where that last post left off

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009


since my last entry in this blog, i have begun using facebook, extensively, and i find that it has in some ways replaced my blogging, because it is good for me to be encouraged to be pithy, and the reward in terms of feeling more connected to so many people in so many different spheres of my life is addictive.

somehow, in the past year, facebook has managed to swallow up so much of the general population that it’s network now includes: the more computer savvy members of my extended family, in both colorado and florida, which means many cousins whom i see once every couple of years, if i’m lucky; most of my friends from highschool and college, including people whom i have not really seen or heard from since, but liked at the time, and now i really appreciate having a window onto where their lives have led; designers and techie people whom i have met and/or worked with since going to grad school, and who are now dispersed; bloomington townies i knew and loved before ever going to IU, and have been anchored by since; and various other people i met while traveling in the UK, living in portland, becoming involved with burning man, and generally circling the western 2/3 of this country for the last two years, while keeping as many tops spinning as possible in order to figure out what the hell to do next.

that’s quite a list, when it comes down to it, and it makes facebook by far the easiest way for me to keep up with the world right now. better than email, better than the phone, better than christmas letters, better than blog posts that i always Wish i could find time to write but then never do…

facebook is like just being able to think of the title of a blog post, and then not actually having to say anything else about it, unless people prompt you, which is a really nice option for my brain. :)

and i do like the freedom to write more than a 140 character twitter update, and attach pictures and links, though as with any new freedom, a learning period wherein we all must learn what it means to be judicious with our powers is part of the deal.

i still like twitter, and i should use it more, but it only includes the hci/techie circle i mentioned above, and celebrities and companies and news sources, which is nice, but not nice enough to win over facebook, when i’m pressed for time.

when i explain twitter to people, i call it a virtual water cooler, and i think that facebook status updates have really grown into the potential of that concept. it’s like a network of water coolers, with one in every building of your life, from which you draw not water, but random sequences of interesting tidbits of news and commentary, from everyone you have ever known.

and friends who don’t know each other – who live in different countries even! – can meet through your comments!

and we are forced to choose which sorts of conversations we WANT to carry on this publicly, and which to have more privately — how much do we talk about what we Really did last weekend? or what we think about our boss? or who we are going to vote for? or what we think about our neighbors?

and what does our willingness or reluctance to be transparent about these things say about us?

it is fascinating.

and i am thrilled to be able to witness it, much less shape it.

it is an example of why i continue to err more on the side of technophilia than technophobia.


find me on facebook if you want, k?

i logged on here because i was reading old blog posts, and realizing how long it has really been since i wrote, and how i do enjoy the record of my life and thoughts that my blog provides me, regardless of whether other people enjoy reading it, so i should do my best to avoid letting the gaps get too large.

and i don’t know about you, but when i have trains of thought like that, i find it best to follow them through, which in this case, meant just hit “write post” and see what happens.

and now it seems that i have written a post about facebook, which is fine.
it really is the best answer to “so, where’ve you been?” when it comes to the part of me that lives in the blogosphere, so it’s as good a place to start as any. :)

it’s characteristically not pithy, however, so i’ll just have to come back later with updates about, you know, the part of me that lives in the real world. ;)

i know i say ‘i’ll say this later’ a lot, but eventually, i might just surprise us all.

one potential benefit of winning nanowrimo this year is that it will make a daily writing habit easier, so i just have to structure my time, and that’s kind of my focus right now with kwerk, so ding! winner!

oh, yeah! i just won nanowrimo! :)

remember two years ago when i first tried it and failed miserably after a week or so of nervous effort, and then went on a trip to florida wherein i barely wrote at all?

don’t worry, i don’t really remember it, either.

but i really did blog more in those days, didn’t i?

anyway, i’m kind of in shock about it this time, because it was too easy, and that means that i really have no excuse to not write a novel…

but that’s another post, too.


metaposts, an introduction

Sunday, July 26th, 2009

the best writing teacher i ever had was a man named andrew hess.
andrew was the grad student who taught my section of the expository writing class that all freshmen at NYU were required to take as a part of the general education sequence. most people hated this class, and, as with many classes that are taught by an assortment of grad students, a lot of them probably had pretty good reason. the odds of me ending up with andrew as an instructor were slim, and even slimmer because his section of the class met at 8:30 in the morning, which would never have been my first choice, but it so happened that it was the only section that fit into my schedule that was also a ‘computer section.’

the whole idea of this is actually kind of baffling now, but this was 1997, and most people didn’t have laptops, and some people didn’t even have a computer at all, so you didn’t always get to turn your papers in digitally. you actually had to, like, print things out, and find a stapler. but my freshman year at NYU they were trying out this new thing by having ‘computer sections’ of writing workshop. we met in a computer lab, and turned in our papers via email. we also did things like chat together in class about something we read.

it was all meant to be very cutting edge, and, in what i suppose was a foreshadowing of my future interest in hci, i thought it was exciting enough that i wanted to sign up for it, even though it meant going to class at 8:30 in the morning. i had just finished going to highschool for four years, after all, and i had to get there at 7:15, so 8:30 sounded quite reasonable. after a full year of staying up until 3 in the morning on a regular basis, and almost never getting more than 6 hours of sleep a night, i changed my tune, but in the narrow window between eras, i signed up for andrew hess’s section of writing workshop, and it changed me. for the first time in my life, i had a teacher who saw right through my bullshit, and tore my writing apart, and challenged me to really think about what i was saying instead of just babbling because it was easy for me to babble, like i’m doing in this blog post.

la la la la.

it was hard, and it scared me a little, and if i ever get my act together and actually write something that makes me proud, it will be partly because of andrew hess, and i will say so in the acknowledgements.

anyway, one of the things that andrew did was ask us to write something that he called a ‘metatext’ after each of our papers. the idea was to give us a place where we could express our thoughts on how the paper went – did we like it? did we leave something out? what hung us up? what did we know was confusing?

this practice raised the caliber of andrew’s editorial comments to a whole new level, because he knew what we already knew, and this experience felt to me like fresh air was finally being let into a room that had grown very stale and stifling, and it made me rather giddy.

one of the things that the metatext helped me with was being comfortable leaving things alone even when i didn’t feel like they were finished yet. i have a very hard time with drafts. i try to make things fit together from the beginning. and i fail. because that’s not how writing works, really. you need to test things. see how they feel. rework them and move them around. i resist this, because my thoughts? they are messy. and it’s hard for me to explain them. and no matter how many times i learn the lesson that it’s faster and more rewarding to just let myself say them a hundred different ways and then pick the ones that work best, i still feel bad about asking other people to sort through my muck, and nervous about going on the record with things that i don’t really mean.

i’m saying all this not because i’m feeling particularly narcissistic this evening, but because it’s a pretty good description of the core of my dilemma with blogging. i was thinking about it as i was writing the last post about kwerk because i kept getting stuck, and it made me nervous, and i remembered andrew hess, and writing workshop, and metatexts, and i thought: maybe i should start writing metaposts? separate places where i let myself ramble about what i think the post did pretty well, and how it compares to the form of the idea that i’m trying to find a way to express, and what i think i might do to make it better.

it seems worth a try, a least.

i can hide the metaposts after the jump, or something. maybe find a plugin that lets me attach notes. then people with interest in such things can read them, and the main posts might get leaner, as a result.

i’ll go write a metapost for the kwerk post now, and try it out.

i thought that this was going to be the metapost, but then i decided to tell stories instead. :)

so andrew, if you ever read this – thank you. i will have you know that you also made me very sensitive to the fact that czechoslovakia no longer exists, and i hope that the past ten years have treated you well. i am trying to focus on kwerk, and finding ways to make money in the meantime, but i am also starting to write a short story – pretty heady sci-fi – and when i finish, i will seek you out, and send you a copy, and if you have the time and interest to tear it apart, it would be a tremendous honor.

border crossing

Monday, April 27th, 2009

last summer, i set out for southern california with the intention of setting down some semi-permanent roots in the san diego area by september. instead, i spent all my money on running a kitchen at burning man, and ran my energy bar down into the blinking red along the way.

the adventure was worth the risk, but i needed to recover, so i returned east to search for powerups, play some old mini-games i had already figured out pretty well, and develop my strategy a bit better. i learned a lot, and had a lot of fun, and felt very grateful for my friends.

i also thought quite a bit about the potential benefit of using games as a metaphor for life, and that may impact how i write for a while, so… fair warning.

last wednesday i arrived in san diego with a carload of assorted possessions, a two-month sublease on a room that is two blocks from the ocean, and a relatively well-defined concept for a web project that erik has agreed to work on with me for a while.

these are all very good things, and i’ve spent this weekend taking many deep breaths while looking out the window at the palm trees, listening to the birds, and trying to just let my new surroundings sink in.

i love california, but right now, bouncing back and forth between time zones as much as i am, i can’t help but marvel at how different it feels from the rest of the country when it comes to the simple mechanics of daily life.

when abundance can be taken as a given in life, strategies change.

whenever i’m here i feel like i’ve just been dealt a really great hand of cards, and at first it’s really fun to play it out and get a lot of points, but after a while it starts to get boring, and i start to wonder if maybe someone forgot to shuffle the deck…

for now, here i am, and my hand excites me.
i am good, but tired, and there are many stories to tell.
over the next few weeks i will try to figure out where to begin.

a tradition in the mixing, volume two

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2008

um, hi there…
i have no excuse for not keeping everyone updated on my exploits over the past month, apart, i suppose, from the exploits themselves, which have kept me rather busy.

but that’s pretty lame.

i am writing today from palm beach gardens, FL, where i have spent the holidays with my mother and grandmother, and actually, i don’t have any updates for you beyond that skeletal announcement, sooo… maybe i should skip this part and go with more of a distraction-oriented technique…

is that a new sweater you’re wearing? because the color really suits you. you look ten years younger. i hardly recognize you. in fact, have we met? i think you need to send me your bank account information and the last four digits of your SSN, just so i can be sure you’re really who you say you are… and by the way i’m going to tahiti next week, can i send you a postcard?


(don’t really send anything, grandma…

…but i’ll still send a postcard)

ok so anyway, a year ago i wrote a post describing a potential new end-of-year tradition – the compilation of a playlist; a soundtrack of sorts for the year gone by; a record, as i put it at the time, of “the songs that happened to stand out for me in a given year, be they new discoveries or old favorites that are somehow heard anew.”

i like this idea for lots of reasons, not the least of which that i have always found the compilation of mixes to be hella fun, and it turns out that picking out songs that trigger memories of the key events of the year gone by is a very enjoyable activity with quite a bit of reflective potential, so… good new year’s game! i did it again!

this year, however, i finally abandoned all pretense of ever intending to actually burn the finished product onto CD, and as a result there was no very strong incentive to limit my choices to a number that would fit easily within the memory requirements of antiquity. whether that led to a bloat of laziness or a blossoming of potential i shall leave for you to decide, but, whatever the verdict, if you decide to play along i shall increase your mp3 collection by 44 units, so i hope that there are at least one or two selections that help you kick off the year with a smile.

fwiw, 6 of the songs are actually the movements of one cello suite, so that kind of skews the tally, and in a few cases there are several songs in a row because they have been inseparably fused together in my memory as components of some pastiche of imagery and sound that i heard in my head at one point or another during the year, but have not yet fully discovered how to translate into this shared domain we know as the physical world. that is quite possibly a project for the year ahead, so… stay tuned for volume 3! :)

as it is, i offer you my year in music, 2007, zipped up for less frustrating downloading (but still passively time-intensive… go read someone else’s blog! drink tea!), ordered with one ear to a rough chronology and the other to pacing and flow. whether any of it shines through the cracks of my tinkering or not, i hear a story when i listen to these songs, and i am privileged to have the chance to share that story now with you.

enough words.

  1. Ain’t Got No/I Got Life – Nina Simone
  2. Superman – REM
  3. Sneakin’ Out the Hospital – The Beastie Boys
  4. Chapter 24 – Pink Floyd
  5. Babe I’m Gonna Leave You – Led Zeppelin
  6. Look at Miss Ohio – Gillian Welch
  7. The Gloaming – Radiohead
  8. The Only Difference Between Martyrdom and Suicide is Press Coverage – Panic at the Disco
  9. Lotto – First Coat
  10. Suite No. 1 in G: 1. Prelude – Johann Sebastian Bach/Boris Pergamenschikow
  11. Find the River – REM
  12. Suite No. 1 in G: 2. Allemande – Johann Sebastian Bach/Boris Pergamenschikow
  13. Intermission – Panic at the Disco
  14. Suite No. 1 in G: 3. Courante – Johann Sebastian Bach/Boris Pergamenschikow
  15. delicate – damien rice
  16. Suite No. 1 in G: 4. Sarabande – Johann Sebastian Bach/Boris Pergamenschikow
  17. Hook – Blues Traveler
  18. Suite No. 1 in G: 5. Menuett I + II – Johann Sebastian Bach/Boris Pergamenschikow
  19. Fourth Time Around – Bob Dylan
  20. Suite No. 1 in G: 6. Gigue – Johann Sebastian Bach/Boris Pergamenschikow
  21. smaller rivers – Sam Prekop
  22. I’m Free – The Who (Tommy)
  23. Where Do They Make Balloons? – They Might Be Giants
  24. Measuring Cups – Andrew Bird
  25. cold water – damien rice
  26. Chinese Translation – M Ward
  27. April Come She Will – Simon and Garfunkel
  28. Alpenglow – Victor Hanson Smith
  29. Weatherman – First Coat
  30. Singin in the Rain – Gene Kelly
  31. Across the Universe – The Beatles
  32. Saturday Sun -Nick Drake
  33. Nude – Radiohead
  34. Greetings in Braille – The Elected
  35. It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding) – Bob Dylan
  36. Is It Wicked Not To Care? – Belle and Sebastian
  37. volcano – damien rice
  38. I Am The Walrus – The Beatles
  39. Such Great Heights – The Postal Service
  40. Ramon – Laurie Anderson
  41. Life in a Glasshouse – Radiohead
  42. Fuel – Ani DiFranco
  43. Blackbird – Bobby McFerrin

happy new year.

southern exposure

Friday, November 16th, 2007

i am hereby moving my camera into my purse even though it takes up too much room, because keeping it in my backpack clearly doesn’t do enough to ensure that i have it when i want it.

i got back last night from a little trip to palm beach, FL, where my mother is living now and where she was just officially ordained as a unitarian universalist minister after many years of preparation and hard work. the ceremony was a big success, and it was nice to see and hear so many people telling my mom how cool she is, because they are right. :)

congratulations, reverend momma. i am proud of you.

[insert touching photograph here]

it was fun to see both of my parents – my dad flew down for the weekend and i realized that i hadn’t seen him in nearly two years! – and i am going to colorado and then florida again during the holidays, so there will be more time to catch up, which is good.

i also enjoyed seeing the ocean, and floating in it for a little while yesterday morning before we ate lunch and headed to the airport to send me back west. i have been to the pacific ocean a couple of times this year but i swear that the water in florida is warmer and bluer in november than the water in southern california even under the august sun, and the shells on the beach push some buttons that giant seaweed creatures still don’t quite reach, as much as i love them and as much as i learn to appreciate the beauty of rugged, rocky pacific views.

[insert super blue ocean shot here, followed by fun close-up of the broken shell section of the beach where i made little mosaics for a while]

the autumn weather in portland has made me hesitant to make too many rain jokes, lest i reinforce false stereotypes or tempt bad weather sprites to teach me to be careful what i ask for, but last night i flew in to heavy fog and drizzling rain, which continues today, so perhaps winter is starting to stake its claim on the PNW. flying into PDX at night is kind of a ripoff because you can’t see any of the mountains, which are absolutely stunning from the air. i had a window seat on both flights this time, too, and it was fun to fly over cities at night and try to guess where we were. it’s actually quite hard. i started wondering whether, as we enter the age of satellite photography on every desktop, a new dimension of urban planning will emerge to play with how we look from above.

so now i’m back, WAY behind on nanowrimo, and confronting the task of gathering and/or redistributing my portland material footprint before i head out for a while. i am both glad to be here and glad to be in motion. the west coast has set some deep hooks in me over the past eight months, and now i begin the task of determining which lines i want to sever and which i want to continue to play out, no matter which ocean i swim in next.

tonight lauren and tif celebrate their november birthdays and some time in the next day or so victor returns from his bowling and supercomputing convention, at which point he may or may not have energy for portland adventures that will most likely involve neither. and sharon and i are inventing a tofurky dance. and chakra wants me to make a pie. and there may be another boat? and i might be hijacking jonathan’s car?

hello, friday. another cup of coffee, anyone?

it is a dark and not at all stormy night…

Friday, November 2nd, 2007

every day i go through a little dance with myself in order to find the motivation to work on the things i really want to be doing right now even though i know i should also be spending more time focusing on making money.

i have spent a good bit of time in these past few months sticking my tongue out at the whole “making money” thing, and i think i’ve just about got the nyah, nyah bug out of my system. i can acknowledge that my current patterns are unsustainable (and waiting for an unknown uncle to bequeath me a castle is always best as fallback-plan rather than centerpiece-of-financial-portfolio), and that i don’t seem all that driven to find short-term work in portland for some reason, so i had kind of given myself an end-of-year deadline on deciding whether i am going to stay or move.

in that spirit, and with the “make money” script running as well, the other day i started applying for holiday work around town, but then i realized that i am going to be in florida for nearly a week in november, and i am most likely going back again for christmas, and there is really nothing on my calendar in portland for december other than “become progressively annoyed with the rain.” so…

i made the decision that i really should just give my notice on my apartment, move out at the end of the month, and pursue living arrangements that do not require me to pay rent until such time that i have secured gainful employment.

that decision made me feel good, but there remains a playful “i see your bluff, and i call” twinkle in my eye that the nyah, nyah bug has made difficult to see, and the fact that i am feeling about ready to lay down this hand does not at all mean that i am second guessing my game.

this summer has been very, very, good for me, and i am not so much walking away from the paths i have been teaching myself to walk as i am taking the time to prune and weed the garden that i am learning to plant as i go. that is the dance of finding motivation that began this post. it takes energy each day, but at some point, one message i always come to is “write more,” “write anything,” “write every single day.”

i was remembering this message this morning when kevin says to twitter he says:

WTF am I thinking?? I just signed up for NaNoWriMo.

and i says right back:

@kmakice WTF are you thinking, indeed?! I’M the one who should do that! In fact this is the first year i’m not too overcommitted. hmmm…

NaNoWriMo, you see, for those of you who have not followed the link yet, is a brilliant project wherein some folks try to get you to commit to writing a novel over the course of the month of November. NaNoWriMo is funspeak for “National Novel Writing Month”, and i realized when i was thinking about it today that the idea is really the same as the idea behind the one hour essay project: use the power of a community of accountability to get people to write stuff they already want to write anyway but usually make excuses about. NaNoWriMo is just on a way bigger scale and has a way better name. but NatEsWriHo doesn’t really roll off the tongue very well, so i think i can be forgiven.

anyway, the actual commitment is to write 50,000 words of fiction between November 1 and November 30, and i have thought about doing it for many years, but i always felt like grad school or work or the fact that i was out of the country and changing where i slept every few days were sufficient excuses to defer. today, however, i woke up saying to myself “you are going to keep working on your own projects for the rest of november” and “write more” so when kevin reminded me about NaNoWriMo and i realized that it was indeed november 1, it kinda felt like the universe could not possibly have hit me on the head with a bigger stick.

so what can i say?
i listened.
i have officially pledged to write myself a novel this month.
and move out.
and keep working on a web project with a friend of mine.
and go to florida for my mother’s ordination.
and enjoy some birthdays and turkey days with the fine, fine folk here in stumptown.
because of all the things that have kept me pulling for a reason to stay for a while, they are the only ones that ever really mattered, and i will miss them deeply and visit whenever i can.

so here’s to friends, freedom, and fifty-thousand fucking words.

because if i write a novel this month i will not even care if pirates ransack all of my possessions and leave me penniless on the plank.
i will do a swan dive and swim across the sea because i will be just that cool.


nap time!

Friday, August 17th, 2007

today i achieved a schedule pattern that i think about a lot but rarely attain:
last night i went to sleep between 10 and 11 pm.
this morning i woke up at about 3:30, did some work, and made breakfast around 6 or 7, stopping to go outside and watch the sun rise.
since then i’ve been puttering around, doing some odd bits and pieces of things, and growing sleepy.
now it’s noonesque, and i’m going to take a nap. possibly for mulitiple hours.
when i wake up, i will have the rest of the afternoon and evening ahead of me, fueled not only by my nap but also by the knowledge of my early productivity, which makes for a nice cushion to ward off grumpiness. i tend to get a lot more done when i’ve already got some things done to get myself started, and getting that boulder rolling reliably is really the crux of all my sleep and motivation experiments.

the basic idea of today’s approach is to get a full night of sleep, but split it into pieces. it usually doesn’t work for long because it’s hard to get in a good-sized nap on a regular basis, and because, once i fall asleep, i have difficulty convincing myself that i should really get up after my first complete sleep cycle, which takes between 4 and 5 hours. i also don’t tend to sleep as much on the whole, which makes getting up progressively more difficult even if i’m not tired because the grog can pull the “you probably need more sleep” card.

i’m not convinced that i really do need more sleep, though, or at least not as long as i have things to keep me busy, which is hopefully most of the time. the idea is modeled upon the way i operate when i’m camping, high, or otherwise really in the zone of some project. when it works otherwise, it is usually by accident, which is what happened this time. i didn’t actually intend to go to bed at 10 or 11. i just lay down because i had a headache and couldn’t really do anything else. i told myself i would rest until my headache went away, and then get up and do more work. my headache went away after a couple of hours, but i kept telling myself i could sleep more. this is not strange for me – after an initial zonkout, i tend to sleep rather lightly and often engage in a lengthy period of “no, not yet… not yet… not yet…” with regard to the question of whether it is time to get up, and one of the greatest joys in my life is answering “no” to that question. there are two different modes of this, however – nap mode and night mode – and nap mode is much easier to break out of because i don’t think i’m supposed to attain a “full night’s sleep” feeling before i get up, and ironically that makes it much easier to relax.

the idea, therefore, is basically to trick myself into always being in nap mode, and it came about because at some point i decided that thinking of time cyclically kind of stresses me out. i do pretty well with “tomorrow is another day” kinds of thoughts at night, and can muster all kinds of resolve about how i will get up early and conquer the world, but when the morning rolls around and i face the other side of the coin (“today is the first day of the rest of your life” and all that) the grog just pipes up with something along the lines of “well, best be rested up then, shouldn’t we?” and i go back to sleep.

i think this comes from an expectation about the kinds of things that make for a successful “day” as unit of time – getting up, eating, exercising, working, doing chores, being social. as if days are these puzzles to solve, and the goal is to break life into the right shapes and sizes so that all the appropriate goals fit within the frame. that’s really intimidating to me for some reason, and apart from that it strikes me as a rather silly illusion. to me, life feels much more like a continuous game of tetris, and the core competency is more about reacting to each piece as it comes and knowing what kind of floor you have to build upon. one day there might be a lot of blocks, the next there might be a run on those little t-shaped jobbies. it is silly to get pissed off when you don’t get the same order you got yesterday, and i’d rather just pause when i’m tired than hit reset at some regular interval just because someone says it’s time for bed.

the REAL insight, of course, is that the difference between pause and reset is all in my head. and the napping approach is kind of like mental training wheels for that lesson.

so welcome to the next layer of my insanity.
if you followed all that, you get a prize.

i’ll write about it again with a bit more effort at coherence if it actually bears fruit this time, eh?


Thursday, August 2nd, 2007

the whole reason to deny rituals and acknowledgement to those on the margins is to keep them marginalized.
denying those same things from ourselves and our friends in the name of solidarity is playing into that game and accepting disempowerment.
i do not believe in keeping people i love from things that renew and inspire them.

“don’t tell me what you value, show me your budget”

Tuesday, July 31st, 2007

this post suffered from draft dodging, so it’s a bit old, but i wanted to finish and post it anyway:

i’ve been engaging in an interesting little political exercise over the past couple of days.

firstly, as a backdrop, i should tell you that david and i are conducting what we call “liberty class” as a part of my unofficial self-administered phD project. we have both become interested in the revival of interest in libertarian thought that seems to be occurring with increasing regularity among the generation that is now coming of professional age, perhaps most prominently in the business philosophy of john mackey, CEO of whole foods, but first really registering on my radar through the journalistic commentary of jonathan rauch.

because of jonathan rauch, actually, i first subscribed to reason magazine a few years ago (fwiw, rauch was very recently interviewed by reason on, in his own words “my philosophy of everything,” and the interview can be found here), and because i talked about articles and ideas from the magazine somewhat often, david picked up the subscription when i left the country for a while, and it became the first shared text for what would evolve into our liberty class.

somewhere in those same past few years, david took a few crosscountry drives and listened to atlas shrugged on tape in the car. i listened to book one (of three) before we took it back to the library, and agreed to read the whole thing eventually so that we could talk about it more, a committment which i finally honored just last week, and about which i intend to write a paper soon. in the meantime, david listened to another book on tape – Libertarianism: A Primer, which is a new book by one of the head honchos at the cato institute that was written to take advantage of the aforementioned revival in interest amongst the new generation. david also started doing things like reading john stuart mill for fun.

so class is in session, eh?

anyway, anyway, anyway, the political exercise in which i have been engaging over the last few days is listening to Libertarianism: A Primer for the liberty class while also watching the youtube/cnn debate that was held last monday night for the current democratic presidential candidates.

commentary on the format of the debate aside (which is a big aside… internet media coverage of this election is going to be a fascinating thing), this has been an interesting experience. i haven’t put much time into thinking about the election yet, and i think that is partly because i don’t really know how my shifting politics will impact my behavior in the upcoming months, and i have been postponing thinking about it all that much.

as a longtime (as longtime as one can be at 28) bleeding heart liberal and proud of it, it’s hard to contemplate association with a political philosophy that many people i respect see as tantamount to treason, or at least as selling out or succumbing to a nice brainwash. it’s hard for a lot of reasons that will take a long time to fully explore, but one of the top reasons has to do with money, and it is money that inspired me to write this post.

i am coming to believe, you see, that the liberal camp does quite a bit of damage by going to such lengths to distance itself from the pursuit of wealth. i agree that there are many important things in life that money cannot buy, and fixating on money as the sole pathway to happiness is silly, but neither of those beliefs imply that money itself is evil, and the idea that caring about profit requires not caring about people is dangerous in its ability to disarm us of the very tools most crucial to our defense.

money is a tool, and like any tool it is wielded most powerfully by those who are not afraid to grasp it with purpose. we could make a statement about the potential danger of sharp blades by refusing to learn how to hold a sword properly and flailing around wildly whenever anyone hands us one as a show of studied ignorance, but we are much more likely to lose fingers that way than if we allow ourselves to grip the handle firmly and learn to gauge the weight and edge for ourselves. perhaps more tragically, however, if we don’t take the time to learn such control, we place ourselves at the mercy of other’s protection in times of danger, and we open ourselves up to being fleeced in the process.

i think this happens a lot with people, myself included, who sometimes wear poor money management as a sort of badge of pride. “oh, i just don’t want to bother worrying about such things” is the ultimate statement of privilege, and we can’t really complain about the concentration of wealth in the hands of conservatives as long as we ourselves refuse to put effort towards the accumulation of our own. if we honestly don’t want to play the money game, that’s fine. i’m going to burning man this month (which operates on a gift economy), and i am quite happy to support models of community where something other than money is the focus of interaction. at the same time, however, i think that money is not an idea that should be tossed aside simply because it is possible (or even probable) for people to use it irresponsibly, and i don’t think that it is fair for us to shame people for their pursuit of wealth and then turn around and tell them that we think they should spend it on things they don’t really value.

bottom line: if we think money can do some good, let’s shut up and work on getting our own; if we really don’t think money is the answer, let’s stop asking for people to give it to us.

anyway, this is turning into quite the rant, and i know i need to take the time to articulate myself more clearly and succinctly. i know, for instance, that there are many liberals who are quite happy to manage their money and do so with aplomb, particularly among the rising tide of my own generation (which is indeed why the increased interest in libertarianism is so intriguing). i also know that this is a rather unintuitive position for me to be honing during a time of voluntary unemployment and self-imposed poverty, and to that argument i can only offer my word that reconciling that conflict is indeed the focus of my current energies, and i’m doing it the best way i see how. so perhaps irate commenters will provide me with the motivation to clarify my positions as i go. :)

in the meantime, i exercise my license to blather about ideas in progress, and i now turn to the actual source of inspiration for this post, which was a comment joe biden makes in the following clip about taxes:

the comment, as i’m sure the title of this post has already revealed, is his father’s quote: “don’t tell me what you value, show me your budget” which is really basically just the flipside of “put your money where your mouth is.”

i started thinking about all of this because my kneejerk reaction to that quote was a kind of snorting noise, driven by an emotional upswell on the order of: “as if Money is the most meaningful reflection of my values!!”, to which the part of me that was also listening to libertarianism: a primer, promptly rebutted: “hold up, who said anything about most. what does your budget reflect if not your values? why does the idea that you should be open about money make you defensive?”

and that really got me started. why do i relinquish the decisions about where my money goes to the goverment anyway?! why don’t i see it as my responsibility to ensure that i am supporting my values in whatever ways i can?! how do i get off telling people that they don’t know how to handle their wealth when i don’t even want to look at how much i spend on candy or beer because i might not like what i see?!

and the clincher revealing the true extent of my current political shift:
what makes me think that supporting my values is anyone’s job but my own?

basically, if i choose to spend money but i’m not certain that my budget reflects my values, how can i honestly say that i know what my values are? wearing a blindfold when we open our pocketbooks because we associate money with depravity and we’d rather be above it is ridiculous and irresponsible, and i just need to grow the hell up.

this led me to two immediate conclusions:

1) the complexity and obscurity of the national budget is a disgrace
2) i should follow senator biden’s advice

so herein begins a monthly experiment in disclosure:

Kynthia's July Budget

i need to figure out how to wrap in credit card expenses, which are unfortunately rising this month due to aforementioned unemployment. and i’ll try to break down “other” a bit more.

but it’s a start, eh?

we can talk about whether this means i’m turning against taxes later. :)

skeleton of a creature that might just find a way to come alive…

Thursday, July 5th, 2007

the project today was to begin to tackle the beast of the question of what i’m doing with myself for the rest of the summer. i haven’t talked much here about the lunchmaking business idea, but i did a one week trial run of making lunches for some folks in the office, and i learned a few good things:

  1. i love the idea of getting paid to cook: spending my time figuring out stuff to make and then sharing it with people is fun and rewarding.
  2. transportation and scalability are major factors in lunch delivery, and the number of customers i would need to actually profit from the endeavor is higher than i originally estimated.
  3. there are a number of travel opportunities in the next few months that are relatively high priorities for me right now, and it would be difficult to both devote myself fully to making lunches and be free to take off as needed to take advantage of said opportunities.

the repercussions of these lessons have been stewing this past week as i hung out with my mom and enjoyed the holiday, and i realized today that i have pretty much decided that, while i may continue to test ways to make food to sell while i’m in town, it is not my first priority for the summer, and if that’s the case, i either need to find another job or just embrace a month or so of continued debt and turn my energies to more important matters.

after exploring some part-time job options and looking at a calendar and playing sudoku with the potential pieces of my schedule (to steal victor’s amusing metaphor), i have tentatively decided to opt for the latter plan.

in other words, this weekend i’m going to try out the idea that i dive fully into travel and my own unpaid work for the next few months, using up my welch allyn cushion, making money where i can with food and whatever else presents itself as i go, possibly accruing a bit more debt, and letting the bits and pieces in the stewpot of my brain marinate a little longer before turning the heat down in order to divert more energy to the pursuit of income.

this might be an unwise decision, but when i’m honest with all the parts of myself that i can’t really sum up here, it feels very much otherwise, so i’m enjoying the chance to pencil in the first few pieces and see how the view opens up as i camp at crater lake this weekend.

here is the skeleton i have sketched out in my thinking today:

july 6 – 8: crater lake – car camping and hiking with friendly meetup folks
july 11: fly to pittsburgh – crash the edge, stay with reed, bum a ride to wv
july 12 – 15: masontown, wv – all good
july 20?: harry potter book party/wake for the unknown victim
july 21 – 22: san francisco – wordcamp
(allow the norcal contingent to compete for my company so as to save travel and enjoy good times? transport to truckee on the 30th?)
july 30 – aug 15: lake tahoe – backpacking the rim trail with christie
(fly to indy from sfo?)
aug 17 – 19: bloomington, in – sugar hill
(fly to sfo from indy, and either portland from sfo or san diego from sjc?)
if portland {
aug 25: portland – sue and michael get married!!
(fly from portland to vegas or san diego?)
else aug 20 – 26: san diego
aug 27 – sep 2: black rock city, nv – burning man
(fly ___ to indy? play with the bardzells?)
sep 8: bloomington, in – the 11th annual decadent garden party
(fly from indy to ___, ___ to portland)
sep 10 – oct 2?: breathe. make money. take a sailing class. keep up aikido.
oct 26 – 28: las vegas, nv – vegoose
nov 11 – dec 2?: palm beach gardens, fl – mom’s ordination. holidays. breathe. make money. help mom build up her online presence.
dec 2? – jan 1: coastal oregon? – NYE 2007
2008: portland, take two? new zealand? the ocean? italy? the summer festival circuit?

all those question marks on next year should imply that all those things are still considered very much up in the air, but their ghosts are staking out claims to some of my attention. turning question marks into periods is the point of all that comes before.

one step at a time.

comments? advice? warnings? interest in tagging along?