Archives, page 1

Wed Apr 25 15:16:55 2012
Being Human

First entry in a new blog, and an incomplete sentence. Not a great start, perhaps.

This is intending to be the start of my personal blog; it will mostly have content that's only interesting if you know me personally. Like my other blog but moreso, it's mainly for me, although you're welcome to read it (and if I ever enable comments here or push it to somewhere else that allows them, you can comment and I probably will reply if I notice and have something to say).

If you're reading anyhow and want the quick version,

I'm a philosopher in my early-mid 30s, and have worked a variety of jobs including Unix Systems Wizard and neuropsych researcher. I spent about 10 years in three jobs at Carnegie Mellon University (used the staff benefits to take classes), did my undergrad at Ohio State, and grew up between DallasTexas (where I was born), DarienCT, and BrecksvilleOhio. I speak/read/write a few languages at varying levels of proficiency, I have diverse but generally academic interests, and I like swimming/walking/running all at casual levels. I also play videogames.

I drink a lot of tea, rarely drink alcohol (although living in NYC is increasing the frequency a bit), and spend a lot of time in parks and coffeeshops. I read a lot and avoid television, and the internet is pretty prominent in my life. I generally lug around a large laptop or two.

I believe in civility and nuanced discussion in philosophy. I believe in socialism, technocracy, and strong societies with strong governments that aim to serve the people. I believe in understanding frameworks and political theories that I don't agree with, and for voting for the least-bad solution without pretending it's great. I like activists who are willing to curb the problematic elements in their movements.

But this blog isn't so much about all those ideas. It's about my personal life. I'm a nonconformist, I struggle with depression at times, I like good (vegetarian) food. I like my cats (most of the time, anyhow).

Right now I live in Brooklyn, New York. That will probably change over time.

As a final note: If there are blog entries I already made in my main blog that seem very clearly to belong to this one, I might move them over, and they might appear before this entry.

Wed Apr 25 15:35:13 2012
Cocktails and Dollars

On Monday I went to a pseudointerview at one of the headhunter places that I've been talking with; I think headhunters tend to be aware of how varied the services they provide as an industry are. This one is low-pressure, low-key, and seemed ok with my mainly wanting altruistic work. Every time I head into Manhattan to go to a meetup or talk with a potential employer, it's somewhere else I don't recognise, and that's pretty cool. That evening I went to a local PerlMongers meetup, in a strange part of the financial district that felt like I was in a valley nested between mountains. It was a bit awkward as it was held in a business that I interviewed with before moving here, but turned out okay; they want to talk with me again if I decide I'm interested. Still thinking about that.

On Tuesday there was a phone interview with a semiprominent charitable institution. I really like who they are and what they do, but some of the details of the job might not work out, which is unfortunate. It's not a definite no, but I'm not super hopeful at this point.

Later that night I went to a meetup that talked about Occupy. There was good conversation, moderately strong disagreement on politics and analysis (variety in who showed up), and enough nuance that I felt pretty comfortable; the two-polar US politics (neither of which are my poles) I see in national media tends to irk me. I'm still getting used to how the bars in NYC almost always have very good food (at terribly high prices).

Given how different the feel is between Manhattan and Brooklyn, I am coming to think of them as separate cities, at least in my own world-of-terms.

I've been exploring Williamsburgh a bit more over the last week; there's a lot to like in the area. I'm not sure if it's exactly "my scene", but I've lived for so long not feeling like I have a community or type per se that that's no surprise. It's more my scene than Flatbush, certainly.

Thu Apr 26 13:59:28 2012
Astorian Adventures Redux

Today I went downtown to talk with yet another headhunter. Afterwards I decided to head over to the Astoria-Ditmars area (going by the name of the station, which is the end of the line for that route). Still struck by how Pittsburgh-y it feels in this neighbourhood, apart from the flatness.

I had lunch at Spiced, an Indian/Chinese restaurant I found while walking around. It was throughly unimpressive; the service was awful (I was about to walk out after having waited half an hour without even my appetiser showing up), they played terrible elevator music the whole time, and the food was more weird than good (I've never had Saag Paneer taste like herbal tea before). They do have two things going for them; they have a low cost and their Samosa are actually quite good. They still get an overall thumbs down though. I was going to give them a small tip, but because they're so cheap it would've taken change I don't have to do so.

Now I'm chilling at Waltz-Astoria, which is one of the more remote awesome places in NYC I consider worth frequenting.

Thu Apr 26 15:40:21 2012
Setting the Rules

I think I need to get better at recognising the balance of power in workplaces; I don't seem to have internalised the notion that it's reasonably-equal enough, which makes me excessively loyal and subsurvient when in or seeking employment. If an employer were to tell me that, given a conflict between what I want and what they're keen to provide, they have a policy against providing it, I'm more prone to just sigh and accept that, rather than talking about my own policies. It's an instrument of unquestioning subjugation, should I let it stay internalised, but it's hard to remove it from myself. All this is despite the significant good advice from my father on the topic.

Maybe the problem is my political philosophy; I am generally inclined to give government and law benefit of the doubt for its policies, as they are theoretically instruments of the public good. I am willing to move against government power, but rarely inclined to do so in general situations (I might speed or jaywalk, but that's a separate domain). I know that business needs are different and necessarily more ad-hoc, and business policies are written for the convenience of the business. The problem is that while I can philosophically see the difference between how I think about them, emotionally I seem to have lumped them mostly together.

I've met many other people over the course of my life with this problem.

Thu Apr 26 21:34:12 2012
Age and Happiness

The more time I spend in places where many of the people are roughly my age or younger, the less unhappy I am. Flatbush is cheap, but it's definitely not the place for me, given that I don't have a job which puts me into contact with people my age, that I don't have any strong social ties doing the same, and that this neighbourhood is full of people who are just about as different as can be from me.

I should've made a serious effort to live in Williamsburgh, or maybe some of the other places I'm seeing.

Had a nice walk today, from Astoria-Ditmars a good ways south.

Fri Apr 27 12:07:49 2012
Workplace and Age

I just withdrew a job application that got off on way-the-wrong-foot (they entirely missed an appointment, kind of), and while I'm grumbly about that, I'm thinking that maybe it's okay in that I wasn't paying attention to enough of the things I want in a workplace anyhow (maybe because I haven't thought enough about that).

I really should be around people who are a bit more like the parts of me that I want to grow. Flatbush is not the neighbourhood in NYC for me because most people here are older than I am, not at all intellectual, and kind of dull. One of the jobs I applied to here in the past was not a great job because everyone there was older than I am, settled down, and .. well, doing great things, but not intellectual things (except insofar as programmers are by default intellectual, which is only mildly yes).

I should be living *and* working alongside people my age and younger who are mentally and physically active. Otherwise, no matter how worthwhile an employer is, I'll be neglecting my social needs. I keep missing little details like this because I'm so fixated on philosophy and life-direction and society that my life conditions gets the short stick.

Maybe balancing meaning and pleasantness of life is something I can manage. One of those "useful tension" things I keep talking about in philosophy.

Fri Apr 27 14:31:16 2012
Barefoot Regimen

I'm trying shorter runs more frequently to build up the padding on my feet rather than longer foot-tearing ones. Either that, or I was feeling lazy (or pain-averse) and settled for a shorter run today. I'm really not sure which (if it's not a bit of each).

Fri Apr 27 21:49:40 2012
Meetup failures

Meetup is one of those websites that's kind-of-irritating but uniquely useful, at least in a big city like NYC for lonely people like me.

One of the ways they're irritating that's entirely not their fault is helping with the last leg of the meetup, where one actually has to find the other people at the agreed-upon venue. It's less-than-thrilling to go someplace, wander around for half an hour, and then leave because either nobody showed up or those that did are just the kind of people who decided to have a picture of a flower as their profile picture so they're utterly unrecognisable.

Still, at least the Google Calendar integration is nice (they autogenerate a "foreign calendar" you subscribe to that's particular-to-you, and that calendar automagically has all the events you subscribed to), and it's actually a decent (if irritating) way to manage events well.

The web interface is bad, but I'm not sure how to fix it. The email reminders are excessive (why can't I get all of the site emails as a daily digest?).

Oh well, at least I'm back home bundled under blankets with cats.

A few days ago, a dude on G+ with whom I tend to get into arguments on the Al Jazeera channel, sent a link to a literary journal he was involved with at some point. I am still scratching my head over trying to find a more charitable understanding of their organisation than my first impression, which is extremely negative. It doesn't help that my general impressions of the guy are also extremely negative. We actually seem to share a lot of concerns, and some of the general intuitions on how to achieve social justice actually seem similar too, but he's terribly rude and he and the journal seem so intent on expressing anger at people who are categorised as white that it feels like sloppily offending them is a good thing in that worldview. Or at least that's how I read it. In my worldview, we deal with racism/sexism/etc by figuring out what the norms should be, we try to build consensus around new norms among everyone, and we think about the instutitions and laws that might support those norms, if necessary. We don't deem some things "white" or "straight" or whatever and then conceptually beat them into the ground.

I'm still disappointed with a few people I've met at CMU or through CMU circles for taking a few steps in the direction of this guy; ZSparks seems to share most of his flaws, wasn't impressed with Kat, and I really dislike how some terrible metrics (by my view) seem to have entered common discourse (like the "intent doesn't matter") thing. I see it as a spectrum of bad ideas though, and the relevant journal seems to collect in it a lot of the ugly perspectives I've condemned in some parts of the feminist/anti-racist movements. At least, that's the judgement I'm working with now. There's got to be more to it than that though (or at least I hope), so grumbliness-permitting I'm forcing myself to read through some more of their content.

Uncomfortably cold today.

I should go visit Corny Island sometime soon.

Sun Apr 29 15:36:19 2012
LIC adventures

Today I moseyed out to Flushing (Queens), having lunch at Indian Taj (not to be confused with the Manhattan place of the same name). It was quite good, with pleasantly high spiciness. Afterwards I took a long walk east through Flushing, not going anywhere in particular. The ethnic mixes are pretty amazing; throughout most of the walk I was the only person of European descent in eyeshot; plenty of people from India, a fair number of Hispanics (whom .. well, actually they probably are also of European descent, partly at least), and a pretty good number of Chinese and Vietnamese. I didn't hear a lot of English, and a fair subset of the signs were in various Indian languages, Spanish, and/or Russian. Population density was closer to Brooklyn-level than Manhattan-level. Eventually I took a subway, meaning to head to Williamsburgh, but I hadn't seen Long Island City yet so I changed plans mid-train, found a teahouse to land at via phonesearch, and now I'm at Communitea. The building height is pretty low in this area, people seem to be moderately young, and the air is pretty nice. It seems like a place that'd be fantastic in heavy rain.

I recently looked at a map of NYC and saw something that I've been struggling to un-see; NYC as a distorted map of Europe, with Manhattan being like the UK and Brooklyn/Queens as Europe (Rockaway being an oddly angled Italy). By that reasoning, I live near the border of Spain and France.

Later I'll probably walk around LIC a bit more; it looks like someplace I might like to live after my current lease runs out. Maybe. Williamsburgh is also attractive.

Sun Apr 29 23:17:29 2012
Post-Park Hike

After hanging out at Gantry Plaza Park (a very nice place to relax, decent for people-watching too, wonderful view of Manhattan from Queens) for a bit, I decided to take a bit of a hike and see how close I could make it to home by foot before I either got tired ir it got too late to go get groceries before everyplace would be closed.

The hike

I did pretty well; made it from Long Island City to Downtown Brooklyn.

Along the way, I passed through the Chasidic neighbourhood south of Williamsburgh, which was interesting and disturbing. Gender segregation (took a photo of some signs that said things like "ABSOLUTELY NO WOMEN PERMITTED TO USE THIS ENTRANCE"), really stupid haircuts, but polite and studious people (one of whom stopped studdenly and I bummped into him and he apologised profusely). Not sure what impressions my giant Jewish-y cowboy hat made, although maybe I was mostly invisible to them. If I wasn't in a hurry I would've had dinner at one of the restaurants in the area, which seem to have a rather unique vibe. Also, having met Deborah Feldman recently, I was thinking of her as well as some of the (mostly-modern) Orthodox I've known throughout my life, my jewish cousins, and a few other people. Also I was recalling the arguments I've heard between rabbis of different branches of Judaism, conversations with friends talking about people in other branches, and all these debates on multiculturalism. Heavy thoughts.

It is a walk I would've liked company for, but that's pretty much true of all my time here so far; I haven't really made progress in making friends here. I'm still wondering if there exist in any significant numbers "my kind of people". I guess I wouldn't know, not having a way to meet people apart from starting up conversations in public places (which I have never been good at), knowing that there's probably a 2% chance I'll get along with someone and a 20% chance I'll have to shake off an unwanted would-be friendship. I regret that none of my past social ties are that useful for connecting with people in NYC.

Oh well. It was a good walk, great to see the park, and I got some more thinking done and saw more of the city.