Published

Memory dump

Life has felt kind of hard recently. Water running through my hands. So many things backed up in my “Blog stuff” folder in Notes, things I didn’t want to forget but wasn’t able to sit down and put in a post. Here’s a bunch so they don’t languish there forever. Oldest to newest.

Image of color gradient from white in lower left corner, through light blue to navy, with a tiny bit of pink in the upper right corner


I want to make a “Uses” page, but not just software/hardware. Skincare, furniture, kitchen tools, etc.


To read: Werner Herzog’s new book, The Twilight World. Or books? I don’t think the other one from lockdown is out yet. See this New Yorker interview. Via RS.


People talk about finding joy in the way your kid looks at the world. I really didn’t understand how moving that could be until recently. Hilarious, pure, and sometimes a little melancholic.

B was being funny about dinner because of a long day, so we just gave him a huge block of cheese to go ham. He couldn’t believe it. Imagine being handed a whole forearm-sized block of the best thing you’ve ever tasted in your short life.

He’d never seen anything like it, and I’ve never seen someone eyes go like that.


Generally more interested in the process than the outcome. In my work and others’. See CBToF (again), also the guy that’s piloting a tiny speedboat around Britain at his own pace. Boat guy via SB.


People in the US seem individualist to a fault.

A generalization, and obviously that individualism has certain upsides as well—don’t get me started on the way that UK schools force you to choose subjects so young—but I see the negative effects every day.

Was talking to DB, she mentioned how in the UK, there is a natural flow to walking. For example, getting between platforms on the tube. In NYC, it’s an absolute free for all.

Woman on the stairs at Broadway and Lafayette, walking up the left hand side of the stairs not holding on to the handrail when the person walking down, their right, clearly needs the handrail. “You see me fuckin comin, right?!” Wild.

[And do not tell me this is just a thing in US cities. I’ve seen it in suburban Tennessee, the middle of Ohio, all over the place. It just comes in different guises. An able-bodied person parking in a handicap spot in a packed Walmart parking lot, believing that Andrew Wakefield’s vaccine bullshit is more important than your children’s friends’ health, asserting that your right to any gun that could possibly exist is more important than reducing the likelihood of serious injury or death during a shooting in our schools and places of worship, etc.]


I think one of my least favorite phrases in the whole entire world has to be “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”.

It’s a turning away from the world. Announcing that, no, I don’t want to learn anymore thank you very much. No thank you, life is perfect for me as it is, heaven forbid I grow or change. Much better for the world to bend to me.

Gross.


Great article on accessibility: “Writing even more CSS with Accessibility in Mind, Part 2: Respecting user preferences” by Manuel Matzo.

See also: “Accessibility for Vestibular Disorders: How My Temporary Disability Changed My Perspective” by Facundo Corradini.

Came across these while writing a manual accessibility testing guide, an auditing system, etc. for SuperHi.


If things have been calm for a while in life, little stress and so on, I feel like my body can build up stress of its own accord. Is this some sort of innate expectation that if things are going well for a while, surely they must go wrong soon? A sort of fight/flight overture? If so, it kind of makes sense that exercise could help. Literally getting your ya yas out. Don’t know.


Getting properly dressed in the morning, makeup and everything, is such an important part of my day working from home. Don’t know what it is, but I really don’t feel like myself otherwise. I fell out of the cycle once a while back and it actually led to some really low points. It helps if my skin is cooperating.


Related to current events: So one time I had to get a birth control prescription refilled while we were visiting family in the Tennessee. This was in high school (maybe early college?). It was a little more complicated at that point to get a prescription transferred between pharmacies, especially between states, so it had stressed me out but I was able to get it sorted. Anyways, I got the prescription filled and went on my way. It was a very forgettable experience.

Until I got a text from the pharmacist. He used the private contact information in my file to reach out and ask if I was available.

I should have done something about it, but I didn’t know what to do. Thank god I didn’t live there, imagine having to go back.


The shooting in Uvalde happened, and I reflexively went on Twitter. I don’t know what it was about that moment in time, but the instant I started scrolling I felt actual revulsion. It suddenly clicked, how horrible Twitter can make me feel. It didn’t used to be like that. I haven’t really used it since then. I met some great people on it in the past, but that hasn’t happened in a long time. I hope people realize they can always reach out to me here.


Read Notes on maintaining an internal React component library, an article by Gabe Scholz. Via CDM.


Watch How I Code and Use a Computer at 1,000 WPM!! by blind coder Sina Bahram. See also Coyote, “a project developed by cultural heritage professionals and people from the accessibility community to encourage the use of visual description in museum practice”. Very cool. Via RS.


Read about Meno’s Paradox on this University of Washington faculty page. I do not know how to summarize it, only that I have tried to articulate this and have failed every time. Now maybe I can just refer to Meno’s Paradox, or at least to this page. Via CDM.


Read this Guardian article on a neurologist’s tips for fighting memory loss and Alzheimers. “Samuel Johnson said that the art of memory is the art of attention.”


Claire McCardell was incredible. She popularized separates for women! Capsule wardrobes! In like, the 30s!! This is a great article about her contribution to fashion: Claire McCardell originated The American Look (part 1)


Explore philosopher.life. Via LS.


To read: Social Warming: How Social Media Polarises Us All by Charles Arthur. Or not. It sounds worthy, but depressing.


Dig further in to Roni Horn’s work. Specifically, “Still Water (The River Thames, for Example)”. Via BL.


There is no reason to be anything but nice to strangers. It makes you both feel good. Being a dick to someone makes you both feel bad.

Yep, exactly. Well said, and happy birthday, Chris Coyier!


Thanks to B for the photo ❤️

Published

Against cynicism

I’ve had a post languishing for years in my drafts folder, return to it every once in a while but never feel like it’s quite right. For one thing it feels way too long. It’s about cynicism, about how I feel like it’s one of the most toxic, pervasive things both on a very personal level and also when you look at society as a whole. When I re-read it, it feels too preachy, or starry-eyed, or whatever.

Anyway, Nick Cave replied to a fan back in April this year about this very topic. He said it all way, way better than I ever could.

Read Issue #190 of The Red Hand Files

A quote from his letter:

Unlike cynicism, hopefulness is hard-earned, makes demands upon us, and can often feel like the most indefensible and lonely place on Earth. Hopefulness is not a neutral position either. It is adversarial. It is the warrior emotion that can lay waste to cynicism.

Accompanying his letter is a photo of an artwork by Philip Guston. Guston was a self-taught Canadian American representational painter. He often explored dark themes in his work, including himself and his own mental health issues, using primarily a limited monochrome and pinky-red palette in his later work. A lot of his paintings are almost cartoon-like except for the very rough linework. Klansmen feature heavily in some of his most famous paintings. He deemed these self-portraits. They aren’t explicitly violent per se, but they are menacing. They depict the banality of evil, how it lurks inside.

The figure in the piece that Nick Cave chose has a hood, but it has no pointed peak. They have a slightly pained expression (hard to figure out how Guston achieved that with such minimal brushwork) and are criss-crossed with dotted lines through their head and torso as if they have been sewn back together over and over. There is vivid red smeared on the hood, a head wound.

It’s a good image choice.

I can’t figure out where it is from, reverse image search turns up nothing. Maybe it’s a detail. I’ll keep searching.

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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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First snow

Black and white illustration of people dancing

Last Friday, it snowed properly for the first time. At least the first time this year, the first time since we moved to Brooklyn, and the first time ever for B. He’s still too little to make much of it, but it was fun taking him in to Prospect Park to stomp around a little, and to see the sledding and cross country skiers.

By the next day, the snow piled up on our neighbor’s wooden arbor had melted in to these swirling shapes, it looked like people dancing.

The snow’s gone for the most part, now it’s just frozen mud and slush puddles.

The holidays were more lonely than we had planned, but we got to have Christmas dinner with a new neighbor/friend. That was unexpected, and special, especially considering the circumstances.

B’s still out of daycare because of Omicron. It’s wonderful to spend all this time with him, but in terms of the personal and work plans I had for 2022, it’s pretty stressful.

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Cutting out the noise

in general I look at things now like “is this something I like or enjoy” “does this affect me in any way” “can I do something about this.” if 1 is false, and either 2 or 3 is false, I literally do not care. this excludes almost everything most people on here talk about

A private account I follow on Twitter put this out in the world, it is such a simple and useful framework for cutting down the noise. Not just on Twitter, anywhere. It’s so easy to get stressed / outraged / cynical / tired etc when there is so much to keep up with. Ignore it, keep the good vibes.

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4+ month update

It’s been a little over four months since B arrived. These are some of my experiences or things I’ve learned so far, plucked at random.

I’d say that the books, conversations, and classes prepared me pretty decently in theory, but the physical and emotional reality is almost impossible to prepare for. Being a parent has been much more visceral than I expected.

A woman walking in to James Turrell’s “Three Gems”

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“Who gets to be a revolutionary?”

“Who gets to be a revolutionary?”

Writer Dayna Evans asks this partway through her Eater article “The Women Erased From the Story of No-Knead Bread”. It’s a good question. Who gets top billing for a semi-simultaneous invention or a collective idea?

It reminds me of discovering Louise Brigham’s box furniture while doing some research on Gerrit Rietveld’s crate furniture.

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Failures, low moments

Came across this tweet from Marleigh Culver yesterday.

Wish people talked about project failures more often.

And it really struck a nerve. It’s why I’m mostly off Instagram. Though I love popping on every once in a while to see what good friends are up to, it’s too rosy in general. Twitter’s kind of the same, but with the added complication of often-unnecessary dunking when someone on purpose or accidentally shares a vulnerable moment.

We need more talk about low moments online in general, ideally, but it’s extremely hard. If it’s work related, it feels like overstepping a boundary (imaginary, or real like an NDA). Even when it isn’t work related, it can feel… messy? Messy’s not quite the right word, but something along those lines. Feelings and the way we perceive them can be so fleeting and of the moment, whereas sharing something online is just so permanent.

I’d like to get better about sharing the low moments. Someone who is excellent at sharing the good with the bad is Alice Bartlett, her Weaknotes are so worthwhile.

I’ve created the tag low moments to start collecting these posts in one place.

It was hard to know what to call the tag… “Failures” felt too harsh. I *absolutely* feel like a failure at times but want to avoid imposing that label on myself if I can avoid it. Who am I to say if something I’ve done constitutes a real failure? Maybe I can make that judgement in 10, 20 years down the line, but not in the moment. So “low moments” it is, for now.

Will try to start sharing more of these moments. And I’m fully expecting more with a baby coming soon! Gonna be a ride.

Published

Identity wrangling

A hand cupping some water from a stream

Cupping the water in Spicey Gill coming down from Ilkley Moor. Photo taken a year ago today.

“You are not your emotions.” Well you are, but you are not only your emotions. And you can choose not to be controlled by your emotions.

Life is made up of micro and macro decisions, and their consequences.

I chose to move back to the US, and now I am grappling with the reality of that decision, amongst other things. It has made life easier in some respects, and harder in others. Do I regret it? No. Will we be here forever? Magic eight ball says 🎱 “Concentrate and ask again”.

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You are your environment

SF has felt like a tech monoculture for the past 10 years. It’s one of the big reasons we were originally planning to be in / around NYC instead.

I’m sure there’s more to it, but it’s kinda hard to find in the current situation, especially in our neighborhood. The worst thing is the possibility of slipping in to it personally, becoming one-dimensional.

Been on my mind since a lot of the indoor things I usually love doing (reading and cooking are two of the biggies) aren’t ticking the boxes at the moment. It might not be the city, it’s probably more related to the move or the pandemic. Maybe I need to check out Oakland? I guess time will tell, I’ll try harder in the meantime. You are your environment.