The Essays.

Hey, you asked for it. Every once in awhile I start writing about an idea and it ends up taking on a life of it's own. The words divide and grow, and the digressions expand, and I just try to keep up. Eventually I end up with something bigger and longer than I imagined. It feels reasonable to call this an essay.
  • 09/15/2022
    1,724 words

    I went to Disney with my family earlier this year, and it was not my best moment. There was some extended family drama leading up to the trip that need not be rehashed; suffice to say the trip wasn’t originally my idea and I felt a little forced. We were supposed to fly down. I don't like flying at all and I haven’t done it in about ten years.

    The week before the trip turned into a self-torture session for me. I was an anxiety-driven mess for a bunch of unrelated reasons, but my brain decided to build a downward spiral from all of them that crystalized into a fixation around flying.

  • 06/06/2022
    17,675 words

    Take a look around the next time you’re out in public and you’ll see lots of cyborgs. Every single person you see that isn’t actively talking - and some that are - is looking at, swiping, scrolling or tapping on a device. It’s usually a phone, but occasionally a watch, a tablet, or a FitBit. Every dead space or silence in your day can now be filled by the small light of a screen. If you’re in line at the store and the check-out clerk is working, that’s a solid 15 seconds of phone time. At a stop light you've got a good 30 seconds at least, and that guy honking and yelling behind you acts as an alarm. Commercial breaks during the big game get filled with your very own customized feed of information 12 inches from your eyeballs.

    And let’s talk about the holy grail of phone time: the bathroom. Everyone takes their phone when they go to take a dump. And we always find something interesting, so a bathroom trip becomes 15 minutes instead of 3. Here’s an odd side effect: imagine the number of hemorrhoids caused by smartphones!

  • 08/27/2020
    4,685 words

    When I was a kid, this was my favorite poster. I got it pretty early - early enough that I didn’t really understand the punchline. But I LOVED the cars, and I knew I wanted a garage like that. My parents thought it was hilarious, and they kept telling me that school was how you got there. I’m old enough now to know that really isn’t true. The world has changed since the 1980s. Back then, getting an MBA and becoming an upper-level manager was considered the lower or middle class path to being rich. But education was never the path to actual wealth. Those who get PhDs aren’t statistically of drastically higher income or higher net worth than those with Masters degrees. And a considerable number of the most wealthy people out there dropped out of school to pursue the thing that made…

  • 03/29/2020
    2,862 words

    Sir Roger Scruton died in January at the age of 75. I had the opportunity to see him speak once in DC, long before I read anything by him. He was funny, brilliant, and unapologetically British. I still remember one of his high-brow jokes from that evening: “It’s important to note that the Church of England is defined not by the first word of its name, but by the third. Which means that all the bishops of the Church of England can essentially be atheist and still carry the main article of the faith!” A few weeks after his death, I was talking with my wife about what I wanted in a home office and I stumbled on this Twitter thread. This was Sir Roger’s office: Since we had also been fighting about how many books we have in the house (and I use the term ‘fighting’ pretty loosely - but…

  • 11/28/2019
    9,258 words

    This started out as a simple idea: to work backwards from the adults we hope our children will be and use this to think about how we raise our kids now. 9,000 words later it turns out there was a lot to say:

    • It’s never too early to think about high school, college, or even what kind of adults we want our kids to be.
    • Everyone focuses on thinking about education because it works as a sort of proxy for thinking about the kinds of people we want our kids to be. We want them to be smart which translates into good grades. We want them to be successful which translates into focus on a career; in college, that’s a major. We want them to have a family and a good life which translates into stability and a set of credentials so they can always make enough money.
    • Most people think about the outcomes they want but not the processes that will get them what they want. So we just take things one day at a time.
    • “You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.” - James Clear
    • We imagine our children’s futures as a straight line from here to there because we think backwards about our own lives this way. In hindsight, it’s easy to diminish all the complexity and imagine it was a straight path too, but it wasn’t. All of our paths have meandered and wound around time in interesting ways, and serendipity has played her role too.

  • A few months ago, I stumbled on a description of a place most of us have never heard of: Beringia. This is the name for a vast swath of land that connected Asia to North America until only about ten thousand years ago. A little further back - around 25,000 years ago - it was huge, over 1.5 times the size of Alaska today and spanning 620 miles from north to south.

    Learning about this place made me say “Whoa”. When most people, including me, think about the Bering land bridge, we don’t think of a giant landmass. This was right in the middle of the Ice Age, and so we usually think of glaciers and ice. But there was no ice here (the glaciers were further east over top of Canada), just endless miles of grasslands and steppe with a climate slightly cooler than, but otherwise similar to, the Alaska of today. Our perspective is biased by what we know about the world of today, and so we think of a literal bridge possibly covered in ice.

    After Beringia, I started digging even more and exploring other parts of the prehistoric Earth. As I did, it made me ask even more questions about the somewhat tenuous status of our Earth today and the concerns over climate change. The Earth has changed very dramatically and many times since just the last Ice Age, and while all of those changes were caused by nature and the last hundred years of change have been mostly caused by humans, there’s still a lot we can learn.

    Science is the process we use for this kind of learning. We propose theories, evaluate them, and then either uphold or falsify the theory. Climate science seems to have a somewhat unique place amidst the pantheon of scientific fields. Nowhere else does the public constantly hear the refrain of scientific consensus. Nowhere else are lines of certainty drawn so tightly around future predictions. Nowhere else does the scientific evidence directly construct public policy so clearly in the public eye.

  • 04/17/2018
    6,515 words

    Think for a second about the most beautiful ideas you've ever run across. Beauty is not the usual characteristic you use to group ideas. I know I hadn't done it before, until I ran across this delightful little blog entry.

    Take a quick breeze through that list. It's an incredible - and beautiful - list of ideas, and a good number of them would be on my list too. The ones that aren't on my list are my own fault; I haven't delved into them as much as I should. But some of them - like the different types of infinity, and Decidability - when I learned them, they moved me on a fundamental and spiritual level.

    Which is a striking thing to say. Notions of decidability and infinity are mathematical. And yet the entire world and all it's beauty is built on mathematical models. Our bodies and senses are so attuned to how the universe uses math, that we hardly ever think about it consciously. We simply enjoy the sunrise or we admire the swirling flight of a bird.

    Theology is the study of the divine, and to some extent, the concept of belief itself.