Eliminate More Distractions

Consume A Mostly Plant Based Diet (again)

About three years ago, I had an entire year where I ate meat maybe five times and consumed dairy a little more than that. I’ll spare you, along with myself, the political or social arguments -not because they aren’t important, I’m just not sure they’re motivating for me right now. There are too many things going on in the world to worry about and I can’t give a shit about all of them at the same time. Instead, I’ll argue that I felt fantastic. It eliminated some distractions from my life. I slept better. I felt energetic. I’d go to a supermarket or out to eat, and that diet would rule out a lot of options that were unhealthy anyway. This practice saved time and freed up space in my brain to think about other things. I’ll throw in drink more water and exercise daily ‘cause… ‘cause this is a post about new year’s resolutions so I’m obligated to.

Go mostly straightedge

Drinking is fun, as are other things that I won’t mention here because I would never do anything against the law, but I’ve heard.. I’ve heard, there are things people other than me do for recreation that are legal in some states but still against federal law but won’t mention here because I would never do anything against the law that people other than me do for fun.

But.

They’re time consuming and you may not notice that ‘till you stop. So back to the drinking, which isn’t against the law, which I do occasionally do, I can go months at a time without drinking, so I’ll do that again. It isn’t just the time spent drinking itself, it’s also the the money spent on it, and the lower energy level for the next day or two, as well as alcohol’s effects on mental clarity that cost time. The older I get the more valuable time becomes. I just think lately stuff like this isn’t the best use of my time.

Regarding Media Use and Consumption

It felt like in the early -earlier? In the earlier days of the internet before seemingly everyone was on it, there was a rigid line between the things that were participatory, like messageboards or social media in it’s earlier days, and things that were not, like newspapers, television, and movies. As that line has blurred, my media consumption and use habits have gone from unhealthy, to healthy, and back to unhealthy several times. Some of this is my own fault and some of it is Silicon Valley’s.

One example of the way in which that line had blurred is news. I have a digital subscription to the New York Times, and not very long ago, when I would open up the app the first thing I would see said “top stories”, I’d have to click on a couple of things to skip over that and get to today’s paper. This bothered me a bit and still does because if I’m consuming the kind of media we call news, the first thing I should see is today’s paper, or, in other words, this thing we call news.

This situation has gotten worse in that they’ve recently introduced another tab feature you immediately are confronted with called “for you”, news tailored to your interests. I’m fine with these features existing, but they should take a backseat to today’s paper, or, what word am I thinking of again? News. News isn’t supposed to be what I want it to be, news is supposed to be news. Thankfully today’s paper at most major newspapers is still mostly dryly written hard news.

I understand that there are all kinds of incentives for the format and/or layout of news media to change based on feedback, hell, I don’t even think they’re incentives anymore. I think they have to do these things in order to stay alive. And this is one of a seemingly infinite number of ways all of our media landscape is changing, and doing so rapidly.

The internet is filled with essays*, documentaries*, classes*, and all kinds of, well, media on this stuff and I could write all day about it. Are we reshaping the traditional media landscape, or are Sergey Brin, Larry Page, and Mark Zuckerberg? What about Newscorp and Viacom? Condé Nast and Hearst? What about their shareholders? What motivates them? Where does our feedback come into play? What are data scientists doing with our stuff? And what in the fuck is a TikTok?

(*see also Jaron Lanier, Marshall McLuhan, John and Hank Green, Jay Smooth, and Anil Dash for starters. Check out The Great Hack on Netflix)

What was motivating your posts or writing ten years ago? What’s motivating them today? Who knows more about you? Your psychiatrist, your significant other, or a data scientist who works for a social media company? Is Social Media just Surveillance Capitalism? When did social media become surveillance capitalism? How come every time I log on to social media I feel like I’m being nudged? Maybe those feedback buttons were the beginning of the end. Before they existed, the feeds there felt chronological or neutral. Will there ever be a sense of feed neutrality again? How has a non-neutral feed influenced my writing? How does youtube’s recommendation engine influence people? What about google’s personalized search results.

This stuff is deserving of it’s own post or collection of posts, but I think the prefacing was necessary for resolution motivation purposes… But in the interest of keeping within the scope of this blog entry’s title, here are some habits I’ve already been cultivating that I will continue to cultivate in 2020 and beyond:

Communicate Better, Express Myself Better, Listen More.

Facebook is too big a part of my life for me to eliminate it altogether at the moment. I got friends and family all over the world to keep in touch with there, and there are public figures I follow that I’m able to enjoy their more intimate writings that I couldn’t currently find elsewhere as well as their professionally published material. What I can do, is pay more attention to how I spend my time and how I communicate with others. There’s rarely a reason to hit a feedback (or “like”) button. If I have something to add or converse about, I can do that in complete sentences, and if I don’t have the time for complete sentences, do I really have the time at all? Probably not. I know those buttons are an unhealthy motivation for my own writing, if they were, I’d have put one on this site… What’s the rub? if they were, I’d have never started this site, or written any of this. There’d be some bastardized version of it appearing on facebook sans italics and headings and whatever else I want to put here that could better express what I’m trying to communicate. For instance, this blog is laid out to look like an old school… late 90s or early 00s blog. That’s deliberate, and my writing this on someone else’s site like Twitter or Facebook, or even Medium or Tumblr, won’t come across that way. I think everyone should express themselves better, and I’m going to practice what I preach. I’m going to express myself more here.

I shoulda took more pictures, and I shoulda put them here sooner, but here’s some. Enjoy.

NY Marathon Village Staten Island 11/3/19
NY Marathon Wave 4 Verrazano Bridge 11/3/19

NY Marathon approaching Downtown Brooklyn 11/3/19
NY Marathon approaching The Bronx 11/3/19
Finished!

It’s been a while, so what’s new with me? I’m running a marathon in 23 days that I’ve barely trained for (so far), and sometimes the best way to get back into something is to just start, so, here’s some random thoughts and things.

I enjoyed David Cross’s most recent special Oh Come On. It was recorded about a year ago and I think it’s his strongest special yet. I always liked him on Mr. Show, and thought his standup had it’s insightful moments here and there that shine but he was stronger in sketches and acting, but Oh Come On might be the best thing he’s produced to date. I recommend.

I try to count my blessings all the time. I’m employed, I love my partner and our dog. I’ve got a great family and am healthy. I have a lot to be grateful for, but I still get bummed out all the time about the state of the country and the world. I find myself often still thinking about the way social media affects people. Affects me. As long as a feed or stream isn’t displayed in simple chronological order, that stuff is harming people. The latest news in that manipulation is Facebook’s decision to let politicians violate their terms of service without consequence, it’s just so bad now and has been for years, and we’re expected to understand it all already. It’s a lot to keep up with.

As I’ve said before, it’s all fun and games until you wake up one day and Donald Trump is president of the United States, and every day the administration brings something horrifying and shameful and embarrassing. Reads like this are just normal now.

I just needed to vent, thanks for listening.

Representative Velasquez is terrific, and I wish more members of congress had the political courage she does. If your rep or senator sucks, that’s all the more reason to write them. I’m lucky, my rep is terrific.

Dear Representative Velasquez, 

To make a long story short, I’m a forty one year old lifelong New Yorker from Queens, and I moved to your district about eleven years ago, and I really appreciate your hard work on behalf of hard working New Yorkers, and particularly your advocacy work for immigrants and immigrant communities. Like most Americans, I am a descendant of immigrants. Immigrants are what makes America great, and I know you already know that -it shows in your work. Thank you. 

I’ve occasionally signed form letters and petitions, and I’ve donated to campaigns I believe in in competitive districts. I’ll occasionally show up to a protest, but beyond that, as far as civics go, I vote on election day, and I occasionally speak my mind at the dinner table and elsewhere about the things I care about. In other words, I’m probably a pretty average constituent.

Before I really get started, I want to apologize in advance for the wordiness of this letter. I’m more accustomed to just signing form letters written by other people who write letters to representatives for a buncha people to sign, and this is my first attempt at writing one myself, so sorry about that, and now that that’s outta the way, I’ll get to the point:

Somebody else in that house has got to sponsor impeachment legislation.

According to congress.gov, you voted nay on tabling H. res. 705 on 1/19/18 and unfortunately there were only 66 members of the house that voted that way, and that’s the last we heard of that bill, and to be honest, I haven’t looked at the bills on congress.gov super thoroughly, trying to make sense of house bills is very time consuming, and often, headache inducing. At least for me.

Anyway, 1/19/18 was like sixteen months ago. A lot has changed since then, and, unlike house bills, it’s easy to make sense of the contents of the Mueller Report, and it’s easy to makes sense of Mueller’s recent statements in regards to it. 1. If the president was not the president, he would be in handcuffs and he’s not supposed to say that, and 2. The only way for that to happen, for him to even entertain the thought of the man in handcuffs, is for him to not be the president anymore.

Right now, congress could wait it out in the hopes that he gets voted out in 2020, or you could impeach him. The choice is between the courage to say in the halls of congress that the law matters, and a short term political gain. This choice goes across party lines and will have ramifications that will echo out world wide for a very long time, and if we, it’s citizens and their representatives, don’t choose the former, this democratic republic may not survive.

Our democracy is in trouble and I understand that serving in congress is a game of constantly weighing courses of action against their consequences, but to not take action on holding the president responsible for his actions, is a course of action that will cost all of us.

If there is a scenario where we do survive waiting him out of office, what are we going to tell our grandchildren when they ask “Why didn’t you do something about it?” I suppose that’s why I’m writing this today. In the hopes that even if unsuccessful, we do survive, and I’ll be able to tell them I did more than nothing.

I understand that there are norms about following house leadership, but there are more than zero house reps that support impeachment. You would not be alone. You are my representative, you’ve been in power a while, and you’re on a few committees. You have the power to do something more. Please do something more.

Unfortunately, I now have to write letters to Schumer and Gillibrand. Do you have any ideas on who else I could write to?

Anyway, thank you for your time, and thank you for all your hard work.

           Sincerely, 
                 Ira Cogan

Depressing read in the NYTimes today about the cost of insulin. This story hits pretty close to home for me because I lost my mother to that illness and all the complications that go along with it towards the end, and to hear how despite all the advances in Diabetes management, it costs more than ever to manage.

…Not to mention the loved ones currently struggling with the illness and the bureaucracy on top of it. I don’t comment on that stuff when people share their stories because, again, it’s too close to home.

Single payer healthcare now.

I really don’t have anything else to add.

 Last spring, an E. coli outbreak linked to romaine killed five people and sickened more than 200 others. That outbreak followed a decision by the Trump administration to shelve water-testing rules crafted under President Obama that could have prevented the outbreak.” –Democracy Now: Canada, U.S. Recall All Romaine Lettuce over E. Coli Warnings 11/21/18

Further Recommended Reading: Trump did not invent all the problems with the way we do food. This is from almost exactly 10 years ago, and it’s really worth a read:

Bill Moyers talks to Michael Pollan About Our Food

scary BBC story on mobile app sharing

^pretty scary read, something we all kinda already know but need to think about more, and, I had to try out some of the bells and whistles on the latest update to the mobile app for the blog platform I’m posting this from. Is that irony? I guess that’s irony.

Is this going to become a microblog now? I hope not, I just want to get into the habit of sharing things I wanna share with the world here.

Yo know what’s really fun? Making a thing! Not like a facebook or twitter post, although that can be fun too.. Like writing something and thinking about that specific audience, but you know what’s more fun than that? When it’s on your own site!

Sure, there’s all these reward mechanisms on those things like shares and likes and comments and replies to comments, and.. and whatever, and they work! They’re designed by super smart mad scientists to keep you focused on those reward mechanisms, and I don’t want so much to write about that, as much as I want to write about how those things may be getting in the way of you doing you! Wait, no. I don’t want to write about that either!

I want to write about how when you make something yourself and it doesn’t belong to anybody else but it’s made in a medium that allows you to share it with everyone else! I want to write about the world wide web! The information superhighway! aka, THE INTERNET!

Oh wait no, I don’t want to write about that either, what I want is you people to spend 30 seconds today thinking about how when you make a post on facebook or twitter, you have no idea who sees it, or why! Same goes for all your shit on instagram! That’s some shady shit right there! I mean I remember those things used to post in chronological order without manipulation, and then they added the like and share buttons but it still posted in chronological order without manipulation, and then they started fucking around with it to keep you on there longer!

Yesterday, the president of the United States, whose name is DONALD TRUMP was arguing with his pornstar ex-mistress on twitter. Man.. these mad scientists really fucked up.

Anyway, I’m getting sidetracked. I think you should make your own website. Do whatever you want to do with it! You young people on facebook and twitter.. and old addicted people too, have no idea how much fun I’m having unless you’ve done it! I know when I post some shit here, it looks how I want it to look, and it links to where ever I want it to! I can post pictures:

and links to the people in charge of the internet (they’re pretty okay) or to great stuff I’ve recently read!

Anyhoo, you can’t even italicize or make stuff bold on those stupid platforms, and you can only post one hyperlink at a time! Ohhh and a whole buncha other crap I’m not even gonna get into.

Anyway, making a site is just fun and downright emancipatory if you’ve never done it before! Do it do it DOOOO ITTTTT!!!!

I’m not sure why this Elizabeth Warren DNA test thing dominated the news cycle yesterday, .. I guess for the same reason I’m writing about it right now. If she was trying to demonstrate that Donald Trump is a liar who does not keep his word.. I suppose I could understand that given how much shit he talks.. but.. well, we already knew that.

The thing to me is it only demonstrated she can be baited into playing his game, and the only way to win that game is not to play.

I like Warren. I like her story. Overall I really like her politics. I think she does a really good job of having to work with the goddamn D party while also being relatively outspoken about the important stuff. She’s doing a pretty good job at making the best of her recognition and fighting these bastards. I think she’d make a good president. I also think if she was Hilary Clinton’s running mate in ’16, I would not be writing any of this.

I’m just saying, in a political career where she’s done a lot of good, let’s not let this particular misstep define her. Yes. She should have known better, but what can I say, everybody is nuts right now.

Rereading Hossein Derakhshan’s 2015 essay The Web We Have To Save is one of the reasons I’ve been inspired to dust this site off and actually do something with it, and one of the reasons I think everybody should plunk down a few dollars for their own domain, site, and email host. I think my next post is going to be about my personal approach to that, and how I’ve failed to maintain discipline with using my own space, and how I think I can succeed in the future.

 

How to Stop Worrying and Learn to Love the Internet by Douglas Adams is an all time favorite read that I still find enjoyment in. I don’t know if Douglas Adams counted on a handful of large media companies and governments worldwide having such a big lock on everything and using it for so much bad. I also don’t know if he’d counted on how bad the media literacy problem is world wide.  but I’d like to think we’re just still in the Dark Ages and the best is yet to come. Things may get worse before they get better, but I think every word of this article will stand the test of time.

The world was a different place in 1999, and sometimes we tend to forget about that, or if you’re a younger reader that’s an abstract rather than tangible thing to you. It’s history. For me? Yeah. The world is a different place, but people are still people and overall, people, are still good.

 

I did some toggling and playing with the bells and whistles on this site. I removed the social media share buttons ’cause I’m trying not to contribute to a system that rewards unhealthy behavior. Also, when I want to share a link on social media, I just copy/paste the link. I’m sure lotsa other people still do that too. I did leave the “email” and “print” buttons ’cause although they’re automated sharing mechanisms, they don’t advertise any particular companies. I’m also trying to be more conscious and wary of too much automation in my life.

I don’t memorize phone numbers anymore and I haven’t written down directions to a place in over a decade. I’m still pretty good at looking at a map before I leave for my destination so I can know the area that I’m going to and how to get back, but I know I’m becoming too dependent on these kinds of technology. I’m also trying to be more thoughtful of how my data such as location and destination history are used by bad people for bad things and adjust.

I’m not a luddite -even copy/paste and print/email themselves are automated tech things. I’m writing this on a device that fits in my pocket to publish on a gigantic network of extremely powerful computers. I’m not a luddite, I just don’t want my basic people skills to deteriorate more than they already have. Which is also part of the purpose of this blog.

I swore off use of the “like” button a while back.. I decided to try and use my words more if I have something to add to a conversation.

And that lasted about a week. I don’t entirely blame myself. There are all kinds of manipulative incentives to click on a myriad of buttons on and off Facebook, and they work. And between gifs and emojis and memes and likes, there are all kinds of communication or signaling tools that I think in the long run are unhealthy. I know, too much of anything is bad, but the overnight ability to instantly publish, share, or consume nearly any kind of media instantly, has consequences. Some of those consequences are good, really good, but it definitely changes people and I’m not sure I’m thinking about that enough. I’m not against social media, but a newsfeed on there should just be a chronological feed of all of your friend’s updates, with an unfollow option, and without manipulation.

It sounds trivial to complain about but I think could be a little more outspoken with each other about how everyone seems to be shouting in order to be heard, and that’s a dynamic that’s been deliberately encouraged by the bad guys who own these companies. It’s a direct result of that manipulation of the feeds on social media. It’s all fun and games until you wake up one day and Donald Trump is President of the United States.

I need to edit and rewrite more.

Anyway, this isn’t an essay, it’s a free writing journal entry, and it’s my site, so I get to write whatever I want. I’m just getting back into the swing of writing every day, and these things will get better! so there!

Reading a book.

Reading beyond the first 300 pages of The Power Broker.

Reading The Great Gatsby. That’s a short one and at this point I have no excuse.

Same goes for Toni Morrison and so many other writers I haven’t gotten around to yet.

Writing a book.

Playing with my dog.

Running outdoors.

Doing some pushups.

Doing some situps.

squats.

lunges.

Looking for additional income.

Learning a musical instrument.

Learning to box.

Working on Brazilian Jiu Jitsu skillz.

Learning Sambo.

Dancing around my apartment while listening to Loggins and Messina.

Dancing around my apartment while listening to Janet Jackson.

Just plain dancing. Kinda difficult to fart around on facebook if I’m dancing.

Eating a salad.

Eating a piece of fruit.

Drinking a glass of water. I don’t drink enough water. Drinking water is hard, like I’ve made it a habit to drink 10+ glasses a day and once you’re there you’re there, but forming the habit is hard.

Organizing all the shit on my computer. There’s so much shit on there, photos, writing, other stuff and it’s a big disorganized mess. What the fuck am I doing on facebook anyway? And why do I want to post that shit there? That’s not their shit, that’s MY shit. Fuck that shit. Fuckit. If I’m gonna post it anywhere I should post it HERE.

MY SITE.

MINE.

hey FUCK YOU facebook.

I gotta make a habit of using this thing instead of Facebook.

I got lotsa pictures from recent trips to Berlin, Daytona Beach, Disney, Universal, and I’ve been lucky enough to get to see a lot of places the last couple of years.

I got lotsa good pictures of stuff in general.

I got unfinished stories,  unfinished essays. Lotsa unfinished stuff and things.

What am I even doing wasting my time on there? Oh right, that thing is a casino trying to reel me in. I gotta stop feeding that beast.

I gotta get ready for work.

Okay. I’m gonna post stuff here instead from NOW on.

So I filled out my absentee ballot for the NY primary on 9/13. NY has a really complicated system where there are two different primary dates and then the general election in November, and there isn’t a lot of information out there unless you’re really into this stuff and do some digging.

I’m pretty into this stuff, and half the time there’s stuff on the ballot where I just can’t find much about the candidates or even what the position is responsible for, and it bums me out that that’s a deliberate thing in my district, city, state, and country. I’ll write more about that and politics and government another day, but right now I seriously have to pack.

I’m with Cynthia Nixon for Governor, Jumaane Williams for Lieutenant Governor, Zephyr Teachout for Attorney General, Julia Salazar for State Senate, Maritza Davila for State Committee and Assembly member, and I left the civil court judge box blank. I know it’s important, but I was unable to make an informed decision.

I must pack now.

So I accidentally removed myself from the inexpensive tier I was grandfathered into with Ghost(pro) when I was trying to update my payment info, and then I just deleted the thing altogether, I probably could contact one of their support channels and get it sorted out, like, they’ve been responsive and helpful any time I had an issue in the past, but I decided to try out this wordpress thing instead. There were a few reasons for that:

Although Ghost(pro) has a fantastic editor for writing and lots of great features, I wanted to be able to host any kind of media I want, photos, audio, video etc. at a decent price and WordPress checked all those boxes, and I wanted something with an easy to use mobile version, and the integration with Ulysses (where I do most of my writing anyway) made up for the tradeoff of losing Ghost’s built in superior editor.

So if you’re reading this, we’re probably friends or family. My old blog gathered dust -partly due to laziness, and partly due to.. Ok! Fine! It was laziness, but I think being able to do all my writing in one place and being able to host any kind of data right there on the site without having to do a buncha work-arounds will keep that from happening again.

I’m still learning to code and stuff, I’m still moonlighting doing nightlife stuff, so what’s new and exciting? My partner and I got a dog a few months ago, and we leave for 9 days in Berlin, Germany tomorrow night! I’ve never been to Europe before! Soo… I think I’m gonna kick this thing off with a travel journal!

PS, this site is totally under construction, hang in there.