A New Coffee Cup

My favorite coffee cup served it's last today. After several years of being the faithful vessel out of which, I drank my favorite drink it can no longer hold liquid.

 Goodnight, sweet prince.

Goodnight, sweet prince.

Today starts the search for a replacement mug. It must hold at least 16oz, have a handle wide enough for my fingers to fit, and a lip that is thick enough to feel luxurious.

I won't be shopping online for my new coffee mug. I must undertake this journey in person.

A Food Drive for West Virginia Teachers

The Philadelphia Industrial Workers of the World is collecting non-perishable food items to donate to striking teachers in West Virginia. We will be driving the collected food to fellow workers next week.

If you want to contribute to the food drive, you can leave non-perishable food items in the food drive box at Wooden Shoe Books on south street.

Are you not sure what to donate? Here are some ideas:

1. Canned beans

2. Peanut butter

3. Canned fruit in fruit juice (not syrup)

4. Canned vegetables,

5. Rice

6. Quinoa

7. Nuts

8. Shelf-stable milk

9. Whole grain pasta

10. Pasta sauce

11. Cereal

12. Dried fruits

If the strike ends before we can deliver the food, we will be donating the food to the Cedar Haven Nursing Home strikers.

Today's Meeting

Today we had our largest meeting of the Philadelphia IWW GMB to date. It was awesome. We are starting to move campaigns in a positive direction. We had a contingent of Fellow Workers in from Harrisburg. And we are starting to have meetings that flow well.

I am so proud of everyone. And I am so excited for the months to come.

Miso Soup

One of my favorite vegan recipes of late is miso soup. It takes five minutes to prepare, it is filling, and it has veggies in it.


2 cups of water
8 oz extra firm tofu, cubed.
2 tablespoons miso paste
1 handful of chopped kale
1/2 cup of snow peas
2 green onions, chopped


1. Bring a pot of water to boil.
2. Add kale and snow peas and turn down the heat. 
3. While the kale and snow peas are cooking, take three tablespoons of hot soup water and mix with the miso paste in a separate bowl.
4. Add the tofu to the soup and cook for about a minute.
5. Add the miso paste and green onions. Serve immediately.

Dharma Practice and Anarchism

As part of my mental health journey over the last six months, I have been reading about Buddhism. My favorite book so far was, "Why Buddhism is True," by Robert Wright. I am currently reading "Buddhism Without Belief" by Stephen Bachelor. The idea I like from both of these books is that when you remove teachings of the Buddha from the context of religion, you get actionable instructions for how to address suffering in your life.

The authors - and I guess the Buddha as well - refer to these instructions as a dharma practice. According to the Buddha, one must act on four truths to achieve enlightenment:

1. Understand anguish
2. Let go of anguish's origins
3. Realize the cessation of anguish
4. Cultivate the path

In my life, it is safe to substitute depression for anguish. In my meditation practice, I am working on numbers one and two. I am finding the effort worthwhile, and I feel the grips of depression slowly loosening.

The exploration of a dharma practice challenges my political views. As I have discussed in previous blog posts, my political alignment is closest to anarcho-syndicalism, anarcho-communism, or left-communism. Much of the political reading I do lays the blame for societal ills at the feet of capitalism. I won't do the arguments justice here but for now, let's assume they are true. Let's assume that one can trace the economic suffering and emotional suffering in our world to the alienation from our community. And that alienation is a direct result of capitalism.

One could mistakenly frame the philosophy of the left in the dharma practice as understanding that human anguish comes from capitalism. I think this framing misses an important nuance. Capitalism causes a lot of suffering, but the emotional pain caused by economic systems is inherently different than the suffering innate in the human condition. 

The suffering of pain, of death, and of loss is profoundly human. We are promised - through marketing and ideological propaganda that the free market will save us from our pain, lengthen our lives and protect us from loss. We can buy insurance to guard us from financial disaster, take pills for our pain, and someday upload our brains into a computer to live forever. If only we believe in capitalism, we can create a world where, if you work hard enough, you won't suffer. This is a lie. The best that capitalism can do is distract you from your suffering.

The Buddha's philosophy is that suffering is part of the human existence. All of us die - there is nothing special about those of us currently alive. All of us experience heartbreak, loneliness, anger, and fear. These feelings are what it means to be human. The only way forward, according to the Buddha, is to accept these sufferings, to study them, to understand them. And through understanding our suffering, its hold on us will dissipate.

Understanding this intersection was a big revelation for me. To say that an anarchist or communist society will relieve human suffering is a lie no better than the one that capitalism sells us. Instead, anarchism is a promise that we can be more connected to our humanity and less alienated from our community. And if we want a future with a more honest existence, we must first understand our human suffering. We must let go of the lies capitalism feeds us. No economic system will protect us from our humanity, but capitalism alienates us from it.

To recognize a classless society, we must accept our suffering - not run from it. If we hold the promise of utopia as the reason for dismantling capitalism, it ignores the understanding that we are the source of our suffering. Instead of hoping that the death of capitalism will end human suffering - we must understand human suffering to end capitalism.


Leaning In To Discomfort

Today I experienced an overwhelming sense of severe anxiety and depression. There is so much to do and no time to do it. I felt frozen in my chair. 

I decided to step back and meditate for an hour during lunch. I sat with the pressure - which manifested as physical pressure. I felt my shoulders curl under the weight of the day. Under the weight of my to-do list. After an hour, the force lifted - every so slightly, and I felt the ability to breathe return.

Starting a Cooperative

I would, someday, like to start a cooperative of some kind. I think that software would be an excellent place to start. Software companies tend to be high margin and have low start-up costs. Also, the most substantial ongoing cost is labor. So, if everyone is an owner and not paid a salary, we no longer have to spend as much time allocating resources.

There are two big problems. One: I don't have an idea. Two: I don't like doing things for money. Whenever there is the need to turn something profitable - I become disinterested.

I'll solve problem one first - maybe I can overcome two at some later date.

Haskell and Elm

At work, we are struggling with a MAJOR refactor. An underlying assumption made in the design of our data model makes the newest feature request from our product department a rewrite. That assumption shows up in implicit decisions made around the application.

Now, we need to change this assumption. And, predictably, the application breaks everywhere and in unpredictable ways.

In my free time, I have been picking up Elm and Haskell. And what I love about both of these languages is how hard it to make implicit assumptions about data - the type system REQUIRES you to be explicit about your data structures and where you are passing them around. By defining a type alias, you explicitly tell the application what data should look like and when you try to pass a function data that doesn't match the type alias the program doesn't compile.

 The benefit of having the strict type system is that it alerts you to most of the areas where breaking changes exist in the application during compilation.

Yes, dealing with Haskell and Elm's type system can feel a little heavy at first. But I find that I write fewer tests and write better code in these languages than I do in dynamically typed or object-oriented languages.

The Half-Marathon

If you read my blog, you will know that  I injured my back six weeks ago. Well, two weeks ago I was cleared to start running again and yesterday I, mostly, ran a half-marathon. So, I am tired, and between the running and the family visiting this weekend, I did not write a blog post yesterday. I also don't have the energy to write about some of the topics I have been pondering. So, I will be back at it tomorrow.

Mental Illness and Guns

Two people have mentioned to me, in person, that psychiatric records should be available to determine whether or not someone should be able to buy a gun.


This is a very dangerous idea.

If your belief is that mental illness is a reason people commit mass shootings, the. The solution needs to be more and better mental health care. If we start discriminating against people with mental illness we will further stigmatize an already stigmatized disease.

By increasing the stigma around mental illness, you decrease the likelihood someone seeks help. If your belief is that mentally ill people are dangerous, you want them to seek treatment.


In my last post, I realized that I do have some amount of expertise on marriage. Obviously, I don't have expertise in the grand sense - Clare and I have been married for just over four years - so I don't have the wisdom that your grandparents, married for fifty years have. But, we have been married four years longer than most of our peers. So, in that sense, I'm a mother-fucking expert (no, not in the literal sense, no kids yet).

So here is a quick list of stuff that I think makes our marriage great.

1. Love is work.

Marriage isn't the finish line and maintaining a healthy relationship takes consistent effort. Clare and I work on our marriage every day. Most of the time, working on our marriage means little things. We compliment each other. We each thank the other for doing day-to-day tasks like dishes and laundry. And we talk a lot about our lives.

Other times, it means long conversations that involve temperature checks on how our relationship is working. Sometimes these conversations are difficult. One of us will feel that we aren't getting everything we need from the other and we talk through those feelings. This point brings me to number two.

2.  Over communicate.

We talk about everything. We discuss every up, every down, and every feeling openly and honestly. We do our best to acknowledge our humanity. Being human means that our feelings and emotions aren't under our control - only the way that we react to them. For example, getting married didn't magically make us impervious to the opposite sex, so we have to have conversations about attraction and jealousy. But, we feel that discussing those emotions keeps us grounded in our marriage.

3. Prioritize our marriage.

Clare and I are both ambitious people. We both know we are prone to be wholly absorbed in achieving our goals. If we took our marriage for granted, I think this would play out with both of us being career-obsessed to the detriment of our marriage. However, we both make the conscious effort to channel that ambition into our marriage. I'm not saying that we aren't concerned about our careers - we have made two cross-country moves in pursuit of Clare's career  - just that when career and marriage conflict, the marriage always comes first.

Prioritizing our marriage is a more radical idea than it sounds. I think our culture took a lot of the gender roles in marriage for granted before the 1960s. The woman would be the home-maker, divorce wasn't an option. The world changed. Most families are now two-earner households and women grow up with career ambitions beyond homemaker. But the implicit assumptions of gender roles in relationships remain alive and well in our culture, and those assumptions often go unsaid.These assumptions lead to conflict in relationships. Women still do the majority of the housework and child-rearing but now also have a career. Men assume that their partner will make sacrifices for their career success. Clare and I try to address this head-on.

We don't pretend that both of our careers can have the primary focus. I can't pursue a perfect job while Clare is trying to go to medical school, for example. I need something remote, or I need to accept that I may not be able to stay in the job for very long. Clare can’t do all of the housework while she is in school - so I have learned to keep a clean home.

Even when we do this, we come to difficult decisions. The biggest one we face now is where to go for medical school. As a couple we consider more than “is this the best program.” Clare has to think about my life for the next four years, and our life together. We put every decision through the filter of "how will this affect our marriage." If the answer is in anyway harmful, we will try to see if we can mitigate the effects, and if we can't, we decide against whatever it is.

4. Keep the romance alive.

We got married because we are intensely in love with each other. I think many people assume that type of love fades once you get married.

I say, Fuck that.

Being in love is great. We don't want it to stop, so we don't let it stop. Keeping that level of romance going is a choice both people make together. So, we do the things that we know will maintain that level of affection. Yes, that means a lot of sex. But, it doesn't ONLY mean that. It also means reading on the couch together every night, getting into intense debates about Harry Potter characters, going on dates, and texting each other silly Gifs during the day.

Does love change after being together for more than eight years? Sure. But it transforms from infatuation to a deep respect for each other.

In conclusion, marriage is awesome. When we got married, we got a lot of side-eyes about how young we were. Lots of people talked to us about how hard it is. Society and pop-culture makes marriage seem like a drag.

No one mentioned how much fun marriage is.

Clare and I have a blast. Every day we get to come home and hang out with our best friend. We tell each other everything - so we can be our weird selves without fear of judgment. I love being married to Clare and I look forward to as many years as I can have married to her.


What Should I Write About?

I forgot to write yesterday. Whoops. I am going to post twice today to "make up" for it. But - I don't want to let myself get away with it.

I am running out of things about which to write. I spend my time thinking about a few topics: My marriage, my mental health, economics, politics, and software. The little voice in my head always tries to tell me that I am not an expert on any of those topics (well, I guess I am an expert on MY marriage) so no one wants to read my thoughts.

Then I remind myself that no one reads this blog! So, I can say whatever I want.

Then I think, "Shit. Someday I am going to be looking for a job, and an employer is going to scroll through my blog feed and see a chronically depressed person who is passionate about radical union organizing."

Then I think, "Well, good thing Clare got into medical school. Trophy husband here I come!"

Then I think, "Shit. I need to start working out again."

I digress. My point is - don't take anything I write too seriously. If you, dear reader, promise that you won't take me seriously, I won't either.

The Game of Life

Yesterday I built Conway's Game of Life in Elm. I had a blast. Conway's Game of Life is my favorite programming exercise. It can be extended to accept user input. You can put constraints on its construction. And It usually exercises most of the right parts of a programming language.

Conway's Game of Life is pretty simple regarding how it works. You have a grid of "cells," and each cell can be either "alive" or "dead." The game works by "stepping" through generations. Four simple rules determine the state of the grid for the next generation: 

1. Any live cell with fewer than two live neighbors dies as if caused by underpopulation.
2. Any live cell with two or three live neighbors lives on to the next generation.
3. Any live cell with more than three live neighbors dies, as if by overpopulation.
4. Any dead cell with exactly three live neighbors becomes a live cell, as if by reproduction.

The result is so much fun to look at. I was hoping to embed the results here... but, alas.

Participation Trophies

The IWW has a participation problem. Syndicalism of the sort that could result in the abolition of the wage system would require most workplaces to be worker-owned cooperatives. It would also need a series of collectives that run banks, community organizations and housing systems.

I am concerned that this situation requires too much of the individual. Being able to not worry too much about the company I work for is one of the better aspects of capitalism. I can shut off the organizational concerns and focus on my family. Humans have a limited amount of things about which they can care.

With limited participation becomes centralization of power. The power ends up in the hands of those who are willing to do the work.

I don't have an answer to this. I am just thinking about this question: How can you create a system that limits the power of any individual while not requiring everyone to be wholly engaged in the governance of the community?

Yesterday was a Loooong Day

Yesterday, Clare and I went to Camelback for a day of skiing. Being two-hours away and wanting a long day of skiing - we got up at 5:45 AM. When we got there, the slopes were packed, and the conditions were icy, and we still had a blast. But on the way home - we ran into a problem.

The snow caused all of the traffic to slow to a halt. Because of the traffic (I think) Google kept rerouting us. We didn't notice the change in routes because we were listening to Harry Potter on audiobook. I looked at the directions before we started and then checked it every so often. Well because of my lack of attention - we ended up on some back roads in rural PA. We hit a pothole that was obscured by the snow and blew our tire. We pulled into the parking lot of a Dollar General to check the damage.

Now, I know how to change a tire, but I was a little nervous about changing it in a snowstorm. I thought maybe things would be slippery and I am still a bit cautious after my back injury. So I called American Express' roadside assistance. They tried to get someone out to me, but no one would come because of the storm. After a while, the snow stopped so I just changed the tire myself.

At this point, it was almost midnight (we had left Camelback at 7 PM - it is ordinarily under two hours to drive to Philly). We were still 90 miles away, but now we were on a spare tire that couldn't go past 50 mph, and snow covered the roads.

We considered getting a hotel, but every hotel in the area was sold out. So we decided to try to drive home - slowly. It took us another three hours to drive home from that point.

We were finally in our bed a little after 3 AM after a 21 hour day. We slept until 1:45 PM.

Coding for Fun

For the last year, I struggled to write code for fun. Overwork and burn out contributed to my mental health struggles and I had started to have a bit of an aversion to doing it.

Recently I've started picking up Elm again. I forgot how much I enjoy the language. It lets me think about the front end as a stateless object. Which helps resolve the biggest challenge I have with front-end programs, user interaction.

Elm lets you see every action on a page as an input to a function. And, since the code is functional, the front-end is entirely deterministic. Elm accomplishes determinism by using a virtual DOM. That can make Elm code a bit more challenging to write initially, but I find it far easier to change and maintain.

For the first time in a while, I am enjoying writing code for fun.

I'm Going Skiing!

I'm back! I've got my lift ticket, and I'm heading out tomorrow to get back on the mountain. I was supposed to go skiing a couple of days after my bike accident that left me on my back for five weeks. But, naturally, that didn't happen.

I am very excited to get on the mountain. I fell in love with downhill skiing at Whistler last year. And I hope to make it a hobby that lasts a lifetime.

I haven't had much to write about lately. My mind has been consumed with work stuff, and I haven't had much time to think about politics. Maybe I'll have some good posts next week :-).

Communicating Up

Today was a challenging day for my anxiety.

Our team had a long meeting where we discussed expectations around a project. I didn't leave the meeting feeling confident that management understood my concerns.

Unfortunately, with my precarious mental health, that meant I needed to be more firm. I emailed my boss - who wasn't at the company for my hospitalization - to explain the unrealistic expectations are more than an annoyance to me, they are dangerous.

Writing that email was challenging. I am emotionally exhausted playing out what the possible repercussions could be in my head. However, I know that if I want to maintain the successful management of my mental health, I need to advocate for myself professionally.

Photo by Garrett Sears on Unsplash