Inside Tom's Head - November 2020

09 Dec 2020

November . . . not much has happened, right? Just the . . . oh yeah . . . the election. That already feels like so long ago. I even wrote something about it (still working on the followup). I imagine that I’ll be a bit on edge until January 20th. I’m looking forward to politics being boring again, but what I’m really interested to see is how much brainspace this frees up for people who have been glued to political newsfeeds for the past 4 years, and what they do with that capacity.

I had a Covid scare this month. I got home from work, ate dinner and put the kid to bed. However, when I lay down, I found that I had shortness of breath, which was scary, since my lungs are generally in good condition. When it didn’t clear up in the morning I did a livechat with my health care provider and was told to go to urgent care. I got tested and spent a day isolating in the garage, but the test came back negative. The doctor said that it sounded like I might be experiencing side effects of stress, which checks out since things kind of came to a head at work around that time (I think that I’m getting them sorted out, though).

Also, this was my first vegan Thanksgiving. We’ve been doing Indian food for Thanksgiving far a few years now (I’ve never particularly liked turkey), and India has a deep vegetarian tradition so it was actually pretty easy to switch it over. Somehow vegan butter chicken is actually tastier than regular butter chicken, which seems like it should be in violation of some sort of Newtonian law given that the primary ingredients for the regular kind are butter, cream, and chicken. Jackfruit vindaloo was also a pretty solid replacement for lamb vindaloo.

New stuff around here

I wrote down my initial reaction to the election and spent some time working on edits to Passport Denied (working title for the followup to There Are No Words), but other than that I didn’t do much writing. I still have some blog posts that have been kicking around my head that I want to get out there, and I want to say that I’ll get a couple done in December, but realistically I’d have to say January or February.

One of the things that has been kicking around my head which will eventually make it into a post or an essay or something is my thoughts on the nature of anger. I carry a lot of it around with me, and have been chipping away at a rough outline on the subject, but this month I finally came up with a satisfying personal definition: “Anger is the emotional response to a mismatch between one’s expectations and reality.” I’m sure taht I could have just looked it up somewhere, but arriving there on my own has been rewarding. It’s amazing that even by just having a working definition I can feel my outlook shifting to accommodate it.

New stuff elsewhere

Although I felt like I spent a lot of the month refreshing news feeds, it was an unproductive, unenlightening sort of reading, so there won’t be as many links here as usual.

  • I’m really hoping that we can see some progress on repairing our infrastructure in the near future. I don’t really think of this as a partisan issue, but rather as result of it being more politically beneficial to build new stuff than it is to maintain the old stuff. I’m guessing that we’ll see a catastrophic failure of some piece of infrastructure in the near future, but I’m not sure if even something like that would spur us to adopt a more reasonable approach to it. On the other hand, we could make repairing our infrastructure part of how we recover from the pandemic, similar to the proposal that Washington state’s economy could recover without federal assistance by issuing bonds to pay for necessary environmental work.
  • Remember back in March/April when governments were blaming their inability to process unemployment claims on antiquated code written in COBOL? Well, it turns out that COBOL wasn’t the problem, after all. There are a lot of parallels between our physical and digital infrastructure that I wish the article had gone into more detail about, but you should definitely give it a read.
  • A neat guide on how to search for anything on the internet.
  • I’ve always found memorisation to be an annoying mechanic in board games, but this post by Erik Twice does a good job of laying out a bunch of ways that it makes games less fun.
  • One of the big challenges of the next decade will be how our culture responds to social media, which tends towards toxicity. It looks like there is another way though, with social networks being built to reinforce agreement to help communities react to difficult problems. I didn’t see it anywhere in the article, but it looks like the system it is talking about is based on pol.is, which is free and open source. Unfortunately, here in the US one of the big gaps that needs to be bridged for anything to get done is the urban-rural divide, and one of the defining traits of rural living is lousy internet connectivity, and a system like the one Taiwan has developed won’t work if only half the population can participate. That being said, this has a lot of potential and I could see it being a part of the solution in the not-too-distant future.
  • An interesting take on what the future of journalism in the US could look like.
  • An interesting write-up of using an e-cargo bike for 30 days. I’m not quite ready to jump on the e-bike bandwagon yet, I really like the simplicity of my bicycle, but I can see how e-cargo bikes could make a huge difference for families who want to go from 2 cars down to 1 or for people who live in an area with good transit who just need a little nudge to get rid of their cars.

What I’m reading/listening to/watching/playing/whatever

  • I read Nimona, which is the first graphic novel by Noelle Stevenson (creator of the new She-Ra on Netflix, which was excellent, and co-writer(?) of Lumberjanes, which I haven’t read). It was really good, and you should read it. I cried at the end, but that’s not uncommon for stuff like this.
  • Apple Music put together a playlist of what I’ve been listening to this year. I’ll need to find a way to put the track listing in a spreadsheet so that I can compare year to year.
  • I’ve been playing a lot of Into the Breach on the Switch (it’s also on Steam), which has been a ton of fun. If you are a fan of tactics games, you should definitely give it a try.
  • I convinced my family to play My City with me. So far I’m really enjoying it, but them not as much (I’ve won 6 out of 7 games so far). I really like the idea of a lightweight family-friendly legacy game, but I’m reserving judgment until I see how things turn out. Either there will be a catch-up mechanism that will start to penalize me pretty hard for my victories, in which case I will say the game is pretty great, or there won’t be, in which case I would say that it is fun but deeply flawed.
  • I’ve been listening to Lee Drutman’s Breaking the Two-Party Doom Loop. It’s really good so far, and I think that it has a message that appeals to both sides of the aisle (do you think that your party represents you well? wouldn’t you like it to?), but I’m waiting to see if it’s a “this is something that needs/ought to happen” book or a “here’s a problem and here are some things you can do about it” book.