How to eat chili

The way I like to eat chili is as follows:

  1. With bowl of steaming hot chili in hand, if I already know the chili isn’t going to be spicy enough, stir in some large eyeballed quantity of habanero sauce. Do not measure the sauce, do not test to see if too much was poured, do not pass Go & collect $200, proceed immediately to Step 2. (If your food isn’t hurting you, are you really even eating?)
  2. Pile a bit of shredded cheese on top and let it melt.

Then I like to eat the chili without mixing in the cheese. That’s why Step 1 has to be done first. And then it means the top layer of chili will be sort of like a cheesy appetizer; lower layers will have little or no cheese at all, so they will constitute more of a proper chili-eating experience. For us purists. That would be ideal.

The problem is, I often forget not to mix in the cheese, and then I’m contending with gooey stringy chili for the rest of my session. That’s what’s just happened today, and I am very disappointed in myself for it. Later, I will be told by three different people about the cheese in my beard.

Wokeness hypotheses

Hypothesis 1: the scale of the problem of “wokeness” will tend to increase in someone’s perception according to how much time that person spends online (especially on FAANG holdings and consuming journalism).

Hypothesis 2: the scale of the problem of “wokeness” will tend to decrease in someone’s perception according to how much time that person spends in friendly or familial contact with non-Asian minorities and/or working-class/lower-class whites.

I put “wokeness” in scare quotes because it’s a rather abused term (at least in the places I’ve seen it lately), and could refer to anything from “acknowledging that many black people experience unfair treatment at the hands of police” to “insisting that white people are racially inferior and should be retributively shamed or worse”.

(For example, I occasionally listen to an R&B radio station, which features a show where a group of DJs — from their voices, all of them are clearly black or part-black — talk to each other very casually. I’ve come across this show while scanning for music to listen to, and out of curiosity I’ve sometimes stayed as long as a couple minutes. The other day while they were chatting, they used the term “woke” in passing, to refer very generally to feeling socially conscious, proud to be black, etc. The term did not seem to imply anything necessarily about policy preferences or how white people should be treated. Contrast this with a place like DSL, where the most hardcore Critical Race Theory connotations of the term are usually implied.)

So when I say “the problem of wokeness” I’m mainly referring to encroachment of the most hardcore versions of that concept into everyday life.

And my overall point here is that I think most of the people talking about wokeness as a huge problem are basing their statements on a simplified and distorted view of what wokeness is. From my standpoint it is a sometimes annoying, but mostly harmless and faddish set of concepts that don’t typically survive real-life interpersonal contact between individuals from different racial groups, despite whatever latest outrageous incident is making its rounds on one’s website of choice.

“Do you engage in the Culture war with your SO?”

That is the title of a tempting thread on DSL right now.

My wife and I don’t see eye to eye politically all that much, but we share most of the same basic values, and for the past half-decade or so our political differences are usually more like she has a strong opinion on X and I don’t, rather than she has a strong opinion on X and I have a contrary strong opinion on X. So she sometimes is frustrated with my epistemic caution, which she mainly sees as me being pedantic and stubbornly unwilling to take her side. We do probably have different political instincts though.

Someone in the thread asked:

Why would you marry someone not on the same side as you in the culture war? Sounds miserable!


A few other people gave their answers. I haven’t read all of them but here are some of mine:

  • People’s views can change over time, so the political views that were there when you married the person can be different later in the marriage.
  • Culture war issues aren’t actually that important to everyone, especially to people who don’t hang out online a lot.
  • Homogeneity is kinda stagnant and boring, and might even be intellectually harmful.

Being married to someone with different political views from mine certainly isn’t miserable! It has been stressful and challenging at times (especially between about 2012 and 2016), but it’s also forced me to have some growthful conversations, and to get better at seeing things through other’s eyes. It’s also made me better at articulating my own views. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

I notice that people I’ve met who strongly agree with their S/O’s politics seem to often be more tribal, and less able to wrap their mind around opposing viewpoints. Holding all else equal, spending most of their time with someone who agrees with them has probably made them less interesting.

My wife and I have gotten to a point where we know the areas where we most fundamentally disagree, and we’ve learned to have a sense of perspective and humor about it. It hasn’t been easy getting here, but it’s very rewarding.

Deftones “Ohms” album – best by them so far

Ohms doesn’t have the Deftones’s best songs on it, but I believe it is their best album. I have been listening to it for the past few days. Here’s my favorite song so far:

The whole album is beautiful like this.

By the way, the wacky title of this post is because there’s also a title track, which happens to be the lead single, so I had to distinguish between that song and album name. Conceptually, title tracks annoy me for some reason I’m not sure of, but that’s a practical reason for them to be annoying anyway.

Toilet flush mechanisms

Some just go glug! and gulp it all down
Some fill up a bit and swirl it round and round
Some use a jet to slam it down the pipe
Some shoot water at you so you barely have to wipe
Some don't do nothin' till you pour some sawdust in
Some demand you flush not once, but also flush again
Some are really fancy, some are roughed into the floor
But as long as they all work, that's all I'm askin' for

How to spend less time on the internet

Some tricks have been recommended, but evidently do not work for me:

  • Blocking software: I’ve tried using Leechblock in the past but I ended up getting around it via different browsers, and ultimately I disabled it.
  • Willpower: my willpower works quite well for resisting things I’m only lukewarm on to start with, such as consuming alcohol and sweets, but I have found myself quite unable to resist the urge to visit certain web forums or chat servers over and over, ultimately spending way too much time there.

Some things have helped me reduce how much time I spend on the internet, but only for short periods until I binge again:

  • Reducing my anonymity: apparently I am much hesitant to post things online that are or could be associated with my real identity, and I tend to be more careful about what I do post.
  • Logging out after posting: this makes wanting to post again at least get coupled with “ugh, but then I have to log back in” which along with being a slight inconvenience is also a reminder of how I’m spending my time.

The one thing that really works: being busy with away-from-computer activities all day. Whether that’s being out and about with the kids, or doing work around the house, or visiting friends, or whatever, this seems to be the best solution. (Not having a smartphone is wonderful!) But alas, I work a job that requires me to be on the internet all day!

Another thing I’ve found works pretty well is substitution. There are certain chemicals whose effects on me reliably include dissolution of my desire to spend time on the internet. But it would not be practical (or advisable) for me to imbibe those chemicals regularly enough to make that a long-term solution either.

So for now I am stuck with the strategy of introspection: trying to figure out what unmet need drives me to certain kinds of compulsive online interactions, and seeing if I can find an alternative way to scratch that itch. Over top of this I have reached a kind of acceptance, knowing I will cycle in and out, experiencing good and bad days/weeks/months.

How libertarian am I?

My libertarianism peaked in my mid-20s and I became less libertarian afterward. There were several main reasons:

  1. Reading books like The Machinery of Freedom, watching John Stossel on “20/20”, etc. made me feel like I knew a lot about how economies and governments really work (and indeed I did probably know more than the average person as a result), but I eventually realized that I objectively knew very little. Though I’m still confident that actual totalitarian fascism would be worse than probably any other system of government, short of that I know far too little to have a strong opinion on what the size of government should be.
  2. I came to discover that most people, myself included, are less rational than we’d like them to be. One would assume the market would correct for people’s irrationality (e.g. if one restaurant doesn’t want to serve black people, another restaurant will make a killing picking up all that missed business), but this frequently takes a long time and costs people a lot of life and pain while they wait for the market to correct. Another way to think about this is I decided that more things are public goods than we realize.
  3. I just became less interested in the whole topic of “how should society/government/etc. be structured”. It used to be I could talk for hours about that with anyone who’d listen; I don’t know if I got burned out on it or what, but now when I see discussions about various political systems my eyes glaze over, I smell nothing useful coming off those conversations, and I move on to something else.

Why Bone Thugs-n-Harmony are the greatest rap group of all time

They’ve got it all. They rap extremely fast, use complex rhythms in their rap, they only rap about drug use and urban violence (no sex or Gucci nonsense), and on top of that they can sing really well. The only thing I could see being held against them is their beats, which often sound more like soft RnB instrumentals than rap, but something about this accentuates the aggressive violence in their lyrics and makes it even crazier, which is awesome.

Another way to interpret the “What incidents formed your beliefs” question

I just realized another possible way to answer “What childhood incidents formed your current political beliefs?” is to choose one specific belief and trace it backward.

I’m still a bit astonished and frankly, skeptical, that some people claim to be able to trace it all the way back to a childhood incident, but I can think of at least one of my present views that is traceable to a specific thing that happened in my life: drug policy. I believe all drugs should be legalized immediately. I got to that belief through a somewhat circuitous path but it definitely started when a friend of mine back in 2006 or so was telling me about his idea for a documentary about doping in sports.

A documentary very much like the one he described was eventually made two years later — “Bigger Stronger Faster*” — but by then I’d internalized the kernel of my friend’s idea and started following it to its rational conclusion, researching the history of drug prohibition, paying attention to and thinking about the effects of drug prohibition in our world now, and so on.