One Boiled Frog

it's getting warm out there.

After I dropped out of computer science in Seattle, I moved to Florida to study International Relations, an amorphous degree program that allowed me to take classes ranging from Chinese fiction to African economic statistics. I came to the humanities from the highly organized and digitized field of computer science, and I didn’t let go of the ways that this kind of student organizes themselves. As a potential designer of software, I can also be a picky consumer: I always searched for the best writing program, the best file management program, the best to-do program. There’s a whole community dedicated to the discussion of the best programs.

These programs in total, the great utopian promise, amount to the Personal Knowledge Management system, or PKM. The hope is that all of one’s knowledge and resources can be stored in one place, where it will be indexed and accessible on a whim. I should be able to know who I spoke with, and what I spoke about, on May 23rd, 2013. I should be able to have every single receipt I’ve ever received from Valvoline. This was a system that was supposed to serve me. But each time that I would start this journey, I would spend hours or weeks using a new system for my promised PKM, only to restart the journey somewhere else. I became so desperate for a system that worked for me, that I would force myself to work for it.

Getting lost in your knowledge management system is a fantastic way to avoid creating things. (Sasha Chapin, “Notes Against Note-Taking Systems”)

I spent several years as a “productivity coach”, where I would try to figure out the needs of my clients and provide different digital tools that would help them achieve the tasks they wanted to do, but were too disorganized or overwhelmed to accomplish. I discovered that the tools were not the key to productivity. It was my presence and minor, cool-headed motivations that made the difference for my clients. The tools just helped them connect with me. It was hard to wean them off myself back to the tool, and I don’t blame them: The tool simply indexes. It doesn’t motivate and keep you accountable.

But this thought brings me to something larger: What of the web and digital applications motivate and keep us accountable to ourselves and others? True motivation requires morality: There must be bad to move away from and good to move toward. The life coaches, in their many forms, provide the service of simple morality so that the clients may improve themselves. The client recognizes that stagnation is bad, but nothing in their lives stops them from stagnating. Their computers aren’t worried any which way. Their job is fine if they kept doing the same work over and over again. Their car doesn’t need a better person to be driving it. The only sources of motivation are thus the humans in their lives, but apparently friends and family have been underperforming their moral abilities. So a chunk of people spend money for a specialist in morality, focused on getting you to move towards something. Be more productive, get stronger, lose weight, feel more confident. Something!

Some people feel vindicated when stating that the internet is inherently an amoral object; a tool for anyone to use. But the internet is inherently moral: Don’t you see the millions of people advocating for its takeover of so many aspects of our lives? The problem is that once the internet does take over an aspect of life, it leaves a hole that needs to be refilled by the morality of people. When the internet took over communications by scaling discussions to the tens of thousands or millions, it took away the faces of inherently moral people, so they are reduced to statistics or strawmen. They become overgeneralized and categorized away. For the internet citizens too clever for their own good, morality has become pathology. There is such a strong cynicism for those that believe in anything beyond corporate products and entertainment.

The great curse of the supposed amorality of the internet is that it can only motivate one to better reform themselves as better citizens for the internet. When you find your niche, your comfortable cubicle on the internet, you are treated to a satisfying feed of products, entertainment, and discussions. You won’t feel alone. You spend your time trying to fit better into these niches, which are highly monetized and time-consuming. I think again about the personal knowledge management system: You begin to work for the system, rather than it for you.

When the content dries up, and when the coaches leave, what is left of your motivation? How does one build their motivation from the inside, which drives itself instead of being pulled along by faceless others or expensive services? I believe that a strong moral drive is key, and its not something that can be found on the internet, the self-professed engine of amorality. I think that a morally driven character is built from real-world experiences; digitized experiences can and do build character, but much more plastic and flexible ones that blow with the winds of arbitrary change, like a programmer hungering for yet another coding language.

On the most practical side: Do things first, then document later. And that documentation should be notes of how to do something even better. Not the useless metadata for archival. Motivation is built on itself, not on the systems of others. Doing is built on doing. Reflection should be conducted for doing, not for reflection itself.

Think of what’s good and bad about yourself and strive toward the good and the even better, and you will be doing. Limit planning to the basics. Anything complex is a waste and will discourage you when things don’t go according to plan.

A note to self.

I read Jordan Peterson’s “12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos” (2018) to better get a perspective on the thinker and why he might be so relevant to pop culture nowadays. I attempted to read “Maps of Meaning” a couple years ago, but I couldn’t absorb what he was saying, as it was written like any other academic book that hides its logic in choppy, at times esoteric language. Luckily, since Peterson gained popularity, his vocabulary has been geared toward normal people rather than niche, self-styled philosophers.

Peterson appears to have had an axe to grind with transgenderism over the years. He has since been banned on Twitter and sculpted the talking points for Peterson-ites I’ve met over the years repeat. His method for criticizing transgenderism is through a mix of North American traditionalism and light logic dissection:

Gender is constructed, but an individual who desires gender re-assignment surgery is to be unarguably considered a man trapped in a woman’s body (or vice versa). The fact that both of these cannot logically be true, simultaneously, is just ignored (or rationalized away with another appalling post-modern claim: that logic itself—along with the techniques of science—is merely part of the oppressive patriarchal system).

Peterson might not understand that he’s speaking about two different types of people when dealing with these two incompatible logical conclusions. The first person believes that gender is constructed, which means that transgenderism is acceptable to their logic because it epitomizes the ability to move between two culturally recognized gender identities.

The second person considering transgender as someone of one gender trapped in the other does not consider gender to be constructed. They fully recognize and believe in the spiritual properties of each gender, and wish that they could change themselves to best express these spiritual properties.

For both the first and second type of logic, there is a singular understanding: That the issue with modern culture surrounding gender is that that “man” should be applied to males and that “woman” should be applied to females. “Gender is constructed” people don’t believe in this imperative, and believe that males and females can be whatever they want. “Gender stuck as another gender” people don’t adhere to this imperative because it prevents them from being able to be what they believe represents them.


I find it fascinating that a working class hero is so different from a white collar hero. The working class hero, like the firefighter or the emergency medical technician, is recognized as the general idea of all firefighters or EMTs. When they Dan the Firefighter, they don’t see Dan, they see the Firefighter. If Dan were to ever leave the firefighting service, the recognition of heroic service leaves him as well. Thus, Dan must stay the Firefighter to stay a hero.

The white collar heroes of our age, including CEOs, actors, and politicians, are paradoxes. The general public sneers at the leaders of publicly listed companies and political groups, yet they are captivated by those who fill these shoes. Steve Jobs, Donald Trump, and Meryl Streep are loved by those who love them, despite the common disdain for what these individuals specialize in: Corporate leadership, politicking, and acting. Even if these individuals left their professions, their past professions will always carry on with their identities: Meryl Streep the bartender will always be recognized as the Actor; Steve Jobs the theater manager will always be remembered as the CEO.

The working class hero’s iconography is based on a uniform that can fit anyone if they desired to pursue that career; the white collar hero’s iconography is based on the very skin of the individual. They are mythically irreplaceable.

Now, after reading two hundred pages mostly regarding suffering, I realize how little I think about it. But I realize that suffering is central to those utopian thinkers, with whom I don’t relate. Suffering is a part of life, but in such a way that I don’t have much to say about it. I am too busy trying to succeed in the small aspects of life that I admire deeply. And the parts of life that I do not admire: I don’t ignore it, but I don’t really consider it all that much.

My philosophies were taught by a leader in suffering-obsession: Nietzsche. But his repetitions on the use of suffering as a method to grow and learn became internalized. Again, internalized to the point that my failures and stumblings are something to consider from a high level, as a way to make my tomorrow even better. Sure, suffering exists but that’s because we live in a life of give and take.

I can only theorize that it’s only the utopian thinkers, who have considered the unreal just as much as the real, who have equated the imaginary to be just as important as the real. I personally have little need to consider the imaginary; it appears to cause unnecessary anger, resentment, and guilt, which are appropriate modes of thought during reflections on real action, not reflections on the unreal.

When one falls short on one’s hopes of the real, there tend to be very rational explanations for such failures. When one falls short on one’s aspirations of the imaginary, there tends to be a mythical adversary that is holding them down. Perhaps this is why narratives of victimization and “underdog”-ness areso prevalent in contemporary culture. Instead of accepting our deficits, we would rather blame something else for keeping us from our best selves.

In the end, I do not think much about utopia and even less about suffering. Am I missing something essential to my future by being too busy looking for good, real things in life?

When I find a philosopher that I truly connect with, it is an immediate, visceral reaction. Even when I cannot remember the details of a philosophy, I can vividly recall its feeling and intention. The feeling of immediate and fundamental connection are so self-apparent that when I read those who do not ignite a fire within me, despite so many agreeable sentiments and ideas, I must sadly admit that there is something missing in what they are saying. Of course, I’m not implying that those who cannot connect with me are lacking quality. They are just lacking me.

I am an uncreative philosophical person. I live in the high levels of ideas without the language to speak them, so I read, read, and read so that more clever and creative people than I can already have said what I was thinking. Thus, I admit that my mind doesn’t contain innovative ideas, but simply niche ideas that need a coaxing out by professionals and those much smarter and cognizant than I.

So I am an emotional person who connects with philosophies. I do not try to weave my own, because I know that I would be effectively selling used goods. But I try to highlight and re-word my visceral connections to philosophers and ideas, in such ways that people may be able to finally understand me. In the end, a thirst for knowledge is inherently a selfish act; and to be understood by the words of others is a tight rope walk that I must take because I am so hopelessly inexpressible otherwise.

To be a true creator of new ideas, even if built from the old, is a dream that I’ve had since my teenage years. But I distract myself with demanding jobs and demanding circumstances, perhaps purposefully, so that I don’t have to confront the truth that maybe I’m not capable of such.

In the introduction to the book, the critic Elaine Showalter writes that Oates used Monroe as “an emblem of twentieth-century America.” A woman, Showalter later adds without much conviction, “who was much more than a victim.”

The writer-director of “Blonde,” Andrew Dominik, doesn’t seem to have read that part about Monroe. His Norma Jeane — and her glamorous, vexed creation, Marilyn Monroe — is almost nothing more than a victim: As the years passed and even as her fame grows, she is mistreated again and again, even by those who claim to love her. Prey for leering men and a curiosity for smirking women (unlike Monroe, this Marilyn has no women friends), she is aware of her effect on others but also helpless to do, well, anything. With her tremulous smile, she drifts and stumbles through a life that never feels like her own. (Manohla Dargis, The New York Times)

Funny, replace Marilyn Monroe with Elvis Presley and you got the same movie. The only difference I can see is that “reducing to one’s image”—as Dargis says critically of “Blonde”—appears to be used satirically or cynically by director Andrew Dominik, while this reduction for Presley is meant to maintain a legendary cultural status for the victim. Whereas Baz Luhrmann can only make a legend out of one’s supposed cleanliness, can one turn dirtiness and grit into something larger than life?

A lot of “dance” music I listen to is on the edge of dance. It doesn’t drive hard enough, doesn’t micromanage one’s experience; it sometimes doesn’t ask for attention. The best way to describe a lot of dance music I listen to: Imagine watching a spy movie where the protagonist enters the club to find his target. The club is modern, with stark blue lighting and matte gray walls. In the movies, the club is never as packed as it really is: The spy can brush through dancers without a fuss. But the whole time that you’re engaged with the spy’s adventure, dance music plays in the background. Loud and engaging enough to remind the audience that they are indeed in a club, but unassuming enough that we are not caught up in the music, but in the experiences of the protagonist.

I listen to some types of commanding music, but really shy away from it when it comes between the sound and me dancing the way I want. Commanding pop music, which keeps the vocalist in center stage and instrumentalists kept far behind, is tiresome because it wants to take over my life rather than add to it. For me, dance music should be the same: The song and the dance complement each other rather than fight for attention. I couldn’t dance without the right music, but I wouldn’t listen to “dance” music if I didn’t want to at least imagine movement. At times, the poppiest dance music tells me to “sit down, and we’ll do the work.” I don’t want to sit, I want to participate!

Jesper Ryom’s house music doesn’t command attention, except from those who are looking to give it. Rather, tracks of his are hypnotic: “Apolune” uses a side-chain effect to accentuate kicks and let open hats grow with each beat. These tracks are not afraid to repeat themselves: The magic of repetition is that it allows the dancer to figure out the tune and synchronize movements. Repetition is a building of trust between artist and dancer. Every 16, 32, or 32 beats, an instrument or vocal or taken away from the repetitions so that the dancer can adjust accordingly: The song is establishing a scene, the dancer decides whether they want to take part of that scene, and they try to move toward the physicality of the given scene.

For many house DJs, vocal-heavy tracks help break up the “filler” tracks which usually maintain a certain energy that the DJ wants to keep for five to ten minutes, before switching to another banger that sets a new mood. The filler tracks are typically made up of the tracks I described above. I, like many other lovers of dance music, enjoy the give and take of bangers and filler, but I wanted to make an ode to the music that fills up 80% of DJ sets: The mood-setters, the energy-maintainers, the music that isn’t desperate for attention but gets it anyway.

Starting in 1942, Rodale Press magazines and books repeatedly asserted, suggested, inferred and implied both subtly and overtly, both straight out and between the lines, that organically grown food is far more nutrition than chemically grown food— a half-truth. J.I. Rodale was an ideologue at heart. Absolutely certain about the rightness of his own opinions. If J.I. didn’t agree with you, your name was never mentioned in Rodale publications, and the gardening public never discovered you. That is why most gardeners these days have never heard of William Albrecht.

The art of remineralizing soil to increase nutrient-density was developed by independent biological farm advisors working in the tradition of William Albrecht, a pioneering researcher in the relationship between soil fertility and human health.

Albrecht’s experiments revealed precisely how patterns of soil fertility determine animal (and human) health. He taught methods for managing farm (and garden) soils so they would produce the best nutrition… He was vilified by a self-serving fertilizer industry; his publications were rejected by most university agronomists. In my opinion, the reason academics opposed Albrecht was becomes professors who wanted to advance their own careers had to please the interest groups and foundations that provided grant money. When you follow the serious money, you arrive at the major agricultural chemical and fertilizer businesses.

Albrecht’s work supports the belief that disease and insect problems are rarely seen if due attention is paid to soil fertility. This did not endear him to the makers of disease and insect remedies…. the chiefliest chiefs around the American Medical Association and/or the University of Chicago Medical School knew they had a lucrative business going and did not wish other doctors or the general public to learn that patterns of soil fertility actually create human health or disease; that sickness is rarely caused by “bad” bacteria or “bad” genes; or that the fundamental treatment for human (and animal) disease is not medicine, but better farming.

Albrecht’s one actual book (most of his publications were journals) Soil Fertility and Animal Health, is available online for free download. I hope you’ll read it. Nah… I hope you’ll buy it in hardcover and shelve it next to Weston Price’s Nutrition and Physical Degeneration. (Steve Solomon, “The Intelligent Gardener”)

There are many garden writers who are good workers: They report on what gardening or farming techniques work for them, clearly and concisely. But these good workers rarely ask why it worked for them, or the ontological history of how modern farming and gardening practices came to be. I’ve been lucky to find Steve Solomon’s pointed book The Intelligent Gardener, which takes its time in the first three chapters to give an overview of where we’ve ended up as organic gardeners, who brought us here, and why we shouldn’t continue to mindlessly follow this direction as we have over the past sixty plus years.

This is the closest I’ve found in gardening literature to a book of philosophy, and a critical one at that, akin to Nietzsche’s Genealogy of Morals. To have a ripe philosophy, one must have a moral standing, and an explanation of that moral standing besides the usual “that’s just the way it is.” This moral standing, put down in writing, is the writer’s attempt at aligning their personal virtues with a greater purpose in life. Solomon, virtuous in light scientism and self-questioning, appears to be an advocate for remineralization for the purpose of righting the wrongs he did to himself in his younger age, which is a type of learning and growth that can transcend those, like the mythical J.I. Rodale, who push their methodologies and ignore or censor any competing or alternative ones.

Any fans of Wendell Berry will know that philosophy and moralism can be most compatible with farming and gardening. The connection between the body and the earth is not just in the form in the form of the mystical, but the scientific, which somehow modern science both exemplifies and de-emphasizes in all the wrong ways, making the average person believe that we can fly by the seat of our pants with regards to our health deriving itself from the health of the soil. Somehow we know food nutrition is important, but we have no idea what the actual nutrition of our food is. We know the earth is important, but have little understanding of the ramifications of compromised earth growing our food. We live the consequences every day, attempting to race ahead of inevitability with increasing complexities of technology and medicine to maintain a semblance of health while badly grown food corrodes us from the inside out.

An attainable goal is at hand: To grow our own food. We can start with a plant, move to a garden, or even move to a small farm. When we grow our own food, with health soil, we’ll have even more tools at mitigating physical decline than we ever had. Food is truly an answer for good health. But it’s not just eating broccoli and kale: It’s eating food grown on good soil, a complication and challenge that we don’t consider when we rely on people thousands of miles away to produce food for us, who are typically too indebted and desperate to produce such good food, on good soil.

No amount of climate change, financial, or human rights policy changes will change the fact that we must grow our own food. From one plant to one thousand. Start with one plant.

After watching the movie, I searched for any videos comparing Austin Butler’s performances with Presley’s real ones. I should have realized that there was a lot riding on the idiosyncrasies of Presley’s movements during each of his milestone events—Elvis was known for his movement, after all. It was fun enough to see Baz Luhrmann and Austin Butler’s recreations of iconic moments. The odd gesticulations of Elvis’s arms during “If I Can Dream” were the easiest to enjoy comparing and contrasting with Butler’s imitations.

But what was most haunting was Butler’s performance of “Unchained Melody”, where during key lyrical points (“… I need your love”), Butler’s Elvis looks up to the camera, clearly recognizing a large-but-criminally-unexplored theme presented by the film’s Colonel Parker: That Elvis was entranced by his love of the audience, which overpowered his love of others. This type of pseudo-psychology works well for a grandiose film like this, and in a simple couple of looks from Butler’s Elvis during the last performance, it proved its own point.


From bad scheduling to a four day flu, I had little opportunity to run, and I’m happy for it. I wanted to think about the past week’s events, because they appear to me tied to variables much greater than me, which is kind of cool to see.

The energy-eroding nature of wildland firefighting

My job is lightly entitled to one hour of physical training each day. Wildland firefighting is a physically demanding job, whether on a hand crew or an engine. Co-workers with little physical training have fallen out of drills where we carry a dozen packs of hose to the fire, dig fireline, and remove chainsaw-cut brush to prevent fire spread. While each crew is different, PT is usually in the form of running, hiking, and weight training. My crew is pretty laissez-faire about it, so I spend almost every day using the hour to run.

The prime season for wildfires in Northern California lies between July and September. A lot of anxiousness and preparation resides within crew members during this period of time. Keeping physically, mentally, and organizationally prepared, many conflicts between crew members during this period occur due to personal and professional mismanagement, which may or may not ever affect others, but just seeing it on a day to day basis can drive one crazy. Then the fires happen, and some of the bottled up anger crews might have might reveal itself in the least opportune moments.


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