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The Captain's Newsletter

Skating on the interstate | 31 May 2021


Walk-up song: Les Savy Fav, "Dishonest Don, Pt. II"

You're born and you're red
You're dead and you're blue
You're green at 19
And gray at 22

As we head into the last leg of the pandemic, I feel both young and old.

Pacing the floorboards of the house, day after day after week after week after... and so on... time is ambiguous. It went somewhere. It went nowhere.

When I wake up in the morning, the feeling is old as I slowroll into the day. At the end of the day, the feeling is young, because if time can blow by that quickly, then how could I have really used that much of it this life?

I don't have much to say about it, honestly—it's just a conversation I had here at home that's been rattling around my head about feeling younger or feeling older after—holds up hands, searching for word—all of this. Feeling young or feeling old is drenched in subjectivity, but I'll tell you something that you can count on: feeling alive. There is no feeling dead. When you're dead, you're dead.

This weekend I put charcoal in a metal box and lit it on fire, then put meat on top of a metal grill on top of the fire, and declared that day the beginning of Summer. That's what we do here in America. Never mind the astronomers. Solstices are boring. Grills are the real time-telling devices. It's summer when you can, and winter when you can't. Grills as something you can rely on. Grills as something to remember later, when your hands get cold and that scar turns a delirious shade of purple. Grills as a possible future, when the snow covers the trees outside.

I'm avoiding that earlier comment about time. It's what I set out to explain, but I don't have the wherewithal.

The survivors will get old, and one day we'll tell people who were born after all this airdeath about our strange year. Give it a generation and no one will even believe it. No way that happened, they'll say. How could you be that stupid?, they'll ask, sensibly. And then what?

And then what, indeed. If I don't feel old today, I'll feel old then. Maybe that's the answer to the riddle—we'll be who we are at the time that we remember ourselves as we were, and we'll be younger and older, younger or older, depending on what, I don't know.

Seven links, plus-or-minus two

Austin Kleon. "Indexing, filing systems, and the art of finding what you have". (2021-05-21).

Behold—all the crazy and useful methods that writers and comedians used to organize their thoughts and jokes and information. It's nuts. However, it makes me want to do the same. Having a thought is one thing. Poof, and it's gone. But if you hold those thoughts and add them up, or multiply them, or discern their tendencies over time—then you might have something different.

Veronique Greenwood. "Sleep Evolved Before Brains. Hydras Are Living Proof.". Quanta Magazine (2021-05-18).

Everything sleeps, and I mean everything.

Ellen Barry. "Goodbye to a Yankee Farmer, the Ghost of Exit 8". The New York Times (2021-05-27).

This is a hard one. What is progress? For who? For how many? For what? And what happens to those who don't want it, but stand in front of it, passively or actively?

"What the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Destroyed". The New York Times (2021-05-24).

Today is the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Massacre.

Will Douglas Heaven. "AI is learning how to create itself". MIT Technology Review (2021-05-27).

His point is that if intelligence as we know it resulted from the mindless mutation of genes over countless generations, why not seek to replicate the intelligence-producing process—which is arguably simpler—rather than intelligence itself?

Aimee Levitt. "Someone finally asked restaurant workers why they’re not returning". The Takeout (2021-05-27).

Spoiler alert: it was a really lousy job and they found something else to do instead.

Ariel Kanter. "Essential Tools for Fermentation at Home". Serious Eats (2021-05-21).

In case you wondered what I'm doing this fall.


This marks... I don't know, maybe the second or third consecutive newsletter where my fingers were poised above the keyboard, expecting to write some valedictory prose about how I finished building The Wall. So close, so close—maybe next time. I can assure you, though, that the keys that my fingers were so ready to click did not include the letter Q, which appears prominently in words like quick or quiet—two words this project has nothing to do with.


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