The summer of 2023 has been, for me, highly volatile and transformative. A series of brain storms sent me barreling down new paths, only for me to immediately get lost in the underbrush. On the solstice, a crystal-clear path was illuminated for me, but I fell into shadow as soon as I started to walk it. But even though (because?) them thar hills are dark and confusing, there's still gold in them.

On the other side of my solar return and a very intense Venus Cazimi, I'm picking up the pieces and sorting the rubble and making sense of the freight train that has been hitting me for the past few months. A pattern emerges:

My desire to be an Apple developer petered out in the face of the enormity of the task, but the office rearrangements necessary to facilitate a more productive environment remain.

My bold statement about splitting my online output into Solar and Lunar containers didn't yield any meaningful change in my public online activity, but I did permanently delete my twitter accounts.

My week or so of daily gym visits ground to a halt as I chose sleeping in at every juncture, but this push coincided with a massive purge of distracting influences at home.

In short, I'm seeing proactive, ego-driven efforts run out of juice and sputter out almost immediately, but there is a deliberate and forceful pruning happening concurrently that has proven itself to be much more resilient. A psychic forest fire that has spread into my physical environment. And as my professional and personal ambition collapsed around me and I was left with no easy distraction to latch onto, I started sitting again. (lol, this sounds like I'm telling a relapse story. I guess I am!)

One of the inciting incidents was another collapse: our usual Sunday morning routine, which is one that relies on me providing childcare for most of it, is becoming more flexible, and for the first time in years, I would be physically able to visit the local Zen center. I chickened out at the first opportunity because I wanted some practice to make sure I could manage 30 minutes (I can).

Something is different this time. There's no set time of day, no set duration, no pushing through to wait until the timer goes off. My meager information streams run out, and I spend a cycle or two grasping for new stimulation, and then I remember that I can sit, and sometimes I do.

I was so afraid of it, for some reason. Or part of me was, at least. After many months of dedicated practice I lost it, and was doing everything to avoid getting it back again. But it's here now, and it feels in retrospect that I was being guided to make the proper space for it. Not just time, but a gap in the psychic stream that was wide enough for me to remember.

When I approached it as a habit that I was building, the daily routine would reinforce itself, until a pattern break would come along and threaten to collapse the whole thing. I sat today after many days of being too busy to, and for the first time I felt relief and joy on my first breath. Like this is something that I want to be doing.

What a salve for an exhausted, busy mind. What a respite from the juggling of domestic and professional responsibilities. What a wonderful protest against the internalized demand to be Productive. What a powerful spell you cast in those breaths, that ricochets around and through you as you get up and go about your day.

It is really a perfect tool for someone like me who procrastinates and averts eyes from things that might take me out of the little burrow I have made for myself. It works so well because once I've convinced my monkey mind to stare at a wall, there's nothing I'm putting off more, so the piled up tasks all start to melt away. Like killing the boss before taking out the minions.

I should probably see if I actually stick with it before declaring victory like this, but fuck it. Zazen is good and you should feel good. Maybe this Sunday I'll finally get over to meet the other people in my city who are into wall staring. Seems like a good time to.

Tarot reading 001 - Will Jesse and Meg have a boy or a girl?


The querant (Jesse) and his wife (Meg) are expecting a child in October, and I offered on an episode of my podcast to use Tarot to guess if the baby was going to be a boy or a girl. I was attempting to prove to the querant that Tarot is objectively real and so had a lot riding on this.


I elected to do a simple one-card draw that would give us an answer to the question at hand, and drew the Ace of Disks. I ascribed this card to the unborn child in question, and it fit well: the Ace of Disks represents a new beginning in the material realm, which roughly lines up with what a human baby is. However, this card does not depict any genital organs or secondary sex characteristics, ruining my only plan for making a decision one way or another on the question. I hastily opted to do a 3-card draw instead and hoped that with more chances, a helpful card would materialize.

The second card I drew was the 2 of Cups, called “Love” in the Thoth deck. It depicts two fish spitting water into a flower or something. I ascribed the querant and his spouse to the fish in question, suggesting that some act performed by the two of them may have aided in the manifestation of the child, an idea borrowed from something truly wild I heard at the schoolyard. I was getting confusing symbols here: the flower was presenting as a yogic signifier, but the fist were squirting focused jets of water, which definitely rang as phallic to me. Once again, I required further clarification.

The third card drawn was the Princess of Cups. As we all know, only girls can be princesses, so the omens were clear. The baby would be a girl.


Internal imaging of the fœtus during a routine pregnancy examination revealed a clump of tissue configured in the classic “dick and balls” pattern, providing overwhelming evidence that the happy couple are due a bouncing baby boy this fall. This was revealed to the world at a reveal party where participants were ordered to consume a bite of Jell-O; if the substance was sweet, then a “sweet girl” was in the cards, but if it was spicy, then a “spicy boy” it was destined to be. The Jell-O was spicy.


I could not be more thrilled to be wrong with this reading. Now that I can see, in retrospect, that

I’m sorry I can’t keep doing this. It sucks that I was wrong. There was a GIRL on the CARD. It was a GIRL CARD. And now Jesse doesn’t think TAROT is REAL. I BLEW IT SO BAD FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK

I have a batting average of .000

Sun Phil, Moon Phil

The past few days have confirmed that what I set in motion this weekend is indeed a Vibe Shift of some kind. The simple acts of securing dedicated time in the morning and throwing propriety to hell and finding my next job have unleashed massive wellsprings of energy, at a time when I thought I was all tapped out. I have been waking up early, taking care of my neglected body, and Making Things Happen on a variety of fronts.

One thing I zapped through with ease that had been torturing me for years was my quote unquote professional site, a neglected piece of internet property that had outlived its usefulness once I tricked someone into giving me a job in software. Energized with new professional purpose, a site where I can be publicly enthusiastic about tech I want to be paid to learn is valuable. Hell, a place where I can demonstrate that I possess written communication skills is something by itself. So now has joined the pantheon of phil's web sites, along with a few others. Eagle-eyed browsers may notice some subtle similarities across my body of work.

I was already getting Sun Vibes from the solstice timing, but separately a thought had been bubbling for quite some time about my online presence. In astrology (or my meager understanding of it, anyway), your sun placement represents how you are perceived by others, and your moon placement represents how you view yourself. This has been a useful analogy for sorting the kinds of things I put online; am I doing this to Express My Innermost Self, or am I doing this to be Noticed?

As a geriatric millenial, I spent a lot of time lurking on messageboards, and didn't really get how liberating anonymous posting is. Once facebook came along I posted party pics and shitposts on main, and it took me way too long to realize that the venue where my great aunt just wants to see pictures of me at the beach and my stepdad wants to argue with me about Obama is not one where I will feel like I have unlimited creative freedom.

So I clammed up. My presence on Meta platforms now is basically a kid pic every 2 months on locked accounts, and I was able to withdraw my presence from there because I finally figured out a big part of the Whole Deal of Online: this shit does not have to be attached to, like, your government identity. Once I followed the Tiger Trail and found people I want to talk to about things that are important to me, it didn't take long for me to alt up and go to ground. For me it was never important to hide my real name from my new friends. The anonymity was on the other side; if a stranger googles my name, they will find a carefully curated collection of sites and profiles that are all about a friendly software engineer. The rest of this shit isn't FOR them.

This all congealed together for me as the following thought: there is Sun Phil, a marketable caricature whose online presence has the potential to provide me with massive professional utility, and Moon Phil, where the rest of me (most especially the unmarketable part) hangs out. This is, for the time being, a useful separation, in no small part because it frees me from feeling like I need to be self-aware and ironic and aw shucks when I'm promoting myself. My Sun presence (, my linkedin, my real name twitter account) is a pinhole, showing only a tiny sliver of my personality focused a thousandfold so it shines with blinding ferocity if you happen to be a recruiter or a hiring manager. My moon presence, which is becoming less and less public as time goes on, genuinely does not give a shit about any of that and can concern itself with whatever the fuck it wants to.

My Sun presence has been falling into disrepair as I've focused the last few years of my attention on kicking it with the group of buddies I've stumbled upon in Moon world, but it's coming back in a big way. I've discovered that part of letting the Sun through is giving the Moon some sensible limits: I've freed massive chunks of productivity by limiting activities that I usually pursue with Sagittarian hunger (video games, podcasts) and created containers where I am constantly bumped back into the present moment, and I can dutifully continue constructing a Job Laser that pierces all obstacles in a glorious beam of Leonic splendor.

I was discussing this in rough terms with erstwhile tiger ally Taalumot when he connected it to some life-ruiningly uncanny astrology:

You enter a Sun-ruled peak period from your Lot of Fortune on September 25, which lasts until April 17, 2025...that suggests a big Sun Thing Happening to You this year.

So fuck me I guess!

As I explore life on the sunny side of the rock, I've gotten a lot of mileage out of cutting out things that mindlessly occupy my spare time, and there is one more domino left to fall. Twitter user @phil__harmonic is no more; I have gotten all I needed to get out of it and it has slowly turned into an algorithmic feed for me to consume scene drama and twitter drama and shitposts that I can find elsewhere, in infinite quantity. You're welcome to follow me on my sun account, where I may be more active now, and if you were into the kind of shit I was posting on my moon account, you will find it in big chunks here and small chunks on my Mastodon. I had a lot of fun on there but the fun was with humans, most of whom I am still in touch with, and "finding exactly my kind of cool people" is not the sort of activity that infinitely scales, so big rips to a real one. If anyone asks, please point them here.

A Gaggle of Solstice Happenings

New things are happening today. Is it the new moon? The solstice? The cusp of Cancer? Who's to say, but I went into this weekend exhausted and confused and came out with a new burst of energy that is going to carry me somewhere new.

On the homefront, I've had trouble fitting in a routine for doing nourishing things for myself. This includes lots of stuff that falls into the "spirituality bucket," but more importantly the basic things that are necessary for baseline physical health. I have been prescribed a dizzying array of movements, stretches, muscle releasing exercises, and equipment to battle Plantar Fasciitis, and it's extremely demoralizing to have not made much progress since it first reared its head last summer. I need to carve out time for this stuff, but I procrastinate constantly through work, childcare, household chores, and leisure activities.

Waking up early is a good trick, but our household routine revolved around Kid's wakeup time, which varied wildly. The breakthrough happened when we solidified our morning schedule, which gives me a guaranteed "off the clock" window until 7:30, when I wake up the family and make breakfast. I was inspired to join the local community center gym based on this guarantee, and was able to spring out of bed this morning at 6, hop in the car where my gym bag awaited, and do my stretches and whatnot, plus some bench presses, while the local clientele took potshots at the news. This feels very good.

Also, I am cutting loose the idea that I am trying to be a DevOps Guy, even temporarily. My soul recoils from the endless business bureaucracy that creeps over any technical work like poisoned molasses. I've barely written any code! And by releasing myself from the expectation that I'll be working here for much longer, I can avoid feeling like I should learn how the specifics of this megacorp's team structure actually work.

I am also speaking aloud a dream I've kept safe for some time: one day I want to own my own software consultancy. There's one of those brick suburban office buildings like 6 doors down from me and I want to rent a space there and then walk 50 feet to work. I want to be able to take on a gig for a lot of money, or turn it down and do nothing. I want to own my work, and be proud of it.

Nothing about my present circumstances gets me closer to that, so I need to change things up. But for the past 3 years I've also been content to sort of passively gain technical experience. Having a kid made work seem very unimportant, but as she gets older, optimizing for loafing seems to be more of an excuse to not try hard than an earnest plea for work-life balance. Wherever I end up next, I want to kill it and I want to be rewarded for killing it.

Maybe doing some learning in public will help grow my network, or maybe the work itself will be valuable to my resume, but I am going to have fun in the coming weeks testing the limit for how little work I can get done at what is ostensibly my full-time job.

Should be fun!

The Carrot

Since starting my engineering career, I've consistently had the vague idea that gaining tech skills is a Part One of something to come. That it's good to be an engineer but that the real fun would start when i could combine the heady art of making things with bits with what the industry calls 'soft skills', as well as my artistic/expressive sensibilities. Many in my scene are pondering how to become Professionally Spiritual, which doesn't hold any appeal to me, but I continue to feel the sense that there are opportunities out there for the right person at the right time to create a niche creative profession for themselves on their own terms and make, like, 1.5 gobs of money, and that continuing daily practices centered around increasing my awareness of and investment in the world around me may help with the 'preparation' part of the Luck Equation. So I have a background process constantly running trying to game out what getting to a place like that might look like

Last week was a Season Finale week, a vortex of climaxes that threw me around like rough surf and then tossed me on a luxurious beach to put myself back together. In rough order, I got to watch Apple unveil their new spatial computing platform, which, unlike LLMs, feels like the future in a carefully considered, holistic way. They also announced their first device in this category, which I simulataneously desperately want and Can Not Afford. I then got to discuss it on my podcast, which remains a self-sustaining creative victory, and moreover got to bring on fellow internet tiger Taalumot to join the conversation, which was a rollicking Worlds Collide moment. Wednesday I hosted my buddy who works there for dinner while she was in town, and spoke out loud my desire to work very hard for like 3 hours a day on my actual job and spend the rest of the time building out the next step of my career, which is definitely not being a DevOps Guy. Then we were off for 3 days of cabin-dwelling with family and friends deep in the woods, with just the right amount of internet connection: barely 1 bar. I left all devices at home, and while no vacation with a 2-year-old is truly Relaxing, I was left with plenty of time with my thoughts. I was able to read a few chapters of a book called Developer Hegemony, which I have called the Das Kapital of email jobs. Nothing I've read has come close to revealing the matrix code behind the act of working an information job, and I'm on my first reread since I originally applied its secrets to double my salary.

The raw materials were all there, and they clicked together of their own accord while I was taking some trash to the dumpster on the final day of camping. An extremely pleasant side effect of becoming a valuable contributor to bottom lines is that I regularly have very powerful MacBooks thrown at me, and I was able to subsidize a large part of my extremely sweet desktop setup with other people's money as well. One way to get my hands on this new headset would be to make a bunch more money, which is an extremely vague goal. A much more focused and tangible one is "do the sort of work that might encourage someone to give you a headset for free."

I have a proven record of being able to create online media, in both written and auditory form. I have a proven ability to learn new technical skills. I have surplus time during my workday and the tacit approval of my team to fuck off and do something else. I have an almost completely unused public internet presence, waiting for a focus. I have an occult network of Technology Wizards/Sages who I can bounce ideas off of and whose work I can share with new audiences. So hey what if I became an Apple Developer in public and Friendly Ambitious Nerded my way into a new job?

So that's what I'm going to try. The first step is bringing my professional site into the pantheon of phil's web sites and getting it set up to rip through markdown with speed. Then I can establish a daily routine for absorbing a nutritious chunk of the Apple Developer Ecosystem, turning that into a scrumptious pellet of content, and building out some of the numerous and growing App Ideas that I have. This could fizzle in the same manner that my other tech site did, and I have bounced off the Apple developer experience before due to it being weird and overwhelming, but maybe I have the right carrot dangling in front of my face for it to work. Only one way to find out, right?


This site, like many other projects of mine, has not gotten a lot of love in the past few months. Usually this is a sign that my ambitions have predictably crashed to earth in the face of the effort required to sustain them, and that is certainly a part of the story. Thankfully this time around the cycle of willpower I have something to show for it.

Jesse and I have been friends for 20 years and bandmates for 10. Our band has been a reliable creative engine for a long time, and it's a natural fit to take some of our conversations (which can take on the properties of a vaudeville routine) and put them on the internet for others to hear. We have both struggled on creative projects in the past (including not one but two failed podcasts before this one) and it's been immensely rewarding to make a stable container for us to dump our minds into.

Our mandate is simple: we find things to share with each other. This has given us the flexibility to figure out what the show is while we're doing it, and it's taking on its own character as we get our podcasting sea legs (episode 10 is being recorded tonight). Spontaneity is a big theme, as we show up having not fully prepared or surprising our cohost with a topic out of left field. There's a habitual tendency to keep each other on our toes, and the best moments of the show are when we are thrown off our game enough to let some new energy through.

To give you a flavor of the kinds of things that happen: Jesse has had an ongoing fascination with a tiny local newspaper, I go into some detail on my qigong practice and the struggles of being a parent, Jesse invented a game show called AI or Cool Guy that is impossible to win, I watched the worst-reviewed movie on rotten tomatoes and lived to tell the tale, and so on. There is a small but dedicated "Zaggurat" of listeners, which is endlessly cool, and the fact that we have two audio projects that can reference one another is going to open a lot of fun doors.

Search "zagways" in your podcast app of choice to check it out, and check out our meager web site to see all the places you can find us.

the why of the tiger

an origin story

hey man. what's with the tiger


in my current online incarnation, i am a part of Tiger Twitter. what is Tiger Twitter? people who have tiger pfps. but why do people have tiger pfps. many reasons, but i am one of the ones that have tiger pfps because they do tiger qigong.

ok so what is tiger qigong


it's the tiger-style ancient chinese shamanic form of qigong practice, as taught by a guy named Zhongxian Wu who learned it in China and then came to america and wrote a book and recorded a dvd and then moved to sweden. in chinese it's called laohugong, which is roughly "old tiger qigong"

hold on. what's qigong


qigong is a chinese movement practice. if there is a spectrum of intensity between tai chi and kung fu, qigong is kind of in the middle. it's not SUPER fast, but it is kind of bouncy. you do it to cultivate qi.

wait. what's qi?


qi/chi is energy. not physical energy, but it can become that when it interacts favorably with a human. you can say spiritual energy if you want, or life energy if you don't. kind of like the Force.

you ever know you need to do something and can't bring yourself to do it? like there's some sort of motivational battery and it's currently drained so you're running on autopilot, letting more automatic subsystems take charge and go through the motions?

that's qi. or at least, the lack of it. i spend most of my time in that mode so personally i feel its absence more acutely than its presence. when you're getting shit done and living life and not thinking about how you could be doing something else? that's qi power.

to me, at least. maybe it's something different to you! i'm not trying to be scientific. it gives me language to express my inner state that feels much more precise than whatever i'd get from psychology.

so why do qigong? that's why! imo it's better to feel like i do when qi is flowing than when it's not. i'm prone to procrastination and qigong is something i especially procrastinate on because when i do it i procrastinate less. procrastination hates this one weird trick!

so how did you get into tiger qigong?


the cool thing is i can't really say WHY i started. i can say that when i didn't have a tiger pfp i stumbled on a thread of buddhist shitposts collected by a guy named taalumot who did. and he posted about zen and being a dad, which i thought was cool

and he made a thread about tiger qigong and i thought that was cool too. and that thread had links to other people who were doing tiger qigong so i followed those people too.

and then one day i was like "i want to do something with my body and mind that is good" and i bought the book online and started doing it. and i liked it!

so i was like hey i do tiger qigong and all the tigers said cool, you can be a tiger on twitter too if you want. and then i did

what do you like about it?


i like how focused it makes me. for a long time, during the dark Omicron days, i did it every day, and sat in zen meditation every day, and i felt like i was bursting with energy.

i don't like how there's a part of me that tells me that it's me, and how often i believe it. and qigong helps the bigger quieter parts come out and do their thing.

i like how it collects power in my gut, which is where my best ideas and instincts come from. many remarkable opportunities have come my way and i like to think that part of why is that i'm loosey goosey enough to see them as they arrive and grab on.

i like the people who also do tiger qigong. they're a friendly bunch and i have become friends with many of them and been introduced to lots of tiger-adjacent people through them.

that, i think, is what's up with the tiger.

wanna try doing the tiger stuff?



Humans Using AI

big idea, quickly held

oops, i made another web site.

this is one of those situations where you have an idea, and the idea sort of unpacks itself in your mind for a while and it becomes a Big Idea and then it is so cumbersome and fraught with emotion that by the time you begin to work on it the mismatch between the complex shining beauty in your mind and the lump of crap you have started to make is so disappointing that it fizzles out completely and you deny it ever happened. does that ever happen to you? happens to me all the time.

only! except! this time! i struck while the iron was hot and made something and put it out there. i did so following the wise counsel of the heavenly spheres which helped me fell the first domino before i talked myself out of it. even though i haven't made much headway since then (ironically i expect my personal project productivity to skyrocket when i am working at a job again), i've been mulling over what kind of writing i want to do. i don't have a voice yet over there so i'm going to dump some thoughts here and maybe that will help.

every time i've given the "elevator pitch" for this site i have started with a negative definition. like the eternal flowing Dao, it's easier to describe what it is not:

  • hype
  • content marketing for a startup
  • AGI doomerism
  • is it a Mind? is it a Guy?!!
  • get rich quick bullshit
  • make a toy app in 30 seconds bullshit
  • robot makes all the decisions and i am its human thrall bullshit

i just realized tonight that i am doing this precisely because i want to be very clear about the feelings i am trying not to induce. all the shit above has really bad vibes!! it brings up in me a strong mania, like a cosmic godlike power is within arm's reach and i should either grab on and try to claim its power or tear my hair and weep and beg it for mercy. or it pisses me off, like clearly this thread is aimed at a16z so why is it even in my feed.

what if ai but chill though. like 'oh yeah that's cool'. or even 'wow that's exciting!' it just might be possible to squeeze some good vibes out of this technology but i will need to be severely discerning about what kind of personalities and projects i am platforming. it has to be baked into the bones.

so what does get written about? i don't know. how about this?

i know my first actual post will be about my request for a script to help me start new blog posts on this site, one that i ran right before typing these very words. my personal touch with a power that awakened a latent curiousity and empowered me to do things that i long ago told myself i couldn't. removing those sorts of restraints can change a person, lead them to make things they otherwise would have let sit, crystalline and perfect in their heads.

and then i guess i'll see if anyone else has a story like that.

here we go

a tipping point, a qi blast, and plans

my final weeks of unemployment have been characterized by habit-based malaise and terror at the future but out of that froth has come some cool stuff.

the first tipping point was getting my phone use back under control. unfortunately if left unchecked i reach a point where pulling it out of my pocket, unlocking it, and scrolling through twitter is an action that gets baked into some deep subroutine in my brain so i'm doing it before i even know it, and returning to a full lockdown (no fun apps/sites on the phone, ever, at all) has snapped me back to reality in a major way, and i have some momentum to invest in other ventures. even better is my watch empowers me to leave my phone on its charger, or at home while i'm out. i've been daydreaming again, something i forgot was a thing you can do.

i've been putting off qigong as it is poison to procrastination and that part of me has been in charge for a few weeks, so it was built up as a Thing for a while, but friend of the site mycelium mage gave me the right push at the right time to break the dam. part of my block was that my main practice takes a while to do. mage pointed me in the direction of another routine that was simply too short to talk myself out of. it is phenomenal and inspired me to come up with an even shorter version that helps me remember that qigong is something you do all the time and not just when you're actually doing it. good stuff.

all of this freed/generated energy has to go somewhere, especially when i'm not putting it right into my phone, and i've been thinking a lot about ai and all the doors it opens. and i have an Idea. i don't have time to write about it now but i'm excited about it in a way that feels new, and i'm going to do it, i think. so stay tuned on that.

The Aeon

welcome to the new age

I slept fitfully last night. Waking up and checking the timeline, it seemed like I wasn't alone. There was an obvious culprit: the release yesterday of GPT-4, the latest large language model from OpenAI had erupted onto the timeline, bringing unimaginable utility to our fingertips without warning.

I had been sitting on the sidelines of AI discourse, content to let it happen but wary of getting caught up in a hype bubble. There have been a few booms and busts over the years and it remained to be seen if AI chatbots were the vanguard of the future or somewhere closer to a fad. One session with GPT-4 has convinced me of its —and surely its successors'— disruptive potential.

This site has a modern look but I interface with it as a codebase, and each new post is a markdown file in a certain folder with some frontmatter metadata at the top. The header image lives in another folder and needs to be pointed to in the frontmatter, and after I find the image I need to move it to the right directory. These are all simple things but there's a lot of steps and sometimes I mess them up. This is the sort of thing a script might be able to help with.

I asked GPT to generate a groovy script that would, given a filename slug, generate a markdown file with that name in the correct location, with the frontmatter template. And then it did.

In all of 10 seconds I had a script that is immensely useful to me (it's the reason this post exists now vs when I would have had time to make it later) and that would have taken a fair amount of syntax and library research for me to write on my own.

I went back and forth, asking for adjustments that would get the behavior I was looking for, and each time the model spit out a new script that incorporated the changes I asked for in plain english.

When I was ready to run the script I got an error. I just copy pasted the error message into the chat window and the model apologized for using the same variable name twice and spit out a new version of the script that worked. I made the changes by hand, but later I discovered buggy behavior and manually traced it back to me not making the change in all the places I should have. I should have trusted the model!

Now, after maybe 5 minutes of work, I have reduced the amount of copy/pasting, file dragging, and context-switching required to write a new post. This is likely to increase my throughput since the context switching required to get a new post set up is a big friction point to writing at all.

Machines can do this now. This is not a group of early adopters thinking about what things will look like if trends continue, this is here now. I wrote a silly little script in 5 minutes, next I'm going to see if I can write a full-stack app in an hour. I feel like I have to grapple with this right now because it's going to change everything and I'm mostly terrified it's going to make me unemployed again in the near future.

Like what happens now. What do we do with all this surplus product. What happens to the people who don't need it anymore. What do the giant corporations and nation states that run the world do with this technology. How can I protect my family against this, much less get value out of it.

I'm in a position where I can use this to help me make a living, which is exciting. But thinking about the positives or negatives induces mania. I think we all need to be very careful about how we interface with this new thing. It's going to drive some of us crazy.

the drag

misadventures in dopamine

i have a sense memory this morning of waking up after a night of drinking with the taste of stale cigarettes in my mouth. it's been years since i smoked cigarettes and months since i drank, but i know where it's coming from.

i've been indulging lately. thankfully my addiction no longer attaches itself to a substance or behavior that is acutely destructive and overwhelmingly difficult to change, but the base layer is still there. maybe it never goes away, idk. it tells me that i lost my fucking job, of course i can skip all the stupid things i do to make myself feel better and stress eat garbage food and get zooted on caffeine for no reason and live on my phone and etc etc. the language of self-compassion that has something...else underneath.

well guess what i got a fucking job and the stress underlying these impulses has been gone for a few days now so now i just feel my body sagging and shuddering under all of this mindless consumption. but i can't just cool it, no! i have to pick a day and go all out in a crescendo of gluttony, saying goodbye to all my favorite vices with maximum catharsis.

that was yesterday, as i took the kid on an all-day adventure. much fried food and aspartame was had and we had a great time. this morning i get the house to myself, and there's 2 weeks of downtime in my calendar before the rat race begins again, so the coffee is decaf, the chocolate chips are gone, and my phone once again is a boring brick useful for very specific utilities, and maybe my nervous system will once again slowly unlearn the habit of being one tap away from the online shitshow at the expense of any awareness or presence in my actual life.

this is, i'm coming to learn, the raw material i have to shape what my life looks like, today. it's the prima materia. i think about and tweak it all the time and sort of study the outputs. it turns out getting good at breaking cycles makes you aware of the meta-cycles, and maybe that just goes on forever.

i would love to do some qigong, maybe sit for a bit. but there's so much internal resistance. the other day i sort of landed on the idea of qi being the opposite of...whatever this is, and when i can get a regular practice of just being in my body and cultivating energy, this force loses its grip and a torrent of virtuous cycles can germinate after long dormancies. i don't think i'm strong enough today, but maybe i can build a container of mild restraint that will help me get there tomorrow.

how to meditate

what the 'gurus' won't tell you

there's been lots of discourse recently related to meditation and how it is apparently some level up techno mind power thing and it's gone far enough. That's not what it's ABOUT. allow me to enlighten you

ok so you gotta retreat to a calm, quiet space. preferably with cool art on the walls, incense if you've got it. do you have a little bell you can ring? hit that shit

sit on your cool cushion, sit cross legged with your back straight. CLOSE YOUR EYES. it doesn't really matter what you do with your hands, as long as your wrists are resting on your knees and your fingers are twisted up into some cool mystical shit

breathe in, breathe out. you shouldn't have to wait more than 5 seconds before your consciousness is translated fully into a dream realm. it's going to be really zenned out. probably a grassy field or an old tree at night. maybe a fuckin sweet temple with lots of wind chimes

anyway, did you have an old mentor figure that was super important to you? did they die recently in a tragic murder/accident? they're going to be here, waiting for you! if not, idk like an old wise man and/or lady

give em a hug, cry a little. you know you want to. say the thing that you didn't get to, get that closure. that's the good stuff. they'll probably tell you that they're proud of you and you're doing great. you can stop here if you want to

unless you're after a macguffin. you know, the magical artifact that could destroy the world if it falls into the wrong hands. and the bad guy is about to use it. you have one of those? probably. idk if this will apply if not

well the mentor will tell you something like "it was in you all along" or something cool and mind-blowing like that. at this point one of two things happen

scenario 1: you overcame the psychic block that was holding your powers back. snap out of it, buckaroo, because you're basically invincible at this point. go save the world

scenario 2: they're being cute and the macguffin is LITERALLY INSIDE OF YOU. obtain the right OTC medication and get to work

ok I think that just about covers it. lmk if you have any questions

phil's web site

a mission statement for my little patch of internet real estate

in the fall of 2021, when the web3 buzz was its loudest, and momentum seemed to be inevitably propelling us (with the backing of every venture capital cash firehose) toward a future of unescapable wallets and microtransactions and content gating, i tweeted:

Web1 was a bunch of pages with names like “Dan’s Web Site” made from raw unstyled HTML and it contained a 16x16px gif of a shooting star and 3 paragraphs of bright blue text about Nickelodeon shows and people keep trying to convince me that things have improved since then

on my old realname account it was maybe the most engagement i ever got, scoring a fav from a new york times tech reporter and making waves for a day or so. it was fun to reminisce but what's dead is dead, the corporations won and now we do all of our posts on a handful of mega platforms and that's it. maybe it'll all be tokens soon, who knows.

but then twitter began to crumble into a pile of dust and some people started to wonder where they should post if the chaotic maelstrom at the center of the internet ever stopped spinning. sure, mastodon is a thing, but many of us started to think back to the web1 days and dream of owning our experience once again.

it's been beaten into the ground that if a web2 product is free, the product is you, but that's not the complete picture. sure, your eyeballs are important resources to sell to advertisers, but your content is also critical for getting more eyeballs. so you make content that brings more eyeballs and are rewarded with updoots and retoots and maybe a boost from the algorithm to put your very nice content in front of more people, alongside an ad. infinite growth is the name of the game in this economy, so once the dopamine wears off you build a following and start to monetize your audience and they smash that subscribe button and up their patreon and at the peak, companies just give you cash directly for posts. so that's a thing you can do, if you want.

of course these market pressures are toxic and antisocial at every level, incentivizing individual actors and companies to maximize attention at all times, leading to truly bizarre behavior. large platforms now have entire enterprises devoted to pumping out content designed to frustrate and confuse you, because you might hate it but you'll watch til the end and then complain in the comments. so what exactly are we doing here?

web2 started innocently enough. facebook just moved dorm room social webs online, and presented a more polished interface than myspace, who for one shining moment got teenagers to learn css. twitter fully backed into realizing that people want to post "ate a sandwich" and became the hivemind of the internet, and reddit absorbed digg and every web1 forum in epic bacony fashion. they all run on the same resource: we want to express ourselves and be heard and meet new people and feel connected to each other and the world. we want to learn fun facts and see cool pictures and hear awesome music and laugh at funny jokes and partake in human culture. we want to love and be loved. and a bunch of public companies zooted up on infinite financing took all that and alchemized it into stock buybacks and yachts. we got something out of it, but it was more often than not a crude facsimile of the thing we thought we were getting.

so anyway. it seems good and right to not just jump to another huge platform where the experience is controlled by people working at cross purposes. mastodon is a step in the right direction, but you're still at the mercy of the mods, and the whole "fediverse" (i beg you think of a better name for this) introduces friction to the experience. the secret sauce of the web2 value prop is the simple signup form. no credit card required (unless you want 2fa) and if your username is unique you're in. it gets more complicated the farther from big central platform you get, and many have given up on mastodon at the first mention of "server instances". but if it gets more complicated as you decentralize, why not go all the way?

it is not free to make a website. there is a wide spectrum of cost, with one end being easy and quick but expensive, and the other being almost or entirely free of charge but with a massive amount of time and effort required. i chose the latter, and it took getting fired from my job to find the time necessary. not everyone can take this step, but maybe we can build some tools to help. web3 is running a parallel track, and following the spectacular crypto/nft collapse of 2022 i have found them to be much more friendly on the back foot. but the goal is the same: harnessing miraculous technology to give to and get from each other true connection and purpose.

so welcome to my web site. i'm going to continue to build it and put things on it and link to other web sites i like and i hope you come and visit. you can even subscribe to my rss feed if you want.

shooting star gif to follow


i’m logging out of twitter for a few weeks while I look for a new job. last time I took a break from social media I found a job, so this is sort of a rain dance situation. but it’s also sort of what I do. i’m consistently interested in habits, and i’m constantly fucking around with my own to see what happens and to try to feel better about what i’m doing on a more regular basis.

since the kid arrived, I no longer have the willpower to START things frequently (though I guess this blog would disagree) but STOPPING things feels like it takes much less effort. just don’t do it! right now I am currently not consuming caffeine, processed sugar (this one really comes and goes), alcohol, video games, and now twitter.

there’s a thing that happens where you take some dissociative activity out of your quiver and then a time comes where you usually just reflexively do that thing and then you just sit there and notice yourself instead. the downside is that this is hard and it sucks, but turning these moments around goes such a long way toward feeling like you’re spending your time well.

something about being a remote information worker with a toddler in These Times makes me feel like a deep sea fish, my physiology held together by massive atmospheric pressure. take me to the surface and I immediately fall apart. there have been time where my environment has massively depressurized me and I sort of have to keep it all together in a way that seems unintuitive. like having a kid makes it hard to get quality alone time for long stretches, but I know that without my family to take care of I would have sunk into the couch on layoff day and not gotten up for a few weeks.

all of which to say, I don’t really know what relaxing is anymore but denying myself the ability to compulsively remove myself from presence helps. maybe one day I won’t have to do that.

i am an engineer


This picture keeps coming up in my photo widget and every time I see it I think, unbidden, “this is a guy who in 15 years will be paid for his ability to think vigorously.”

I did ok in STEM stuff in high school, but by the time I graduated there was a strong pull, assisted by music and drugs and my near-total lack of executive function, toward the arts and humanities. When double majoring in music and CS because logistically impossible, I chose music, because I liked music, and surely studying it would make me like it more. right?

A disastrous semester that saw me briefly join the Square Root Club (members have a GPA whose square root is greater than the GPA itself) and move back home in disgrace created an opportunity for a reset. I took web development and Java and Linux courses at the community college and prepared to transfer to a larger school to finally finish my CS degree. And then whoops, I discovered tarot cards and the emerald tablet of hermes tresmegistus and switched my major to religious studies at the last possible moment.

Then I worked a bunch of nontechnical jobs at technical companies, and I realized my skills were not valued very highly and easily replaced. plus a lot of service industry jobs sort of get super old after a while. a visit to an art museum in Baltimore triggered an inflection point of extreme dissatisfaction with my material conditions and a desire to grow again, and this coincided with my wife hearing a boot camp ad on the radio.

It’s a cool experience to wonder how things would have been different if you did x and then you just do x anyway. Like timelines converging. Only now that I’m here the long way around, I’m very glad that’s the way I came. It turns out that the humanities help you to be a human, something that people studying exclusively computers their entire lives can forget about. I discovered /r/cscareerquestions, a cursed place that has 2 main types of post: “How do I direct every aspect of my life toward maximizing total compensation at a big 5 tech firm” and “help I make 3/4 of a million a year at google straight out of school and my life fucking sucks.” It turns out that you need social skills and political savvy and a working knowledge of how business works to thrive here, a fact that makes hardcore engineers mad but really helps level the playing field for people like me.

I’m not good at this work. I still feel like a toddler playing with Duplo blocks any time I show my work to my peers with a decade of experience. But I’ve crossed the chasm. I am a wizard, speaking secret incantations to conjure SAAS products from thin air. it’s an amazing stroke of luck that i entered this field at the perfect time and i’ve accrued enough tricks and resume bullet points that getting laid off, a nightmare scenario in other fields, doesn’t feel too scary. Even in a shitty economy, everyone needs wizards.

rip to a real one

in about 45 minutes i’m going to tie off one more loose end of my being shitcanned, which is to ship my work laptop back to wherever laptops go. this was very important to my former company, who sent me an email immediately after telling me I was out to thank me for my service to the company lol jk to let me know that instructions were forthcoming for sending my equipment back.

I should be more upset at the utter disregard for my humanity in their priorities, and the way I was dropped like a sack of potatoes without warning, but truth be told i’m mostly sad right now that I can’t use this computer anymore. it was a big part of the reason I was happy to be working there in the first place.

In 2020 Apple announced a processor architecture migration away from intel and toward their own chips, similar to the ones in iPhones and iPads. Having spent a decade figuring out how to wring performance out of mobile devices with small batteries, the Mac chips were stupid good, a generational leap in power and, more interestingly, thermals. laptops are supposed to make noise and get hot when they’re working hard, but phones and tablets don’t, and neither did these new Macs. some of them didn’t even have fans, some of them did but just never used them.

The MacBook Pro announced in 2021 came with this new architecture, plus it reversed half a decade’s worth of stupid decisions around ports, keyboards, and size to deliver a beefy monster that you could hook anything up to. I watched the announcement event on my phone while driving around a church parking lot with a sleeping infant in the backseat. I wanted one of these things, and then when I got a new job I got one.

You know when you anticipate getting something a long time and then it turns out the waiting was more fun than the having? and then you know the other times when it is actually fucking kickass to have the thing? That’s what this was. I went a little nutty and bought some ludicrously expensive monitors and crafted a desktop setup that I don’t think additional money could have improved. it was perfect.

As I type this, that poor Mac is sitting in its box, saying Hello in every language it knows for its next owner, hopefully someone on my former team that is still stuck on an intel machine. I’m using a different computer, an Intel MacBook that another company I worked for forgot to ask for back, to look for a job that might reunite me with an old friend. the only noise in the room right now is my fingers on the keyboard, and a FUCKING LAPTOP FAN