guidance. Code is source of truth.
  • You don’t need to convince. Just do or be it.
  • I would never die for my beliefs, because I might be wrong.—Bertrand Russell
  • Truth is simple. Complexity is when truth is not understood or is there to obscure it.
  • The 10/10 Rule: it takes a decade to build a platform and another decade for it to reach mass adoption.
  • Fixing things you don’t like is where innovation begins.

Zuihitsu, 2022-12

Technically, zuihitsu are longer reflections than what I tend to collect. But, the general idea is right. Here’s this month’s installment. If you want the complete set, please download the fortune file.

  • The first rule of life: don’t be a dickhead.
  • Men only have money the first month of dating, that’s recruitment budget. Never confuse it with operational budget.
  • Travel is a meat thing. Best for those whose meat is still fresh.
  • Emotional abuse: threats, using relationship history or traditiobal roles to avoid responsibility, pressure, ignoring boundaries, guilting, shaming, and getting other people to manipulate on your behalf.
  • Don’t believe the hype!—Public Enemy
  • Good friends, good books and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life.—Mark Twain
  • …there is no such thing as information-overload; there is just filter failure.—Clay Shirky
  • How might this experience bring out the best in me and help me grow?
  • Life is self-directed.
  • The planning fallacy, is the tendency to underestimate the amount of time needed to complete a future task, due in part to the reliance on overly optimistic performance scenarios.
  • Stop carrying the world on your shoulders. You ain’t got the build for it.
  • People rarely want advice. Most want to be heard. Learn to listen. Don’t try to fix it, change it, or project your own emotions onto it.
  • A question for wants: if I already had it, would I be glad?
  • Everything is possible. But not everything fits budget and timeline.
  • There’s always a tell, the canary in the coal mine, that announces the change. The hard part is recognizing it.
  • Adjudicating hacks allows systems to evolve.
  • …everybody is going to hurt you. You just gotta find the ones worth suffering for.—Bob Marley
  • Do things for love. Love is not earned. Love is either freely given, or it is not love at all.
  • Art is never finished, only abandoned.—Leonardo Da Vinci
  • The more comfortable you become in your own skin, the less you need to manufacture the world around you for comfort.
  • Get smart in secret and get stupid in public.
  • Do the easy bit first.
  • Looking to the past or present is a great way to miss the future.
  • Authentic love is about freedom, not possession.
  • Be the reason someone feels seen, heard, understood, appreciated, supported, and loved.
  • Choose grow over comfort, discipline over procrastination, improving over impressing, and progress over perfection.
  • Thinking stops at certainty.
  • Without nuance, ideas become more simple and more wrong.
  • It is enough for lazy wits to have the appearance of knowing.
  • Face, accept, float, let time pass.
  • Engage in a conspiracy of love with the whole world.
  • Self-directed learning is never boring.
  • The grown-ups never understand anything by themselves, and, for children, it’s tiresome always giving them explanations.—Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince
  • Most beliefs put ideology above evidence.
  • Wisdom is knowing the right thing to do at the right time.
  • Crickets are the orchestra of the stars.
  • Struggle leads to transformation.
  • We are all living off the fat of a dream gone bad.
  • Launch determines orbit.
  • You are not your thoughts or opinions.
  • When I shit job needs to be done, cover all the angles and try not to get shat upon.
  • To own an idea, you have to spend the cognitive time buying it.
  • Stay cautious, stay alive.
  • The overall aim of most thought is tranquillity, not truth.
  • Bees and flies eat different food. No fly can convince a bee to start eating shit.
  • The problem with stereotypes is people never live up to them.
  • Say, or learn to say: I’m sorry. I don’t know. I was wrong. I need help.
  • Lotteries distract from discontent with irrational hope.
  • Day wise, decade foolish.
  • Without agency, every problem is a catastrophe.
  • Speaking without thought is not the same as speaking the truth.
  • Philosophy is question fandom.
  • The path to self-realization is strewn with embracing uncomfortable truths.
  • Addiction is often an expression of anger.
  • Respect leaves room for questions and challenges.
  • Through play, we re-learn how to trust our own eyes and ears and resist those who would command us.
  • It is enough that it is engaging until we are ready to walk away.

Zuihitsu, 2022-11

Technically, zuihitsu are longer reflections than what I tend to collect. But, the general idea is right. Here’s this month’s installment. If you want the complete set, please download the fortune file.

  • All great change comes from community and from individuals learning what  is within their individual and collective power.
  • Choose in your best interest. Forgive yourself for the past. Everyday, create your future self and some moments of peace.
  • Wear your Halloween costume on a different day.
  • Prediction is less important than adaptability.
  • The most important question: what can I learn from this?
  • In the sublime war of man against Reality man has but one weapon, the imagination. 
  • A beautiful thing is never perfect.
  • You can’t fight ideas with bullets.
  • Ignorance of some topics is wisdom.
  • Conflict can help people connect, but many people engage in: score keeping, deflection, gaslighting, or defensiveness.
  • Understand and express what you want.
  • Conflict is made worse when we fight (attack), flight (leave), freeze (play dead), or fawn (appease/people people) because information cannot be processed. Pause the discussion if any of these are happening.
  • Always three options: accept, reframe or reject.
  • Monetize your problems.
  • Complacency breeds crisis. Hustle breeds abundance.
  • The normal consists of a null set which nobody and nothing really fits.
  • Don’t yuck the yums of others.
  • The ear catches what the eye misses.
  • If your life is a mess, your work is a mess.
  • Debts to be paid: once for a simple trade, twice for free-given aid, and thrice for the insult made.
  • Risk cannot be destroyed, it can only be shifted through time and redistributed in form.—Christopher Cole
  • I would rather have questions that can’t be answered than answers that can’t be questioned.—Feynman
  • Vanity is the quicksand of reason.—George Sand
  • Sometimes you can be done even if you’re not finished.
  • The purpose of thinking is so our though to die instead of us.—Alfred North Whitehead
  • There is always something that can’t be fixed.
  • Better to live with the devil than with an angry woman.
  • Frustration often precedes desire.
  • Coopted language is a tool of oppression.
  • You are not responsible for the emotions of others.
  • The secret of power is the knowledge that others are more cowardly than you are.—Ludwig Borne
  • Talking often runs way ahead of the doing.
  • In life, and in the circus, you need to gasp.
  • Celebrate other people’s wins.
  • A tragedy rarely ends with the principals.
  • If it’s your decision, it’s design; if not, it’s a requirement.—Alistair Cockburn
  • A rule of thumb: one needs to wait a minimum of 12 to 15 seconds for young children to respond to a question or a command.
  • If you’re playing defense, you’re losing.
  • …everything that lives, not vegetative life alone, emerges from darkness and, however strong its natural tendency to thrust itself into the light, it nevertheless needs the security of darkness to grow at all.—Hannah Arendt
  • Speak less, to fewer people and less often.
  • Lend freely, against good collateral, at a penalty rate.
  • A smart person learns from their mistakes, and a wise person learns from other people’s mistakes.
  • Never sleep with anybody who has more problems than you.—Robert McKee.
  • Being vulnerable is hard, but it’s the only way for us to more fully understand what we need to explain.
  • Speak your truth and live with the consequences.
  • All is fair if you predeclare.
  • Poor man wanna be rich, rich man wanna be king. And a king ain’t satisfied till he rules everything.—Bruce Springstein
  • Who you are is not your fault, but it is your responsibility.
  • What we hate most in others is usually what we hate most in ourselves.
  • Real confidence looks like humility. You no longer need to advertise your value because it comes from a place that does not require the validation of others.
  • True adventure rarely comes freshly scrubbed. Sometimes, you gotta get your hands dirty.
  • Personal growth implies outgrowing some relationships too.
  • Fortune favors the prepared mind.—Louis Pasteur
  • Don’t water dead plants.
  • Honor your needs and limits.
  • When someone says they don’t fit in, they’re probably looking to fit in, somewhere.
  • The personal is more important than the perfect.
  • You can not calm the storm. You can only calm yourself until the storm has passed.
  • Bow down before the one you serve, you’re going to get what you deserve.—Trent Reznor
  • The world is full of lonely people waiting to make the first move.
  • Everything you feed grows.
  • Wait until the outcome is clear, and then wait some more. 

Between the “Quotes” & Control

“Not needing a family member for support or because you plan to inherit the family farm means that who we choose to spend time with is based more on our identities and aspirations for growth than survival or necessity,” he explains. “Today, nothing ties an adult child to a parent beyond that adult child’s desire to have that relationship.”

Increased opportunities to live and work in different cities or even countries from our adult families can also help facilitate a parental break-up, simply by adding physical distance.

“It’s been much easier for me to move around than it would have been probably 20 years ago,” agrees Faizah, who is British with a South Asian background, and has avoided living in the same area as her family since 2014. 

She says she cut ties with her parents because of “controlling” behaviours like preventing her from going to job interviews, wanting an influence on her friendships and putting pressure on her to get married straight after her studies. “They didn’t respect my boundaries,” she says. “I just want to have ownership over my own life and make my own choices.” 

-Maddy Savage, “Family estrangement: Why adults are cutting off their parents.” BBC.December 1st, 2021.

From a language perspective, I found this article interesting because clearly the “quotes” are direct quotes, but because of the way “quotes” are frequently used elsewhere, I read the “controlling” in the above as possibly questioning whether the behavior of preventing a child from going on job interviews, influencing their friendships and applying pressure to get married counts as “controlling”. These behaviors are incredibly common. At the same time, they are obviously controlling.

But, it’s a sign of a new line being drawn. Influencing your child’s choice of friends when they are children is probably prudent. But, is it prudent when they reach the age of maturity? And, even asking that question has bias. In many cultures, there is this idea that older people have wisdom and should be influencing those younger than them throughout their lives. The counterpoint is that much that counts as wisdom are like mesofacts: something that was true at one time but is no longer true.

This can also be true of life strategies. In a particular time, it may have made sense to get credentials and look for a career with one company. Or, it may have made sense for women to get married and have children young. But, does that value square with a woman getting a university education first? Financially, it’s a difficult argument to make. It doesn’t make financial sense. But, it may make sense from other perspectives. For example, educated women may, arguably, do a better job educating their children. Or, perhaps, a university education can be used as a proxy for ability or intelligence, and increase someone’s value on the marriage market.

When you think this through, it’s clear that the social environment and values are changing. Older generations like the way things were because they had more control. And, reading through this article, it’s clear that much of the topic of estrangement is about control. It’s also about what we will tolerate. We tolerate more when incentives are lined-up to support certain lines of control. But, if you are bringing less to the table (or negatives in the case of abusive people), then you get less control, no matter how old you are or how much wisdom you think you have.

Zuihitsu: 2020-06-16 to 2020-08-08

  • You can’t learn anything with your mouth open.
  • Is it complex or merely complicated?
  • Use the right tool and the tool will do the work.
  • Always respect the task.
  • It’s easy to make things difficult. It’s difficult to make things easy.
  • Don’t put it down, put it away. 
  • Think fast and talk slow. Listen, analyze, evaluate, prepare a fallback strategy, then act.
  • Write about what you don’t know about what you know.— Eudora Welty
  • Making policy is the art of taking good decisions on insufficient evidence. —Wayland Young
  • Shut out or shut in, is there a difference?
  • To see things as they really are, you must imagine them for what they might be.—Derrick Bell
  • Imagination is political.
  • If information is inconsistent, people will follow their own preferences.
  • Direct action is the defiant insistence on acting as if one is already free.
  • Putting yourself in new situations constantly is the only way to ensure that you make your decisions unencumbered by the nature of habit, law, custom or prejudice – and it’s up to you to create the situations.—Crimethinc
  • To make friends: be ok at talking, good at listening, and excellent at shutting the fuck up.
  • Optimization: never set one target, always at least two: what you hope to get, and what you don’t want to lose to get there.”
  • Oysters get herpes, rabbits get syphilis, dolphins get genital warts.
  • It’s easier to win battles when you aren’t fighting all of them.
  • Consensus equals average.
  • Biology enables, culture forbids.
  • Sometimes it’s easier to delete one big mistake than try to delete 18 smaller interleaved mistakes.
  • Concepts both clarify and obscure.
  • Listen for the voice that is hard to hear.
  • Without new vocabulary, new thinking cannot be born.—Ai Weiwei
  • We retain the facts which are easiest to think about.—B. F. Skinner
  • Embrace the future; don’t complain about it.
  • Stargazing, not navel or shoegazing.
  • Form, context and fit.
  • …the mind is always in pain.
  • Data erases all our nuances and contradictions.
  • Fear of individual threats is the justification for secret police and brings the might of the state down on the individual, a lottery.
  • Balanced: careful and curious.
  • There’s a right way of seeing.
  • Kindness is keeping your shit to yourself.
  • First order of business is getting your say.
  • There’s a lot more to be learned from contrast than comparison, about ourselves and others.
  • We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.—Plato
  • Make one person happy. Understand their story, if you can. But, never more than one, and don’t have it be the focus of all your energy.
  • Dial the silence up.
  • Algorithms are the new aunties.
  • The hardest thing in life is to know what to want; most people never figure it out, so they wind up pretending that they wanted what they could get.
  • Peculiar competence is usually paired with disadvantage.
  • Some people imagine they are evil. Some people don’t have to imagine. Some people imagine they are good, and they are the worst.
  • Erotic projections aren’t real.
  • If you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain.—Dolly Parton
  • It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.
  • Complete disorder is impossible.
  • What’s the most important question I’m not asking?’
  • Observe. Orient. Decide. Act.
  • Everything is habit-forming, so make sure what you do is what you want to be doing.—Wilt Chamberlin
  • Born as individuals, then select their family, who are the people their share space with.
  • Small groups are crucial for tight coordination.
  • Advance by extending the number of important functions you can perform without thinking.
  • Autonomy is collective.
  • Ask where are you headed, and why?
  • Stay long enough, and people will show you their true selves.
  • Second draft = first draft – 10%.
  • Language is a projection of personal quality. 
  • Monetization is poison.
  • Inability to waste hours wastes years.
  • If you raise your children, you can spoil your grandchildren. But if you spoil your children, you’ll have to raise your grandchildren. 
  • Prefer text to subtext.
  • Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.
  • Human beings are projects of mutual creation. Most of the work we do is on each other.
  • Time is not infinite. None of us can afford to spend what is left of it dallying with the stupid and bland (people).
  • When faced with a decision that offers deteriorating quality of choice, people will respond with either voice (advocating for change from within) or exit (opting out of the system).—Albert Hirschman
  • “The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”—W.B. Yeats
  • Agnostic or paranoid; there is no third way.
  • The mystery of life isn’t a problem to solve, but a reality to experience.—Frank Herbert, Dune
  • Don’t serve or drink poison.
  • The more you do, the more you have to do.
  • Don’t mind what happens.
  • You only have access to your own mind.
  • Abandon your masterpiece and sink into the real masterpiece.
  • Don’t save the world, savor it.
  • Loss and gain is happening every moment in every life.
  • Scarcity breeds demand.
  • A choice in ignorance is not a choice.
  • Happiness isn’t found, it’s made.
  • The wheel of life has many spokes.
  • Once you turn your back on something, you can no longer lay claim to it.
  • Shame is a privilege.
  • Different beliefs in different places.
  • “Was kümmert mich mein Geschwätz von gestern, nichts hindert mich, weiser zu werden,” or “I don’t care at all about whatever I said yesterday, as nothing prevents me from getting wiser.”—Former German Chancellor Adenauer
  • August Landmesser, guy refusing to do Nazi salute.
  • Some pathogens cannot be killed, only contained.
  • “…science must always test and measure, and much of reality and human experience is immeasurable.”—Starhawk
  • Most of the world looks better in reproduction than it did in life.
  • A good critic can turn someone into a good artist given enough work to review.
  • The Other is the last outpost against social oblivion by society’s marginal people.
  • If you already have an answer, you won’t look for a better one.
  • Everyone is in a box, coffin or cocoon?
  • Everyone wants to be free.
  • “There ain’t no Sanity Claus”.—Groucho Marx, in A Night at the Opera
  • Heresy is only another word for freedom of thought.
  • Political apathy is not a neutral stance, but a strongly conservative one.
  • An obstacle is an inspiration.
  • Home is acceptance.
  • What you hide is the part of yourself you smother to be with others.

Not Inferno

“…the inferno where we live every day, that we form by being together. There are two ways to escape suffering it. The first is easy for many: accept the inferno and become such a part of it that you can no longer see it. The second is risky and demands constant vigilance and apprehension: seek and learn to recognize who and what, in the midst of the inferno, are not inferno, then make them endure, give them space.”

—Italo Calvino, “Invisible Cities”

Rambo III

Colonel Trautman: You expect sympathy? You started this damn war! Now you’ll have to deal with it!

Zaysen: And we will. It is just a matter of time before we achieve a complete victory.

Colonel Trautman: Yeah, well, there won’t be a victory! Every day, your war machines lose ground to a bunch of POORLY-armed, POORLY-equipped freedom fighters! The fact is that you underestimated your competition. If you’d studied your history, you’d know that these people have never given up to anyone. They’d rather DIE, than be slaves to an invading army. You can’t defeat a people like that. We tried! We already had our Vietnam! Now you’re gonna have yours!”

Rambo III

Recently, I’ve been rewatching the Rambo series. The recent installment made me aware that there have been two more additions to the series since the original three, and I was curious how these films had aged.

The first film is still a classic of American action film. Its focus on police brutality resonates in the era of Black Lives Matter to the point of prescience. Or, as Bryant, the cop in charge in the original Blade Runner put it: “You know the score, pal. You’re not cop, you’re little people!” The original film cast the institutional structures of the United States as the villain, and it still feels relevant. It’s a popcorn movie, but there are ideas worth exploring in it.

It’s interesting how the subsequent films repurposed the character to work as an agent for the United States in Cold War conflict, where Cold War jingoism makes Russians into comic book villains with recognized tropes, such as the Husky Russkie and Torture Technician. But, this third film looks very different from when it first came out due to U.S. involvement in Afghanistan for almost 20 years after 9/11.

I don’t particularly buy this idea that Afghans are some kind of unbeatable enemy. The main difficulty is geography and the limited ability of conventional armies to project power within it. With the investment in the right infrastructure and troop size, probably on the scale of millions, it could be done. The question is: is it worth doing? And, no matter the time or place, it never is to imperial states.

That said, the quote above got me thinking about the American experience in Afghanistan and how it differs from the framing of Vietnam. In both cases, the outcome looks to be about the same. Vietnam has about 58,000 U.S. service members killed and 150,000 wounded. In the U.S. War in Afghanistan, it’s about 2,400 and 18,000 wounded. That figure doubles if you include contractors, which I suppose is the modern euphemism for mercenaries.

So, clearly the main difference is scale. Fewer people went to Afghanistan, so it weighs less on the national consciousness. Chances are that most Americans did not know anyone involved. And, I think that gets at one of the key ideas in the Rambo films, that beyond promoting the American nationalism and a token “thank you for your service”, veterans are mostly forgotten about, both during and after the wars they are asked to fight.

Rambo III is an exercise in cartoon violence. But, interestingly, it has become more relevant 30 years on. It’s not a great film, but it does provide some food for thought, given our collective experience of the War on Terror. It becomes much easier to draw the line from the first to the third film, and how American institutions are fundamentally correct, and perhaps have always been so since at least World War II.