Madame Bovary

 On the evening when the Bovarys were to arrive at Yonville, Widow Lefrancois, the landlady of this inn, was so very busy that she sweated great drops as she moved her saucepans. To-morrow was market-day. The meat had to be cut beforehand, the fowls drawn, the soup and coffee made. Moreover, she had the boarders’ meal to see to, and that of the doctor, his wife, and their servant; the billiard-room was echoing with bursts of laughter; three millers in a small parlour were calling for brandy; the wood was blazing, the brazen pan was hissing, and on the long kitchen table, amid the quarters of raw mutton, rose piles of plates that rattled with the shaking of the block on which spinach was being chopped.

From the poultry-yard was heard the screaming of the fowls whom the servant was chasing in order to wring their necks.


Anna Karenina

    A silence followed. She was still drawing with the chalk on the table. Her eyes were shining with a soft light. Under the influence of her mood he felt in all his being a continually growing tension of happiness.

“Ah! I’ve scribbled all over the table!” she said, and, laying down the chalk, she made a movement as though to get up.

“What! shall I be left alone—without her?” he thought with horror, and he took the chalk. “Wait a minute,” he said, sitting down to the table. “I’ve long wanted to ask you one thing.”

He looked straight into her caressing, though frightened eyes.

“Please, ask it.”

“Here,” he said; and he wrote the initial letters, w, y, t, m, i, c, n, b, d, t, m, n, o, t. These letters meant, “When you told me it could never be, did that mean never, or then?” There seemed no likelihood that she could make out this complicated sentence; but he looked at her as though his life depended on her understanding the words. She glanced at him seriously, then leaned her puckered brow on her hands and began to read. Once or twice she stole a look at him, as though asking him, “Is it what I think?”

“I understand,” she said, flushing a little.

“What is this word?” he said, pointing to the n that stood for never.

“It means never,” she said; “but that’s not true!”

He quickly rubbed out what he had written, gave her the chalk, and stood up. She wrote, t, i, c, n, a, d.

Dolly was completely comforted in the depression caused by her conversation with Alexey Alexandrovitch when she caught sight of the two figures: Kitty with the chalk in her hand, with a shy and happy smile looking upwards at Levin, and his handsome figure bending over the table with glowing eyes fastened one minute on the table and the next on her. He was suddenly radiant: he had understood. It meant, “Then I could not answer differently.”

He glanced at her questioningly, timidly.

“Only then?”

“Yes,” her smile answered.

“And n... and now?” he asked.

“Well, read this. I’ll tell you what I should like—should like so much!” she wrote the initial letters, i, y, c, f, a, f, w, h. This meant, “If you could forget and forgive what happened.”

He snatched the chalk with nervous, trembling fingers, and breaking it, wrote the initial letters of the following phrase, “I have nothing to forget and to forgive; I have never ceased to love you.”

She glanced at him with a smile that did not waver.

“I understand,” she said in a whisper.

He sat down and wrote a long phrase. She understood it all, and without asking him, “Is it this?” took the chalk and at once answered.

For a long while he could not understand what she had written, and often looked into her eyes. He was stupefied with happiness. He could not supply the word she had meant; but in her charming eyes, beaming with happiness, he saw all he needed to know. And he wrote three letters. But he had hardly finished writing when she read them over her arm, and herself finished and wrote the answer, “Yes.”

“You’re playing secrétaire?” said the old prince. “But we must really be getting along if you want to be in time at the theater.”

Levin got up and escorted Kitty to the door.

In their conversation everything had been said; it had been said that she loved him, and that she would tell her father and mother that he would come tomorrow morning.

Optimizing your life and social acceleration




Perhaps I should have expected to feel wildly out of place at Prepper Camp. I am a vegetarian agnostic feminist in a creative field who sits to the left of most American socialists: I want immediate and radical action to halt climate change; Medicare and free public higher education for all; abortion pills offered for pennies in pharmacies and gas stations; the eradication of billionaires; the destruction of capitalism; and the rocketing of all the planet’s firearms into the sun.

And yet I am also, in the darkest corners of my heart, a doomsday prepper myself. I live in Florida, where hurricane season runs officially from June through November, and both the Gulf and the Atlantic are regularly beset by calamitous storms. It just makes sense, living on that vulnerable spit of land between two roiling, unpredictable bodies of water, to ensure that one’s house has at least a two-month supply of food and at least nine modes of procuring drinking water in case society breaks and city services are cut off. (My family’s are: a rain barrel [1]; filtration straws [2]; a sun oven to pasteurize water with solar heat [3]; a Sawyer Squeeze water-filtration system [4]; a hundred-gallon airtight bladder, to be filled at the first sign of trouble [5]; a gas grill for boiling [6] and, in a pinch, dew collection [7]; iodine tablets [8]; and a tub with a tarp over it to let evaporation run off into a clean bowl [9].) We have medical kits in both of our cars and bug-out bags prepared for each family member, in case we have to flee in minutes. This kind of preparation is all still somewhat in the realm of the normal. Less so: I have negotiated for my family a hideout in New England with a fully stocked tiny house that has a woodstove and solar heat, with forests around it for firewood and cleared land for gardening. There are established fruit trees, water sources, and plenty of wildlife, if necessity forces us to set aside our moral revulsion and kill our fellow creatures for sustenance. In both Florida and New England, I have libraries of foraging and food-storage books; if I don’t always have direct knowledge, I know where to find it. I take boxing classes for self-defense; I have made my children learn archery. I have signed them up, for years, with the Boy Scouts so they will know how to build fires and handle knives safely, even though its soft-focus, quasi–Hitler Youth nationalism makes me queasy.

It is not that I have horrendous visions of an electromagnetic pulse taking out the world’s power grids, or of oil and gas production ceasing and leaving seven billion humans to revert to the pre-industrial era, or even of World War III being launched on an otherwise normal day because Trump can’t resist the urge to push the big red button. But I can see how fragile the institutions of society are and how ever-more frayed they are becoming under the weight of late-stage capitalism. I see in vivid near-hallucinations how climate change will exacerbate every human-rights issue until we cannibalize ourselves. There will be mass displacement, pandemics, tribalist violence, genocide, food and water scarcity, deforestation, desertification, cities underwater. The warming planet, the mass extinction that has already begun, the fact that I need my children to live at least beyond the span of my own life: these things murmur in my ears, give me waking nightmares. Such profound eschatological horror can only be slain by action. I ready myself for as many possibilities as I can so that I may keep my raging anxiety under control.



33 chains


Humanity's strengths and weaknesses

 Humanity's strengths and weaknesses

Things were designed to do:
Think about sex
Feed ourselves every day 
Put ourselves and our family above others 

Things we have learned to do:
Delay gratification 

Things we still can’t do:
Solve large-scale collective action problems 
Perform long-term strategic thinking 

 The quality and diversity of people in a city mirrors its extant housing stock.

Covid Reflections

 Covid Reflections

Folks have done a lot of reflecting through Covid. Here are some of my takeaways, brain farts:

Neanderthal theory: Trump is a dinosaur. We can proactively decide, based on science, who is fit to lead a nation of 330 million and who is not. Our politicians, our senators, our process is a dinosaur that needs to be modernized, else we will get eaten alive by other nations.

We are in the clutches of a madman. What we hold dear about democracy could be lost.  It places a weight, unnecessary weight upon each of us. We must search our feelings for the will to rebel against fascist demonstrations of power and consolidation of power at the highest levels of government and justice.  What job opportunities for our children will be available in a world controlled by Trump and people like him?   

Covid is actually the perfect opportunity/demonstration for Rawlsian justice: if you don’t take care of the poorest, the richest will get sick, as opposed to aids, poverty, race, etc. that can be segregated to a defined group and the group can be made to suffer. In fact the people that are least compliant, least likely to wear masks, are most likely to feel the pain of this wrathful Covid gd.     

We have made the robots that have taken over and they are corporations with one primal directive: profit over human health, wealth, or security. Corporations globally need to adhere to a new set of rules.

Instead of it's the economy stupid, it's the stupids, stupid. Why would people ignore the dangers of Covid. It's way way too complicated for them to wrap their heads around (e.g. how it's transmitted, etc.)

For decades after the fall of Hitler, Germans had intense shame that they could have followed a fascist into a war a that murdered 6 million+ people and destroyed their country. What needs to happen for Republicans to wake up? Do we need to get invaded by another country? Do we need to go bankrupt? Does everyone need to lose a family member or friend to Covid?

If you make over 100K, your should be thinking about how you can get involved in public governance. Folks are vastly underequipped to step up.  We need to raise wages for elected officials so they are competitive with the best and brightest industries. We need competency over here. 

The idea that normal, everyday people would have to be charged with the idea of remaking society or bringing back the equity of another generation, which was never good, blows my mind.

We are destroying the earth, that much is clear. This is the point at which the smallness of the earth is catching up to us. We have had stupid, pigheaded leaders before, but there was only so much destruction they could wreak.

Towards a new model of global governance. Trump and leaders like him are dangerous to the health and well-being of the world. Simply from a personality characteristic point of view, he would most certainly get us all killed quickly if he or someone like him were to reign despotically for a long time. What are the characteristics of despots and potential despots and how can they be identified early?

We need to make a commitment to stopping global warming in its tracks, whatever the cost, and devising new strategies to live at a high quality of life for a long period of time, including population control.

The lesson from Collapse (Jared Diamond) is not simply that the world could fall apart, but the scale on which it could happen.

We are re-imagining the world and a government ready for the 21st century and not living in the 19th or 20th. We have a 18th century Constitution for a 21st century Republic. Time for a 2.0.

Silence is complicity.

I wish we had a 10-year anti-poverty pledge in Durham that had some teeth.

Take as an assumption that instability has been more common in Human history than stability
So why do we assume that we will get out of this jam of global warming, resource depletion, global governance, war, without new solutions?

Covid has helped me see with a great clarity that the political process is inherently broken, that a governor might decide how many people live or die in a state, based on when they put a stay-at-home order in place or whether they hired more or less contact tracers and testing infrastructure.

(April 2020)
Why don't we have sophisticated contact tracing?
Why don't we know where covid patients live?
What is going to be the result of 2 trillion dollars worth of assistance
Epidemiologist academics have failed us. The industry is engineered to generate papers, not praxis.
Why is there not more (bilingual) community and state-level messaging?

What did we learn from Covid

1. We need leaders and processes and governance that is results oriented.

2. We need global governance to solve global collective action problems, backed up with real money (Covid, climate change, resource depletion, food and water scarcity, nuclear proliferation).

3. Power is actually held by a small number of people, and it trickles down.  The president, governors, etc.

4. We need better leadership. Well now everyone should run for every city council position, every school board position. We need the Reverend Barbers, the Bomani Joneses, the Roger Bennetts, the John Olivers to actually take the elected positions, and the highest ones they can attain or be appointed to.

5. In the absence of power, all we can do is educate.

6. I retain: the capacity to determine my own fate; the capacity to make changes; the capacity for self-expression.

The coming recession