One of those TMBG songs with an unexpected amount of blood

I wanted to pick a song from "The Else," They Might Be Giants's 2007 album, which I've been listening to almost nonstop lately. At first I wasn't that into it, but it has very quickly become my favorite TMBG album. Almost every other one of their albums has songs on it that I frequently skip, or at least get bored during. I can listen to "The Else" on loop for hours.

Because of that, I wasn't sure which song to pick. My first thought was "The Cap'm," but I decided to just go for one that had a video.

Day 3 of 5 scheduled videos to relieve pressure of obligations

John Oliver on Transgender Rights

I could put almost any of John Oliver's "Last Week Tonight" videos here and be okay with that call for what to schedule. I picked this one because I was really impressed with (and relieved by) how many things he got right, and how few things he got blatantly wrong. To be honest, when this segment started I was thinking "Shit, I really liked him. That's about to be over." 

Day 2 of 5 scheduled videos to relieve pressure of obligations

Solarpunk fashion; punk; politics

I'm still AFK this week -- the blog's on autopilot with videos -- but I wrote this on Tumblr earlier anyway so I figured I might as well re-post here.

So there’s another person trying to argue that solarpunk isn’t punk, and in responding to them just now I had a thought about the punk aesthetic, and why solarpunk isn’t deliberately grungy. (Not that solarpunk’s grunge-averse – I don’t think anyone would say that – but you can definitely look pretty mainstream, if very weird, and still come off as vividly solarpunk. At least so far.)

Punk had an aggressively anticapitalist aesthetic. The grotesque, unfinished, hostile appearance of punk art and fashion was meant to make it unmarketable, beyond the reach of capitalist reconceptualizing.

That didn’t work. Punk has been packaged and labeled and sold. Punk’s not dead, but its wardrobe might be. 

Punk clothes were chosen as a political act, but the clothes themselves weren’t inherently political. And as I realized this, I realized that we’re already responding to that problem in solarpunk very effectively.

Solarpunk style and aesthetic guidelines and goals may not be uniquely resistant to marketing – the sale of punk all-but-proved it’s impossible to make manufacturable things unmarketable on purpose – but that’s okay, because the politics are sewn right into the fabric.

Solar cell umbrellas, piezoelectric running suits, UV resistant shawls, plus a strong interest in encouraging individuals to be socially conscious and avoid appropriative or exploitative styles wherever possible – if the system wants to market solarpunk styles, that means it’s gonna have to start caring about the ethics and utility, because that’s not an afterthought in solarpunk clothes. That’s thing-number-one. 

(For the record: I don’t think that’s incompatible with my comments in “Solarpunk fashion; fantasy; function” where I defended the value of non-functional solarpunk props: I think anyone in the community can recognize the difference between the aspirational work of an individual limited by resources and reality; and an exploitative work by a corporation, preying on a community’s desire to pursue change.)

The grotesqueness strategy of 80′s and 90′s punk failed to guard against commercialization. Maybe the solarpunk approach is to infect the commercial institutions with incentive toward ethics, instead.

Magic chair production

This is one of my favorite relaxing videos: since he digs the cast for the stool out of sand, it'll be wrecked by the tide, so the whole workspace is totally temporary and ephemeral but he gets something really cool out of it. It makes me think of the magical feeling of craftsmanship: he goes through this ritual, and at the end he gets to pour some molten metal down, then just wait, and reach into the earth and pull out a completed stool, all at once. Especially watching it in fast forward, it's a very clean, condensed narrative of the experience of artistic creation.

Day 1 of 5 scheduled videos to relieve pressure of obligations

Video of a guy turning a jawbreaker on a lathe

I'm thinking I might just schedule blog posts of videos I like for every day of next week, so that I don't have to worry about my blog but also don't have to feel like a failure for taking a week off. (Cuz college move in is next week and the week leading up to classes is, like, shockingly packed with activities.)

My friend Jon showed me this video briefly on Wednesday night, and I watched the whole thing earlier today, in between not doing work and not doing work.

Cool brushes by Kyle T. Webster

I stress-purchased some digital brushes the other day, and so far I have only been regretting that decision in terms of having less money -- having the brushes has been fantastic.

I bought the brushes from Kyle T Webster's Gumroad store. I got the cross-hatch set, the screentone set, the animator pencil and the Mr. Natural brush. So far, my favorite combination is definitely the screentone set with the Mr. Natural brush. I've done portraits like the one to the right (from my favorite picture of me) of like half my friends in the last few days.


I overslept today, badly. I missed my last therapy appointment before I leave for Hampshire. It was at 1 o'clock. 

That was after about 10 hours  of sleep. Now, I've been up for about 5 and a half, and I'm tired enough again to be ready to go back to bed.

To be honest I hope I wake up in the middle of the night to get work done, because I am not happy with the quantity of stuff I got done today.

Bernie Sanders in NH

I went to the Salem NH Bernie Sanders town hall meeting yesterday. Apparently it was his biggest town hall meeting so far; they filled two overflow rooms -- a cafeteria and a spare gym -- after filling the larger main gym the event was officially in.

I accidentally talked to a journalist after (you know that feeling when somebody's just being so damn obnoxiously wrong next to you that you're just itching to butt in? Well, that happened and then the guy asked me a question.) and tbh I was pretty proud of my responses. In particular, about whether minimum-wage workers deserve $15/hr, I pointed out the MIT reports on living wages (I said Harvard, actually -- I knew it was one of the two) which quote the living wage for NH at about 11.50 (I said about 11) which plus inflation makes $15 reasonable for a living wage across several years, which is the point of Bernie's plan. And about whether the labor was worth that much, I said if a corporation wants to pay a person to stand still and stare at a beach ball for 40 hours a week, they should pay them enough money to survive by doing it; corporations that can't function if they can't pay a living wage are failed corporations.

I said a bunch of other stuff, too. I haven't seen the interview go online anywhere, I think there's a fair chance he isn't going to use it. (I also criticized his flipping of grammar from "Greedy billionaires..." to "Billionaires are greedy" to criticize Bernie's generalization -- which was a fun brief lesson on syntax and logic that probably wouldn't make good TV.)

Overall the main take-aways from the night were: I was glad to see Bernie say out loud a bunch of stuff I assumed he believed; There were some specific statistics I'm glad I heard, like that the US has the highest rate of childhood poverty among industrialized countries; and it's annoying how oversimplified political speeches by necessity have to be. I frequently wished he was giving the presentation with a powerpoint so he could show accompanying graphs and citations.

Meditative listmaking

I've been working on a great big spreadsheet list of absolutely everything I'm planning on bringing to Hampshire when I leave. It's pretty extremely detailed: like, there are separate entries for my wacom tablet, its cord, its pen, and its spare pen nibs. There are two Aux cables on the list, identified by description, and assigned to different overall categories of things. Clothes and medications both get their own references to additional spreadsheets, and I came up with a sizing system for approximating the size of everything I own.

(It's 1-5: 1 = could forget it in your pocket, 2 = could forget it in your bag, 3 = could lose it in a clutter, 4 = hard to miss, 5 = hard to carry.)

I'm doing this because I can't actually start packing yet. It's not quite close enough to start making my things inaccessible to me, and I haven't got quite the set of boxes I need. But I feel constantly like I need to be doing things, toward the end of leaving.

It doesn't just feel like moving out. It feels like attempting to find a way to build a space in which I can optimally absorb a torrent of information that exceeds my past experience, without having a breakdown.

I have no idea how hard Hampshire is going to be. I do know that my course descriptions don't exactly fall in the bubble of comfort that I know I can approach with near-perfect competence.

The Atlantic's "Trigger warnings are bullshit" bullshit

I saw a link to an article on The Atlantic today, about why trigger warnings are ruining America. And I read it, because I was annoyed enough that it existed that I wanted to know exactly how wrong they were. I wrote a pretty long response, linked here, which I'm reposting:

This article is awful and disgusting and the authors have no idea what they’re talking about.

The long, obnoxious setup is mainly about attempting to legitimize a ‘respectable’ idea of triggering – as in, people who have PTSD following time in the military – which they then contrast with, basically, every other group of people with PTSD, phobias, etc as being unreasonable in expecting their triggers to be respected, too.

It also dismisses microaggressions outright, by arguing that a microagression is when somebody makes an innocent statement that makes another person feel bad for no good reason.

Then, they blatantly misuse their wikipedia-level understanding of cognitive behavioral therapy and exposure therapy to argue that microaggressions are examples of cognitive distortion, not an accurate understanding of the unspoken prejudices of the speaker, and that not offering trigger warnings is like putting someone through exposure therapy – which is, like, the opposite of true. Exposure therapy is about deliberate, managed exposure to the triggering stimulus in settings that are explicitly safe and supportive over time. That’s something a person with a phobia or PTSD could do with a course that they knew was going to cover triggering content. They could make sure to prepare themselves before going in, make sure they don’t schedule anything stressful immediately after. Give themselves time to recover.

On the other hand, refusing to give trigger warnings means that people go into those classes, experience an unexpected panic response in an environment where they don’t know that their instructor or classmates will be respectful, and then have to go through the rest of their day with their anxiety cranked up. It’s well established that this is what makes panic responses worse – unexpected or overwhelming exposures to a trigger reliably teach a person’s unconscious mind that the appropriate physiological response to the trigger is panic.

The current trend on campuses is building towards an environment that produces exactly the effects that this article attempts to propose by undermining those efforts.  But articles like this aren’t about the wellbeing of the next generation of students. They’re about making the previous generation feel like they haven’t been hurting people as much as they have their whole lives. They’re about not changing anything because changing something now means they were wrong before.

it turns out the financial issue with my school is worse than I thought. Manageable, probably, but I am every possible kind of pissed off right now.

I don't understand why lending companies always have the worst web design on the internet.

oh, no, wait. I do. It's because they know they can force people to suffer through their shitty layouts no matter how fucking intolerable they are, so they don't have to actually pay web designers to build their site, they just have some management dick do it using a copy of HTML for Assholes and a fucking fax machine.

I would not be the slightest bit surprised to discover that loan and payment plan sites make their web design fucking awful on purpose, so people get too fed up to make careful financial decisions. I know I didn't double check my balance one more time before hitting OK, because I didn't want the fucking site to crash AGAIN. 

Monsters would probably be better

I've been having stress dreams about college this week. I keep dreaming that I haven't really gotten in, or I'm not going to be able to pay for it, or there's a problem with my insurance and I'm not allowed to go. Last night I had one where the school was terrible, and in the wrong part of the country, and was a high school. While there, I fucked up my relationship and got kicked out. The dream ended with me trying to figure out how to get my car back from the dude who was holding it for me, who was obnoxiously cissexist and didn't want to move the stuff in his garage that was blocking me from pulling out.

Today I got an email that says there's a hold on my account, because I haven't payed any of my tuition yet. I'm sure I'll be able to figure it out. But I'm also sure I'm not going to dream well tonight.

Pathological design

I spent maybe four hours awake during daylight today. Tops. 

Since Friday's post, I've gone through two or three more iterations of the note-taking insert. I haven't printed out the last one yet, because I figure I'm probably going to come up with more things I want to change, and I don't want to waste paper.

(For example: I put a spot for a timestamp on the new sheet. About ten minutes ago, it occurred to me that I should put the AM/PM box before the actual time, so that the whole title alphabetizes into chronological order. And now as I write that, it occurs to me that it wouldn't work, because 12-hour time doesn't alphabetize correctly because 12:40 PM would come after 2:13 PM, even written as 02:13 PM. On the other hand, though, I don't want to put military time on my sheets because that's a whole other cognitive process I have to go through every time I start a page. What I'll probably do instead is keep the time stamp as-is, maybe put it after the page location, and add a page number count box after the date.)

I'm not actually sure how well I'm handling my anxiety about college. I'm eating horribly, my sleep schedule is fucked up, and I've been having stress dreams about it. But I don't really have much of a functional alternative for food, my sleep schedule is primarily dictated by work -- both my job and the fact that in the middle of the night it's quiet and I can think straight. And stress dreams are kind of normal, right?

At least I switched from buying hundreds of dollars in office supplies to tweaking an InDesign page sixteen or seventeen times a day.

Watson's custom notebook line guides

I mentioned yesterday that I had made some custom plain paper line guides, based on these ones from The Well-Appointed Desk. 

These are kind of time-sensitive -- since one of their features is this and the next two months' calendars on the bottom of the first page. I figure they'll most likely get damaged over time, or I'll use them to scribble to get ink flowing in pens, or whatever -- and they'll need to be updated, my guess is around once every three months. If it's longer than that, I can add more calendars to the bottom of page 2, I guess.

Both pages have a space for the current date, my location, and the page topic. This is for easy organization and later reference.

The lines are 5.5mm apart on the lined section of the paper and 5mm on the grid. I like writing really small and that way I get the most use possible out of the page space, despite the amount of leftover white space in the header and footer sections.

I modeled these sheets after my most effective note-taking experience, which is at panels at Readercon. (It feels much more urgent to get things right there.) The box on the upper right of the first page would be for the list of panelists; I will probably generally use it for the names of instructors, and/or major themes or sources. That's an element that I'll explore more when I start actually using it. (One of the good things about the planned obsolescence of the calendar is that I get to tweak them based on experience on a regular basis.)

The grid section is for side-calculations, doodles, off-topic thoughts and other stuff that doesn't belong in the main body of the notes. The margin in the main body is so that I can have important headers stick out for emphasis, and/or notes about things I have questions about, so I can quickly refer back to them.

Every third line on the main note body is bolded, for an easier sense of page space. The dotted line down the middle is for quickly eyeballing the spacing for multiple columns. And the markings down the side of the top page are spaced in inches, because there was room to add a ruler so I figured why the eff not. I've got metric with the grid, anyway.

Page 2 is page 1 without the major content box or bottom reference notes. This is so I can go to class with the first two sheets already set. If Readercon is any good for experience here, 2 pages will be enough for most hour-long note taking sessions. But even if it takes three or four, that reduces the number of actions I have to take in the middle of class to adjust my notepad. (I also expect that I'd probably find the first-page content distracting on what was meant to be the second page of notes.)

The blurred out stuff in the lower right is a set of addresses and numbers I frequently need to reference, and often forget. None of them are actually particularly sensitive, but it seemed vaguely irresponsible not to blur them.

It's very important, if you want to use these, to make sure to print it at actual-size, not resize to fit. Otherwise, the ruler on the side will be inaccurate. And if there's any interest in a generic version I'd be happy to set one up.

A love letter to Rhodia notepads

I worked at Borders before they went out of business. A few years later, I worked at Barnes & Noble for a while. One of the noticeable differences between them for me was the quality of the notebooks section.

Barnes and Noble has a very consistent collection of quality notebooks at a great range. Within a bit of wiggle room, you can generally go into a Barnes and Noble and find the notebook you're looking for, if you know it's one that Barnes and Noble carries.

Borders had a somewhat more chaotic notebooks and stationary section. It often had an assortment of unexpected or unusual things -- things that felt rare. They may not have been, but finding something cool in that section felt like a treasure. Especially since the more obscure products were rarely re-stocked.

The Rhodia notepad was one of those things. A yellow lined one. It was discounted -- it wasn't too expensive, but I would never have been able to bring myself to pay full price for it. Paying more than five dollars for a notepad felt ridiculous, plus I was broke, and I used to have a lot of anxiety about taking risks on spending money for things I might turn out to not like.

It was amazing. The paper was smooth and sturdy, it took ink and pencil lead exceptionally well, and the perforations were better than any I'd ever seen before. They're really, genuinely reliable. I have a real problem with accidentally tearing sheets of paper in half trying to remove them from notepads. I never had that problem with that notebook.

I don't use up whole notebooks often, but I used up that one. Then, it was gone: I didn't really do online shopping then, at the time I probably didn't even have a debit card. And I didn't have free money. I would have switched over completely to Rhodia notebooks, but it wasn't within my power to do so.

Lately, I've been listening to the podcast The Pen Addict. They talk about paper a lot, and they mentioned Rhodia notebooks in a few episodes. And I immediately went to Amazon and bought one.

I got a plain white notepad, and it has been pretty close to the only paper I've been using since. I've been finding excuses to write stuff so I can use it. It's fantastic.

I downloaded and printed some line and grid guide sheets from The Well-Appointed Desk -- you can put them under the top sheet of a blank notebook and the lines show through -- and those worked out so well that I decided to make my own, structured around my note-taking style. I'll blog about those tomorrow.

(Disclosure: Product links are Amazon Affiliate Links.)

Bad money habits

 I left my list of fake words at home, So I'm afraid you'll all have to wait to find out my very clever definition of the word "Finoil." 

It's been a strange, and emotionally exhausting, couple days, and right now I'm realizing that I'm dealing with a self-destructive reaction in the form of online shopping.

I've bought a lot of stuff online lately, of a wide variety of justifiably. The shower bag for Hampshire? Definitely justified. The Lamy Safari I received yesterday? Not so much, but I'm really happy with it. The second Lamy Safari, this one in red, that I put in my wishlist today, so I can have a red one and a black one for note taking? Definitely not.

I'm attempting to hit the breaks there, and I haven't ordered the second pen. But it took a great force of will not to instead buy the cart full of stuff I want for Hampshire that I'm saving for later this month when I have money.

Fortunately, I've got one more meeting with my therapist before I leave for Hampshire. Unfortunately, it's still over two weeks away. I may have to do some of the working through this on my own.

Possibly in writing, with my new pen, in my favorite notebook, which I also have a post to write about.

A fun word game

I had a very stressful evening so to distract myself (and play with my new pen, a fine nib charcoal black Lamy Safari, which is amazing and which I think I'll review soon) I started playing a game, that's a ton of fun, if you're a huge nerd.

First, you write the alphabet down the side of a piece of paper. Then, you make up plausible-sounding words for all of them. You're going for things that aren't words, but sound like they could be. Then, you google all of them to find out how well you did at actually making up new words.

I got as far as googling "G" before I remembered that I hadn't blogged, and here's what I've got so far:

  • Adrivant is someone's username.
  • Bosquire is a misspelling of a French surname, Bosquier.
  • Crainery appears to be either a first name or a last name. 
  • Dinfaile is a fake word.
  • Edile means building or construction in Italian, or is an alternate spelling of Aedile, an ancient Roman word for an inspector of buildings.
  • Finoil is a fake word, I think: a result for words in Hindi came up, but when I clicked it it showed me a page that had autocorrected to Final.
  • Gosper is a surname.

Once you get to the end of the sheet, you go back and come up with definitions for all the words that were actually fake. Then, you put them in a file and save them for when you're writing fantasy and science fiction stories.

I may report back tomorrow on what fake words I come up with.

(Disclosure: The pen link is an Amazon Affiliate Link.)

Sense8: impressions

I just finished watching Season 1 of Sense8, and I'm glad I got around to it -- I really enjoyed it.

I haven't spent a lot of time with the philosophy and metaphysics of the series, so I may ultimately change my mind. (I'm particularly aware of that possibility with a film by the Wachowskis, because of The Matrix, which has more narrative holes than narrative.)

But I am absolutely in love with the relationship that the series has to its medium. It's like they built the metaphysics of this universe backwards from the question "What can we do with a camera?" It's a really, amazingly, brilliantly film-based series.

(Spoilers hereafter)

In the last handful of episodes, I started to realize that the mechanics also justify the series's action-movie-style events. The standard-issue action hero seems to have several careers' worth of professional experience, including more than one kind of martial skillset, plus the backstory of a normal, well-adjusted person, and a perspective and goals within the realm of sympathy for a standard human adult.

In Sense8, this wild inconsistency of persona vanishes in what becomes eight separate narratives about individuals with their own coherent pathos, plus seven other people's worth of skill sets and temperaments. 

When Wolfgang couldn't lie to get himself another couple inches to reach his gun, Leto -- a professional actor -- took over. When Whispers played chicken with Will's sense of moral obligation to human life, Will let Wolfgang take the wheel (figuratively and literally), granting him a moment of plausible utter disregard for human life without destroying Will's character.

I've only watched through once, but I was paying careful attention when I did, and I noticed a lot of places with blurry material continuity -- like, sensates who are not physically present picking up and handling things when they aren't embodying the present character in the scene. But I don't remember ever seeing a moment where it was consequential -- like, in Episode 12, Kala makes a bomb for Wolfgang and prepares a shot for Will, when she isn't present. The two men just sit there, but Kala noticeably doesn't help by manipulating materials until after they're in a position where they can do it themselves. 

Which is a long way of saying I'm really impressed with the attention to detail they give to their visual abstraction of the sensates' abilities.

Sense8 reminded me most vividly of two other peices of media: Inception, which also used an elaborate metaphysics to explore filmmaking, and the short story "'Run,' Bakri Says," available for free in audio and text at that link, published by Escape Pod in 2012. That story uses a metaphysical conceit to explore the mechanics of video games.

I'm excited for season 2, which I heard got picked up, and I'm excited to start digging into commentary by other people on the show. 

Procrastination parade

I had a list of about 15 things I meant to get done today, with pretty much the entire day free to do them. I think that I've crossed two things off that list. This blog post is going to be number three.

That's not to say I didn't do anything important. I did a whole bunch of work -- I spent the last two hours reading and writing prep stuff for Solarpunk Press. I also scanned a bunch of documents and sorted them into my Evernote account, and shared some of the important ones with the relevant other people. 

I just didn't do the important things that are on my list of important things to do.

This kind of procrastination has a strange feeling. It's almost scary -- it's sort of meta-scary; in the actual act of it, it feels productive and reassuring. I'm getting things done. There are all these things that have to happen to make this project work, and I'm doing them! Go me!

But it's like I'm mowing a lawn, and there's a really overgrown patch with a big rock in the middle, and I'm nervous so I just get the whole rest of the lawn while I go in circles around that one big rock. And that part of the lawn is pretty much just as easy as the rest of the lawn, but it manages to be scarier. So that patch of lawn gets more and more overgrown and no matter how much work I put into the lawn, it's never actually going to be done.

(Lawns are terrible, by the way. If you have a choice, don't have a lawn.)

It's not too bad with Solarpunk Press stuff -- because my partner, Faith, is very familiar with my anxieties, we can distribute work in a way that leaves her responsible for all the tasks that are objectively as easy as any other, but have ballooned in psychological difficulty for me to the point where they're outside my ability to tackle.

It's a problem with other projects, though, where I'm responsible for all of the things.