Getting there

I was talking about the differences between men and women, and I used a half-assed early-morning analogy that I think is illustrative about why different aspects of the same idealized things are functionally equivalent if not just logically equal as propositions.

The Flash can outrun Superman. The stronger your legs are, the faster you run, and the harder the forces are on you. Therefore the Flash is stronger and consequently more durable than Superman, necessarily, in important respects.

The Flash can outmaneuver Superman. Faster is preemptive, preemptive is smarter. Therefore the Flash is as smart as or smarter than Superman in important respects.

You don't have to get into the physics, or the gender issue to see that this is food for thought. If Superman is the asymptote, and reaches it, we also remember Zeno's paradoxes and that tortoises don't reach the asymptote because you can always keep subdividing the distance from your current position to the finish line. You don't need to travel 100% of the speed of light to reach the edge of the galactic cluster in your lifetime: you only need a few nines, maybe only 99.97%.

On the mentally ill (and me!)

Some "real talk" for a moment.

In the DC area, 15-20% of homeless people have a mental illness. Perhaps 40% of the chronically homeless are mentally ill. You may not think you know anyone who is mentally ill, but in fact, if you know me, you know several, including myself.

Mental illness is the least understood ailment to reach this level of pervasiveness. It carries a stigma that is worse than any racial prejudice. Worse than morbid obesity. I know both of those prejudices intimately, as well.

Consider that when you judge a person, you judge him by his actions, tempered by his speech. Only he knows his intentions. My intent is always good, but I sometimes fall short of conveying it or meeting my own expectations. Be patient with your fellow man. If you could walk a mile in his shoes, you might find that at his core, he is a sane person for whom garbage in produces garbage out, who struggles with a Cartesian deceiver that incorporates his own sensory apparatus and emotions on a daily basis.

I encourage you to research this issue intensively, and visit Web sites such as this: https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-Conditions

I appreciate your patience with me, and I hope that you will not be so quick to judge those who are outliers, because perhaps they lie outside the normative space not by choice, but by genetic predisposition and the symptoms brought on by environment. And you partly shape their environments! Consider that.

False flag operations

Ainsley Earhardt: If you don't want an American flag flying at your school, why do you live in the USA?
'Cause I'm a person first, a man second, and an American as a taxonomic and geographical phenomenon and a part of my role set, not my identity. The line between patriotism and jingoism is pretty thin. I went to school mostly in an area that had a lot of immigrants, resident aliens, and children of foreign diplomats. The journey from patriotism to xenophobia and dangerous, baseless exceptionalism is mighty short.  

MN: There are certain rules of society that most people know you should follow. One of them being that you do not defecate where you eat. Citizens of most other foreign countries would not try this kind of protest as it could be a life altering experience.
A society with unbreakable rules is rather inflexible, is it not? Rather like an unsinkable ship. America is about freedom and liberty, and I don't think anybody who founded it, or fought in its genuine conflicts to form it and defend it, would argue that the specific symbolism of the flag has any real importance. America is where Americans are. I should be at liberty to do anything I want to a symbol, even one revered necessarily, such as religious iconography, and to face the consequences, which should be extralegal, not codified. Freedom of speech is not freedom from getting your ass kicked. Let's not forget that our anthem is about the flag, not the country, and set to the tune of a drinking song that was specifically written to span so wide a range that it is an impossible gauntlet for the casual and inebriated singer. I don't think we should stand on ceremony, or symbolism, or glorify any form of public service, and I think that if you offend someone, you should not be shielded from any nonviolent opposition he might raise.

The earth is not enough

"The earth is not enough." Restoration thereof, preservation thereof, curation thereof, is insufficient. Anthropocentrism, the thinking focused on ourselves as a species and as individuals, has blinded us to the reality that what goes on in the 10 pounds of gray matter upstairs is not the actual show, which happens at the microscopic and subatomic level, and plays out on the cosmic stage.

If we start at the subatomic level and work our way up the object hierarchy, at what point do we get beyond the earth? What is at that level, or above? Is it the solar system? What is beyond that?

Like the analogy I heard in epistemology class 13 years ago, about the ant who knows only the ant hill and exits to find himself in a football helmet, we think the world a football helmet. Like the superior man leaving Plato's allegory of the cave, we leave that football helmet to find ourselves in a stadium. There is a world beyond that stadium. There is a world beyond that world.

The earth is not enough. The earth is too small. The solution is not to go back into the football helmet, into the cave, into the ant hill. The solution is to reach for the stars. The day will come that with properly undertaken measures, the stars will cease to exceed our grasp.

What do we know?

Perhaps the best remedy for a headache is to medicate the hell out of yourself, imbibe a caffeinated beverage, and settle down with a laptop to write a nearly incoherent blog post, while not looking at the screen.

Tonight’s topic is knowing. This is “knowing,” in the epistemological sense. Where the first question is “what do we know?” followed closely by “how do we know what we know?” and “how can we attain certainty?” and to make it easy on ourselves, we’re going to stop at the first question.

The answer to the question, as I see it, is that we don’t know much. I read an article the other day about the last of the radium girls. She lived to 107, fighting off cancer several times, while the less lucky ones who worked at it longer had their bones crumble after using their mouths to shape the bristles of the paint brushes they used to apply the glowing numbers and indicators on clock and instrument faces. We thought that radium was a wonderful thing that just happened to have the property of being useful for glowing paint. We didn’t know what the consequence of putting it on or in our bodies might be.

We have frighteningly few long-term data about the potential ramifications of putting new substances in our bodies in new ways. We have almost no long-term data about using wireless radio frequency communications, or increasing the pace of certain parts of our life using transistorized computer technology and software. I would posit that we have no data that the Internet is good for our psychological health. We’re keen to adopt new “scientific discoveries,” and change multiple variables in our lifestyles and routines at the same time, so that we can’t determine what we’ve learned from the outcome. We may change up before we even know the outcome. In short, pursuit of “scientific” advancement is often developed in a manner that is anathematic to the ideals of scientific method.

As time goes by, I gain increasing perspective on how little I know, even as I learn more with each day. I used to think that a handful of scientific studies were enough to banish whatever demon they had shed light on, and that we should adopt new practices and substances wholesale. I used to think that new developments in software that were superficially better than long-standing technologies at specific tasks were necessarily improvements.

The consideration that I failed to make is that human beings live beyond a study period. They reproduce. The world does not stop turning. And those same human beings that develop software have to be around to maintain it, desiring to do so.

It is not a bad thing that we don’t know much. If there were a magic formula to longevity and overall success, we would want to deviate from it, not out of contrarianism, but out of the perceived lack of free will and choice. But I have resolved, at least on a personal basis, to try to avoid saying that I know things that I do not know.

This is a difficult resolution to make, given that I see all of those initial studies on all of the pop science sites, and in the magazines. I am pretty up to date on all of the whizbang technologies that the Lumbersexuals are trying to inflict on the programming world. Knowledge of something does not approach certainty, and all I would ask is that you do not treat an answer you get from anyone (me, Google, your hipster friend) as a recommendation. Amazon and Netflix, and perhaps even your hipster friend, can make attempts at recommendations, but the fact that we “know” something and can correlate it to other things does not absolve you of the burden of your due diligence and critical thinking. We don’t know much.

My most important resolution is that tomorrow I will know more than I knew today, and that I will not squander the additional advantage by making many of the same types of errors in judgment that I have made before. I resolve to make new types of errors in judgment, and I know that I will learn from them. You’re free to charge admission and sell concessions.

Handwriting and book reading

Seeing this article on Hacker News got me thinking:

http://www.theguardian.com/science/2014/dec/16/cognitive-benefits-handwriting-decline-typing

Here is the discussion, if you care:

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8760392

And here are my thoughts.

Handwriting: to remember what you're writing, and why you wrote it.

Typing: for speed, and for the convenience of other people who are not in the same room, or cannot read an engineer's handwriting.

One of the many ways in which I am not as enamored with modern technology as you might expect is that I never, ever take notes on something or sketch something on a computer. I even have access to a small full-duplex Wacom tablet monitor that I can use if necessary. Microsoft Surfaces with the similar digitizer are not that expensive.

Something is unlocked by actual penmanship and drawing, on paper.

I do not care about long conference calls. Sorry. The only way I will remember anything is if I take notes by hand. Typing a list of action items does not preserve the context in my brain as well as writing immutable notes. Even if I'm looking at an iPhone photograph of those notes later, for reference, the connection to what I physically did with a pen in my hand is intact.

It is not the rate of data flow or the difficulty of the process that matters. Using an unfamiliar keyboard or keyboard layout does not "slow" me down or make me think about what I'm typing to a greater degree. It makes me think about how annoying that keyboard or layout is, especially combined with OneNote or whatever awful program I'm using to take notes. Engaging myself to a high degree, cognitively, does not help. I barely remember the context for anything I type with a one-handed chording keyboard or a braille writer, and I'm over 50 words per minute with certain kinds of both.

Furthermore, I have something to say about e-readers. While my speed improves, and my immediate comprehension does not suffer in any measurable way, long-term retention of what I read, and the ability to apply it, are greatly affected in a negative way by reading on an e-reader. The Kindle was great for fiction, until Amazon decided to take away books I'd "purchased" because the publisher said so, but it was godawful for technical books or journalistic works. I think the Kindle reduced my long-term retention and crystalization ability by about 40%. Reading on a computer monitor reduces it by about 15%, if you don't account for the myriad distractions that a computer affords. Those percentages are based on the fact that I use a Bayesian system to analyze a lot of what I read, so that I can account for trends and neologisms, and a lot of things I sent to my Kindle via Instapaper started or bolstered trends that I did not become aware of until reading about them later on some other device or medium, and then doing a keyword search of my "outbrain." I am not more distracted by reading a Kindle. In fact, it made it easier to make use of long blocks of distraction-free time.

It is not superstition for me to say to you that I am most productive with physical books, notepads, and index cards. I prefer that the latter two things be ruled like graph paper. Just as I wonder if people who learned to do things on an iPad will be as productive as the PC Generation, I wonder about kids who do not learn to work with physical books that are not mostly pictures, or take notes by hand. You cannot say I have not had the same access to technology that they have, because I have never been without at least two modern computing devices in my entire life, and I have had the Internet consistently for 20 years.

Human (?)

One thing that I’ve remarked on lately is that I don’t feel very human. I’m not saying that I don’t feel like I’m a member of the homo sapiens sapiens club. I’m saying that I feel a bit robotic, a bit constrained, a bit artificial, and a bit like I am going through life with a safety net. I have invisible walls, floor, and ceiling preventing me from going out of bounds, falling too far, or reaching the greatest heights. There are three reasons for this feeling.

The first and most obvious reason is the sense of alienation inherent in being on psychiatric medication that has a cognitive effect and stabilizes my mood. I feel robotic because the dynamic range of my emotions has been dampened, and as I’ve said before, I am firmly on a continuum between fear and rage, which wraps back around at both ends. I have difficulty relating to people. The things that upset me are largely matters of principle now, not specific events about which I instantly have strong feelings. Pain is dull. The fight or flight imperatives are weak. Things that would have reduced me to a gibbering wreck at the age of 20 are now incapable of even beginning to perturb me. I get paranoid. I rage. I laugh at inappropriate moments. I attempt to use logic, critical thinking, skepticism, and other key components of my intellectual arsenal, when dealing with people who are less than rational because of how what has just happened has made them feel, and who wonder why the hell I am not feeling it.

There are broad spectrums of emotions on display, and I sit around stoned by the dramatic irony, trying to point out to everyone that we could have a louder 10, instead of making things go to 11. This is very bad, and it is my hope that the medication I am scheduled to begin in April will be less of a mood flattener than the current stuff. Otherwise, I am going to have to buy a remote cabin, and power my Internet transceiver with an exercise bike dynamo that prevents me from being able to respond effectively in real time. I think first, feel second, and this is not the way the world is supposed to be.

But I also think we’ve gotten away from being human, in the sense that we have defeated natural selection, given ourselves myriad technological improvements to our life and extensions of that life time, and we are now on treadmills. We go to school to have the job to get the house and car, and we iterate through cyclical refinements of the process, reaping the benefits, until we are pumping out little units that need to go to school and begin their own ignition cycles.

I sit here in my kitchen, typing on a MacBook Pro, which is itself an unimaginable thing to an early ancestor of you or I. But I am safe. There is food here that will not spoil and can be quickly prepared. Clean water is right here. So is waste disposal. It is nearly freezing outside, but in here it is about 72 degrees Fahrenheit. If something bad happened to me, the ambulance would be here in about 11 minutes to take me to a hospital. On the way we would pass grocery stores, pharmacies, a post office, and all manners of other things that separate me from the bleakness of the ancestral human condition. Safe in this building, no wild animal could attack me as I slept. And the military-industrial complex works with the government to ensure that the only members of my own species that can do me harm are the “acceptable” ones – instead of often, or most likely, every strange person I might meet.

This is progress, supposedly. And we work so hard to maintain it. But it dehumanizes us. I read in Smithsonian magazine, and in Scientific American, articles about the life styles of hunter-gatherers, how they probably worked from 12 to 15 hours a week at the tasks that were necessary to sustain themselves, and build up stores for winter or drought. There were a lot of bad things that could happen to them, but with a much lower level of technology, they were able to have more free time. I’m not saying I’d prefer to be a hunter-gatherer, but I’d like to point out that the industrial revolution and the information age were supposed to give us more leisure and self-improvement time, not less than the stone age humans had!

Finally, there is the problem of the Internet. I am dehumanized because the vast majority of my interpersonal interactions for both my own life and business occur on the Internet. I have been using it since 1991. I am a veteran of Internet Relay Chat, and I am a lurk-first, respect-the-culture sort of person who likes to surround himself digitally with the older, smarter, and more knowledgeable, that he might learn something, and make himself useful eventually. The Internet is much changed. Most people think the Web is the whole Internet, although they are learning about the walled gardens of apps on their smartphones. All this technology has made us petty and impatient. Amazon is crushing specialty stores and boutiques. The big box retailers are nearly dead already, leaving us with Walmart. Everything has to be instant, or it’s too long.

The Internet dehumanizes us by pushing us apart. Yes, we can contact each other at any time, from any place, but we have this curious habit as Internet users of becoming consumed with our own fatuous vanity. I have had several people tell me that they haven’t kept in touch because they figured I was looking at their Facebook and Twitter posts, when neither Facebook nor Twitter shows you all of everyone’s posts, and if they did, you’d be utterly and completely overwhelmed. At 160 friends, over 1,100 posts are generated a day, on my Facebook, and if I tried to read all of that, it would literally take all of my customary reading time.

The instant nature of responses has made it so that people think that RSVPs can be inverted with no consequence. Here in the DC area, where you are what you “do,” we are flakes, who will change plans with no apology and then photo blog our new choice of activity, at the drop of a hat. Societal norms are being bent, broken, melted down, and re-forged into entirely other norms. The cult of busy is in full effect among millennials at the professional level, and privacy, civility, and decorum are eroded continuously. I feel subhuman out here in the silicon desert, where the giant statue legs of the tech tycoon Ozymandiases who told us to look on their futures and despair stand stark and useless, set decoration for my nomadic wanderings.

Out of phase

I've always felt a bit out of phase with the rest of the world. When I got to kindergarten, I wondered what was wrong with me. I saw the work of the other children and wondered what kind of disabled person I was to have been put in school with those people.

I quickly figured out that those people were normal, and that while I was not a freak, it was very expensive, from a standpoint of cognition and personal energy, to pretend to be normal.

Everything broke down in college. The curse of the gifted had been avoided by diligently working on what I thought mattered. But nothing seemed to matter anymore. I got so depressed that I wouldn't leave bed. The assistant professor in charge of my second entomology class once called to ask me why I was not at an exam, and if I needed to schedule a time to take it on one of the computers at the department. I asked what percentage of my grade it was, and satisfied with the answer, I said, let's not bother.

Alternatively, I could walk the earth for 50 to 70 hours, seemingly well-liked and productive, full of ideas that crumbled to ash like items removed from the ark of some covenant made with the god of hypomanic forgetfulness. Money flowed like water. Nothing was impossible. There was a pitch, a swing, and no follow-through, over and over.

The bottom fell out when I was 21. AOL was calling and nagging me on the day from hell. It was a Saturday. The Fredericksburg PRIDE festival had many stages, and on one of them was Mended Fence, an acoustic act I was driving to Fredericksburg to play with, in the company of a teacher from my old high school. The day was a disaster. I got a flat tire. My spare ran ragged. I was pulled over by a cop. My car's air conditioning died. I was late. I had untested equipment. We had to carry everything across a field onto a tall stage. It was 94 degrees and maximum humidity. The sound man unplugged my DI, so that the only reason the video I have of the performance has both bass and the board feed of guitar and vocals is because the camera was on the bass amp. The act to follow us was a demanding Michael Jackson lip sync guy, whose unnecessary sound check kept us from getting our board feed in a timely manner. I had barely slept for a week. 

Driving back home, with AOL nagging me, the heat, the lack of sleep, and the overall stress, I broke, irreparably. I stopped in Woodbridge at my mother's rented house, slept on the couch, and awoke in a world of garbage in, garbage out. Delusional psychotic paranoia had come to someone who did not go above hypomania, and it was there to stay. The core me was intact, but the data was bad, and the filters broken. I bounced out of the hospital, but my voluntary outpatient treatment involved a drug that destroyed my mechanical memory, made me a zombie, and caused an involuntary sabbatical.

Back to work, I was treated with kid gloves. I lashed out. I divorced myself from the work. I tried to move on, found myself demotivated, and fell apart. Nothing mattered. I was a good little zombie, now on most of what would plague me until after my 29th birthday.

After two years since diagnosis, I had stints in the hospital for mania and benzodiazepine addiction. My career ended, I got Rapunzeled by well-meaning family. I began to work again, but at this point I was a very fat zombie phoenix to be rising from the ashes, and I have not risen very far. I kind of bank on what was accomplished from 18-22.

Eventually it was determined that I did not need anything that was not a single mood stabilizer. I take an anticonvulsant because it is theorized that my illness is actually emotional epilepsy, because a switch flips. But the antipsychotics had taken their toll.

Now that I care about the world again, and about my life, I can see how out of phase I truly am. I focused on career, self-education, mastery of craft. I learned to manage time and expectations, but not to build relationships. I have at this point been single for over a decade!

I feel like an alien. The combination of robotic numbness and sameness, masochism, and a high tolerance for pain leads for people to not even notice when I am injured, even grievously, because I do not cry out. I care nothing for status, money, or material things, and it was not until very recently I realized that my genuine desire to be rid of something unnecessary was viewed as charitable manipulation. Everyone kept waiting for the invoice to arrive.

I myself am just waiting for the bus. I live for moments of novelty, irony, incongruity, and serendipity. I crave instantaneous joy. My emotions are a spectrum that loops around at both ends, between fear and rage. Too deeply into fear and I reach paranoia, and wrap around to fatalism. Too much rage, and I reach fatalism, and wrap around to paranoia.

I do not go up or down. I move sideways, and I come out the other side, like the middle tunnels in Pac-Man. There is only one constant, and it is my inability to care in the way that other people do. I care very much, and deeply, but for different reasons. No amount of money or things can assuage my constant feeling that I have squandered my potential as a member of society by endeavoring only to redefine myself in terms of my personal circumstances.

I do not know who I am in relation to anybody else. I do not see a point to all this. I enjoy the occasional random joyousness and novelty, and it keeps me able to leave the house. When I am most afraid, it is more for the potential duration of what might happen to me. I would gladly endure the worst pain on earth, if it ensured that one day I would die without seeing my dystopic visions of utter consumerist complacency come to pass.

Would I be happier if I were in phase with the world? I think the answer is hell, no. I'll take what I've got, and find a way to make it work!

I bought a bit of emptiness

I bought a bit of emptiness, with the hope that I might one day fill it of myself, with myself, by myself.

It fell by the wayside. Perhaps two household moves ago, it was picked up gingerly and placed in a box, with other near non-entities, and transported with the box to my current home. Going through the closet, I found it today.

What was once a bit of emptiness is now a pocket of space and time, pristine from the events of recent years in the same way that steel forged before the era of nuclear tests contains nearly no radionuclides that might prevent its use.

Thus, the bit of emptiness is pregnant with hope. The hope that one day, I will have the time, stability, and peace of mind to set something aside. To give something back. I hope that there will be some record that this was a planet, to which I came, hereupon I struggled, whereupon I eked out some tiny measure of significance which might remain.

The causality may be frail, the witnesses may be blinded, deafened, and dumbened by the passage of time, but I existed. It was not all for naught, and living on in the hearts, minds, or histories of the people who shared this bit of emptiness with me is not enough. I stared into the void, and the void stared back into me, but for my efforts, there is now more air, more matter in the void. That which was imparted to me by the stars shall be imparted by me, to any world that can use it. 

A broken spotlight

You talk a lot; you talk big: a loud voice in an empty auditorium. In the echo chamber, please leave God outside, because it's much too noisy with just you and I. You tell me what I could do better. You don't tell me why. Why should I try?

You say a lot; you speak the truth: intricate formulae wrapped up in vines. In the echo chamber, all your kudzu grows, and it's all sustained by the things you know. But if I unscrewed the valves and let the water flow in, all of this would drown.

There's no substitute for knowing what the other guy is doing wrong, but unless you do some showing, you and he won't ever get along. If you can't show him what you think is right, then you and he will only ever fight. If you can't demonstrate the things you know, then you're a broken spotlight with no light to show.

Rant on "Merry Christmas"

What kind of nation is it where a majority of the population can complain of oppression by opponents who are a small minority, any way you slice it?

As someone who is an atheist, and antithetical to Judeochristian theology, and an agnostic with respect to religious belief in general, I absolutely love hearing that the only basis for morality and ethical behavior is Bronze Age, nomadic, Semitic goat-herder ideals and norms. :-P

Every few hundred years somebody comes along and rephrases the Golden Rule, and people pretend to espouse that philosophy, but really it only applies to their behavior inasmuch as they are willing to let you do as they would have you do. Thus a holiday that is supposedly about inclusiveness and giving becomes a shibboleth for whether you deserve to live and draw breath in "a new nation, conceived in Liberty, dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal."

Those last few words came from a man who had to bend over backwards, issue illegal executive orders, and bribe tens of legislators to ensure that black people weren't considered 3/5 of a person, and genuinely oppressed by a majority who explained repeatedly that they feared an uprising from their unpaid labor. And that said labor could at best expect to live in the slave quarters of the "good" afterlife. :-(

When someone insists on saying Merry Christmas, I am quite frequently, as an agnostic/atheist who is 3/8 black and 3/16 American Indian (preferred terminology of the subgroups in question), transmogrified into a hater, an Ebeneezer Scrooge, who doesn't understand the consumerist, judgmental bent taken by people who oppressed over half of my ancestors and claim the primacy of their own culture, a culture that was entirely manufactured as the culture of the oppressed, and became the culture of the dominator, clad in the guise of the oppressed.

Net neutrality

This is something I sent to a friend about the issue.

In 1969 the Advanced Research Projects Agency, which is now DARPA (the D is for defense of course) invented a digital network over telephone wiring called the ARPANET, which uses packets rather than continuous point-to-point streams. This was the foundation for the Internet.

Every node on the Internet can route data to any other node, either directly or through a series of hops.

Electricity, peering agreements (saying company A and B can send expedited data over each other's networks), bandwidth, support, and manpower are not free.

As a result the Internet quickly became commercial. But no commercial Internet service provider wants to be a utility. They want to control what goes over their pipe, at the data layer and provide applications and value-added services to their customers.

Thus if you have Verizon DSL and they have partnered with Moviefone, they prefer you traffic to Moviefone, which is AOL's and cheaper for them than Fandango.

Because peering is expensive, there is an ideological disagreement here, with 3 sides.

The carriers and ISPs say they are not a dumb utility like phone was, and they should be able to prioritize and offer certain services faster than others. Because they'd never actually discriminate against a competitor or the partners of a competitor. ;-) Right.

Nerds say the Internet should be free, open, a utility, and a basic right, and prioritizing one non malicious packet over another, regardless of where it comes from or where it goes, is wrong. And they hate ISPs who charge them for bundled crap they never use.

The government has said that Comcast and Verizon and their ilk can't diminish capacity for anyone. But that new capacity can be exclusive. Special lanes for Disney, Google, Hulu, etc.

Nerds say special lanes suck. ISPs say we want to [censored] companies using our existing capacity.

No one agrees. Nerds hate ISPs and mistrust the government. ISPs mistrust the government and hate nerds. The government doesn't understand the Internet, despite having invented it.

Namaste

Caro is a carbon-based life form who, while female, is not capable of parthenogenesis. It is unknown whether she would eat said young. (the mantis did not write the below.)

Sit back on your feet, then move them to the front of the mat. Now, lie down and settle into corpse pose. This is my favorite part. Every part of my spine decompressed and settled into the wonderful $80 Manduka mat I finally bought and everything became more and more still as I closed my eyes and rested. This is, perhaps, the only time I truly rest. Nightly sleep sessions are more about comfort than rest or sleep.

Slowly, coming out of corpse pose and my guided meditation, I brought myself to the front of the mat, seated and with my eyes still closed. The chant began briefly in a language that, even after several years of practicing yoga, I still do not fully know. The chant we chanted that day translates to “May all living beings be happy and free.” It always feels like bullshit, so I never really firmly bought into it, but followed along anyway. Bowing my head towards my heart and with my hands in prayer position, I said in unison with the rest of the class, “Namaste”. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

The drive home was uneventful short of grabbing a new six-pack of some Oktoberfest that was also rather uneventful in both texture and flavor. Tonight, I am going to make an actual dinner for myself, I say. I am going to make something healthy and I am going to feel good and I am going to relax for once. Dancing around the kitchen in my new amazing yoga pants and matching top, I couldn’t help but think about how awesome they looked and how rarely that happens with me. If anything I’m wearing matches some sort of vague color scheme, it’s shit luck because I can guarantee you I didn’t plan it.

Dinner was predictable but delicious – part of a fade-in/fade-out diet plan I’ve stuck to, on and off over the past four years, while easing up on the protein. I hadn’t really noticed any need to until I went to the doctor and had bloodwork done. Something was way off the charts, so I had to cut back in order to keep my kidneys from cranking out some nasty, toxic stuff that would eventually kill me if I didn’t stop.

But I digress.

As part of my nightly ritual, it was time to watch some horrible TV show on Netflix. It mental comfort food – I’d finally settled into a comfortable routine after learning how to deal with my husband’s deployment. This was not his first, but it was our first as a couple. The time apart, the lack of physical interaction, the loneliness – these things were manageable. The obsessive-compulsive tendencies,  however, are not.

Every night, as part of the nightly ritual that follows dinner and TV, each of the locks and doors has to be checked before fully lying down and getting ready to actually sleep. On the flowchart of my nightly routine, this multi-step ritual can occur multiple times, preceding dinner if the day has been particularly busy. Deadbolts, thumbscrews, switches. But wait! The gas on the stove. OK, back up the stairs, we’re ready to sleep. But wait! The laptop downstairs, did I unplug it? OK, back up the stairs, we’re ready to sleep. But wait! The sliding glass door downstairs, did I lock it? Did I turn on all the outside lights? OK, check, check, check, we’re good. And back up the stairs we go. WAIT! Did I lock the front door? Maybe not? Maybe not. But I’m pretty sure? Back down the stairs. YES! OK, but it was worth checking. And that’s always how it goes, every single night. Deviation leads to instability in a system, without fail. And this system is rickety at best.

I remember that I sat there, planning my meals for the week on my iPad like the turbonerd that I am, taking inventory and seeing what there was I could make with my existing supplies to prevent wasting supplies. Leaning over the iPad, I noticed a new feature for this application that allowed me to add recipes. Intent on that, I became more focused than I had been on work stuff for weeks. Glancing over at my cell phone, I realized I probably should have charged it, but I’d been putting it off and now it was on its last legs. And that’s when I heard it.

THWACK!

What the hell was that? It sounded like my neighbor had hit something against the side of the house. But why would they do that? Wait, why would anyone do that? Something wasn’t right. Jumping out of the rocking chair and all that was temporary domestic comfort, I pounded my heels into the hardwood floor as I scrambled to the door. Each step was calculated and deliberate. On the off-chance this was an intruder, I wanted to make damn sure he knew I wasn’t screwing around. This is my house and I swear, I’m a six-foot tall man. You are not going to mess with me.

I had checked all of the locks at this point. I had relaxed and was ready to dim all the lights in preparation for going to bed. Thinking that it was just something going on outside I could check on by going through our house door into the garage and open the garage door to see, I realized exactly how incorrect I was.

The deadbolt was almost fully unlocked from the other side and was visibly continuing to move. “GET THE FUCK OUT! I WILL FUCKING SHOOT YOU AND KILL YOU!” I screamed as loudly and deeply as a 5’4” woman could. I held the deadbolt in place as hard as I could while also holding my hips against the door to prevent him from entering.

Namaste.

Dying cell phone in my right hand, I managed to dial 911. “Someone is breaking into my house. I am holding the door shut and they won’t stop. They are pounding the door. I don’t know how much longer I can hold it.”

“Ok, what is your name? What is your address?” I told the 911 operator my address with sudden calmness, as if I was a computer for a customer service center dealing with an angry bank customer on the other end of the line. “Where are you? Are in you a safe place? Can you get to a safe place?” I explained to the operator that I couldn’t, and that the only thing between me and the person trying to break in was the door. No, I couldn’t see him. No, he wasn’t saying anything. I was screaming at the top of my lungs at this point telling him I have no drugs, no money, and that I will shoot and kill him if he does enter my home. Still, he continued to turn the deadbolt as hard as he could while I held it from the other side.

Over and over again, I told the 911 operator that I do not have a safe place to run that I trust could hold off the intruder if he entered the home. Wait, the panic room. We built a panic room into the house specifically for this reason! Fire and burglaries to prevent hostage situations. It was on the fringe of things we were concerned with and ultimately the gun room, but still a possibility, so we built the room into the foundation of the house. But could I get a cell phone signal? What would happen if the phone died while I was on the phone with 911? How would I know it’s safe to come out if I run? These calculations, all of them, occurred at a million miles a second. Safety, distance and time. It became my mantra as fight or flight took full effect. It was time. I burst up the stairs, sprinting over two of them at a time. My skin burned, my sight was completely focused on where I needed to go and how much energy it would take to get there. Breath and lung capacity not even a factor at this point, I had apparently remembered to turn off all of the lights as I ran upstairs, including the room I ran into.

Namaste.

The decision to build a walk-in closet was one of the best decisions we had made when building this house. Not doing my husband’s laundry and putting it away for six months was the second-best. Sliding into the closet, I shut the door firmly but quietly enough that if they were in the house, they wouldn’t know where I’d gone. I shoved the laundry basket as hard as I could up against the closet door, wondering if this would really keep them out but knowing I had no other option at this point. The rabbits were right: you should always have two ways out. There was only one way out. I couldn’t see anything but the dim glow of the phone against my ear, wondering when it would die. The words, “is your life in danger?” echoed in my mind. “Yes, my life is in danger!” I had yelled into the phone when I was downstairs.

Ten minutes had elapsed. And then, another five. That’s fifteen minutes between telling a 911 operator that your life is in danger and the police actually arriving on scene. My eyes had adjusted to the dark by now. Simultaneously holding down the door with one leg and muffling my whispers behind all of the clothes I’d finally hung up on the rack, I asked when the officers would arrive. “Where were they dispatched from? Are they here yet?”

“They will be there as soon as they can, ma’am. They are on their way.” A chilling realization swept over me and the fire that had burned through my skin to make me sweat just seconds prior suddenly switched to ice. The cavalry wasn’t coming for my rescue. The cavalry would come after it was too late. My heart slowed down.

“WHERE ARE THE OFFICERS?” I whispered as loudly as I could from behind the shirts. “They are on their way ma’am. You’re doing great. You’re doing great, just hang in there!” the operator offered. I remember taking slow, deliberate breaths as calculatedly as possible to make the least amount of noise.

“Ma’am, the officers are on scene. Are you in a place where you can answer the door?” I think. I calculate a thousand options per second. Realistically, the intruder didn’t quit when I held the door down. Was he inside? Where was he in the three-storey house? Was he waiting outside the door for me? Did he have a gun? If he was in the house, how would I see him if I ran to answer the door? Was it wiser to exit the house off the second-storey deck? But most importantly, if he had entered and was downstairs, and I ran downstairs to open the door, would I be taken hostage? Was anywhere safe? The adrenaline was burning so fast that there wasn’t any time to consider.

By the time I stumbled down the stairs, I saw the officers through the glass in our front door. The sight of them was still not reassuring on the off-chance they were impostors. We had decided on this particular door because of all the light it would let in through the top window. We wouldn’t even need a peephole. Why would we? This was one of the safest neighborhoods in the county. I fumbled to unlock the door as the adrenaline started to wear off, leaving me stupid, exhausted and stuttering. Pulling the door open as hard as I could, I greeted them and collapsed onto the floor, hyperventilating as my adrenaline put on its last show.

Authorizing them to look wherever they wanted to and perform a thorough scan of the house, two of the officers looked around. They asked where the intruder had attempted to break in, and I showed them in my weakened state as best I could. No signs of forced entry, they told me. No broken windows, and no stolen items in the garage. Nothing taken out of the cars. The motorcycle – the most expensive item in the entire garage which could have been rolled away when put in neutral – still there. So what was he after?

“Do you live here alone?” “Did your husband made any enemies overseas or here that you know of?” “Have you been hanging out in the hot tub upstairs while the workers have been out there?” one of them laughed because this was apparently a joke. Stone cold sober, I stated no. “Have any guys been hanging around, hitting on you? Especially if they knew your husband was away?”

“No.”

“Surely someone knew he was deployed.” The officer stated.  What the fuck? Was it a fucking ghost?

“Yes, rear detachment and our families on the east and the west coast. No one else knows.”

“Someone knows.” They said.

I gathered everything I would need for the next 24 hours and I would just have to figure it out from there, even if it meant buying clothes from Walmart. I didn’t care. Teddy bear? Toothbrush? Blanket? Underwear? Medicine? OK, let’s get out of here. 

“Don’t worry. He’s not going to come back after you screamed at him and he knows you’re here. And now that we’re here, there’s no way he’ll come back,” the officer told me. I took solace in this even though I was going to stay in a hotel for the night. “He isn’t comin’ back,” the other officer said, nodding in agreement.

Arriving in my hotel room, I went to the bathroom to lay down the medicine and the toothbrush. I looked up into the mirror, I saw myself, haggard and stressed, and burst into tears. How had it come to this point? How long would I have to run? When could I return to my home? This was supposed to be the safest place – my home. Our home. My husband was due home in just a few days. Should I tell him? What do I do? What’s the right answer? They don’t prepare you for this in army wife school. Or anywhere.

Get it together, I told myself. No one is going to take care of you but you, right now. You’re alive, you’re safe, so breathe and try to relax. A few minutes later, I called my neighbor and told her what had happened so she could look out for the guy if he tried to break into her house. She thanked me profusely and told her she’d let me know.

Not even fifteen minutes later, she called me and told me she just got off the phone with 911.

“There was a guy outside your house with a moving truck, wearing a headlamp and running around your house to the front.” Everything stopped. Resume burning skin sensation – I was on fire. “WHAT DO YOU MEAN THERE WAS A DUDE OUT FRONT WITH A FUCKING MOVING TRUCK?” I yelled.

“He left when he saw me on my back porch. I couldn’t sleep so I walked downstairs. He was out there running around and he saw me with my gun.” She said. “911 are on their way.”  I couldn’t stop thanking her. What would I have done if I didn’t have her? We’d be cleaned out.

Roughly 45 minutes later, the police apparently arrived. I say apparently because I wasn’t there and the estimate is rough at best. No sign of forced entry, they said. No one inside the house, they said. What the fuck? I couldn’t sleep, so I called my brother-in-law to tell him, albeit rather hysterically, what had happened.  I wasn’t prepared for his offer.

“Do you need me to come out there? I’ll be out there tomorrow. I’m dropping everything and I will be out there tomorrow,” he said. I couldn’t believe it.

Six hours later without little-to-no sleep and the shallowest breathing I can recall, I left my hotel room, taking everything with me down to the truck. Is this what it is like for folks in witness protection? How do they do it? I didn’t know where I was going. I knew that I had to go to work. But I didn’t know what comes after the one foot in front of the other.

Namaste.

A few hours later, at work, my boss pulled me aside. “Are you OK?” I shook my head, trying desperately not to cry.

“No,” I said.  She motioned for me to come into her office. I explained the entire ordeal. She was very understanding about the whole thing, listening intently and offering to let me work remotely that day.

“But where do I work from? I don’t have a hotel room and work is the only place that’s safe right now. I can’t go home.” Different words echoed in my mind this time. “I can’t go home.” She nodded in agreement.

Around noon, I got a phone call from my neighbor asking if both my garage doors were open.  Absolutely not, I told her, and asked her to call the cops immediately. What the hell was he after? When would he leave me alone? The only things of value in our home are built into the home itself: textured walls, hardwood floors, and a really nice vessel sink. Certainly nothing worth breaking into the home over and over again to get.

I thought back to the entire year and how it had gone. In sequence, leaving my hometown, friends and family. Moving across country. Moving in with my boyfriend of about a year. New job. Another new job. Another new job. And then being sent on a month long work trip to the middle of nowhere with no friends, family or significant other. It is a desolate, non-female-friendly place, as coal-country typically is. Getting a gun pointed at me while driving to work in said-coal-country. Getting home after a month of isolation only to find out my boyfriend is going to deploy, so marrying. Marriage, then deployment. Becoming part of the army as a spouse. And now, a break-in. If I didn’t need therapy then, you can be damned sure I need it now.

I arrived at my house with the police on scene only to find that there were still no signs of forced entry. Again, nothing was stolen. And again, no one was there, because 911 were busy and it took my neighbor at least ten minutes to get through.

We still don’t know who tried to break into the house, what he was after or what made him as bold as to think he could keep trying over and over. But it jolted us out of a sense of false security, and with good timing – we are going on vacation not too long from now. We have fortified our panic room. We’ve installed a security system.  We have two exits to every hiding place in the home. I’m learning how to use our guns, which we’d held off on before. But, perhaps most importantly, we have neighbors we can count on in an emergency who I will assuredly call before I even think of dialing 911. And while incredibly traumatic, it all makes for a great, lengthy anecdote and gives me some decent street cred in our neighborhood.

Namaste.

The new normal

Everyone is useless. I am useless, but I learned to tolerate myself at an early age. I try to tolerate myself as much as possible, but sometimes I come to an impasse. Wanting to do something is like wanting to have some object. It's no good if you don't actually have the necessary drive, the means, the money.

One of the most useless things you can do is to set your standards based on what you had in the past, or some imagined idea of what you "deserve," based on the entitlement with which your parents and upbringing imbued you. You must embrace the new normal. If you do not embrace the new normal, and measure yourself based on a platonic ideal, or a dimly and warmly remembered self and circumstances seen through rose-colored glasses, then the new, new normal, which is coming down the pipe soon, will obliterate you.

There will come a time when the amount of cybernetic modification or plastic surgery you would need to be able to achieve what you were once capable of, personally, or meet your old standards for appearance and efficacy, would cost more than the money you have and the money you could reasonably make in the rest of your life, combined.

You don't have to live with limitations. You don't have to label yourself, put yourself in a tiny box, accept that there are things that you can't do. You must simply accept that you must do them differently. You are different now. And you are still changing. Planning for sustainability is not always possible. Sometimes you must work with what you have, and try to get what else is available, rather than pining for what once seemed so easy or accessible. It's gone now.

I'm never going to start singing "Love the One You're With" or "Under the Sea" to you, but it frustrates me that people often talk of "the principle of the thing." You will leave behind a bleached, tarnished, irradiated skeleton, devoid of distinguishing marks, just like everybody else. If you choose to do so earlier, having missed the bus (or starved to death) "on principle," no one is going to know why you did it. And they won't care. They won't even care if they knew you, because they'll be consumed with bad feelings over loss of you, and over your descent into quixotic madness and self-destruction.

I say to do what you can now, because we are indeed not promised tomorrow. We're not even really promised tonight at 9, when that TV show gets broadcasted. Carpe diem.

Quiet is relative

There is no darkness. Only absence of visible radiated light.

There is no cold. Only absence of heat.

There is no silence. Only absence of sound, or absence of a medium to transfer sound.

An anechoic chamber is a terrifying thing to be in. It is near-total deprivation of a specific sense, to the degree that you begin to hear your own heart beat, and your blood rushing, and every nuance of your breathing, and the slight high pitched whine that is the hypertension that the experience is probably causing, or the accumulated hearing loss from loud music or heavy equipment. Solitude in such a chamber is probably a direct route to madness. I could take it for about twenty minutes.

But by the same token, there is no quiet outside of such a place. As I sit in my kitchen, with my chunky little sausage fingers dancing on a laptop, my fairly well-trained ear can hear someone bouncing a basketball outside. And someone's television. And a hard disk in a DVR. And a refrigerator. And a bathroom fan upstairs. And the HVAC system, which is on "Fan On" until the temperature drops to a steady 55 or below. Something just fell on the other side of the wall, where the television is, and there was a wobbly vibration from the neighbor's deck, whereon someone is cooking awful Ethiopian food that assaults another sense.

Too little sound is maddening. Too much sound goes past reminding you that you are alive and not alone and turns into a constant white noise that depending on its intensity, can nullify your ability to think.

Since moving back to Northern Virginia in 1997, I have rarely seen anything remotely approximating the starfield that was visible from my house in rural Georgia. Light pollution blots out the sky.

And it is hard to be someplace where a manmade, mechanical sound is absent. I have rarely had it since I used to walk out on Old Glade Road in Blacksburg from my college apartment. And I have not consistently had it since I could go out in those Georgia woods.

Quiet is relative. I think I want something far less than NYC quiet, and something quieter than town-house-community-in-NoVA quiet. If I could see some stars, that'd be great, too.

On minimalist life

I am an aesthetic minimalist, but I also seek to minimize the complexity of my everyday life, with respect to what I do, where I do it, with whom it gets done, and what I own.

Over the last 20 months, I have systematically reduced my possessions to less than a third of what they were. Books and albums and movies are minimized. Musical equipment is nearly minimized. Computer hardware has been decimated more than a handful of times. There is only one tower left. Video games are down to barely more than what I had at age 12.

I am doing this because I started a system a few years ago where I would put a color and date-coded sticky note on everything, and at the end of the year I would see which items still had a note, because I'd remove the notes when I deshelved something or took it out of the drawer.

I started a seasonal process by which when I hung each season's clothes, I hung them with the hook of the hangers backwards, facing out. And then put them back correctly after I'd worn them.

What I found was amazing. In every case, at least half of things still had a sticky note or a backwards hanger. What I had, in my two tiny little rooms and the cramped common floor, was at least twice as much stuff as what I needed.

It was the sunk cost fallacy. Clothing: I might be that big or small again. Or someone could use it. $5 DVDs: I'll watch that! Cheap used books: better get an armload, you have a ton of credit. The Steam Sale! Potomac Mills is an outlet mall! Humble Bundle. BOGO this or that. Get a BJ's membership and feel guilty about buying things in foodservice or industrial quantities! Pirate that whole season, and why delete it, you don't want her to have to download 30 GB again, do you?

There I was with a renter's insurance policy as big as someone with a 5-bedroom home. And an inventory database so complicated that I was actually using machine vision to identify things. And 12 TB of redundant storage for my personal use, backed up mostly to the Internet, and weekly to offsite as a delta of what changed: 44% full. This was nuts.

I am not a hoarder. I am an aesthetic minimalist whose state of busyness or depression is easily gauged by examining the condition of his bedroom and office. The reason I ever went over the edge, over the top, overheated and could never be repaired, is self-applied stress. And here I was self-applying a bunch of stress and wasting time.

How was it wasted? I was not doing it for conventional, materialistic, keeping-up-with-the-Joneses reasons. I was doing it because of a neurotic compulsion to not have to research and purchase these things in the future, or ever again. I had a self-storage half full of comics, games, and band equipment for a bigger, louder band than I will ever have again. Something had to give.

With the revolution in online shopping brought about by Amazon and eBay, and Walmart's ascension to the largest corporation in the world, it is clear that the supply of at least a useful alternative to anything that I might desire is not going to dry up anytime soon. And if it did, I'd probably have bigger problems than where I was going to get pinball backglass or that really cool finishing tape to mount it in a lightbox. Problems such as not wanting to die in the Even Greater Depression or the hackneyed zombie apocalypse scenario of the week.

So something gave. And I gave. I gave it all away, accepting only store credit when necessary, and giving that away too.

Reduce, reuse, recycle. But reduce more, and more frequently. Early, and often. Because if the idea of picking up and moving to someplace new is overwhelmingly difficult to contemplate without feeling ill in some way, and you are a single, unmarried person with no kids, who does not even do music professionally, you are holding on too much. As John Lennon sang, "last night, the wife said, oh, boy, when you're dead, you don't take nothing with you but your soul." A friend of my mother used to say that there are no pockets in a shroud. You do not get an award for having the most, the best, the latest, the greatest. You might set a record, but out of spite, some richer, more interested person would overturn it and beat you out. Give it up.

As Lionel Richie said in the song "Sweet Love," by the Commodores, "material things have no value, no purpose." And there is nothing quite as satisfying as filling an empty room with ideas, not junk.

As succinctly as possible

I've done a lot of thinking about it, and I think I can distill my negative feelings of late about popular video games into something that has nothing to do with my distaste for gamer culture, or the games themselves.

I'm thirty now. I first encountered a computer game, Hugo's House of Horrors, when I was just shy of four. Adventure games were great for me because my brain outgrew my body and I had poor motor skills until a course of therapy had been completed, and they still are worse than average. Space Quest II and III are my favorite games from early childhood. Even as my dad's friend Steve would give me disks full of PKZIP files of pirated games, I would come back to those two, until finally I could beat II, and I reached a point in III beyond which I needed the contents of a missing disk.

And I learned a lot, about science fiction, humor, logic, deductive reasoning, critical thinking, and creativity.

Every major touchstone of my gaming history has taught me something. Sonic. Galaga. Robotron. Joust. Smash Brothers. Doom. GoldenEye. Chrono Trigger. Bomberman. Nethack. Total Annihilation.

So that's my problem with popular video games, now. They don't teach me anything I don't already know. I don't want an interactive movie. I don't want puzzles that I can solve instantly, but whose executions require manual dexterity I don't have, or timing that I can't perform, especially on a poorly-calibrated TV, like the end castles of Megaman games. I don't want endless random encounters in which I kill the same things, over and over. And if Joust could do away with the "shoot" button in 1982 and replace it with a "flap" button, why can't we continue in that vein? Why are our fantasies so gun-filled? Above all, I don't want to be yelled at in a headset by little kids whose balls haven't dropped, because I'm ruining their gun-filled fantasies.

I've seen it before. I don't need consumerist escapism, and an unproductive hobby that I have to defend to pretty much every older person, as long as I never catch them playing Bejewelled. The truth is, if your job is stressful enough, and takes enough out of you, that when you get home from work, you want to sit on the couch and kill virtual things with your thumbs, your job sucks. You are not a cog in the machine, or a rat in a cage. You are a productive, worthwhile, creative human being who can move on to games that always teach, preferably ones that involve other people, in person. It will save you money. It will give you more free time.

I say, learn a musical instrument. Learn another trade. Start crafting. Plan elaborate vacations. Research your purchases extensively and get your finances under control. Do something, anything that is not playing a slightly-better-looking version of a video game from before my birth that I could name, or could once have retrieved from the self-storage that held my embarrassingly huge gaming collection, and wagged in your face.

This is what you get

So this is what you'll get, when you come here.

I will be intellectual. I will make cogent arguments.

I will endeavor to be funny.

I will not use any whizbang technologies that are unproven. I will try to stay away from jargon, but the philosophical references and literary or pop culture allusions will happen. If you don't get them, ask.

I will not use asshole sesquipedalian words, like that one.

I will be the same person 100% of the time, say what I mean, pick my battles, and say nothing when I have nothing to contribute.

I will not discuss anything that I do not have sufficient expertise to defend my opinion on, and I will consider all of the obvious oppositional strawmen ahead of time.

I will be a pragmatist, not a utilitarian. And not a pessimist. Negativity is not bad. The cleansing destruction before rebirth is as necessary as the periodic fire that purges the undergrowth of a forest. And it is cathartic.

I will not be intellectually dishonest or disingenuous.

I will be me. I will be mean.

And there will be no listicles. Not one single unordered, bulleted list or top list.

So what have we learned

So what have we learned, in 11 years away from blogging on LiveJournal and DerikStiller.com?

Here's what we've learned: listicles (list articles, such as a top ten) suck.

Actual content, written by a human being who had something in mind other than a content management system new item form to fill that had 10 slots for YouTube videos or something stolen from Google Image Search, has died out.

The normals don't know what RSS is. Dave Winer is probably working on a new outliner that can output listicles. Aaron Swartz killed himself, before I could get to him. Relax, that's a joke. He was only medium-bad for someone who has a real claim to be a Redditor.

No one edits anything. No one fact-checks anything. No one cites sources.

Nobody writes biting satire. The Onion caters to the lowest common denominator, and everyone is patting himself on the back because he can detect the snark, and he got a few of those references.

Pop ate itself. Rock is indeed dead, and you killed it, Gene Simmons, when you took Wicked Lester, an actual band, and turned it into the sideshow attraction for pituitary cases that is KISS.

A review is an advertisement. A bad review is a good advertisement.

Anti-intellectualism has consumed the United States, and suddenly everyone gets to speak, even from the depths of his parents' basement and his supreme, abiding ignorance. Dr. Reza Aslan was accosted on Fox News and the Internet for being a Muslim scholar of religion, and having the audacity to write a book on Jesus, which is the subject he has studied to the extent that he has a pHD in it.

The New Yorker has ceased to publish good articles, and has started to publish ones that nobody finishes, so that we all feel that we got our money's worth.

In-depth reporting and analysis consists of being able to beat a plagiarization detection algorithm, or turning your paraphrase into a nifty infographic that is 100% content-free.

In short, we have learned that everything sucks.