Monthly Archives: January 2010

What’s Next?

What’s next?

Democrat. Republican. Old Media. New Media.

Ignore them all.

Instead — This is your task: Search for revolutionaries.

The more I read, the more I believe that our problems cannot be solved by incrementalism. The deeper I dig, the more I think that America’s problems are caused by institutional deficiencies. There’s something wrong in the structure of our democracy and economy that’s preventing necessary change. What do we have today? A corporate democracy. A selfish capitalism entangled with a corrupt democracy kept in check by a cowardly media.

The people who can point out the frightening changes are valuable, but I need to especially search for those who have ideas about how to create a new future.

Beneath my discontent is a new framework for thinking, but it is waiting to be born. Find these people. Connect the dots. Then, spark a revolution.

Everything Is Connected

If you really want a window into how I view the world, then you must realize that everything is connected. I’m fascinated by the fact that a photon can travel from light-years away and affect the course of human history. A supernova, separated from us by miles upon miles of emptiness, can ignite a revolution in science and challenge religion. So even though the vast majority of our universe consists of emptiness, it’s still all connected.

Even looking past the physical connection, the universe is connected by the fact of the common laws that govern all of its parts. It’s amazing that the universe even makes sense. Each piece is undergirded by the same laws. Yet underneath all that, there is no one law to rule them all. The universe consists of patterns, but there is no pattern behind the pattern. There is no god, or anything like it. Each piece may have its purpose or make sense as it is. As a whole, the universe serves no purpose; it just is.

A fact cannot be an island. A single bit of information is useless to me. For me to make sense of any fact, it must be connected to other facts. A visual image always appears to me of a web; all my knowledge is connected in a network.

Everything relates to everything. All facts connect to all facts, even the most disparate sounding items. I have this gift for connection, I think. Poker can relate to dating. Computer science can relate to governance. And analogies can always be made, whether for informational or comedic purposes. The most solemn topics can be explained with a 90s reference.

Anything I’ve ever done, anything I’ve ever read, anything that has ever happened to me makes my identity. None of it is useless. Sure, some things may not shine brightly in my consciousness. Some events will never be told when I talk about my life, but it is part of the sum total of who I am. Every atom tells the story of the universe, as well.

This is not meant to be some spiritual revelation. It’s just the lens through which I view the world. Some people like to categorize; some like to take things apart. I like to connect. I like finding the patterns in the universe. I like finding out something that happened 10 years ago to me is very much like something that happened to me today, and now I can explain both.

And immediately after I think that, I think about how I can be wrong. Because even though I talked about laws, I do not reduce things to rules. Yes, I often have shorthand rules for living life, but context always has more importance. This is unsurprising when everything relates to everything. Each event is affected very much by everything surrounding it. Every person that’s different changes what’s happening. Everything matters. Everything is a clue.

I like the word contingent. I like the conservative view of history because of the importance of culture. The surrounding context should affect one’s view of governance more than any silly rules or grand sweeping proclamations about Human Nature. Everything now is dependent on everything in the past.

This attention to complexity and context — I wouldn’t say it makes me entirely unique, but it does make me different from a lot of people. I have the drive to find patterns, but I don’t have the drive to simplify. I’m always more satisfied when the world is more complex than I realize, and when I have to discard the rules I make.

Then, there’s this overwhelming desire to connect. I’m always hunting for new facts, but I’m not a sponge. I don’t haphazardly absorb information. I have to take this information and connect it to my current network of information. The more places it connects, the more valuable it is. But even if it does not connect to much now, I know it will later. Everything is connected to everything.

No Time

Work eats up so much time. Then, after the commute I have to spend time unwinding and then eating. I get very few hours to do anything after this. If I see my friends, then that entire evening is gone. If I work on my comic, most of the evening is gone. In fact, I’ve begun drawing during my lunch break because I simply can’t make enough time to do the comic and see my friends. These past few weekends, I’ve been gone from the house completely. While I regret none of this (I had a fantastic time), I do find it frustrating that I don’t have time to do the things I want to do.

What are these things I want to do? One: Quiet reflection time. I need to continue this introspection, but I need a serious block of uninterrupted time to do it. Yes, I’ve started a bit now, but it’s late and I have to wake up early, which weighs heavily on my mind and doesn’t allow me to write freely. I should’ve had time today, but I just watched TV and then worked on my comic. I also had to backup my laptop because I imagine it will die by the end of next month. I have to buy myself a new one. Agh. Two: Reading. I didn’t finish one book during the month of December. Okay, I did manage to half-read several books. Still, being a voracious reader who delves into disparate topics is something I want to part of my identity. I need to spend time reading actual books and not just clips on the internet. Three: Making a website for my friend’s company. I want to use a weekend for this, but I keep having things to do. I was gone the past two weekends, busy the ones before that, and I’ll be gone a week from now. Maybe this weekend I’ll have some time — of course, my friend’s birthday thing is Saturday, so that’ll suck up time again. During the weekdays, I spend all day at work in front of the computer, so I don’t really feel like doing any web design after I’m off the clock.

It sounds like I’m complaining. I guess I am. I don’t want anyone to think that I begrudge all the time I spend with friends or even with the television. It’s just really difficult finding a balance.

I’m not sure what to think about work. I don’t particularly enjoy everything I’m doing. Programming isn’t too bad, though. I’m not overly-stressed. It’s also respectable, so it sounds good when I tell other people, and I’m making okay money. I still want to find something more exciting, though.

Boring Things

Today, I signed up for an online savings account that gives me a much better interest rate than my Wells Fargo savings account. I also signed up for electronic payment on my student loan, which will give me a quarter of a point discount on interest.

Am I boring if I’m excited about that? Yes, slightly. I guess what makes it exciting is that I’m starting to take charge of my own financial situation. Growing up, I guess.

Speaking of finance, I now have things I actually want to save for, instead of small sums of money just stuffed somewhere. I want a laptop, a tailor-made suit, and a car. In that order, I think. I also want more clothes, but I really want a tailor-made suit.

Little Victories

I developed a Post-It system for work. I write down all the little things I need to do and stick them on my desk. When I finish a task, I take the post-it and transfer it to a piece of paper. This paper has the date on it. So all my post-its are like little trophies and this piece of paper is my mantle. It’s a pretty low-tech reward system. Post-its aren’t gold stars, but, like gold stars, they are also yellow polygons.

This isn’t anything new. At my tech writing job, I’d put each task on a tiny post-it. Yet when I evaluated these at the end of the day, I’d just toss them in the recycle bin.

When I keep them, it’s more exciting. I need tangible evidence that I accomplished something during the day and didn’t spend the entire time spinning my wheels. I crave recognition, even if it is just stupid post-its.

New Haircut

No, I don’t have a new haircut. But it seems like the next logical step if I want to look good, right?

I’ve been dissatisfied with my hairstyle since forever, but I’ve always been too lazy to figure out what to do with it. Time to do some figuring out, I suppose. Might as well do it while I’m going through this whole introspective phase.

Looking Good

In high school, I went through a phase where I was wearing ties to school everyday. I especially enjoyed Mass, not because I was religious — oh God, no — but because I loved dressing up. I look good in a suit. I remember dressing especially well one day and being disappointed that the girl I had a crush on didn’t see me. I almost called it a waste but then I remembered that looking good is never a waste. For jazz band, we originally wore white shirts with black slacks. Then, someone came in with his shirt untucked and we were punished by having to wear a suit jacket. Ha! That wasn’t a punishment for me. My skinny frame looks better covered by a suit jacket than with a loose-fitting dress shirt. (I repeat: I look good in a suit.) Plus, I didn’t have to wear white! I could pick and choose from different colored shirts, ties, and jackets.

Recently, I’ve been making an effort to dress a little better. I was inspired by the night my friends and I went out to the bars and suited up. I had a great time, and I felt great about myself. Then, one day I decided that I was going to wear a tie to work. Everything just felt right. I also love it when my dress shoes click against the floor.

This thing has been brewing since another night out when I wore a vest along with my 3-dollar tie. (It looks nicer than it sounds; I got it at a thrift store.) It wasn’t a full suit, but along with my hat, I looked good. Dressing that way wasn’t a consistent thing.

I’ve always wanted to be thought of as a sharp dresser, but I never really made an effort. Mostly this is because I hate the mall and rather dislike the process of buying clothes.

This weekend, when I went up to Davis for Juan’s party, I dressed a little nicer than I usually do. I wore a sweater along with a pink tie underneath. Yet this dressing up was for before the party, so I really did it for no special occasion. I was complimented, and it made me feel really good about myself. I wore a similar outfit to our Christmas party; I really love wearing ties. Juan’s party was an animal-themed party, and I dressed up as a hunter. I had a safari helmet, cargo shorts, and a khaki shirt. Someone said it looked cute, and once again, I was really happy to hear it. It isn’t an example of dressing nicely, but I still enjoy the compliments. Actually, to get a little off topic, I was much more excited when someone said, “Oh my god” about my outfit, because that’s exactly what I was going for. A hunter was such a clever idea.

There was a recent article in the NY Times about young people dressing nicer, especially in the workplace. I don’t know if it’s a bogus trend or not, but they did cite two of my current favorite TV shows: White Collar and How I Met Your Mother. I want to be as sharp a dresser as Neil or Barney, haha.

I want this to be part of my identity. I want to be thought of as a sharp dresser. I want to be complimented. I want to often be overdressed for occasions. I want to dress well because it makes me feel good. Well, it goes a little deeper than just feeling good. When I dress up nice for work or when I go out, it makes me feel more confident. I feel a bit like the old me, the guy I knew in high school who was cocky and knew destiny was on his side. That guy always wore ties. This guy wears ties too, but this guy also has better shoes and he’s smarter and he has a college degree. I know, I am amazing.


I’ve followed a philosophy of incrementalism for a long time now. I’ve believed that changes must be made slowly and in small steps. Lately, though, I’ve been worried about my sense of complacency. I don’t think I’ve thought about glory for a year. (Still reviewing that.) I’m worried I’ll just drift through life. What happened to that young ambitious man I used to be? Every time I think I’ve found him, he disappears and I think I only saw a mirage.

I had a choice when I got back from school. I could’ve jumped into sharing an apartment with a few friends, even though I had little money and no job and no car. Instead, I chose to live at home. I mean, it would’ve been bad news if I had run out of money and left my friends with the lease. My parents weren’t going to help me if I moved out; they were going to help me if I stayed at home.

Yet all staying at home did was extend my adolescence. I didn’t get a job for months. The problem wasn’t that the economy was bad; the problem was sloth. Me, and the deadly sin of sloth. My sin is supposed to be pride! In high school, never in a million years would I have dreamed that I would be sloth and not pride.

High school me never met college me. College was a terrible time. I guess the big plan was to join the College Republicans and worm my way into a political life. That all changed, of course. The Bush Administration was a disgrace and my political views were altered forever. I’ve also become much more cynical about the life of a politician and would rather be an ordinary citizen who one day holds an office. I can’t imagine spending my life fundraising and being beholden to special interests. And even though I often call myself a narcissist (no really I am that great), I really do care about glory and not just myself. There’s no glory in it unless I do something for my fellow citizens; I don’t want to be a whore. I also found out that I wasn’t a very good leader. I’m sure a good deal of that had to do with the fact that my heart wasn’t in it. So I suppose I learned that one cannot lead unless one believes.

And yet, I am tempted to become a slightly worse person in exchange for being more cocksure. This what I mean by dropping incrementalism. Become a radically different person: Vain, shameless but magnetic and a sharp dresser. If that makes sense.

The other radical temptation is the route of poverty, kind of. I keep thinking about how this one writer would gamble away his fortune to force himself to write another masterpiece. It appeals to the gambler in me, and it appeals to the part of me that just wants to hit rock bottom. That would erase the comfort in my life and force me to act. Even if I fucked up royally, at least I’ll know I can survive a situation where I have to do everything I can to scrape by. I couldn’t afford to be slothful.

When I think about it, I actually think I made the wrong decision to stay at home. Sure, I would be worse off financially, but I wonder if I’d be a stronger person. It certainly would’ve motivated me to find a job quicker.

All throughout college, I’d often feel adrift. Every once in a while, I’d try to find purpose and move forward, but I never found anything permanent. I never found the ground. Now, I don’t know how I feel. I don’t know if I’m adrift or drowning. I think maybe I’ve gotten too good at distracting myself from the hard questions in life. I do know now, at least, how much value friendship has in my life. I reach out and hang out with friends or talk to people on the phone instead of feeling sorry for myself.

The one thing I really enjoy about living at home is that I don’t feel lonely. I don’t think I can live by myself. Well, I could, but I think I’d be a lot less happy in my day-to-day life. As much as I want radical change, I can’t just move away because my friends are what keep me sane. I know that much about myself; I know that the close relationships I have with my friends and family are the most valuable things in my life.

So somehow I have to keep all that, and yet move forward and be a different person. It’s going to involve a lot of thinking — all the shit I’ve been avoiding since even before I finished college. It has to be intense. It has to involve brutal honesty. (Brutal honesty is like jargon for me. It means directly showing the soul, without putting any spin on it. It means being honest even though it hurts.) I do a good job of hiding it (or maybe I don’t), but I am fucked up. I am full of fear and I don’t know what the hell I want to do with myself. I don’t know where I’m going, and you’d be surprised at the amount of time I’ve spent hating myself these past 4 years or so.

I hated college. I hated writing essays all years. What really gets me is that I spent four years and I have nothing to show for it. I have nothing that brings glory. I have no great achievements; I created nothing of note. The only thing I am proud of from those years has nothing to do with school: It is my comic. My comic is the only tangible thing I created, the only thing I did (aside from the friendships I created) that has any meaning for me. I could burn everything I wrote and the world would not miss anything. If I took down my comic, I know I’d feel terrible and I know there’d be a lot of angry people. It pains me that I took so many philosophy classes, but I hardly did any philosophy.

The creator in me and the existentialist contradict each other. The existentialist thinks that nothing matters. Nothing endures; all is meaningless. But the creator in me knows that some things endure. Even if they disappear, they had meaning. Some creations just contain beauty and because of that they matter. It all sounds very Platonic and I hate Plato and the forms, but that’s how the creator thinks. There are souls and there is Beauty. The rationalist in me is confused by all this, of course. How do you measure this beauty? How do you know when something matters? Is it popularity? No, it can’t be because of all the disgusting things that sometimes appeal to millions of people (bad tv, bad movies, talk radio, Disney pop). Then is it something that matters by your own judgment? No, because Beauty is objective. The rationalist says to the creator, you’re a moron because you can’t measure it. The existentialist says, you’re a moron because there is no such thing as Beauty out there in the world; there is ultimately nothing behind our universe. The creator replies, no you’re the morons because I’m the only one who does anything that matters. The rationalist then chimes in, shit I must be crazy because I’m talking to myself.

I know I can make it through this, though. That’s the positivity paradigm that I’ve embraced. That’s one of the differences between me now and me a few years ago, I think. If you’ve embraced positivity, surely you can make a commitment to confidence, yes? (And this is where incrementalism comes in, does it not? Slowly you embrace a value, and you have to recommit to it all the time.) Yet I think I have to be less abstract. I have to further define what I want to be confident about.

Well, at least I know a few things. I know that friends matter, and I know that I have to create if I ever want to feel good about life.

The Year of Responsibility

I enjoyed my previous tradition of christening years with a name, so I’m returning to it. Welcome to 2010, the Year of Responsibility. This doesn’t mean I’ll turn into a square and ditch my sometimes-carefree character. There are some things that I’ve never thought about and some things that I’ve been avoiding thinking about. Despite graduation and a job search, I still never considered what I’d actually like in a job. I never really took stock of what I was good at or what I’d like to pursue. I’ve never ever thought about finances. When I was in college, I always lived within my means without thinking about it. I don’t know much about buying a car or getting an apartment. Some of this is boring stuff, but it’s necessary.

I feel as if I stop here in the weblog, this would suffice for me. It would be enough to get me started doing what I need to do. The self-improvement literature, though, would probably label me a lost cause. Someone with a vague resolution who’ll give up shortly. Whatever. I need this symbolism. At one point I recognized the power of myth and stories, but I’d recently been favoring the uber-practical. It’s time to return to the power of things such as symbols.

Still, I won’t disregard the practical. Let me mix in some of the concrete. I recently bought the book I Will Teach You to be Rich, which so far feels like a good primer and is aimed at my demographic. I’m going to go through that book and follow its advice. This should set me on a path of getting control of my finances, beginning investment, and paying down my debt from student loans.

Another goal is to buy my own car. I need to create a plan to save up for one. I’d like to move out, but I don’t think it’s necessary. There are definitely drawbacks to living at home, but family is nice. I’d rather live with them than live alone. Maybe at some point I’ll have a chance to move to a place with a friend. I don’t know if I’d necessarily jump at the opportunity. I want to make that decision within the context of my situation (job and money and goals) at the time. Even though my current car situation is okay (I have a ride to work and I usually have a car available for nights and weekends), I like the symbolism of having my own car. It would make me feel more independent. Yes, moving out would entail independence as well, but I value belonging more. I’m pretty sure if I lived alone, I would hate it.

I’m still resistant to the idea that there is a Platonic ideal out there: a job that I’ll love or a career that I’m destined to be passionate about. It doesn’t make much sense to me considering that humans didn’t evolve in this diversified economy. A born programmer or golfer is rather incomprehensible. Still, it does make sense to take stock of what I’m good at, what I like to do, and what kinds of environments I enjoy. My next job search should be a little more systematic.

I’m also going to do something a little different from most years and actually take the time to review these goals. I’ll see you in a week.

To do: Review 2009. (Not necessarily the resolutions, but just see how the year in general went.)