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“There have been hard conversations and tears along the way. Early on, trying to make sense of her family’s relationship with the people they enslaved, Marshall shared her family’s narrative about Hester: that she was so close with the Marshall family that she opted to stay with them after the Civil War. But the Mosleys reframed the story for Marshall: As a penniless Black woman, where else could she have gone?”

A powerful, painful article. The wounds caused by the immense sin of slavery and attempts to cast people as subhuman take generations to heal – and we are still within living memory of outright segregation (not the much subtler kind that occurs still today). But, there is always hope.

“Such a result, even if only in monkeys, might lead regulators to decide that human embryo models deserve to be treated like embryos, with all the attendant restrictions. Some researchers feel that we urgently need a new definition of an embryo to offer clarity and keep pace with the scientific advances. If there is good reason to suppose an embryo model has the potential to generate viable offspring, we will need to either accept the regulatory implications or find ways to nullify that potential.”

More than ever, we are grappling with the slippery concept of a soul, and are losing our way steadily without any clear definition of a person. However, to do so, will require brutal recalculation of what we’ve allowed to occur for decades, e.g., turning the other way when it’s clear our profitable trading partners are casually committing genocide, modern slavery in the Middle East, abortion.

“I can’t think of many scenes that are flourishing right now, which may account for the shortage of geniuses. Scenes are the soil in which geniuses sprout and flourish. Of course, some geniuses really are solitary; Isaac Newton did not go down to the alehouse to quaff beers and talk celestial mechanics. But more often, genius is a social phenomenon. Brian Eno coined the term “scenius” to describe an ecology of artists, entrepreneurs and thinkers from which brilliant individuals are spawned.

I’m interested in what makes a particular place and moment susceptible to scenius. It might be a random efflorescence; an accident of time, people, and place. It might have deep-rooted economic causes. Athens became more intellectually advanced than Sparta or anywhere else partly because trade made it richer and busier; Florentine artists benefited from the surplus of the banking industry. It might be a rebellion of the artists against the culture’s gatekeepers: Parisian Impressionism emerged when young painters, dissatisfied with the strictures of the Academy, hooked up with a network of gallery-owners, dealers, and critics outside of the official system.”

Turns out that any innovation in fields is often best based on or informed by a firm foundation in classical principles, much like any physical structure.

“Who is really affected by “Affirmative Action”? From how it’s discussed, you would think “Affirmative Action” affects a wide swathe of the black and Hispanic public. But you’d be wrong. 

By Princeton sociologist Thomas Espenshade’s estimate, in any given year, only 1 percent of black and Hispanic 18-year olds get into a college as a result of racial preferences. The other 99 percent either don’t go to college at all or don’t go to colleges selective enough to “need” racial preferences. Schools with acceptance rates over 50% generally don’t use affirmative action.”

Never honestly had much of an axe to grind with affirmative action beyond its potential inefficiency. MLK’s plan for a “GI Bill” for the poor cited in this article (h/t to my pal Teddy Kim for this one, btw) made far more sense. However, now it is on its way out, a good reflection on its pros and cons.

“Before plants arrived, some researchers think, crusts of microbes could have helped prepare the land by transforming bare rock into fertilized soil. A biocrust well adapted to extreme conditions could take hold of a suitable substrate that held nutrients and was regularly moistened with fog. By gradually weathering the rocks and stabilizing the sediment as soil, it could alter the environment in a way that promoted the development of higher organisms.”

The more we learn about the intricacies of nature, it is clear that life is astoundingly resilient, it is everywhere and supremely capable of adaptation… but that doesn’t mean there aren’t losses along the way.


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“Deneen argues that this version of conservatism will eventually come to replace liberalism as America’s governing philosophy through a process that he calls “regime change.” But as is often the case with Deneen, he is frustratingly coy about what “regime change” actually entails or how it will unfold. In his latest book, he argues that regime change will require “the peaceful but vigorous overthrow of a corrupt and corrupting liberal ruling class,” making way for a new, postliberal order in which “existing political forms remain the same” but are informed by “a fundamentally different ethos.” This new regime will be “superficially the same” as the current political order, but it will be led by a new class of conservative elites who share the values of non-elites and govern in their interests.”

One of the many frustrations of the American political system is the way it is literally designed for gridlock, for slow, grinding change, if any change at all. But there is a wisdom in that. Part of the frustration I have with much of the postliberalism discourse is the tacit wink toward “our side” wielding the exact same level of power that we decry only when our opponents wield it. I’m all for decreasing federal power, as it definitely has ballooned to scary levels – but the solution isn’t to blow everything up or embrace near-total control of government by one political party, as in Hungary. The solution is to strike the balance. The often-seeming lunatic fringes are currently being exploited by cynical players such as Trump on the right or Democratic players for the left. Most of us are in the middle, bewildered.

“You can always try to create an oasis of freedom in the middle of civilization. You might succeed. But I would bet on it being short-lived. In 1970, Nigerian musician Fela Kuti declared that his commune in Lagos, named Kalakuta, was an independent nation. The commune housed not only Fela, his friends and family, and his recording studio, but a free clinic. A thousand armed soldiers of the military junta of Nigeria stormed it and burned it to the ground some years later. Fela’s mother was thrown from a window and killed.”

The type of exurban “fringe” lifestyle described in the article is likely to grow only more popular as culture wars intensify until either outright conflict happens, or a bigger war unites many, such as is semi-happening with the CCP and concerns around big tech’s power. The author makes a good point however that such a life frankly is hard, with any type of living close to the land always requiring more effort than many would like to exert. Where can we find the balance?

“The mining industry has always provided an economic justification for the displacement and exploitation of people all over the world: the colonization of the Americas for gold, silver, iron, and copper; blood diamonds in West and Central Africa; child labor in cobalt mines in the DRC; and thousands of deaths linked to paramilitaries financed by multinational mining companies in Colombia. The move to renewable energy will likely expose the poorest people on the planet to more of the same from these fierce extractive forces.”

The true environmental costs of lithium and other minerals mining truly is not being calculated well at all. This “gold” rush is going to barely offset emissions that much, when the cost of mining, extraction, refining, transport, processing and so on occurs. Furthermore, consumer transportation isn’t even that large a chunk of overall emissions.

“Those who maintain a celibate witness in the Church, especially diocesan priests, cultivate the art of Eucharistic and spousal accompaniment by cultivating the dimension of depth in the Church, creating in their hearts by their oblation a space of love for me and for everyone in the Church. John Paul II says in Vita Consecrata §59 that this “space in the heart” is a Eucharistic space, and so the mark of a “spousal” existence, which, in its single-hearted devotion to Christ, is a devotion to all whom Christ loves. This is the “sacramental ‘mysticism’” to which Benedict XVI refers in Deus Caritas Est (§14).[7]–JXiPyPdT0iWZVU794w1sLIHcv4Ik83XGfoK5xRFvi202cnOifDf4hFarPY6pkihIF6tR3miDIhGmdcLYLmMAICHaKzmHwHkRM2_9rUgYYFbMekcc&utm_content=261316716&utm_source=hs_email

A beautiful essay about something that seems absurd to our sex-obsessed modern age, which somehow is both Puritan and also pornographic. Celibacy is simultaneously, paradoxically, complicated and simple, yet the simple part often seems left out: What better way to wholeheartedly focus on a particular calling while witnessing it as a cherished lifestyle, paying homage to the value of marriage by doing so, than in remaining celibate?

“Might it not be the case that our collective hostility to totalitarianism (whether we define that as “fascism,” per the Left, or as “communism,” per the Right) is itself an attempt to divert attention from the possibility that we ourselves, as a liberal democracy, are and always have been a totalitarian state in the making?”

One of the most unpopular things to do in the right kind of gathering is to slowly (or bluntly, if you’re rude like I often am) establish to people how similar we all are. To my extreme lib friends (and rest assured I’ve fallen into the same signaling trap, having done the whole black screen Instagram post back in June 2020), I like to note how Black Lives Matter and anti-racist movements oftentimes advocate for segregated safe spaces, similar to how Jim Crow legal systems also advocated – of course, the response is that it’s for entirely different reasons… but is it still not ironic that that is the end case? To my extreme conservative friends, on the other hand, it is very fun to note how their embrace of certain politicians really does smack of the “ends justify the means” and especially as of late, it’s fascinating how some have swung all the way from Reaganesque support of embattled Eastern Europeans to decrying any aid sent to Ukraine even though demagogue and dictator Putin is hellbent on essentially imposing a Communist-lite (at best) system on free people struggling to break free of the decadeslong hell of Russian dominance. There is no political line – it is a perfect circle. If you go far enough one way, you end up at the other. Nazis are Communists and Communists are Nazis.

“But as the crisis Cobbett chronicled continues and acquires global proportions, with industrial agribusiness waging an unceasing war against nature, we stand in desperate need of new ways of relating to the earth. Those new ways will no doubt include the dignity, thrift, and productivity of the cottage economy that Cobbett celebrated in Rural Rides and which he himself practiced. In the end, Cobbett gestures toward the possibility that we might inhabit the earth without abusing it or each other; he contemplates how to take what we need for survival and possibly, if improbably, contribute to the flourishing of all the creatures with whom we share the natural world. In the kind of paradox Cobbett delighted in, the key to our future might very well lie in the wisdom of the past.”

This piece is lovely, tracing a mostly forgotten forefather of what would be called conservationism nowadays: William Cobbett. But the piece does more than just trace his contributions – it reminds and is related to the prior article as it notes how commons used to exist and serve a great purpose for the working classes/rural poor. Note, however, that the commons were not the Commune. Communism revolted against capitalism and took everything to an impractical, illogical extreme: no private ownership (unless of course you were wealthy and in the eventual oligarchy that defines every Communist system). Current capitalistic structures in the US go too far in the other direction, allowing unprecedented concentration of land ownership in a few hands. Owning your own piece of land is not a guarantee of good stewardship or even involved civic action, but it is better than nothing, especially if there are incentives to garden, till, etc. on it.


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“Harassment of marine observers aboard fishing vessels is one of the industry’s worst-kept secrets. In a survey of observers in the United States alone, about half said that they had been harassed on the job. Anecdotally, Liz Mitchell, president of the Association for Professional Observers (APO) and herself a former observer, says the APO routinely logs stories of such incidents. The APO’s website describes them in detail: observers locked in their rooms, threatened at knifepoint, chased around docks, forced to accept bribes, raped, starved, pressured to sign off on sustainability criteria. Conditions in the South Pacific are among the worst.

This is the true price of a can of tuna, that lucrative shelf-stable fare that whips from the Pacific Ocean onto grocery shelves like millions of widgets flung from a slingshot. Amid rising numbers of marine observers allegedly murdered and disappeared at sea, Cagilaba’s story underscores how little words like “sustainably caught” and “certified” may mean when it comes to protecting the humans in the supply chain. And how much grocery and retail brands profit anyway.”

Candidly had never really thought about this, but it makes sense – how do rules get enforced, apart from observation or all-powerful satellites? Ethics are hard to enforce uniformly if at all in super complex supply chains.

“Trible and Kronauer’s new findings turn the previous assumptions on their head. Their alternative scenario focused on the pair of mismatched supergenes in the clonal raider ants. Sometime in history, one of those ants had experienced a mutation that replaced the supergene on one chromosome with a copy of the supergene from the other chromosome. The resulting mutant ant with two copies of the “parasitic” version of the supergene could have suddenly developed into a miniature queen that looked a lot like an inquiline.

The work showed that a single mutation in a supergene was sufficient to produce the full suite of changes observed in the obligate parasites, even before the ants were split by speciation.”

The more we learn about evolution, the more it is clear that mutations and Lamarckian leaps can happen much faster than may be suspected, it seems.

“But this paradigm ignores the fact that not all identity categories are interchangeable or operate with the same currency, and some identities are much more powerful, and dangerous than others. Race and ethnicity in particular have the potential to ignite conflicts within societies in a manner without parallel. Any conflict rooted around fixed identities can only end in zero-sum games. Someone wins. Someone loses. Always.”

A carefully couched essay but one with an undeniably powerful point – most wars are spawned by greed, but the absolute worst are those forged by identity, e.g., Thirty Years’ War, Balkan internecine conflicts, Reconquista, Civil War, etc.

“Late in the podcast, producer Dana Chivvis reflects that if Adnan really is innocent, he must be among the unluckiest people alive given the convergence of incriminating evidence. “To make [Adnan] completely innocent of this,” she concludes dubiously, “you just have to think ‘God … you had so many terrible coincidences that day … you had such bad luck that day, Adnan.’” Consciously or not, Chivvis is reverse-engineering how circumstantial evidence can be used to prove guilt.”

Pretty sobering that in the Internet era someone who is so obviously guilty can be freed even briefly – then again thanks to dying legacy media TV’s desperation, Twitter and other social media even a nincompoop like Donald Trump can get elected, so perhaps we deserve the world we are creating.

“Confronting a possible 90% increase in electricity usage would require a large build-out of additional generating capacity, especially if we don’t want to overload the grid. Many will be surprised to learn, however, that there are already over two terawatts of proposed new power generation waiting to come online in interconnection queues. This delay is the result of proposed power generators needing to hear back from regulators and other stakeholders about how and when their generators could be connected to the grid, how much it would cost, and who would be able to pay.

So the only thing standing in the way of the United States producing three times as much power in the next couple of years is not the scarcity of renewable power generation, but rather the regulatory and logistical bottleneck of connecting this new power to the grid.”

It seems increasingly likely that we won’t really enter a phase shift of seriously committing to upgrading our grid unless the first big calamity really happens, or perhaps, we do end up having a grindingly slow period of upgrading. But rolling blackouts in California for years now don’t seem to be doing much as of yet.

He continued: “This is a realm where we have no experience and no understanding of the possibilities, but they’re going to be very good at manipulation. And if they’ve got any sense, they won’t let us know that they’re much smarter than us. I’m not confident about any of these conclusions. But I’m confident that there’s not nothing to worry about.”  

I suggested to Hinton that he was imputing to AI models motives we do not know they have. He anthropomorphised large language models throughout our conversation. He agreed that the motives of existing AIs are unknown, in so far as they have motives at all, but he thinks they will look to acquire more control so as to achieve the goals we set them. This is an open-ended risk. Hinton is trusting his intuition, having learned to do so over the decades in which his ideas were long ignored. His rise to pre-eminence as the first “god-father of AI” is recent. “My intuition is: we’re toast. This is the actual end of history.”

There are plenty of valid concerns around AI but I think we haven’t yet really defined terms, even. Everyone who believes AI will get more intelligent overall seems to vaguely speak of intelligence in various different ways, but mostly how an idiot-savant is technically more intelligent than I… at a couple distinct things, normally. I think the bigger concern is that AI borrows agency from existing, documented maladies online in medical literature, based on faulty instructions, but ultimately, it won’t ever gain its own agency. That’s because we can’t create agency, at all – we are human, not divine. Our procreation accidentally creates agency, after all.


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“Research from linguistics demonstrates that the metaphors humans use to speak about time are profoundly embodied. Human bodies are directional, meaning our physiology has a direction: it faces forwards. Consider the positioning of our eyes or limbs, which are all oriented toward one direction. This embodied reality means that we are more capable of moving and acting on objects in front of us than behind. We also think about time in a similar way. Consider expressions like ‘we are going into the weekend’ or ‘we’ve left the past behind’. In both sayings, we move forward into the future and away from the past. These are examples of what is known as the ‘ego-moving’ metaphor, in which time is construed as unidirectional, with the future in front of us and the past behind us.”

The concept of time is fascinating – to misquote: “The past isn’t gone – it isn’t even past.” If we live rooted in the past, can we truly move forward? If we all live as forward-looking, are we truly living in our present, in any meaningful sense? We have to look out for our future selves to some degree, but we can’t avoid living well for ourselves (sometimes it’s okay to eat a donut, ya know?).

“From the front porch, you could say hello to passers-by, exchange a few words with your next-door neighbors as they came home from work (no big garages to drive into in those old neighborhoods!), wave at the school kids on their way to the middle school across the street, greet the postman. And if someone stopped to ask about the irises in the front beds, or to pet the dog, or to ask directions, the porch was a place you could invite them into; a place visible enough to mitigate major risk, but homelike enough to offer comfort and care.”

Practical tips are always at the root of tradition. In this fun brief piece, the author notes how porches are simply practical for hospitality, and, thinking back, I do recall being more at ease just in people’s clearly more open spaces, especially porches, than say anything private like a bedroom. There is a distinct sense of ease that evades in any alternate-functional places.

“It’s hardly surprising, then, that many homesteaders also advocate localism, whose goal is to build resilient and sustainable communities by prioritising local resources and production, and instilling a kind of civic pride of place and belonging. According to Lasch, what he calls “particularism” was an antidote to the progressive idea that we could or should love every citizen of the world in the same way we love the members of our families or communities. He pointed to people such as Willa Cather, who spoke to the particularities of place, attributing ‘Nebraska’s vigour and prosperity to the presence of Bohemian, Scandinavian, and German immigrants’.”

Increasingly I am of the opinion that the US needs a blatant Homestead Act 2.0. As progressives and conservatives alike bemoan the hollowing out of small towns, we have to acknowledge the typical American won’t want to live there or farm or do the hard work necessary to keep them alive. But you know who would? The millions of impoverished desperate people in the Global South, that would jump at free property on at least decently healthy soil, in a peaceful country.


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“In the mid-2000s, researchers sifted through 15,000 studies on self-esteem. They found just 200 matching their rigorous standards. Of those 200 studies, few if any backed up the claims of the self-esteem movement.”

Although there are fortunately much more productive therapeutic sessions out there for many I know, one oddity I’ve noticed also about so much of the narrative of “self-love” and “working on myself” and such is that a lot of it doesn’t seem to ever be about a concrete, external achievement or trait. I do think it is very important for people to confront their own fears, neuroses, wishes and flaws head on, which is what I gather “working on myself” and also tracing back why exactly we may consistently stumble in some areas. However, how do we then move to the positive, post-processing stage and counter with action? I’m at much as fault as anyone else in this, as it’s far easier to just read endlessly as a form of entertainment and knowledge absorption than to put it into practice and risk failure, but eventually DOING something does seem to often be a missing piece.

“Scythes are a great example of a simple human tool that we replaced with more complex ones to dubious benefit. They can work as fast as a lawnmower, according to David Tressemer in The Scythe Book, and without any fuel or electricity. In a fuel or economic crisis they could easily be adopted again, if people knew what they were and how to wield them.”

The romanticism of agrarian/pastoral life is likely to persist given the ills of modernity and urbanism, but I don’t quite see it coming back in any full swing. It’s simply too dang hard. That said, perhaps some happy medium between semi-urban, suburban existences and plenty of gardens and orchards could happen? Another key point in this piece is that tradeoffs always exist, but also, there may be unintended consequences from abandoning older technology before we realize full ramifications of its loss.

” ‘If China moves one-tenth of its manufacturing value added to India, it doubles the size of the Indian manufacturing sector,’ Cormie told Institutional Investor in an interview.”

I don’t really expect the CCP to go gently into that good night, but a weaker China is better news for all – for at least a time. We should be wary and recall the lessons learned from the 1990s in Russia, as oligarchs ran amok.


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“The negative spaces that exist in baseball—the time that exists between pitches or between moments of action on the field—are features, not bugs, of baseball. The silences are, in fact, part of the beauty of the game, part of what gives space for viewers to enter into the leisure necessary for contemplation. But over the past forty years, these negative spaces took over.”

This piece waxes a bit mystical about baseball, but there is something undeniably fascinating about its power in terms of luck, individual talent, team dynamics, etc. It is a truism that the hardest thing to do in professional sports is hit a major league fastball, while also team dynamics can sink pretty much any contender despite individual talent (looking at you, redundantly named SoCal baseball team).

“If you don’t need to know the syntax for Pandas to move your data analysis from Excel to something better, and if you don’t need to remember the name of some obscure feature you use every few months, do you need to remember… anything?


True – we can’t neglect the physiology of the brain and its peculiar power of associative context and common sense filters. As noted later in the piece, memorization is key no matter what, as knowing which pathway and tools to take is the only way to actually capitalize on the power of our tools.

“The team found that within the structure of the interlocked molecules, the OR51E2 had trapped propionate within a small pocket. When they enlarged the pocket, the receptor lost much of its sensitivity to propionate and to another small molecule that normally activates it. The tweaked receptor preferred larger odor molecules, which confirmed that the size and chemistry of the binding pocket tunes the receptor to detect only a narrow set of molecules.”

It’s fascinating how much physical structure and motion play into sense perception; it’s an oft-neglected aspect of biological systems that everything is in motion and constantly contorting, which lends orders of magnitudes of complexity.


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Trying out a new thing to better my recall and find connections between all the various things I have read as of late. So, some thoughts:

““Large language models work better than any system we have ever had before,” said Pascale Fung, an AI researcher at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. “Why do they struggle with something that’s seemingly simple while it’s demonstrating amazing power in other things that we don’t expect it to?” Recent studies have finally started to explain the difficulties, and what programmers can do to get around them. But researchers still don’t understand whether machines will ever truly know the word “no.”

Thought: It’s hard to program negation perhaps because it is difficult to infer mistakes? Most of the time most of what we do is make mistakes – we just have built up a society of safety nets that can tolerate a lot of that, plus social structures. And as most of that is common sense and unwritten, it is very hard for LLMs or other models to learn how to handle that – also potentially worth noting it’s extremely hard to mathematically weight all possible avenues/reasons why something is “no”?

“…hell is founded on God’s love. It is not a place where God exacts endless retributive punishment from those whose sins do not merit what they receive there. It is the condition of those who reject the love that God bathes them in—to the extent to which they will allow it.”hell is founded on God’s love. It is not a place where God exacts endless retributive punishment from those whose sins do not merit what they receive there. It is the condition of those who reject the love that God bathes them in—to the extent to which they will allow it.”

Thought: A very useful clarification of something I’ve struggled with in the past. We create our own hells, in short.

“…The new creed does not take animals to be natural automata, but it does find a gulf between the brutes and us: no non-human animal has a sexed soul. And as to sex, maybe non-human animals unproblematically come in female and male varieties, but as far as humans are concerned—as my old sparring partner Robin Dembroff puts it—the notion that female and male are “universal, stable and discrete categories … is false.” To think otherwise is to be “ignorant of the history and sociology of sex categorization.”

Thought: Much like critical race theory, what perplexes me is that if gender is a construct, then we can’t even hope to organize beyond a “human person” category, as there could be endless varieties of genders. But then, how does one even know one is correct? Nothing matters, all is relative to either feelings and/or appearance.

“Many waypoint names are gibberish, but others are more colourful – DRAKE in the English Channel (for Sir Francis); BARBQ near Kansas City; WHALE in the Mediterranean, off Benghazi. When descending to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, fans of the Tweety and Sylvester cartoons will enjoy this sequence: ITAWT ITAWA PUDYE TTATT (followed by IDEED). The authorities in the US, more than most countries, have made a habit of writing five-letter distillations of history and culture onto the sky; as passengers never encounter them, this is for no reason other than that it might be fun for pilots to fly to and from them. And so it is.”

Thought: Had no idea on this and human creativity at its best is always a joy.


What Is Freedom?

Is it discipline, as recently adherents of former military members have started to proclaim? Maybe? Is it the right to determine your own path in life? Well, that’s a bit hard to do under the best circumstances; for example, much of the unconscious messaging in Marxism or critical race theory (a pseudo-Marxist school of thought) seems rather hopeless, for example, as the power structures of whiteness and/or the patriarchy are so entrenched it apparently will be an eternal struggle against them. And those are the narratives of liberation en vogue nowadays. So is freedom then the more classical, rationalist interpretation enshrined by New Deal Democrats via FDR – the freedom from want, freedom from fear, etc.?

My answer isn’t novel but I do think it is a bit of a spin: Freedom is the chance to choose our limits. And in reality, that means that most of us can be free, if we’d only so choose. We always will have limits, as that is the human condition. There will always be someone smarter, faster, stronger, prettier, happier, sweeter, harder-working… But much of what we believe to be our limits are unconsciously chosen by ourselves. And then, if we so choose, what we must then do is accept. My choice of enjoying beers on a weekly basis means I must accept having a much harder route toward a slimmer stomach. Our choice of living in a given state means that we may enjoy much gentler weather, but usually at the expense of higher taxes.

Some limits are imposed on us and are beyond our control. I can’t port my healthcare insurance that easily or cheaply beyond what is tied to my job, for example. Our form of government currently enrages many, with the common complaint that a vote in Wyoming shouldn’t count more than a vote in LA from an electoral perspective (I can’t help myself and must note that it’s pretty obvious most people in LA all have similar concerns but that doesn’t mean they should apply to the vastness of the entire country). But living here is a choice made – it is not necessarily easy to leave a country, but it is not impossible. So that is a limit chosen, although not all have the means to escape that said limit, so it’s a mix.

Today, on the Independence Day celebrated in the US, we should remember that our freedom is a chance to choose our limits. To choose where and how we want to live in large part, and which limits that we can’t control we must accept. And, perhaps, for those limits we have slowly begun to realize we have imposed on ourselves, to be reexamined.


America the Beautiful

It’s easy to take exception to American exceptionalism. But to do so is to miss the mark, for the perversion of American exceptionalism into “America is the greatest country in the world” is just that, a perversion. Recently, I took a road trip of approximately 3,000 miles across much of the US that did remind me of what real American exceptionalism is. American exceptionalism is not that America is the best at any single thing, or even a host of things, but rather that it is an exceptional project, a grand unfinished symphony (to quote Lin-Manuel Miranda).

Across bone-dry desert flats, we saw staggering beauty in red rocks and trackless wastes of dust and salty alkali, only interrupted by a kind call from the hotel clerk that the restaurant would be closed due to a holiday so we should grab a bite elsewhere before we arrived; across rolling green hills in Texas hill country, we had a tire tear apart and were salvaged in minutes by a highway patrol officer with far better tools, only to be followed up by a stranger couple that let us know their friend was just closing up his tire shop down the road and may still be around to help us get a brand-new tire, not our spare; across cool forests and salty ocean breezes, we marveled at the grandeur of ancient redwoods that had been conserved by tireless environmentalists decades before; at a classic American diner in Oregon we had our meal paid for by a cook, for reasons unknown…

No country is perfect, all countries are great in different ways due to their natural splendor and, most of all, due to the people who make it their home. That’s the reality of American exceptionalism – not that Americans are all exceptional, but that at our best, as part of the American project, we try to be, and we try to make our political system, our nation, our culture, a place where anyone can try to be as well.


Wait For It: One More Game

There is no order in the following, because no life is neat and tidy. Any mistakes are my own, but all the sentiments are honest and true.

Play ball!

It took until your return to Seattle for us to truly begin dishing about baseball. You taught me a lot, which was pretty easy, because I knew next to nothing. If one searched our text thread, I am pretty sure the phrase “Tim, are the mariners…good?” would likely come up quite frequently, mainly because it was very fun to send a diehard fan such a text right after a surprising win or even a good play (such is the nature of diehard fans, especially Mariners fans, that they’ll grasp at any faint lining of hope). Ironically, because you were very good at slowly inculcating your own passions in others, I have sadly also now become that most unfortunate of creatures: a Seattle Mariners fan. Got me there, Tim! I never got to go to enough games with you, for what seem now like nowhere nearly good enough reasons beyond, well, having an infant son and/or daughter…which seem pretty good come to think of it.

The thing is, though, that baseball as a sport really does serve as a good introduction to much of you. Baseball is characterized by history, by knowledge of arcana, by humor, by romance, by passion (162 games is passion, I don’t care what you may say)…and more. But those things really stand out when you think of Tim Cantu. Speaking of history (via a hefty dose of music, so let’s do a twofer)…

History, courtesy of Hamilton

Perhaps nobody loved Hamilton as much as you. I know for a fact you identified with Lin-Manuel Miranda (in some ways, not all) and Hamilton for a host of reasons, not the least of which your passionate patriotism. However, I’d like to issue once again a thanks for putting up with the sheer volume of Hamilton quotes I slung your way over the years, even if the association to whatever we were discussing was tenuous at best. Of course you then felt free to do the same – this is the same man who texted me within hours of his first son being born quoting Hamilton: “Pride is not the word I’m looking for/There is so much more inside me now”. I recall you once criticized me for being too Burr-like, quoting the song “Wait for It”. It was a fair critique overall, if not at that specific incidence, which was one piece of advice you gave me that I’ll hold now forever.

Hamilton was really just the surface of it though. Perhaps unsurprisingly given your profession, you had a truly epic nerdy command of much of history and politics, and were nearly as addicted to Twitter as some I’d prefer not to name at this time, which gave much great fodder for lunchtime conversations (and overly early beers). Also, I have to give you kudos for always being the one to reach out to organize lunches, though that was not the most surprising, given your social predilections.

Miscellany: A man of the people

A great writer and good friend of ours, one Patrick Brown, noted today:

It is easy to attest to that statement, having been on the sidelines for much of it. I grew up with Tim, although it took until recent years to become much better friends. You were not only a good man who pursued his vocation of husband and father nobly, but also a true extrovert who freely admitted being type A, who loved socializing and bringing people together. I recall college football watches with smorgasbords of food; the time I got quite peeved at you while you were hosting a houseparty for correctly predicting the Patriots would come back from being down 28-3 against the Falcons; the October 2019 wedding I was graced enough to attend with you and all your family that featured an unforgettable choreographed crowd version of “The Git-Up” that you performed with more gusto than maybe anyone else in the crowd…

There’s more, trust me. But no list need be exhaustive. Moreover, candidly, I don’t have the heart anymore, right now. Let’s just reiterate that I saw firsthand more care and devotion and dedication to his vocation – his family, his core people – from Tim across his whole life than I have seen elsewhere in much of the rest of my life. It is a true inspiration, to which those who knew him will be forever grateful.

Music: An American dream

It’ll be a little while before I can listen to J.S. Ondara’s Tales of America (a fantastic album) because that was probably one of the best recommendations I ever got from you. Also, by the way, can I issue another thanks for being one of my few pals who got even the most esoteric musical references I would drop, especially hip-hop’s deepest cuts? That said, given your sheer level of passion and the fact you tended to have an opinion (erring on the strong side usually) on most things, maybe I should now also issue my first apology for the numerous times I would disagree for the sheer hell of it. Right now, I am listening to Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony, which I steadfastly maintained to you eclipsed every Beethoven symphony ever. Do I really believe that? Never really did, but it was always fun to needle you a little given how reliably you rose to the occasion. By the way, why the Resurrection Symphony? Well…

Home is where the heart is

It may be entirely due to an extreme bias against Tuesdays in general, but my memory vaguely recalls that I got a text from you on a Tuesday a long time ago that you were either going in once again to doublecheck if you had oral nodules or had just received your diagnosis.

Since then, words fail to convey how hard you fought for the sake of your family and friends. Tim Cantu fought with the heart of a lion – matched only by that of his amazing wife Marie – for months on end, through travails that can only be imagined. The very last time I saw you, you did your best to convey appreciation and chuckle at my dumb jokes and type up thanks on your phone screen, despite being clearly very weary. That one example, toward the end, sticks with me to this day. The number of times you personally updated our group of friends with heartfelt, charitable, courageous updates, that astonished us with your patience and equanimity, still resonates in our collective minds.

You stole home pretty dang early on us, Tim – although I am so sorry that there was so much pain along that last basepath. Let me assure you that we know you are truly Home now, because you fought the good fight, you stayed the course, and you kept the faith. So if you would, pray for us, brother.

In the meantime, I will do my best to refrain from picking a bone with the Almighty, because, honestly, one more game would have been nice. Just one.

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