cultivating & crashing

an organic collection of notes, observations, and thoughts

Absurd social idea #2

#1 was quantifying friendship with money. the interesting part would be how people decided to do that. friends must pay membership fees to be so, but they negotiate how much. It’s quantifying social capital, and so making tangible that which usually goes unspoken.

#2: spouse insurance. you pay every month towards insurance that guarantees that your spouse will still be fit, loving, and awesome as years wear on. If they don’t you get your money back so you can divorce them? not sure how it should work. or the money goes to maintaining those traits.

Hulk, the Buddha master

My friend sent me this the other day. It’s very Zen.Image

Playing catch up w/ life using open source Excel

I’ve been too exhausted to write recently. That’s both good and bad. It means I am doing a lot but also that I could be more organized.

That said, my life has been focused around and into spreadsheets in the past few months. At some point I realized their structure and containment act like harnesses that order and measure everything — qualities I found extremely satisfying, of which I availed myself with increasing (worrying?) frequency. I am weaning myself off of saying that I am OCD but I am definitely very into control and measurement, as my plentiful spreadsheets can attest. I spreadsheet (I verbed it) my learning to code, my expenses, my exercise, what’s left to pay of my student debt. I even spreadsheet the amount of time I spend in front of spreadsheets at work.

So it is no surprise that my latest project is sitting quietly in a LibreOffice Calc file on my desktop. (It’s even occurred to me that the fact of its documentation in a spreadsheet becomes part of the project itself, as I would not be able to complete the project without keeping track of it in this way.) After reading a few African post-colonial books, I’ve decided to read at least one book from each country in the world. Very simple, but sort of impossible without a list of some sort. And while I’m at it, why not be able to reorganize it according to continent — or alphabetical order, or whether I’ve checked it off my list — at the touch of a button?

So spreadsheets are connected to a need to keep track, to quantify, and to succeed. And if I’m using them a lot, then I am either doing something right (or else uselessly procrastinating a frightful amount). Though I’m a little too underslept to notice it viscerally, I think I am doing well and moving forward. Maybe that’s it: the spreadsheets serve to prove to myself that the boxes keep filling, that the cursor keeps bumping from one cell to the next, leaving a page of proof of days happening and things changing, ending, improving, growing; of things consumed, obtained, created.

social science data mining

This is super cool. I should start learning how to do data mining myself as soon as possible, whether to social science data or otherwise.

Things Fall Apart

I just finished reading Things Fall Apart. It tells the story of an Igbo clan in what’s to become southern Nigeria as the first white man arrives, bringing the dissolution of their integrity as a people. Achebe’s anger against the white church and government is palpable, but he writes in English, himself having been educated in colonial British system, a son of converts. How did he feel about his parents’ conversion? About his own success afforded by his use of English?

Earlier today I tried to talk to my mom about the book because I think it would be interesting for her to read something from the other perspective of the spread of religion. But the book would only reinforce Africans’ primitive barbarity to anyone who is not already open-minded about cultures that don’t resemble one’s own: wicked children that die young are mutilated to discourage them from coming back into their mothers’ wombs again only to die again; a child singled out by the Oracle’s prophesy must be slaughtered without hesitation or deliberation; Okonkwo, the protagonist, wins high prestige in his clan due to the number of men he killed in a fight with another village, as well as his dragging home one of the heads for all to see. Okonwko’s son, Nwoye, chooses Christianity over his own traditions, thinking of the twin babies that were left in the bush to die and the fierce masculinity that was expected of him. He leaves to study in the colonial school. Who does Achebe identify more with?

On a personal note, it is easy for me to accept that some people perform practices that I would not be able to stomach or ever agree to for myself or my family, at least in theory. After some years studying anthropology, reading of the violence of the Igbo considered necessary came as no surprise, and it was not difficult for me to sympathize with their need to protect their customs. I even grimaced when the converts were forced to accept the dreaded outcasts of their society as equal children of the white God,  though doing so violated their traditions. But that same feeling turned against me when I considered how the outcasts themselves must have felt in finding a paradigm that would subvert the one that had deemed them eternally sullied and taboo. In Things Fall Apart, converts to the white system were voluntary, so what they provided was actually meeting a need that was felt by enough members that Umofia were rent apart.

Achebe is subtly expressing delicate and nuanced feelings towards British colonization. Things were falling apart, but in the book it’s admitted that white medicine works much faster than the Igbo kind.

The fact that Achebe chose to live in the United States and write in English is telling, but what it tells is not obvious, either. I believe he’s navigated a very complex and difficult identity as successful subaltern in the world, a success that is the product of the clash of his traditional way of life and colonialism. Colonialism may not have been right, but it did not come without its silver linings.

A qué venir

¿A qué venimos sino a caer?

Ran across this while looking up Jonathan Richman. It reminds me of why I loved East of Eden so much, because we’re frail and we come to break but also because we mayest. It reminds me of the things that used to be close to my heart before I started dedicating so much of my energy to my GPA and paying bills.

Making ramen at home

I made this to recover from Purim (it went great!) and it’s only properly described by expletives. I’m sad Mike wasn’t around to taste it.

Next time I hope to make it with dashi. Today I bought kombu but forgot to pick up bonito flakes. I’m excited to incorporate these special, out-of-reach flavours into my repertoire.

Chinese noodles (the yellow, alkaline ones)
red bell pepper
bok choy
dried shiitake mushrooms
miso paste (I used red)
veggie or mushroom broth
soy sauce/Bragg’s
toasted sesame oil

Cook the noodles; drain and set aside.

Soak mushrooms in boiling water to rehydrate; slice into pieces.

Chop the zucchini and red pepper; pan-fry with a touch of sesame oil till cooked through.

Chop tofu into cubes and fry until crispy. Add soy sauce and sesame oil.

Steam bok choy.

Bring broth and shiitake mushrooms to a boil. Take out a cup or two and mix in the miso paste.

Poach an egg for each person (place egg into boiling water, then turn off heat and let sit for 4 minutes).

Assemble each plate with noodles at the bottom, followed by some veggies, tofu, broth, miso, and an egg.


This is bad again, but still a 17% increase from last month. And knowing that I was counting definitely helped populate the second half of the graph with dots.


I had a dream about having two months to learn Python before I had to use it on a project for work. I think it’s a swell idea: I learn Python for another two months, at which point I have to start to contribute to some open source project. Not sure what that could be but I’ll find or think of something.

In other news, I’m organizing the Purim party for the Chavurah this year and it’s intense. I’ll talk about it more when it’s no longer occupying most of my free time.

In other, other news, Days Go By is still one of my favourite songs.

Body and mind

The mind is rarefied body; the body is solidified mind.

Ha gafen

Reminder to try this Austrian wine:

Heinrich Blaufränkisch 2012


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