essential oil of existential crisis

This morning my brain was trying really hard to tell me a thing, so I wrung it out in the simplest language I could for myself.  I kinda liked the result, so, here!  ::throws apple & runs::

###

 

Today can still be a day you do better.  Today can be the beginning
of a better era for you.
You can start right now.

Whatever you’re doing, do it more mindfully.
Watch carefully as you do it.

If it’s something inferior, stop right now.
Just drop it.  You can.
If it’s good, do it fully, let your self flow in to your work.  This will make your work wonderful.

You have that power.  If you pay attention.

You can also relax — let go of what you can and still stay standing;
drop all of the shit you’re holding up that you don’t need to.
Give yourself back that strength.

With just those two things — relax,
and pay attention,
you can salvage any day.  Or any life. 

Try it.

Try it now.
 

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1. go out 2. go in 3. prophet

The first struggle of all lives is to go out.  Out there, we piece together the Questions.

Questions are tricky: intellectually demanding and complex.  It is not enough to ask a simple question most of the time — just the fact of your frame of reference makes so much more detail necessary, in order to have the slightest hope of an answer with meaning.  So you go out, you travel, you experience, you learn, and you grow the ability to ask better and better questions, until finally you start to narrow in on the very few, very perfect, Questions.  In a glittering blaze of clarity, when you piece them together they will point an arrow of light that you can follow, if you have the gumption, to their goal.  

Then it's time for the second phase of the struggle of all lives:  to go in.  Inside is where the Answers are all buried.

You think I'm being facetious, but for once I'm not:  I've found truths in my knee; realities in my left shoulder; cures for ennui in my lungs — and I know I'm not alone.  We don't say it this way very much, but I'm gonna go all out and say that this one is an undeniable truth:  The Answers live, in every literal sense, inside us

And while they're simpler than the Questions, Answers (you may know) are much harder.  First of all, the inner land is massive, as vast as the Universe, and there are few roads and signs to navigate it by (but really, if there are any, you'll have put them there yourself, so gauge their trustworthiness on that).  It's not empty like outer space, either:  Inside is a whole universe populated by the landscape of your whole self, complete with mountains and monsters.  The hobbits had an easy trek compared to the decades you may spend in hard travel here. 

I guess, on average, people are lucky to encounter one Answer per lifetime.  Though plenty of people make an epic of it, and find a bunch of them.  And some people, I suppose, don't care in the slightest about doing the Main Quest, but obviously I'm not writing for them.  :) 

And they're not just hard to find:  true Answers hurt to look at; their realization tears up mountains, collapses whole planets in your innermost galaxy.  And in return for their knowing, not consciously but inevitably, they make demands.  Answers are the voice of God replying, the artifact of blinding power: they make you bleed out the nose and never really be the same again.  

But finding them IS the quest.  It's a two-parter, and zillions of people never figure out or make it to the second part — simply going out and gathering the pieces of the treasure-map is as far as most of us ever get.  Maybe we'll pass on the notes we've made to someone else, and they'll get a little farther.  Only some of us ever figure out that the secret world the Answers hide in is inside our own physical bodies, and not all of them will brave the journey through that terrifying land. Fewer still will survive to find one of the buried treasures, beneath the furthest mountains, there.  Of the ones who do, some will run away in fear when they graze the Answer with their fingertips and feel its effects; others will grab it but die, having not been made strong enough by the rest of the quest to survive the final challenge.

 

 

Posted in better thinking, logos addict, philosophy | 1 Comment

A splattering of lately

Confronted with time and space to type (and yes, chores, but it’s early and it’s Saturday), I have a giant wad of scattered thoughts that need to go exactly here. I’ve met my word-count on the Big Wordsing pretty consistently and I will today too (see, that’s called neural programming ;)), so as a reward (to me, if not exactly to you!) I get to dump them in a post. Yay!

1. I’m done with / now against the idea of “overpopulation” as the cause of shittiness on Earth/possible extinction. I read up on it some, and I strongly dislike that to be alarmist about overpopulation is to claim that _humanity_, the existence of the human form as a social animal, is the reason everything is going / might go to shit. And I think that’s violently wrong, and a serious cop-out for the things that really _are_ making things shit. Like lack of birth control, and access to clean water — you know, the stuff Nestle is buying all of. And being serious about respecting our environment. And oh yeah, just to put a pin in it, Capitalism. Things going to shit was NOT a built-in outcome of the emergence of homo sapiens on the planet; nor is it an inevitable result of us having complex and social minds. People are poor and hungry and the climate is changing etc because our culture sucks and is self-destructive as practiced: If we go down in flames, it will be because WE, who can choose how our society works, did not change the self-destructive things about our Empire of Greedy Bullshit in time. *Nature is not on the hook for this.* There’s nothing that anyone can point to that’s _inherent_ in human beings that would destroy the planet — only things exherent; things we have a choice about. The more I think about it, this is such a fundamental, sneaky re-direct/re-framing of such deep-rooted problems and fears, it’s terrifying to think how much effect it might have had, and still be having, on people. And it was a huge, huge topic for a while, from a few hundred years to a few decades ago; there’ve been loads of books about it — and many more of them focused on Thanos-style elimination than, say, universal access to birth control. Terrifying. (Re: Thanos, I haven’t seen the movie, so don’t spoil it! I’ve read The Infinity Wars, which you should too if you haven’t. It’s great. :D)

2. I’m taking a course on Memory systems online — I’ve read a lot about them before, and I use a scattering of lesser tricks from the field regularly; but this time I actually intend to push myself to learn and get good at the Major System and maybe Journeys as well. Cool stuff!

3. On the topic of exercises, the Bloody Nine is working out pretty well! I’m a bastard to motivate and my track-record is far from perfect, but as a system it has everything (I think, so far) needed to keep me on track: It’s fast (except on days I’d prefer it be slow), it’s flexible, and it’s enough to say you’ve had some training for the day, while leaving plenty of energy to do more later if you want. It gets the blood going, stretches everything that needs it, and works around injuries or tender spots flawlessly. There’s only been one day I really couldn’t do it, and I had a nasty tension headache is why, so that’s a pretty great record so far. The Bloody Nine or B9, by the way, is three times [three sets of [any exercise] TO FAILURE — i.e. as many as you can do]. I write it 3x3F: three exercises, three sets to failure. Any exercises, any order. Try not to stop until you’re done (though sometimes I do stop, esp. to rest a knee). Done perfectly, that amounts to a ~15m optionally-HIIT workout targeting whatever’s best/possible for you today, with enough reps that you’ll probably feel it tomorrow :) I’m a fan!

4. Speaking of motivation, I’m in one of those places right now where there are a bunch of big changes I want to make, and the Universe is just stompin’ around kicking things over on me left and right. So I’m forced to wait, frustratedly, on things I’m all zingy and hopeful about, and try to just keep chugging along and going to work (omg work…I really like my job now! but it takes a CHUNK of energy, whew) and doing the B9 and getting my writing done every day, taking my vitamins, drinking enough water, napping — you know the drill. The drilllllll :/ I know it’s important to be good at the drill, and I do pretty well, really; but it’s the being able to start new ventures that keeps me going. Being stuck is a DISLIKE. …And so of course, the Universe in its wisdom often chooses to test my ability to wait for a beneficial (or possible) time to start things. Bah! :)

5. Last thing — do you remember that/why there are ALWAYS FIVE? I’ve made a point of lists of five as a general rule since the LJ days :) — I don’t have a five today, or rather if I did I wouldn’t get anything else done, so have a great day! (It’s finally, finally seeming not-shitty out here in Boston. Oh man the springs here are _brutally_ gross. So I’m giddy cuz the windows are open. :D)

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Morning, verse

Passion can’t draw
Pain can’t write
Love can’t sing
and Awe is shit with a chisel.

Joy is clumsy and steps on feet,
Nostalgia pens Vogon poetry
Anger throws the weakest punch
and as you know, Lust has no sense of humor.

 

 

(original BS by yours truly)

Posted in Poetry, writing | 2 Comments

A Roundup of the Best Writing Advice

Writing advice doesn't replace practice — but if you want to be good at a thing, it's idiotic not to listen to masters of it as a way of augmenting your education. 

I've read SO much how-to-write advice, most mediocre, some shitty — but all helpful, in their way.  However, you probably want to read the really good ones I imagine, so here are my TOP WRITING ADVICE pieces.  These are the game-changers, the masterpieces, the ones that really blew me away.

1.  For how to make language into art, from basic principles up to detailed analyses of what makes a good vs. a not-good strung together series of words, there is nothing like, or even approaching the quality of, Verlyn Klinkenborg's* Several Short Sentences About Writing.  This one's at the top because it's SO concise and SO correct that it may not be incorrect to refer to this as the Bible of the art.  You will not read a paragraph of this without learning something profound.  And it's so beautifully-written itself that it's kind of breathtaking.  It doesn't need to prove anything it says, because the proof is staring you in the face the whole time…studying this one is a really fun ride, and I come back to it constantly.

2.  For how to write a good story, everything Vonnegut says is gold, but IMO his simple eight-point advice (Brainpickings has it here) is nearly all you need.  It's also fun to look at movies and how they do and don't follow those tips.  Don't let the shortness of this paragraph fool you, though — Vonnegut studied and understood stories, what they are and how they work, in a way few humans have.  Ignore any of his advice at your peril.  :)

3.  For how to write realistic characters — definitely its own distinct skill! — I think it's ironic that the best work I know on the topic was written by kind of a shit human being…because isn't that so very human?  I have to think that maybe being an asshole, a bigot and an irrational zealot is part of what gave Orson Scott Card the ability to portray such human-feeling characters — characters so realistic that even when their actions made no sense, or the story they were in was so full of holes you could strain pasta with it, the stories wound up compelling and emotional.  His advice in Characters and Viewpoint is technical, work-based, and almost painfully detailed…you may find plenty of it ignorable, but it's got it where it counts:  These are tools, a huge spread of 'em, that a master of human nature uses to capture it in words.  It's preachy and less valuable as a commentary on the art (again, see #1 for that), but holy shizballs does it contain some useful tools, and I come back to it pretty regularly in spite of its flaws, and often find something to help me out of a tough spot.

I hope some of that was handy!  Sorry I haven't been posting much lately.  I am working on upping my writing game more now that other aspects of life have settled down to non-perfect-storm status — and if you're still reading my blog in spite of the spotty updates forever, then THANK YOU! 

<3

 

*You may not have heard of this writer–I hadn't, because they don't write the kind of stuff I like to read–but they're so unbelievably good that the fact that they don't use a pen-name, in spite of their real name being Verlyn freaking Klinkenborg, is utterly justified.  ;)

Posted in aesthetica, writing | Leave a comment

The right and the wrong of the incels

So I keep running into these "involuntary celebate" guys online.  This is a whole segment of the human western culture that's hyper-frustrated at not feeling able to get laid, and is yelling about it because they feel they're being treated unfairly.

There are several things to sympathize with here.  Getting some is a nearly-universal human urge, and having no access to a means to fulfill it is definitely a ragemaker — we're not the first or only culture to have dealt with large swaths of angry young men, willing to burn society down and start over if it fixes that problem for them.  (It's been the cause of civil unrest, riots, and uprisings, even.  And it was known even in ancient Greece that men who couldn't get any would lose their shit — read Lysistrata.)  It's pretty well-known that if you take away a needed thing (which includes emotional needs like seeing your family, going to work, and yes finding physical intimacy once in a while) from a big chunk of people, especially one of your society's most energetic and able demographics, you get trouble.

And there's a lot of awful behavior and sloppy thinking to point, too, with the incels, as well.  I won't go into it, but hoooomygod do they say some awful shit, mostly about women.  To them, they aren't getting laid because "women" are keeping them from it; because if women would just behave differently, the fact that so many people can't hook up and be intimate would be solved.

This is a monumentally incorrect conclusion.  They're all justified in their anger, but they're angry at the wrong thing.  What they SHOULD be angry at is the anti-sex and anti-woman nature of our society.  It's that thing being called "the rape culture" that traumatizes women sexually and demonizes women who have sex and puts all the responsibilities and consequences of sex on women's shoulders.  It's this patriarchial society that punishes sex-workers and sex-work, taking away men's ability to just use their hard-earned money to solve that problem, if they wanna.  It's the lack of plentiful birth-control, the hateful lack of justice for rape and assault-victims, and the constant dissing and slandering of sex in general and women in particular, that keeps the incels from getting laid — not the women they attack so viciously for it.

The women are victims too.  (The women also aren't getting laid, in addition to being the butt of the violence and hatred.)  Both women and men are being made "involuntary celibates", by our culture which refuses to teach positive sex, refuses to celebrate or encourage healthy sex, and refuses (or is super reluctant) to legitimize and legalize the consentual sex-practices that get people laid — like being gay, being kinky, having multiple partners, etc ad nauseum.

Look, the problem you're up against is that we live in a backwards, fearful, religion-underpinned social culture that slams and shames women for nearly everything related to sex.  By the time any American girl is fifteen, she's seen images of women being humiliated sexually a million times.  She knows that "whore" is one of the worst things you can be called, and that if you display yourself sexually in any way, including just admitting that you like sex, you'd better have no imperfections or they will be pointed and laughed at in public.  Adult women have almost *all* been harassed or traumatized and then shamed for it, meaning that even just having a normal, healthy sex-life for them is gonna take years of therapy.  ...And remember, those women want to get laid just as much as you do — they're just taught that they're completely responsible for anything bad that happens if they do, and that their wanting to enjoy it makes them a bad person.

In even slightly more matriarchial cultures, paid sex is usually legal, with the attention paid to regulating it and making it safe.  But a culture where women can sell sex is not a culture where women make good slaves, so in *our* culture's (recent) history, women were forbidden from working *including* selling sex, so that they'd be valuable commodities to be bought and owned (because it's illegal to rent one, even/especially if she'd prefer being rented).  If you want more women to have sex with you, you want the liberation of women from secondary-citizenship and slavery of all kinds, because it's free, enabled women who can have sex with you on purpose.  Your anger at the slaves for not putting out more is prettty gross, BUT if you'd just turn your anger towards the system that keeps them as slaves, and set them free so they can voluntarily have sex with you, you'd be getting laid like crazy compared to now.  And oddly enough, because this is a problem aimed at women and so super hard to fix from "downstream", you, sitting upstream, can fix it pretty easily.  Change the culture.  Step one is just, "start saying different things", and start getting your friends to.

…And it's not all about sex-work, either.  There's a HUGE swath of women who can't have as much sex as they want, due to (ignoring health, safety, legal and financial stuff for the moment) a combination of past and current shaming.  Start glorifying women liking to get laid, already.  And not just hot celebrities, but ALL women, because it's the non-celebrity women you'll probably be sleeping with, and they're the ones who need the encouragement.  (Cheering for slutty models is its own part of the problem, but I'm skipping it for length reasons.)  Start publicly complimenting regular, imperfect women who act and look sexually, instead of yelling at them to get on a magazine cover or shut up.  Stop mocking women for being sexual and they'll be a little more inclined to do it, eh? 

Then start making it easier for women to get laid without getting pregnant, and to pay for sexual health services, and to report and have something done about rapes and assaults, and they will stop being so scared to have sex.

Do you understand?  Do you get that for an average woman, simply having a moderately healthy sex-life involving a few people is a monumental task, and for women who'd prefer to have a lot of partners (maybe including you), the pressure to not do so is overwhelming?  

By piling on more shame and anger, you're only making the problem worse.

Start fighting the sick, stupid culture that's keeping everybody from getting laid, and everybody wins. 

…Ok, rant over.  :)

Posted in better thinking, no more forced pregnancies, poly-ticks, sexytime | 5 Comments

Art and other kinds of lens-making

The goal of art is NOT to make something people like.

The goal of art is to make something honest, something real, something that successfully magnifies the Great Light Within and helps it be felt. This is why we know art (as a direct experience/feeling) when we encounter it — and also why "what art is" can be different to all people, while still being a definite, discernable quality: We're all different people, and what lens shows us truth is as individual as what prescription makes our vision clear…but clear vision, like truth, even though it's relative, definitely exists. Art exists. It serves a purpose. It's a thing. And that thing is made by focusing the, for lack of a better term, inner light, into something others can see. Go read/get any great artist's thoughts and you can see this process in action.

But liking it? People–your people; the ones you happen to be stuck around, geographically, temporally, socially–may like your art, or (more likely) not. If they do, it's a happy accident; if they don't, well, then you and the few who do like it, needed it all the more.

(And of course, maybe long after you're gone, the people who will REALLY like your art will find it. Happens all the time. Especially since those driven to make art are often ahead of, or outside, their time.)

Soooo THIS IS WHY SELLING ART IS SO DANGEROUS to making art, and why the vast majority of art-intended-for-sale fails to be actual, truth-revealing art: The point of making something for selling, a condition for doing that work well, IS to make something people like. And the urge to edit for social approval is strong in all humans, even unmitigatedly cantankerous ones (like me) — even *without* money or survival hanging in the balance, shutting off that social-minded critic is a monumental task. So if you sell your art, you put it and you under that much more pressure to make it "something people will hopefully like" — and that could very well run counter to its soul, to its existence as art, to its function as a lens that focuses a particular light. (In a wrongheaded society, the chance that truth will run counter to popular appeal is all the greater.)

Art CAN be sold, of course; and perhaps some people of incredible self-reliance and fortitude can make it intending to sell it and still have it be art (though in that case, they'll have to be totally uncaring about it not selling, which is damn difficult if it's how you're getting paid) — but the spectre of money is the opaque shadow of approval, which entirely blocks out the light that true art is trying to let us see.

Approval is about what we WANT; about escapism — art is about what IS; about realization and revelation.

When it comes to money/approval and "true art", you can (maybe) keep both of those rabbits if you happen to have them, but you'll never catch either by chasing after both — and if you catch one, it'll be money/approval: Truth runs a lot faster.

Posted in aesthetica, better thinking | 1 Comment

Chicken soup for kicking winter’s butt

Because, come on.  CHICKEN SOUP.  A good chicken soup can slay even the nastiest physical or mental cold-weather malaise.  It also freezes great, and is the perfect thing to grab and run over to a sick friend's house.  (Also, I've noticed that pretty much every winter I post some recipe…I think it's because winter is my natural enemy, and I've been fighting it with food for quite a while now — and winning, if I do say so myself!  \o/)

I don't hold with watery or bland soup; mine is NUTRITIOUS and will stick around, keeping you full and your energy up.  (It is, in the tradition of soup, easy to digest, though.  For tender stomachs or weak digestive systems, you can dial the spicy back / make mild batches and limit or eliminate the chunks of meat.) 

I *am* a fan of broth, as a nice hot not-sweet not-caffeinated drink for the cold night hours especially.  Since I make my own broth/stock and use it to make this soup, I'm going to tell you how to do both!

(Making your own stock/broth is in no way mandatory — you can use storebought or, if you give it a little extra time and seasonings to compensate, just skip the broth altogether.  But making it is not only cheap, it actually saves you money by using ingredients you'd otherwise throw out; and it's fun and awesome to have around, so why wouldn't you?  If you have the freezer space, make stock!)

I.  THE STOCK

–  put a gallon freezer bag in your freezer.  Label it "STOCK" or something equally clever.

–  whenever you have scraps from cutting up veggies, or bones from meat, or awesome sauce left over from making a thing — seriously, basically ANYTHING — instead of throwing it away, put it in the stock bag.  (Obviously you can use only veggie ingredients to have vegetarian stock, if you prefer.)  Just fill that sucker with anything that looks like it could be a good flavoring for liquid.  Carrot tops, potato shavings, rib bones, chicken skin, the scrapings from the pan when you made that awesome thing — whaaatever.  Cooked or raw; doesn't matter as long as it's not rotten.  Just freeze evvvvvverything, until the bag is full.

–  when the bag is full, put on a large pot (the big ones are called "stockpots" for a reason) and fill it with 3-4 gallons (yup, gallons) of water.  Or just use a big pot that holds a gallon or two and make several batches.

– at some point before it boils, empty that bag into it

– check your fridge for leftovers too, while you're at it, and throw in anything that will taste good.  You're going to strain out all the bits and just use the liquid here, so almost anything you liked the seasoning of, or which contains meat or veggies that still have some flavor to offer, is fair game.  Plus, stock that has seasonings in it from past meals is always tastier than just the plain-veggies kind; AND it lets you use things you might have otherwise thrown out, so go for it!

(Gods I love stock.  Even writing about it is fun.  :D)

– bring to a boil, then lower the temperature so that it's barely boiling / simmering

– ignore for as long as you can — stock that cooks all day is wicked good, but an hour is enough for the basics.  Just make sure you leave the lid closed and keep the heat low enough so you don't boil off all the water!  If it starts to get low, just add a little more water to compensate, but try not to do that too much.

– you can add extra seasoning if you want, but I don't!  You're going to use this magic fluid for cooking other things mostly, so you'll have a chance to salt/spicy/etc it later.  Some people who really like a certain seasoning (garlic, cumin, whatever) add it to their stock for that extra-layered oh-hell-yeah flavor — go for it.  Stock is really hard to screw up, if you haven't figured that out yet!

– once you declare it Done, strain it all into containers, cool and freeze the extra.  Now USE IT IN EVERYTHING, because it's amazing and nutritious and it was free!  Dump it in soup/stew/etc., use it in the crockpot with anything, pour it over food you're cooking that needs a little moisture, you name it.

– you can also just drink stock, as mentioned above; I ususally salt it a little and yup, that's it, just drink it.  If you like tea and sometimes want a savory hot thing that's low on calories (especially if it's veggie stock, but stock made by boiling meat-bones forever is not exactly high-cal either), go for it.  You can honestly do pretty much anything with this stuff!

FOR INSTANCE, YOU CAN DO THIS:

II.  THE SOUP

– there are three layers to a good soup:  The allium layer (garlic, onions, shallots, whatever kinds of those things you like), the meat layer (if using meat; I'm just assuming you are but obviously feel free to skip it if that's your bag — if you substitute tofu or mushrooms or something though, do the same things to it that I talk about here for meat), and the veggie layer.  

– almost EVERY ingredient here is substitutable, as long as you have something from each of those three categories.  I'll make suggestions, but wow are they *just* suggestions!  You can also have just one thing, or sixty things; it's all gonna be good.  BE BRAVE, because this is some of the hardest-to-ruin food there is, given these basic steps.  

– start by prepping / chopping the alliums, chicken/whatever, and big or hard veggies like potatoes and carrots.  Go any size/shape you want. 

BTW, I REALLY like using chicken gizzards (especially hearts, but all gizzards are good really) — they're high-nutrition, wicked cheap (because they're not great for a lot besides soup) and taste wonderful when chopped smallish and cooked forever like this.

A NOTE ON MUSHROOMS:  You can add these in either with the meat, so they get super soft and seasony, or near the end, with the "soft veggies", so they stay bigger and chewier.  What you want may differ by soup, and by mushroom, so experiment or just shrug and guess; it's all good.  :)  Oh, and super crazy hint: There's an asian mushroom called the Drum Mushroom (at least that's how my local store translates it) that is ~excellent~ in soup; it's very firm and pleasingly chewy, takes seasoning well, and never disintegrates.  I use it like crazy (it's also cheap, whee) and add it in with (or instead of) the meat.

– STEP ONE:  put about 2tbsp of butter in the pot and turn it on med-high.  (Yes you can use oil, but there's no good reason to.  Butter tastes great, does the trick, and you're putting a spoonful of it into a WHOLE POT of soup.  It's not fattening in this context, lol.)  Wait for it to melt and then add the alliums and stir.  Cook them by themselves until they smell amazing and have gone clear/floppy.

– STEP TWO:  Add the meat (or tofu/whatever).  Season it about twice as much as you think you should (with any seasoning you happen to like / want your soup-meat to taste like), and cook it for a while with the alliums, until the meat looks mostly done.  You want to fry the meat to cook it, rather than boil it, because it'll be tastier and more tender.  The boiling is for the veggies.  :D

– STEP THREE:  Add the hard veggies (or just all of them; it doesn't terribly matter — I add soft veggies later to keep them from falling apart, but it's not like it's bad if they do).  Carrots, potatoes, radishes, bok choi, turnips, *any* veggies, seriously.  Whatever you've got or feel like buying, it's probably great.  (Hard things like turnips and yucca will mean you have to cook the soup a little longer to soften them, FYI.)  Then fill the pot with liquid to a sane level.  I use either half water and half stock, or if I have a lot of stock, all stock!  The more stock the tastier.  Even a little bit really adds depth to the flavor, though.

– bring it back up to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and let it do its thing for at least 30m, preferably longer

– about half an hour before you want to stop cooking it, add these things:  A cup or two of rice (one cup will give it a nice heft and extra healthy-carbs; two cups will make it thick, almost a congee…I like both!); the soft veggies you want to survive intact, if any (usually celery and maybe mushrooms, for me); and a good amount of salt and pepper…and cayenne if you like your winter soups to have a kick (I do).  You want it to be not bland, and it takes more salt and pepper than you probably think to bring actual taste to a whole potful of soup — but also remember that a) soup is easy to season to taste per individual bowl, and b) it'll get more seasoned-tasting when it's reheated, so don't overdo it.  If you do though, don't panic; just add more water and cook a little longer.  You can also cut it with water to reduce the seasoning/spice when you re-heat it, if needed, too; it won't care.  Like I said, this stuff is HARD to mess up.  :D

That's it!

If you don't believe me, ask anybody:  I roll a pretty continuous batch of random-ingredient stock AND soup, and my friends and roommates vacuum it up happily, as do I.  I love that I can switch ingredients all the time; it keeps it from being boring.  And I can cook this stuff while watching TV and cleaning and napping and generally barely giving a crap about it, which is *precisely* how I like my cooking to go, heh.

Happy weather-related challenge time, everyone!  Enjoy!

Posted in better thinking, consumer warfare, ditch medicine for suburbia | Leave a comment

Also, I love the band

If you have no idea what Mastodon is (not the band, the social platform), then this article is a great place to start.  Move on to the official FAQ here, if you like.  I've been reading about it all morning.  :)

Like all y'all, I've longed for a Something Better in the social-media realm for quite a while.  I *know* it isn't just age that makes me feel like there was some grand possibility for Internet Social Life to explode and become amazing, back in the 90's; and that it's somehow been dammed or diverted since then.  

I certainly wouldn't be the first to posit that Facebook and Twitter have been the greedy corporate dams installed on that early gush of Internet possibilities.  Being a teenager in the grip of that early rush, and then a sorta-adult in the data-mined-to-all-hell future, it's perhaps easy for me to feel like what we really wanted out of this got…diverted, somewhere.  Hijacked, perhaps.  We wanted to use this amazing New Telephone That Can Do Video And EVERYTHING to call all of our friends at once, make friends in other countries like Dad's HAM Radio +5, join groups all over and do awesome things together…and instead, we wound up with centralized, curated, marketing-infested feeds, and a privacy (not to mention political) nightmare.

Maybe Mastodon isn't The Thing that takes it all back, that lets us just connect to each other, darnit, without the intrusion and manipulation of greedy middlemen…but this, Mastodon, is the first thing that's really made me say…maybe it is.  I'm also thrilled to report that, as a software backend, the project seems conscious of and involved in the awesome attention-economy-destroying design principles exemplified by timewellspent.io.  Freaking YAY.

I haven't signed up yet, but only because I'm pausing to consider whether I'd rather run my own server.  It might be much better than Slack as a community-tool (Slack is, I maintain, wonderful as a work-tool, and still one of my fav sysadmin-management backbones, but…) — it has, it seems, the good features of a Twitter without most of its drawbacks, and the FB features it doesn't have, it wouldn't be hard for it to do better.  On the other hand, I haven't fully explored what's involved, so, this is me excitedly talking out my butt for a moment.  Realism will be along shortly, after more reading.  :)

If you have thoughts on this software / topic, I would love to hear them!

-PD

Posted in better thinking, consumer warfare, ethics, site - about, technical-ity | 2 Comments

Use Details to Battle The Devil

LIES AND MORE LIES

The Devil is the Father of Lies, as we know.  And that terrible capital-D voice in your head when you're depressed, most of us also know, wants to make everything look hopeless.  Depression wants to color everything with its bleakness — past, future, here, elsewhere, us and other people.  The voice insists, Nobody likes youthings will Never get better, you are Completely worthless.

Well, here's the thing:  By doing that, by spreading like the black creeping Nothing and taking over our whole souls, Depression is making itself an enemy…of logic.

Logic to Depression:
::points fingers at eyes::points at you::points back at eyes::

THE MORE YOU KNOW, or, BEING AN ARGUMENTATIVE ASSHOLE FOR ACTUAL PROFIT

First-year logic students learn two symbols, the "for all" (the universal "in all cases"; a cool upside-down A: ∀) and the "there exists" (the existential; a backwards E that means "there is at least one case where": ∃).  And they learn that very, very few logical operations work when you just swap out those two!  

And anyone interested in society or politics at all knows that individual or small-group truths do NOT translate directly with general statements, about human rights, values, worth, ethics, anything.  Generalities and specifics are different, and it is a hard mistake in logic, in rational thinking, to accept a generality / universality based on a existential example.  If you do it, your conclusions are wrong, wrong, wrong.

So, not everybody is a devotee of rational thinking, like I am — but if you are, if you really believe in using your mind and consciously attempting to make sense, then having that flaming angel to fight the Devil with can be really useful.  

It's not a cure-all!  (If there's a cure for Depression and I know about it, I will drop everything and devote my life to telling everyone, don't worry.)  But over the years, I've won several significant battles, and greatly improved my "baseline" outlook and my resistance to the Devil's nastiest tricks, thanks to putting my foot down and insisting on logic, in response to the demonic voices.  

Instead of hunching over and taking the blows, whenever I can I put my philosopher hat on and quiz the living hell (ha) out of those capital-D voices:

"You have enough evidence to conclude that, eh?  A FEW people don't like me; a few also do.  And I haven't met, like, a zillion people yet; talk about sloppy induction.  Plus I can't reliably know what everyone I have met thinks of me, and using what they think as a gauge of my worth, even if I could know it, is an entirely hypothetical imperative and useless as a principle.  This idea is so full of shit we should be spreading it on the crops."

Here's the best part, though:  That Devil is great at knowing just what to say to hurt me — but he sssssuuuuuuuccckks at logic.  So if I can grab one breath amid the sting of it and put on my arguing hat (and I do love my arguing hat; that helps), I often win that argument in a blazing TKO.  The dark insistings of Depression are as vulnerable to blunt refusal to play along as a goth cosplay wedding.  So the more pedantic I get, the more I pick apart every choice of words the inner voice uses to harass me, the more I insist on specifics and details, the faster and harder I win. 

IT DOES HELP!  (DON'T BELIEVE ME: TRY IT)

Winning these arguments means you win battles, not the war; but battles matter in the aggregate — and they feel amazing in the moment.  The voice evaporates in a huff.  Depression, for the moment, retreats.

They say the Devil's in the details — but he isn't, not really.  Bad luck is in the details; bad luck is what gets you if you overlook something in preparation or miss a cue in execution.  The Devil, the real one, works by attacking the emotions.  It doesn't always use words, but since our minds are usually so verbal, words are nearly always a part of its attack.  That gives us a weapon.  Words are a fat chain leading back to the bedrock on which language is built: the desire to say something real, to find clear meaning and honest truth.  The dead opposite of Depression's Lies.

We call that intention to speak truths "reason", rationality, or as a formal study, logic.  And here's the damning (ha) technical detail one more time:  Reason works on details.  Reason looks close at your word-choices and your meaning and demands further information, clarification, reality-checks.  Reason calls bullshit.

And while it feels strange to me that this should be true, even after years of proof…the Big D here…it falls apart under that kind of scrutiny.  Just falls apart.  Sunlight on a vampire.  It's a weapon you have to keep swinging, and it can be heavy sometimes, and it doesn't strike critical blows 100% of the time — but it's a weapon, and at least for me, a good one that I'm immensely grateful for.

 

If this sounds useful to you or someone you know, I hope you/they try it.  It was really cool for me to be able to share this trick, and coming up on Halloween to boot!  …Come on, I enjoyed the hell out of the whole Devil metaphor.  :D

-PD

Posted in better thinking, philosophy, psychology | 2 Comments