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A Brooklynite birdie

There is a bird that hangs out in the tree behind our apartment, its call is super distinctive. It goes like this (recording below is me whistling an octave down from the actual bird call):

If I were describing it in musical notation, it’d be in F minor starting on the fourth, then to the minor third, then to the root, then repeating the root in a pattern three times. Maybe two times? I’m not sure, it’s night right now and the little dude is asleep.

Musical notation of a White-throated Sparrow from Brooklyn

I don’t think it’s identical every time, I think I’ve heard a few that have a very slightly different interval between the second and third pitches, and a different duration for the third pitch. But they’re all usually within this range, very close.

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I just found this NYT article about identifying local NYC birds. Based on that, I am 99% sure our neighbor is a White-throated Sparrow.

It’s funny though, when I listen to other White-throated Sparrow calls online they are similar, but not really the same. Ours is a bit less frantic, more relaxed and sing-songy. It’s like a slightly different dialect or something. Maybe our little collection of sparrows have a Brooklyn accent.

I’ve never been super enthused about identifying birds via binoculars. I mean I find it find it interesting, but not compelling. But identifying birds by their call, that’s something I could get in to.

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One way to fall asleep

Lying in bed for ages thinking “why can’t I get to sleep”, then I finally realize every muscle in my body, every fiber of my being is tense.

How does it surprise me every time? A mindful body scan usually does the trick.

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When I was a kid, probably around 5, I distinctly remember this moment where I was lying in my twin bed staring at the doorway and suddenly thinking, “How do you fall asleep? … I don’t know how to fall asleep!”

I realized that I had never actually experienced the moment of falling asleep (of course not, I was half-asleep at that point) and started overthinking it. It became this process I didn’t understand, and then I was just lying there wide-eyed not understanding and confused about what to do next.

I’m not sure if it was that night or a few nights later, but I eventually asked my mom how to fall asleep. She looked at me and said, “… Um, just close your eyes?” I did, and to me the next day, it seemed like I had fallen asleep instantly. It felt like a revelation, that there was such a simple answer.

I sometimes notice nowadays, that moment between wakefulness and sleep.

Every once in a while I notice my thoughts getting weirder and more abstract and suddenly think, this is it. It’s quite an incredible state, nothing like it. I guess it’s lucid dreaming, but it’s so short… I try to stay in that state but it’s almost impossible, thinking about it wakes me up and leaning in to it makes me fall asleep.

Sometimes I get in to the same state upon waking, but unfortunately that’s usually because I’m coming out of a nightmare.

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Belonging

Maslow’s (simplified) hierarchy of needs, based on the hierarchy Abraham Maslow published in his 1943 paper “A Theory of Human Motivation”.

It’s not perfect and definitely shouldn’t be treated as universal, but I find it useful. For understanding my own behavior, many others’ behavior. Also for thinking a bit more about my approach to parenting.

The hierarchy is frequently visualized as a pyramid, but that’s not a perfect analogy. What’s something with permeable, blurred layers that maintains a definite order… Maybe a trifle? Why not.

Maslow considered the “bottom” four to be “deficiency” needs, meaning that not sufficiently meeting those needs would lead to anxiety, tension, and overall poor mental health. It would be pretty hard to focus on self-actualization without the meeting the deficiency needs.

I see the bottom layers as part of that all-important maintenance we have to perform on ourselves. You can get away without caring about self-maintenance as an adult, but only at the expense of others who have to compensate for you.

Amongst the people I most frequently encounter, and myself, we seem to be most insidiously deficient in belonging. Also esteem, but this feels like a knock-on effect from the lack of real belonging. (It may go without saying, but I am extremely fortunate to live within communities where our physiological and safety needs are fairly easily met.)

We desperately need to belong, but we increasingly feel that we don’t. This is exacerbated by both social media and 24hr news cycles. Who among us hasn’t once felt that the world as it is now, the direction it seems to be hurtling, isn’t made for them? For some people, these feelings are fleeting. For others, it is their albatross. And this feeling seems to be building. It doesn’t surprise me that this is one of the most divisive moments in my lifetime.

I think that the lack of belonging is also exacerbated by the independence-at-all-costs mentality that plagues much of the US in particular. You can’t feel belonging and be 100% independent. Belonging is a give and take operation, not lone-wolfism.

Again, all this reminds me of CBToF.

There is more to be said on this, and probably a lot here that I’m wrong about, but all I have in me right now is sleep. Maintenance.

A recipe card for trifle from 1973

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“I think crypto…is an amplifier”

Read “Eric Hu Will Not Take Web3 For Granted” on the Zora blog.

I think crypto…is an amplifier: if you’re a libertarian asshole, it’s going to help you become an even more libertarian, more asshole-y person. But if you believe that the people that help you out should be taken care of, and that we can have a place where we could take care of our friends, and our friends can take care of us, and it’s not about fighting over scraps and the narcissism of small differences, we can take part.

I think this is pretty spot on. So maybe people’s opinions of whether Web3 is going to be “good” or “bad” on the whole comes down to whether they feel optimistic or pessimistic about humanity at large. IDK.

Also:

I think when people are like, ‘Oh, Web3 is going to liberate people’, I get really angry. I’m like, ‘Dude, when you say that, it just makes us all more lazy; we just expect that Web3 is going to be inherently better than Web2’.

No, this is a conscious choice. We have to make protocols that aren’t trying to be extractive—all of that takes effort. I have full faith in Web3’s ability to do some amazing things, but I also have full faith in humanity’s tendency to just become selfish once it gets to a certain point. Web3 has a lot of promises it can offer, but it’s not going to happen automatically.

Also, Eric mentions that some people prefer using the term DISCO (Distributed Cooperative Organization) instead of DAO (Decentralized Autonomous Organizations). I like this, much prefer DISCO. “Autonomous” makes it feel very robot-y. “Cooperative” is much more human.🕺🏻

Twitter can make it seem like the Web3 “war” is purely binary. But there are so many more nuanced takes out there, including this interview and others. Thx SB for sharing it with me.

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Homework from Larry

It’s a beautiful, premature spring day today. Mid-50s in the sun, and might even reach 60F tomorrow before it drops back down for a bit.

B and I picked up some cupcakes from Ladybird and I stopped to feed him on the bench outside. An older guy was sat on the neighboring bench reading Right-Wing Critics of American Conservatism by George Hawley, but mainly holding court. He asked me B’s name, and we got talking about books and movies. Larry gave me some homework:

  1. Listen to the Octavia E. Butler interview on Krista Tippett’s On Being podcast. This is a tough one… I had a look for it but couldn’t find it. Perhaps he meant the episode with Anthea Butler and Arlene Sánchez-Walsh on Sister Aimee? I don’t think so though since he said the interviewee was talking about spirituality and sci-fi. I scanned through all of the episodes before Butler’s DOD and didn’t find anything. Perhaps it was a different radio show? I’ll have to ask if I run in to him again.
  2. Watch Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin, a PBS documentary presented by American Masters. You need a membership to watch it, but there are some short clips on YouTube as well.
  3. Watch The Hustler, a 1961 film with Paul Newman, Jackie Gleason, and Piper Laurie.
  4. Watch Days of Wine and Roses, a 1958 episode of Playhouse 90 on CBS with Cliff Robertson and Piper Laurie. He said it is on YouTube but unfortunately I can’t find it. Perhaps it was taken down. He also recommended the film from 1962 with Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick.
  5. Read A Clockwork Orange, the film isn’t enough. Anthony Burgess was his teacher.
  6. Check out Thomas Nast’s editorial cartoons.
  7. Check out Alice Neel’s portraits. He mentioned a retrospective at the Whitney that made a huge impression on him, when I look for it online it looks like that was back in 1974. Looking at her paintings now online, I can’t believe I hadn’t heard of her before. Shame to have missed her retrospective at The Met last summer but c’est la vie, we weren’t in Brooklyn yet.

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DIY sea salt spray for hair

Growing up, my hair always looked best after swimming in the Pacific or using the original John Frieda Beach Blonde sea spray. I’ve tried a ton of other sea salt sprays since then, none of them are as good. The smell is too strong or weird 99% of the time, they often don’t give quite the right effect, or are stupid expensive.

I tried the DIY version below and haven’t looked back.

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In a 3oz spray bottle, combine 60g warm water and 8g Maldon salt. Shake until the salt is fully dissolved. Then add 5g squalane oil and 15g aloe vera gel, and shake again. Shake to combine before each use.

If you want to make a bigger bottle, combine 68% warm water, 9% sea salt, 6% oil, and 17% aloe vera. Different hair types may require more or less oil.

See notes below for alternative ingredients, but note that you may need to adjust the ratios if you use substitutions. For example hair gel will behave differently than aloe vera.

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If you don’t have Maldon salt, you could use kosher or epsom salts. In fact, there’s a lot of epsom salt in the John Frieda version. I use Maldon since it is actually sea salt, and I already have it on hand for cooking.

If you don’t have squalane oil, you’ll have to find another lightweight oil with little-to-no smell. Don’t use coconut oil, it will clog the spray mechanism. Speaking from experience, don’t use olive oil unless you want to smell like a cheap garden salad. I use squalane since I already use it on my face.

If you don’t have aloe vera… maybe you could try some sort of lightweight hair gel? I’d use less though, and be wary of clogging the spray mechanism.

Also, note that not all aloe vera gels are the same. You want something with a high aloe vera content, and you have to check the ingredients list for that. Avoid products with alcohol, and anything that professes to be more than 99% aloe vera. It’s impossible for something to be 100% aloe vera unless you made it yourself from aloe leaves, any product you buy in a tube has to have other chemicals to make it shelf-stable.

For the smellies, sometimes I replace a bit of the water with orange flower water. Could also use a few drops of essential oil, though I haven’t done this yet. I’d love to get close to the original John Frieda eventually… Something like piña coladas and sunscreen.

Edit 7 April 2022: Changed recipe from original (60g warm water, 10g Malon salt, 15g squalane oil, 5g aloe vera gel), it previously didn’t have enough hold and was too oily+salty. Also added substitution suggestions.