Friday, April 30, 2021

LEFFtovers: Sushi & Waffles

Yesterday’s sushi, pan-fried, with waffles.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021


I need something quite a lot. And there's someone in my life who is in a position to provide it to me with zero trouble, expense, or sacrifice.

If you could blink or wipe your nose or say "Rubber Baby Buggy Bumpers!" and appreciably help another human being, presumably you'd do it. Hell, I've made greater effort and sacrifice to help people more meagerly, but that doesn't count. I'm talking about no-skin/no-sweat assistance. Save a puppy via a finger snap. Cure cancer with a coin toss.

If I ask for it, she won't refuse me outright. But she will subject me to a long interrogation about potential blowback and risk on her end (there's obviously none). She will take time to consider the matter, and, as she does, I'll be at her disposal for various requests, plus a generous flow of nonsense talk, since we're now buddies. Finally, she may well say "no". Or else she'll say "yes" and soon screw it all up via stupidity, incompetence, or clever effort to turn it into something even better. I can't even begin to list the potential snafus. This is simply not fated to happen, so I won't even mention it. Involving her in anything leads unavoidably to pain and despair. Even something so easy and so urgent.
This is the sort of absolutist, cocksure statement that would have offended my eight-year-old self. When I was just a child - six or seven or seven-and-a-half years old - I was absolutist and cocksure about people. Nasty people were nasty and dumb people were dumb. Show me either behavior and I'd dismiss you as incorrigible. But then, as a more worldly eight-year-old, I had a wiser and more nuanced view. No one's all one thing! There are shades of grey! Heck, I myself might seem nasty or dumb at any given time. We must be more forgiving and less judgemental. No one is perfect, but nobody's incorrigible, either.

By age 42 (after managing a million people on the Internet), I'd reverted to my original perspective. Fuck-ups fuck up, period. They just do. Malevolent people don't errantly stumble into malevolence; it's their framing. Same for selfish people. It's truly black and white. There are no shades of grey.
A friend was incredulous. Why on earth wouldn't I ask this person to do this unbelievably easy thing that would have such tremendous impact on my life?

I explained to him that there are people who are responsive. If you need something, they will help if convenient. They have situational awareness and a can-do attitude. At least some part of their focus goes to obliging small needs arising around them. It's not generosity, per se. There may be very tight limits on what they're willing to lose to help you to win. But you can certainly borrow their rake, and they'll drive you if you're going their way, and if they're throwing it out anyway, of course you can have it! To some limited degree they're there for other people. But this person, I explained to my friend, simply isn't one of those people.

She is the type of person who removes every last nickel from her car's change drawer before handing it off to the carwash guy - god forbid someone should steal 35¢ - when, of course, no worker would ever steal change because that's the prime thing you don't do if you want to keep your job in the car, facing like a .1% chance of losing 35¢, she eliminates the risk via 50¢ worth of inconvenience, scooping the mound of change into her overstuffed pocket, scuffing up her iPhone, and then forgetting to replace it so a few days later she finds herself at a parking meter or toll booth for which she has no quarters.

Such blinkered, selfish, tight, grasping, difficult people think they're strategic. They feel smart. They're on the fast track to victory, while slovenly dopes like me let the carwash guys steal my change. That's where slackness gets you!

Oddly, these victory-minded people never seem to win. It's obvious to everyone but them. They go to their graves clutching their bottle caps and Hershey's kisses; so occupied with defending their cheap dog toys that they let decades go by without taking a single step forward.

I once observed that control freaks are seldom worthy of the control they demand. There's something about incompetence that compels control. It reminds me of how this person never seems to come out ahead, even though she's never once failed to put herself first. All that calculation and selfishness and pain infliction...for what???

I don't mind being cut off by BMWs, but I can go into a blind fury when it's someone driving an old terrible car.

The predatory BMW driver has made a life choice at great moral, social and spiritual cost. But at least he has something to show for it. He has his pyrrhic victory.

But if you're driving a 1986 Ford Escort belching black smoke and you don't give a crap about anyone but yourself, why haven't you noticed that your predatory selfishness isn't working??? You're paying all the rich guy costs with none of the reward! You just scared the bejesus out of me and made me crush my brakes so you could ply the high-handed ruthlessness which bought you that sweet $800 ride? Really?

I can grok the notion of disregarding the needs of others so you can concentrate on WINNING. But if it's not working, what's the point? Screwing the world to gain advantage is competition. Screwing the world for kicks is sadism. It's a whole other thing. A much worse thing.

I once drove a 1986 Ford Escort belching black smoke, usually en route to a gig playing swinging music, or trying some other tribe's cuisine. I was having more fun and a richer life experience than most drivers ensconsed in their Beemers, so I felt no shame whatsoever. What's more, I enjoyed the perqs of non-predation. Victorious in my poverty and intact in my morality: win-win!

Assholes who cut you off in cheap cars? Lose-lose!

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

The Middle Path: Revenge of the Puddy Puds

Facebook comment re: my previous posting ("The Middle Path is Sneaky Magic"):
Man I’ve been striving for that middle!
My reply:
You can't get to the middle by striving for it. You get there via the improv comedy mantra of "Yes, and...." I.e. blithely accept the cards as they're dealt.

We live in a society where every 2 year old is endlessly quizzed on his likes/dislikes ("Greggy LIKES the brownie! Greggy LIKES the brownie!"). By adulthood, we identify ourselves by the stuff we dislike, eschew, object to, and/or are allergic to. The rejection of vast swathes is what fuels tribalism, and eventually leads to extremism (a burning of all bridges to rejected swathes).

The thing no one tells you is you can embrace it all (without losing a bit of discernment). In this society, it makes you look like a pud, but, shhh, puds win.

The jolly, turd-ish pud can do this or that. Go up or down, left or right. He enjoys a delirious spectrum of options in all things, with all bridges to all realms of reality fully intact.

Further reading: Cathy Whimsically Chooses to be Unhappy

Monday, April 26, 2021

The Middle Path is Sneaky Magic

I'm the only person I know who cooks healthy - whole grains, limited salt and saturated fat- but who enjoys a wide, diverse diet, overall. Most people who're careful are ascetic crazies who never have any fun and would eat barbed wire before touching a plate of mofungo. And most people who eat as widely and diversely as I do know no restraint. They salt their pizza and they're sweaty and they clutch with alarm at their gall bladders and they figure I'm a monk or whatever. Brown rice? Really?

Chowhounds don't grok my discipline, but ascetics can't grok my brio. Both view me as transgressive, even though I'm evidently coming out the winner.

It's very much like my politics. Centrism means antagonizing absolutely everyone. As I wrote here, the mask thing was rough for me.
The assistant manager of my local supermarket goes maskless, standing inches away from cashiers (who don't dare complain) while waiting to switch out cash drawers. I try to stay clear while he swaggers down the middle of aisles. Spotting me, with my mask (always worn indoors), recoiling from his passage, he probably thinks "liberal pussy".

Outdoors, I walk with a neighbor up our sleepy lane. We maintain the required distance, but do not wear masks. Sometimes we pass tremulous neighbors in enormous masks and astronaut gloves, clearly terrified/furious at the transgressive MAGA brutes despite the extra space we politely give them.
I'm just following science! Mask indoors, no mask outdoors, where there's huge air flow. There's no inconsistency, just rationality. So why can't anyone else seem to color within those bright lines? The "sane man in an insane world" is a cliché, but the Middle Path is perennially alien.

My savings are mostly in conservative index funds. Prudent! But a small slice goes into highly speculative stocks (mostly biotech). I've made far more profit from that small slice - it wags the dog - but my luck could change one day. And that would be ok because the majority is safe. Friends see my high-risk investing and warn me to be more conservative. It breaks their brains to consider that most of my savings are invested grandma-style. It doesn't compute; people who do that don't do this, and people who do this don't do that!

Nobody seems able to grok a "this and that" proposition. The Middle Path is like magic. No one can see it, no one can understand it, but it's like a secret weapon for yielding good results. I eat well, and am only slightly overweight (after a sedentary year due to foot injury). I've enjoyed Lotto-ish success from some investments (e.g. bought this in November) while also sleeping comfortably. And I never did get COVID, though I got out of the house plenty.

The weirdest thing is that I'm oddly heterosexual. Tempermentally, I probably ought to straddle the line. But I'm just not a fan of male anatomy. An aesthetic call.

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Oh Christ, No, Jim; Not the Piano Smash Thing Again

A couple of postings ago, I wrote:
Perceptual framing is not "positive thinking". It's not about concocting a hopeful story to help you stoically endure your bleak reality. It's not crutches or blinders or rose-colored glasses. It's about keeping your perspective lithe enough that you can contemplate at least a few of the infinite angles, and select one that's beautiful and truthful. Just because some life development seems to evoke a soundtrack of mournful violins, you are not obliged to gratuitously load The Film of Woe into your personal projector. You get to choose the film! It's your projector! Everything happening - the entire whirlwind - is nothing but fodder for you to frame per your caprice. That's what we're here for. You're free!
I've backed off of discussing the deeper aspects of this framing business, because when I tried going there, 75% of Slog readers left, permanently. But for any newbies who weren't around for those glory days, let me note that "choosing the film", can be understood metaphorically (where it's comparatively comfortable), or it can be taken a bit more literally, which is so spookily counterintuitive that explanatory efforts chased away virtually everyone. But, hey, why not briefly re-pick that scab? I've been offering loads of cherry blossoms and food porn lately, so indulge me for a minute!

A “piano smash” is when you mash down all the piano keys with your forearms, so every note's been struck. In the cacophonous din, one can listen for any song and hear it. Not imagine hearing it, but actually hear it via a converse sort of perception, antithetical to what we're used to.

As your attention chooses among the static array - every possible note at once - an illusion of dynamism, of movement, of change, of passing time arises, and you can hear Mozart's Piano Fourth Concerto or Brubeck's Take Five, in any key you’d like, and at any tempo. All the music you've ever known or imagined can be heard (not imagined; actually heard!) as your attention tunes in among the din. External music arises from choices of internal attention...i.e. reframing. We “tune it in” via our selection.

It's been widely noted that the mind can't help but find order amid random chaos. That's the closest mankind has gotten to the truth, which is that the universe actually is a piano smash. All "notes" are pre-struck; a preset availability of infinite possibilities from which we pick and choose, creating the illusion of external dynamism, of movement, of change, of time, and of This and That. We tune everything in via our selection. Picking out melodies amid a piano smash isn't some odd way of perceiving. It's how all our senses work all the time. Nothing out there moves, nothing changes, nothing exists right here/right now until you've tuned in with your attention. And we have infinite latitude because, again, all notes are struck. We choose from infinity.

If an infinity of framings is available, why do certain patterns, e.g. your cousin Gary, persist, presenting the impression of fixed solidity?

Habit. Attention - the aware consciousness that is what you actually are - develops habitual framings, and so we appear to exist within solid and semi-predictable surroundings (it's an illusion created by our propensity for abstraction). If we allow ourselves to grind down into utter tedium, we experience the narrowed prison of frozen perspective, where the world, as we tune it, appears to become stuck; a frozen, dreary, single thing, very unpleasant. Life becomes untenable, and that's what depression is. If we habitually/obsessively latch on to one single framing, the world correspondingly congeals into tedious lifelessness.

But we are always free to shift perspective. This faculty is the fabled prime mover. It makes the external world arise - a neat trick! - but if it fixates, it can also make the world freeze. The choice is yours: either delight (all framings are delightful, exactly as all film genres are entertaining; you needn’t conjure up a particularly “nice” one; just remain lithe!) , or else the torment of frozen perspective. Heaven and Hell are both a matter of framing. As you sow, so shall you reap.

Read more deeper implications of framing in this challenging series of posts (previously linked to above), which started off as an attempt to explain something unrelated (but also interesting). Spoiler alert: we traverse the multiverse via our shifting attention. That's what framing actually is/does. Static snapshots consecutively selected by internal placement of attention create the illusion of external dynamism; of time and space. Much like picking melodies out of a piano smash. 

It seems unfathomable and mysterious, but sit, one day, at a piano, smash the keyboard, and tune into "Hey, Jude". You'll find it’s not
 strange at all, even though no one's playing it! For a more convenient - but more limited (only two options!) - taste, contemplate the optical illusion here. That’s framing, baby.

None of this is weird. It's all intimately familiar. It's just not how we've been conditioned to conceive of it. A fish doesn't realize it's swimming. He'd scoff if you tried to explain about water and fins! Wild stuff; crazy intellectual theories! :)

You're Old as Hell

We were as close to Pearl Harbor in 1981 as we are to 1981 today.

We were as close to WW1 in 1970 as we are to 1970 today.

If you were born before 1969, you've lived at least half the time between the Civil War and your birth year.

More here and here.

Friday, April 23, 2021

The Physicist Fisherman and the Dreaming Mogul

I'm watching an excellent movie, "Cuban Food Stories", directed by a Cuban-American immigrant who returned to suss out vanishing regional cuisines. You can watch it for free on Kanopy, a streaming channel often available through local libraries. You can also rent it for $5 on Amazon or on Apple. Good review here from Food & Wine.

One part of the film introduces a grungy-looking guy, the latest in a long family line of fishermen. But he’d been destined for better things. He'd studied hard in school, and when the Soviets planned to build a nuclear power plant in Cuba, the Cubans educated him to a PhD level in nuclear physics so he could work there. But the Soviet Union imploded, the reactor was never completed, and this guy, needing to feed his family, stepped onto the family boat and got fishing. You'd never guess any of this background to watch him. He seems like just another grungy fisherman. But then he told the following story which shows that his intelligence has not been wasted after all. He’s used it to figure out the key to human life:
I once read an article where a great entrepreneur was asked "With all the money you have, why do you work so hard?“

“To make my dream come true,“ he answered.

“What dream?“

“To live on an island in the Caribbean in a little house near the sea with a boat so I can take my family fishing.”
Perceptual framing is not "positive thinking". It's not about concocting a hopeful story to help you stoically endure your bleak reality. It's not crutches or blinders or rose-colored glasses.

It's about keeping your perspective lithe enough that you can contemplate at least a few of the infinite angles, and select one that's beautiful and truthful. Just because some life development seems to evoke a soundtrack of mournful violins, you are not obliged to gratuitously load The Film of Woe into your personal projector. You get to choose the film! It's your projector! Everything happening - the entire whirlwind - is nothing but fodder for you to frame per your caprice. That's what we're here for. You're free!

After all the stuff that's happened that you'd previously declared Unacceptable and Impossible to Contemplate, here you still are! Still you! Same you as ever! Nothing actually happened, aside from the ordeal of your framings, and you could have framed any of it any way you'd liked! Pain is inevitable, but suffering's optional!
Leave a person in a quiet room, and he might meditate and one day leave in a state of vast peace. Put some bars on the window and the same person might decay into a debilitated wreck.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

LEFFtovers: Oniony Ravioli

Fridge contents

6 Trader Joe's Beef Bolognese Ravioli
Half an onion
Straggly few fancy salad greens
Ecuadorian hot sauce
"What's with all the Ecuadorian hot sauce?" you might understandably wonder. There's an Ecuadoran rotissierie joint near me I hit once per week, and always ask for extra sauce. So there are always some small containers in my fridge. Ecuadoran hot sauce is creamy, like Peruvian ají, but more vegetal. It combines well, and I'm always looking for excuses to use it up.
I wanted to do this but had no tomatos.

So I roughly chopped the onion, and sautéd with lots of black pepper. Near the end, I added the greens atop, letting them wilt. Meanwhile I briefly re-boiled the ravioli to reheat them, drained the pot, splashed the hot sauce in the pot, then added the ravioli/onion/greens, stirring violently for a few seconds.

Friday, April 16, 2021

Vaccine Holdouts

Society is rapidly cleaving into two groups: the vaccinated, who are largely safe from Covid infection and almost completely safe from dangerous Covid symptoms (i.e. they can still, rarely, catch it, but symptoms resemble any very minor respiratory infection), and the unvaccinated, who remain in danger.

My first impulse re: vaccine refusers is to wearily shrug. Like with seatbelts, I do the smarter thing, so I get to enjoy the safety. They could easily be safe, too, so this just represents Darwin at work, expunging the demented and the obtuse from the gene pool.

But there's a different way to frame it. If someone in my life joined a cult and was convinced to move to Guyana and drink poisoned lemonade to die en masse with the Dear Leader, I wouldn't be thinking about Darwin and gene pools. I'd be thinking "tragedy". Brain washing really happens. And ignorance. And stupid obstinacy. Actions have consequences, just as we teach our kids, but the penalty ought not be death. This isn't a cartoon. The 500 ton weight falling on the foolish coyote shouldn't be a real world "LOL".

The big problem with Covid (which nobody mentions because it's inconvenient) is also Covid's great blessing: it's not Smallpox. It infects only a few percent, and kills only a few percent of them. So the people who've been socializing in maskless crowds and refusing vaccine very likely won't die, making the feedback mechanism loose and floppy, and organisms don't learn efficiently from loose, floppy feedback. French kissing strangers probably won't kill you, and such spotty feedback spurs only spotty learning at best. Covid perches diabolically on the razor's edge: too tame to easily compel full compliance, yet too perilous to ignore. That's the big problem with Covid.

Of course, it's horrendously poor risk-assessment to tempt fate even within this grey area. But we don't need to winnow poor risk assessors from the gene pool. Even if they tend to wear red hats, holler dumb political slogans, and support deranged con men.

Here's the best pitch I've managed to brew up for folks on the fence re: vaccines (nothing works with staunch anti-vax loudmouths):
"Look, I'm not going to flood you with facts and information, and I won't call you names or try to make you feel dumb, but I'd really hate to lose you, and Covid's bad, and the vaccines work great. I got the shot, and it was a beautiful experience and now I feel safe. I'd be much happier if you were safe, too. We need good people here. We can't afford people like you dying needlessly. Please reconsider."
That works - a little - if someone's on the fence. Treat them not like skeptics, who just need to hear some sense, but like potential suicides. Treat them like people standing on a skyscraper window ledge. This approach - this framing - resonates.

I'm safe either way. I don't need herd immunity, I've got personal immunity. And I've arranged vaccination appointments for a number of local immigrants with lousy English skills. And I've used my well-polished line of persuasion on all the holdouts I know. But I refuse to shrug and invoke Darwin.

From my long-awaited safe harbor of personal safety, here's how I frame it: ignorance, brain washing, and obstinacy can, alas, be fatal, and these are essentially cult victims. So I, myself, am reminded to be less rigid, less proud of my contrarian tendencies, and more wary of my own poor judgement.

Most of all, like an acrophobic near a cliff, I detect and fear my propensity to fall. I recognize that a person can immerse so deeply into a story he tells himself that he misses the reality right before his eyes. Even as a reframing specialist, I don't always immediately shake off every story that's outlived reality.

Just as a lagniappe, I believe a lot of the vaccine holdouts are extra scared. Scared just in general, and particularly frightened of Covid. That may seem senseless, but have you ever hit the accelerator when you were lost (if you even remember "getting lost", before the age of GPS)? It's the same impulse. The assertion of control - any control, including counterproductive - feels, for many people, like their only backstop from the yawing abyss. This is why very old, very sick, very confused people often argue tenaciously with their doctors. They are proving to themselves that they retain autonomy. It feels like a higher priority than not dying.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

More Cherry Blossoms

Same trees, new day, fresh angles (i.e. tap-dancing while waiting for the other trees to wake up):

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Cherry Blossoms

I can’t be in Tokyo, or Washington DC, or even Prospect Park this week. But White Plains has some pretty good cherry blossom (”sakura”) action!

I hate filters and post-processing, i.e. the daft supposition that reality’s insufficient. The whole IG aesthetic stems from a profound misconstrual. Reality can’t be surpassed (it’s all a matter of framing!).

Anyhoo, cherry blossoms (including a photo bombing by one cheeky little tulip):

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Hemingway's Alcoholism and Depression

I've been watching Ken Burn's series about Ernest Hemingway on PBS, and this quote from Ernie stuck out:
When you work hard all day with your head and you must work again the next day, what else can change your ideas and make them run on a different plane like whiskey?
"Change your ideas". "Make them run on a different plane". He's talking, of course, about perceptual framing; about shifts of perspective. It's not some mysterious woo-joo. We all viscerally realize, at some bleary, blurry, unconscious level, that shifting/reframing is the underlying truth of the human experience. Some people (most often accomplished people) get a little closer to this recognition than others, and Hemingway came damned close.

What he missed, alas, is that we don't need alcohol, or any other external thing, to reframe. We're the framers. We internally frame the world, despite our demented and persistent efforts to coax the world into framing us. That ass-backwardness leads to amnesia. We forget that we possess the ability to reframe at will, and so we get stuck. And frozen perspective accounts for nearly all human darkness, most notably depression. Depression is the clinical term for "frozen perspective".

If your perspective grows stuck and you're desperately evading depression (as Hemingway eternally was), and you've tried lots of hearty world action (as Hemingway certainly did), but you can't keep muscling the world into actively changing your perspective for you - misconstruing yourself as the passive receiver of perspective - until eventually you ruminate/marinate yourself into a state where you're good and entranced/frozen/stuck, then, as I wrote here,
We may grow quite desperate for liberation - for an escape from the monotonous world we've framed via a monotonous perspective. To rouse ourselves from depression, or to attempt, in our desperation, to stay ahead of the stuckedness, we clutch at straws. Things like booze, drugs, gambling, casual sex, and the other addictions serve as blunt instruments for forcing cheap momentary wisps of relief; of freedom. It's a last resort for those who've lost all interest in re-tuning their own perspective, and find themselves burdened and bored by a burdened, bored existence in an apparently burdensome, boring world.

A violent kick to the head is hardly an apt substitute for real liberation. It's not subtle, nor entirely pleasant, and you must contend with repercussions, rebounds, and a build-up of tolerance. But at least you’re temporarily jarred out of the monotony of a frozen perspective. If this is your sole avenue of relief, it will come to feel like salvation.

In the long run, dependence on kicks to the head just heightens the monotony; the freezing. You're imprisoned more and more tightly as you distract yourself from your innate facility for swapping in a different perspective. Reliance on a head kick reinforces the wrong-headed assumption that perspective is dictated by conditions "out there", rather than by your own choices "in here". So your entire life comes to center on some chosen kick (which becomes, itself, a monotonous freeze). You cling to this means of momentarily shaking things up to glean pitifully faint sniffs of the full freedom you’ve chosen to spurn.
It didn't work out so well for Hemingway, whose dependence on kicks to the head just heightened the monotony; the freezing. With all that said, let's do one more pass through his surprisingly self-aware quote:
When you work hard all day with your head and you must work again the next day, what else can change your ideas and make them run on a different plane like whiskey?
Just reframe, Papa. It’s your move. You have free latitude to write your story from any angle. You, of all people, should have known that. 

Sunday, April 11, 2021

LEFFtovers: Breakfast Hash

Please please touch to expand.

I sautéed onions, then added cut-up chunks of leftover gyro meat and cut-up French fry chunks, and served over an egg white omelet.

Small touches count (understatement of the century):
  • I did not salt the onions because the gyro is salty. And I under-salted the egg.
  • Those tomatoes were small, so I could have served them whole. But when I envisioned myself eating them, I realized I'd be happier if they were quartered. Cooks can go very far by pampering their predilections.
  • I had a vision in my head of really crunchy/chewy gyro meat, almost like Issan jerky. I also wanted to fully crisp up those fat steak fries, which were mushy from overnighting in the fridge. So I timed it appropriately (the more I make everything like toast - i.e. subjected to micro-concern via vast attentive patience - the more delicious my food turns out).

Friday, April 9, 2021

LEFFtovers: Scallop Thing

Particularly intricate LEFFtover treatment.

Raw materials in fridge:

Less than a full serving of Guatemalan take-out seafood soup
Small amount of leftover soba noodles
Small amount of basmati rice
Sautéed asparagus
Tiny takeout container of Ecuadoran hot sauce
Four raw scallops

Heat seafood soup. When bubbling, stir in soba noodles AND rice. Kill heat.

Sautee scallops with garlic in olive oil, cook 2-3 mins per side.

Upon flipping scallops, add asparagus to pan to reheat. Quarter the scallops after cooking.

Add noodle/rice mixture to a bowl. Top with asparagus. Top with scallops. Top with garlic. Dab each scallop segment with hot sauce. Walla.

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Latino Support for Trump

So the big story right now is how Trump picked up way more Latino support in 2020 than you'd ever have imagined possible. Pundits are straining to understand.

I saw it coming. It's a matter of socio-economic peer groups. July, 2016, I wrote about a local Mexican immigrant I know who felt perfectly comfortable with Trump and his supporters, and explained why I thought that was:
I know a grimy pizzeria, in a scrubby blue collar nabe, serving cheap pizza but also, very quietly, a short list of quite good Mexican items on the down-low. I never see other customers opting for sopes or quesadillas. It's all dry wall guys and FEDEX drivers scarfing cheap slices for lunch. Oversized working class white dudes whose car bumpers all seem to have "volunteer fireman" stickers. And, naturally, Trump stickers.

While I awaited my sopes, I watched the scene. Arriving customers warmly greeted the Mexican owner (a big, garrulous guy who, himself, wouldn't look out of place on a fire truck). Ordering was no-nonsense, but wives and children were tersely asked after in both directions, by name. I heard Donald Trump mentioned a couple times, but the Mexican dude didn't tense a muscle. He wasn't just shucking and jiving; he really relates to these guys. I bet he'd vote Trump, too, if it weren't for the virulent racism. Maybe he manages to overlook that part, just as they do.

The burly customers finish their pizza and wave goodbye with warm eyes, like with family. I, from another world, nibbling my sopes de al pastor, received more distant/polite treatment from the staff. I was "sir". The owner was with those other guys. And they were with him. And as Trump brashly blasted on CNN, none of the Mexican workers behind the counter ground their teeth. They're bought in. They like America. And they sympathize and identify with these guys. And here's the thing: I think they absolutely understand all about hijo de puta politicians who talk a lot of shit. They've seen that before, and would never blame the followers for being conned. Same as it ever was.

Monday, April 5, 2021

The Plain-Sight Secret About Investing

99% of investors have no idea what the bet is that they're making. It's shocking.
"Elon Musk seems super smart, and he's had so much success in the past, and his future plans sound exciting. Tesla seems like an awfully good bet!"
No. Don't do that. The purchase of Tesla stock is not a bet on the company, like betting on a horse in a race. It's one level more sophisticated and abstract: you are betting on the underestimation of Tesla by other investors. That's the bet; the only bet. You're never betting on a company, you're betting against other investors' sentiment about that company. And those people are all aware of Musk's history, too. That's not privileged information.
Have you ever noticed that many people imagine that when they say the same old shit we've all heard a zillion times it has a special ring? "Now it's me saying it!" In everyday life, this daffy mental miscalculation is annoying. In the stock market, it pays for the 1%'s Lear jets.
This is, oddly, terrifically difficult for nearly everyone to grok. Small time "retail" investors misunderstand because they're naive (naïveté is the single greatest impediment to clarity). Day traders, who grok this in theory, lose touch with it amid the bustle of their manic and complicated trading (complexity is the second greatest impediment to clarity). And professional financiers, who understand this better than any of us, are distracted by their smug self-confidence (ego is the third greatest impediment to clarity).

Most of all, it's a framing problem. If you're an addicted gambler (as most investors are, at all three levels), you do not possess a lithe perspective (see this for how addiction is a framing problem). You are rigid and stuck. You are compelled to see things like a horse track, and can't find the calm latitude to reframe to a more sophisticated, subtle, abstract perspective. Your attention remains riveted to "GO TEAM,” in all-caps. 

We all have an opinion as to whether Amazon still has room to grow, or if Tesla can maintain profits with big automakers getting into electric. Opinions are like assholes; we all have one. And yours may even be correct. But that's not enough. Because your bet is not on Amazon or Tesla, but against titans infinitely smarter and better informed than you. They effectively set the price, and that price already reflects their (smart) consensus opinion. And there's not a single thought in your head that's ahead of them. So you will not only not win against them; they will, over time, eat your lunch.

So don't read annual reports. Don't try to be a smarty. All info is already baked in to the price by people way smarter than you (if you assume no one's smarter than you, then I have good news: your impending poverty will divest you of that delusion). Again: You're not betting on a company, you're betting against the market's estimation of that company. It's not a proposition of predicting business success.

So why would anyone bet against billionaire geniuses and their office towers stocked full of MIT educated analysts? Wouldn't that be crazy?

Yes. Yes it would. Which is why people should invest in index mutual funds, which rise (and, alas, sink) with the market, often bringing even better success than the outcomes for individual twitchy billionaire geniuses (because the latter are limited by ego and an addict’s perspective).

The only exception is if you have some sort of an edge. Which 99.9999% of the time you won't.

Patience is a potent edge. The billionaire geniuses need to be constantly hitting home runs. They can't patiently wait stuff out. They're twitchy. That's why my strategy of buying Apple in its downturns has worked. I can park my money for a year, and those guys can't. Neither can day traders, who are equally twitchy. So, often, it's only sad little me buying on downturns and selling on peaks, while everyone else spazzes out, flocks irrationally, and goes foolishly the wrong way. They’re pursuing bazooka home runs this quarter while I’m content with 25% gains next year. I gobble up discarded crumbs.

Specialized knowledge can also be an edge. A friend runs a genetics lab, and told me TXG's technology would one day be ubiquitous. He could hardly wait to have it, himself. I bought at $54, and it's now $188. Of course, it might just as easily have crashed. Maybe the CEO is a dork. An edge is not a superpower, it's just a way to marginally de-shmuck oneself. Billionaire geniuses also know people running genetics labs. Mostly, I got lucky. But a little luckier than if I'd flown blind, trusting my own puny acumen.

Years ago, I wrote breathlessly about SIGA, a company with an entirely effective (and no side-effects) smallpox cure. It’s a bio-terror countermeasure (it works on weaponized versions), and it also works on cowpox and monkey pox, which are both still out there. I'm still hanging on to half my shares, and at $7 I've made out decently with my $2 investment, though it's sat listlessly for so many years that it's no jackpot. This year I expect at least one big foreign government sale, and/or a sale to US gov with a different formulation, which should hopefully pop the stock back to $12-15. At that point, I'll sell (there's time pressure: their patent on the drug actually runs out in a few years - insert bug-eyed/astonished emoji - and soon I'll be so old that I'd only enjoy a jackpot by gold-plating my walker), and it will amount to good profit despite the ridiculous time lag. In this case, my patience was my edge, then my stubbornness was my edge, then my religious faith was my edge, and, at this point, my stupidity is my edge. All these things are unavailable to billionaire geniuses. I stay in my lane.

It’s hard to understand this maxim, and harder still to live by it. And it’s almost impossible to find an edge for yourself, and harder still to maximize that edge without being clouded by ego or by addictive glee over successes. 

I seem to be at that latter stage. I’ve been beating the market (I bought in low to CRIS, PRKR, BCRX, and the aforementioned TXG and SIGA, in addition to cultivating Apple’s periodic lulls). But it’s more than likely a blip, like flipping “heads” a few times more than likely. So I’m keeping my outlay prudently low. 

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Craziness Codicil

I left something important out of my previous posting, "The Craziness of Encountering Crazy People Who Don't Exist" (alt titles: "Opting Out of Fetishizing Malicious Stupidity", "Anti-Stigmatization", or "The One With the Five N-Words").

By the time I'm done pre-mumbling, mumbling, and post-mumbling, I sometimes discover, too late, that I've forgotten to drive home my actual point. "Too late" because the posting's been so worked, and is so embarrassingly lengthy, that there's little hope of cramming in any new chunk.

So while I often deliberately bury ledes (one of my snickering delights), I appear to have plunged to a new low of ditzy incompetence so extreme that (in keeping with the theme) it has no name. I hereby coin the term "Lost Lede", and offer it to you below. It's nothing not already implicit in the post, but I never quite got around to firmly summing it up and putting it in wider perspective.

When you sanitize and euphemize your language and your thinking about a thing, you deliberately detach yourself from truthful conception of the thing. You shun and reject truth. And that's not good, because if/when that thing and that truth is encountered, it will stun you. Having methodically bleached some truth nugget previously lodged in your consciousness, you're left in a bind when reality pops up...which it does with some frequency.

This is, in fact, why we think. It's so that reality doesn't knock our teeth out or leave us yammering like idiots. Thinking is our pre-production prep for reality. It's useful work, even if it's not all sparkly nice and a smooth fit with cultural trends. Ideally, we think to understand, not to conform. You need to really watch out for the latter.

This issue is far more timeless than some stupid argument about political correctness or whatever. Thought bleaching leads to debilitating results in all instances of political re-education/brainwashing. It can work for a while, in a limited, blinkered way, but it inevitably leaves you estranged from reality. My examples are relatively light ones, leaving us lightly estranged. But I'm a big fan of reality, of truth (it's not a popular stand, but I'm such a contrarian). The very last thing I want is to deliberately estrange myself from it.

It's particularly corrosive for those whom this whole artifice has been contrived to protect. It shames and erases their reality. However positive your intentions, that's a hack that should never be pursued.

The Craziness of Encountering Crazy People Who Don't Exist

I had lunch a while back with a mentally ill guy. And I was completely taken aback when he started spouting craziness.

We've really boxed ourselves in with our language meshugas here in Euphemism World. Who'd expect a "mentally ill" person, facing certain "challenges", to spew outright craziness? One doesn't expect craziness from the mentally ill. One expects neatly compartmentalized, non-stigmatizable mental illness. Because that's what we call it.
Hi there, I'm Canadian, brunette, Pisces, mildly athletic, and mentally ill! So tell me a little about yourself!
You don't expect craziness because there's no such thing. Crazy people don't exist. So when a crazy person sat before me at lunch, it seemed unexpectedly....ugly. Much as the word "crazy" is ugly. "Crazy" truthfully describes the ugly prattle coming out of his mouth. And if you can't say so, or even think it, you'll feel shocked when something very much fitting that non-existent and totally not-okay word materializes before your lying eyes. The disjoint, in fact, makes the encounter much more jarring. It's, well, crazy...and that's just, well, crazy!

As a society we may nobly strive to sweep stigma under the cognitive/linguistic rug, but then one day you'll encounter some bona fide crazy shit, and find it as hard as I did to maintain composure while insouciantly swirling Sauvignon blanc and daintily tooth-scraping artichoke scuzz. It all grinds to a halt. We're lost without the availability of the word we're never supposed to utter upon encountering the thing we're never supposed to acknowledge. Reality startles the dreamer.

This is a horridly poor outcome for crazy (ouch) people. Because if the reality of how they behave is so awful as to be excluded from polite conversation, where, exactly, does that leave them? What's it like when the very thing you are can't be spoken without euphemism? One gets a taste of that predicament from eggshell-walking, painfully meticulous prog-speech (I'm sick of the term "PC", which the piqued canned hams of Fox News have ruined for me):
"So! Jim, I understand, is of the, um, Hebraic persuasion. By which, I mean to say, he's a Jew-American, oh dear, so sorry, my denture must have slipped, a Jewish-American, and those wonderful, uh, beings are so splendidly intellectual and sarcastic! I hasten to note that every individual Jew - sorry, er, Jewish-American - is of COURSE unique, so I'm not attempting to generalize here, but...."
Even this relatively mild form of word mincing leaves me wanting to book de-circumcision surgery and rhinoplasty, and to eat nothing but pork chops dunked in mayonnaise for the rest of my life. I'm driven to self-denial, if not self-obliteration, by vaguely insulting faux-tolerant (STOP ‘TOLERATING’ ME ALREADY!!!) gesturing. As I wrote here, "As a member of five or six minority groups, myself, I find myself cringing whenever I see groups to which I belong depicted or discussed with anxious care and glossy patina. What awful thing, after all, are they so carefully dancing around?!?"

It must be far worse for those whose actuality has been de-worded. What does it feel like when those enduring your crazy ravings are left struggling to recompose their tidy worldview that all's swell and you are absolutely not as crazy as you just clearly demonstrated yourself to be? Isn't that the most exclusionary possible exclusion? And isn't it also a false feedback loop? If I'm acting crazy, please, for heaven's sake, tell me! Bluntly! Don't just stare straight through me, mentally self-denying your assessment of the unthinkable thing you've totally decided I am.

If it's so imperative to create a minty fresh landscape in our collective imagination, stocked exclusively with above-average bright and untarnished souls, some of whom might face certain "challenges" - euphemizing their uncomfortable truth off the table - then what becomes of such people? Aren't they essentially purged along with their unmentionable trait? Aren't we making them, themselves, unthinkable?

It's perfectly ok to point out tallness. But shortness? YOU SHUT YOUR MOUTH RIGHT NOW. Sympathetic people deem such characterization taboo; so irredeemably awful that we must expunge the very concept. But, sweet Jesus, where does that leave short people? Personally, I don't think size is any big deal (me, I'm tall, so I hit my head a lot, and wouldn't mind shaving off half a foot and being 5'6"). It reminds me of Basil Fawlty, proprietor of a fictional provincial British hotel, desperately trying to NOT MENTION THE WAR to his German guests. Is shortness really so horrid that we can't mention it? What does this reveal about our actual feelings about short people? Doth we protest too much?

What kind of freaky funhouse ride do we force upon the anti-stigmatized? Is this a nice thing to do to, for example, crazy people? If no one can be crazy - because it's too awful to say so - then how can crazy people even go on living?

In fact, how can any of us go on living in minty-fresh Euphemism World without it taking a toll on our mental health? And if it did, how would you even know? Craziness is easily spotted, but "mental health challenges" sound like something you'd need to wait in line for a very long time at a community wellness center to assess, before primly adding the term to your bright, colorful punchcard of turn-ons, turn-offs, and charming personal peccadillos.

I'm not poorly informed. My intellectual grasp of mental illness is rather sophisticated, thanks. But language is not a purely intellectual function (if it were, writers could predetermine reader reaction like code compels computers). Language is equally an emotional channel, and every one of us has a visceral understanding of "Crazy", whether we use the word or repress it, and that deep understanding is not - by very design! - triggered by the term "mental illness".

Prohibiting vivid words only heightens their power. For example, "nigger", which had largely dissolved into corny anachronism by the early 1980s, now has been given the immense power to flip much of the nation into frothed madness via one single utterance. Why would we willingly stoke such words with such heightened power? Me, I'd rather type it over and over - nigger nigger nigger - until it decays into a meaningless musical sound with less juice, not more. See how puny and nothing it is. Let's opt out of fetishizing malicious stupidity. Nigger corn chips gall bladder prune juice hairspray! Unceremoniously grind out the stupid cigarette butt beneath your heel. It's barely worth snuffing; certainly not to be mistaken for the infernal blaze of Hell; and, for god's sake, let's not keep, like, honoring it.

Also: I've suffered from depression, OCD, and PTSD, all in long remission after lengthy regimens of yoga and exercise, followed by years of rigorous meditation (unclenching the myriad micro-contractions with which we purposefully bind ourselves). I've also had schizophrenic, paranoid, addicted, alcoholic, psychopathic, narcissistic, megalomaniac, and suicided loved ones. So its not that I lack sympathy, bokay? I'm all for sympathy, but I do not find our current modes of performative pseudo-sympathy the least bit sympathetic. I've acted crazy, you've probably acted crazy, and it's fine, we can call it what it is...if only to ensure that we don't keep stigmatizing via heavy-handed anti-stigmatization (will we human beings ever learn to react to extremism with enlightened moderation rather than with reciprocal extremism?).

Woops, I forgot to actually get to the point...but corrected that here.

Saturday, April 3, 2021

Today I Turned Old

I'm 58. This, it seems, is the age where you actually start to get old.

For 25 or 30 years, I've asked myself whether some new propensity or degradation or screw-up was the result of "old age". But as I've often written, a speculative mind offers no bell of truth. Truth doesn't come from the stories you tell yourself; from your frothy worries or emotions. Amid the idle breezes of the mind there will appear no transcendently good one to latch onto. It's not like that. The wandering, speculative, story-attaching mind is pure indulgence, and coughs up gems only serendipitously. If you've been worrying about your friend and the phone rings and your mind screams "That's her and she's dead!!!", that's not intuition. That's just your neurosis.

Real intuition doesn't feel cinematic. It's nothing like a flight of fancy, and it doesn't surface out of dramatic, visceral emotion. Real intuition is indistinguishable from knowing. It's just like any other knowing. You actually need to take time and effort to reverse engineer it all and recognize that the conviction appeared from nowhere; that a bit of knowledge has no real basis for feeling known.

When we learn in biology class about instinct in animals, we imagine we're above that sort of thing. We can persist in thinking so because we have little time to reverse engineer all our seemingly solid convictions. What sort of obstinate dweeb (besides me) actually invests time in trying to sort out which knowledge comes from knowing, and which knowledge just sort of materialized into place?
It's like brushes with angels. I wrote about them once, starting off with the observation that "Angels are real but they're not what you think."

Angels are so ordinary, banal, and unsparkly that people rarely notice they've received help impossible to reasonably account for. An upturned bug doesn't recognize some kid named Herbie just did it a solid and turned it right side up. The bug just obliviously wriggles away. A door appeared to have opened, and the bug lacks cognitive horsepower to draw the very subtle distinction between doors simply opening before you and doors improbably opened for you. Many human beings, especially these days, are similarly unable to draw this distinction. It all just happens. 
Intuition - real intuition, with truth value - isn't some touchy/feely/spooky Something Else, covered in magic pixie dust. It's rock-solid, and baked squarely into our lives. When I drive my car past some random eatery and my heart rate suddenly jumps and I slam on the brakes, it doesn't feel like Jesus whispered to me from the cloud tops. Frankly, my first instinct is usually to roll my eyes, because I'm trying to get somewhere, am usually late, and, even worse, I've most often already eaten. Yet every cell in my body is exuberantly hollering "We're Here!!!!!!!" and it's awfully tough to simply drive away. I feel compelled to go in and eat, blandly aware that it'll unfailingly be great. And it's not a heavenly compulsion. It can be a bit of a drag. It took long experience and normalization to appreciate the kooky weirdness of the whole scenario, but it sure doesn't feel "magical". It's indistinguishable from any other arrival point.

What intrigues me is this: what was the state of my internal landscape one pico-second before the brakes pumped? Here's the answer: I knew, then, too. But it was still unconscious ("Unconsciousness" is still a little-understood term, even at this late date; this short post offers some visceral feeling for what it refers to). At some shadowy level, I felt it all coming, because the foot doesn't pump brakes without some sort of instruction. I had to orchestrate that result. The knowing (which had no way of being known, which means it was pure intuition) was lurking in my peripheral vision, and at some point it bloomed into the main stage of my consciousness. Eureka.

Let's pursue that "moment-before" aspect a bit more, because it's juicy. Consider this: whenever you've been sick, there's been a period where you suspected maybe you were sick (but often turned out not to be), but then, finally, there arrived a moment of knowing; of conscious declaration. Logic dictates that, if you were sick, there had to be a single moment when you realized it (obvious exception: weird "silent" diseases like hypertension operating beyond awareness). So...what made you know it? And how did you know what you knew?

Was it scientific - some precise scanning of vital signs suddenly exceeded a threshold and set off an alarm? Unlikely. We don't declare we're sick because the seventh sneeze strains credulity ("Six? Maybe! Seven? Ok, that's it!"). Rather, speculation - story-telling about how, geez, you might be coming down with something - is replaced by a deeper, vague, unconscious feeling, which finally blooms into a conscious knowing with no solid basis for knowing, aka intuition. The evidence hasn't radically changed. You'd noticed your dripping nose well before. But ongoing suspicion was briskly replaced, with a thunderous clap (though nothing had materially changed), by a firm sense of certainty. Suddenly, you simply knew, with the knowing knowing of knowing....though, if you'd thought about it (which is something bugs and humans alike rarely do), you'd have realized that there was no trigger, no threshold, no solid basis. Were you not equally sick a minute earlier?

Getting back to where this digression-within-a-digression-within-an-introduction started, at age 58, I know - with a feeling not of speculation but of actual knowledge - that I'm getting old. Which means I was probably old at 57-1/2, as well, and knew it subconsciously, but it continued to manifest as idle speculation and ditzy neurosis. Today marked the arrival from nowhere - like a firmware update - of hard knowledge. Thunderclap!

And now, finally, the posting.

My favorite aunt had a favorite story. Her mother's mother was a piece of work; a hard-assed, uncompromising, raging bucket of unreasonable impossibleness. My aunt's besieged, haggard mom had pleaded with her, as a child, "If I ever become anything like my mother when I'm old, please let me know!" When the day finally arrived and my aunt let her mother know, her feisty, pugnacious response was "She was right!!!"

That's old age.

Today I sat down to try to write a Slog posting which essentially restated a previous one. Not building upon it, or coming at it from a different angle. Just flat out restating the point.

When I started this Slog, 12 years ago, I resolved to never do such a thing. A writer friend had warned me that after a few months I would run out of things to say. So I figured I'd floor the accelerator, and when the dust settled and the tank went dry, I'd suspend operations. It didn't turn out that way, and while I can't say I never repeated myself (again, excluding postings that deliberately built upon, reframed, or polished previous thoughts), it didn't happen often. I was 46 when I started this. Young!

When I'd notice repetition, I'd think "Hey, I must be getting old, hahahaha!", and would add wry footers linking, self-deprecatingly, back to the previous statement. This is surely how Simpson's creator (and Chowhound user) Matt Groening feels. At a certain point after long iteration, your field starts to really fill up and collisions become inevitable (South Park did a whole episode, titled "Simpsons Already Did It", about the struggles of entering that crowded field).

But this morning, I was prepared to sit down and pound out something I well knew I'd previously written. And I didn't give a damn, because I just wanted to, gob nabbit. And that's when I realized I'm old. I'm exhibiting the same slightly unhinged, embarrassingly headstrong, yeah-I've-dropped-my-standards-a-solid-notch-and-fuck-you-if-you-don't-like-it mindframe that's capable of conjuring up "She was right!!!"

It's not speculation, neurotic fear, or some story I'm telling myself. This is the moment when sneezy bleary nose-drippiness congealed into knowing. I'm old. Hokay.

Remember when it was the hippest time to be 48? Hahahahaha. Yeah, I remember that. Now I look like hell, Jon Stewart looks like hell, Steven Colbert looks like hell, and even Barack Obama looks like hell. And Jonathan Winters and Ed McMahon, in retrospect, seemed like perfectly cool dudes to hang out with.

Friday, April 2, 2021

A Little Better

My dad lost a few decades to depression. Somehow, via a herculean feat of will, he managed to relocate and reinvent himself in the desert southwest; I'm still unsure how he managed it at his advanced age and in his lethargic condition. And he felt better once he was there. A little better.

One day while I was visiting, I returned from shopping to find him in a chair staring glassily in the late afternoon gloom. As I engaged him in conversation, he perked up a bit and declared how relieved he was to have kicked depression!

I figured this was stark raving bonkers. But I've come to realize an essential truth people don't much notice or discuss: when something's super bad, and gets better - even a lot better - it can still be pretty bad. Even though you feel fully restored.

I've had severe foot pain for a solid year. I haven't really been able to walk, aside from a giddy brief respite in the fall. After bergs of ice and wads of money spent on special invalid shoes, custom orthotics, greasy anti-inflammatory ointments, and no fewer than four MRIs, I finally feel no pain whatsoever. This absence of pain feels like pure pleasure. My feet feel like happy frolicking puppies. They're like a field of daisies. They live in a feminine hygiene commercial.

But there's something I understand - intellectually if not experientially - from my father's example. I may actually still be in fairly bad pain. I honestly have no idea. There is really no way to know.

It's not that I'm cuckoo-pants bananas. It's that human perceptions are infinitely pliant. Lightness doesn't register as lightness without a baseline of darkness to judge against. There are no absolutes. Among other things, this accounts for how very gradual degradations - the proverbial frog boils - are so tough to notice. We can be lulled into losing touch with our baselines. My baseline right now is agony, which leaves me easily pleased!

If you walk around in a miasma of bitter negativity and depression, and a single ray of light errantly penetrates, you'll feel unequivocally certain that all problems have been solved, that all burdens dropped, and that the heavens have left you minty fresh (this posting provides a visceral impression of such transformation). Three drops of rain in a parched desert feel like Niagra. Slightly cracking open a window in a stifling car wooshes in a seemingly lush torrent of life-giving oxygen. We simply cannot gauge. It's quite impossible.

And it's not just external perceptions. Internal framings are relative as well. When we lose our baseline, our mooring, perspectives can seem stark raving bonkers. This is how, for example, a nation of wealthy, supremely coddled and comfortable aristocrats can manage to feel universally deprived and aggrieved.

I have a long-standing fantasy of buying a Tesla. I'm not normally tempted by luxury consumer goods, but I do like cars and gadgets - especially gadgets that continuously update themselves over time in delightful ways. And while I can't afford a Tesla, I do hang out in Tesla forums, where I pretend to be in the market and ask lots of eager questions.

A while ago, I mentioned there, in-passing, that, of course, all Tesla owners are rich. And you would not have believed the hue and cry among forum participants, all owners of >$60,000 vehicles. They wished to inform me, often with considerable pique, that they are certainly not wealthy. Truly wealthy people, I suppose, own jets. And to jet-owners, truly wealthy people own football teams.

Further readings on Depression:
A Unique Perspective on Depression
The Main Cause of Major Depression
Depression Resuscitation Kit
A Surprisingly Uplifting Examination of Suicide
The Evolution of a Perspective
Framing as Hilarious or as Catastrophe
All writings on depression in reverse chronological order

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Prevent Sore Arm from Vaccination

After my first vaccination shot, a friend urged me to move and flex my arm. But that left me in an intellectual bind. What does "move your arm" mean? Do I watch the news, sipping tea with one arm while doing arcane David Byrne tribal movements with the other one? I did some haphazard arm waves and my arm was sore as hell for 2-3 days.

This time, I took it seriously. I went the full Byrne, right in the waiting room post-shot (half the room watched CNN, the other half watched me, but fuck 'em). I continued en route to my car. And I gave myself some booster arm movement before and after supper. Nothing obsessive, maybe 5-7 mins in total. Next day, my arm hardly hurts at all.

Do every sort of move you can think of. Pete Townsend wind-ups, extensions, bend at elbow while pushing back of head forward with your hand. Thermometer-reset-style shakes. Pet the full body of an imaginary very very large dog. Do all these moves with your hand/wrist/arm rotated left, then right, then centered. Do them fairly vigorously. The moves that hurt a little (in the shot area), do more.

Blog Archive