Marriage

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

The Valentine's Day Miso Shortage

I have been five grocery stores in the last three days. No one has Miso paste. What the hell Philadelphia?

I am annoyed by the lack of miso paste because miso soup has become our one of our staple quick and easy dinners. I ordered our groceries on Instacart, and they delivered everything except the paste! So, I need to find some miso (or a different recipe) before the rest of the ingredients spoil.

If you've never made miso, it is way simpler than I imagined. Boil some water, throw in some kale and some snow peas, and let it boil for a minute. Then turn down the heat and throw in some cubed tofu. Next, take some soup water, mix it in with the paste in a separate bowl. Last, you mix all the ingredients and add some green onions.

The whole process takes under ten minutes, and the result is delicious.

Yes. This is a shit post. I am out of ideas today. Don't @ me.

The Biathlon

In 2014, my favorite Olympic sport was the ski jump. But that was before I had tried cross-country skiing. My new favorite Olympic sport is the biathlon. Cross-country skiing is hard - like, really hard. After pushing themselves through a cardio-intensive activity, the athletes have to slow their heart rates enough to shoot five targets.

Then, the sport gets brutal. For every shot the skiers miss - they have to take a 150m penalty lap. While I was watching, I realized how the competitors have to make the tradeoff between taking their time to shoot and finishing quickly. In the pursuit event, the top three finishers all missed one shot out of twenty. That amount of accuracy during a grueling 12.5km cross-country ski race is astounding.

If we move somewhere colder next year (Rochester) I am going to give this sport a try.

Being Proud

When I hurt my back five weeks ago, I was worried. I don't do well with inactivity. I missed two days of skiing; I couldn't bike; I couldn't run. I spent two full weeks on my back. I lived my one of my worst nightmares.

I survived. I mean - I knew I would physically survive. But I came through with my mental health intact. I had a few very dark weeks which I am sure came through in my daily posts.

My most significant accomplishment was keeping faith in my ability to move through the episode. I accepted that I was depressed and I had as much compassion for myself as I could muster. That compassion meant taking some mental-health time away from work. On Thursday, I went to a second therapy session and took the afternoon off to meditate. This weekend I went for my first long run since my injury. I don't know if I am entirely through this episode - but I am feeling much better.

My back injury was the most prominent mental health challenge since the summer when I needed to do partial hospitalization and another round of ECT. And I made it through using the tools I learned over the last 18 months. That is what progress looks like, and for that I am proud.

Photo by Michael Spain on Unsplash

A New Team

Tomorrow I start on a new team at work. I didn't ask to switch projects. But accepting the world as it is is part of my meditation practice.

I am nervous about the move. The project is in a state that is similar to the one where I ended up in the hospital. And I feel like management isn't particularly keen on hearing my concerns.

I am hoping to use this as an opportunity to work on setting boundaries with my employer. Wish me luck!

Photo by Mathias Jensen on Unsplash

The Bullet Journal

I've never found a great solution for keeping notes. I end up with random things written all over a page and in no order. The disorder of the notes makes them only marginally useful.

Then, Clare introduced me to Bullet Journaling. The Bullet Journal process is a way to organize schedules, planning todo lists and notes about life all into the same place. It is a modular and adaptable system that can be bent to serve the needs that I have.

The modularity of the system appeals to my inner software developer. And the ability to put everything in one place appeals to my laziness.

The most significant reason I stick with it though is the paper and pen. I buy Rhodia notebooks and write in them with a fountain pen. It makes every note seem like I am writing a letter for prosperity. It gives my notes an air of importance that appeals to my ego.

If you are looking for a system to take notes and you share my need for order, laziness, and ego - check out Bullet Journaling.

Not Struggling Against Despair

Yesterday I took 2.5 hours to listen to and meditate on some lectures by Pema Chödrön. Today, during my lunch, I did another hour.

I'm glad I did. I think I made progress. For the last six months, I have dealt with emotions and feelings by sitting with them. If I was angry, I let myself be angry, and I felt that emotion. If I was scared, I let myself feel scared. 

The concept is simple and unintuitive. My natural instinct is to flee from emotional discomfort. If I succeed in sitting with those difficult emotions, I begin to separate myself from them.

This week I felt despair fall over me. An unfortunate situation at work, combined with Clare being out of town, and growing apprehension about how ready I am for next year left me feeling empty. I fled that emotion. I tried to push it away. I surfed Twitter and Reddit. I watched shows on my computer. The feelings stayed with me, and I still couldn't face them.

Pema Chödrön talks about a concept called "maitri" which she describes as an unconditional friendliness towards oneself. In her lecture, she covers many manifestations of maitri and the one I needed the most was "steadfastness with oneself." Viewing my despair through the lens of maitri helped me see that one feeling like a collection of fears and anxieties. Sitting with those fears enabled me to move closer to them. Moving closer to them helped me recognize them as ordinary. And seeing the fears as ordinary allowed me to have compassion for myself.

Chödrön then described how by having compassion for your own emotions - you could have an outpouring of compassion for everyone experiencing that same feeling. 

Photo by Igor Ovsyannykov on Unsplash

Leveling Up

I went to another session with my therapist today. We discussed the challenges looming with medical school. The challenges Clare's medical school poses to my mental health came to the forefront this week because she was out of town, interviewing at UCLA, leaving me home alone.

In the last six months, I have become great at dealing with painful emotions around shame, embarrassment, and guilt. But the feeling I was struggling with this week was closer to despair. I described using my mindfulness strategies against this greater foe as playing the depression game on "hard" as opposed to "easy."

I took the afternoon off from work to do a couple of meditations given by Pema Chodron. My last big breakthrough came from listening to some of her lectures. I meditated for two and a half hours today. I do feel better.

Photo by Ugur Akdemir on Unsplash

Motivated by Guilt

On Wednesday mornings, I see my therapist, Mary. This morning we discussed guilt - the guilt I feel about how I feel like I am shit at everything. I am trying to set up OT-101 training for our IWW branch, I want to eat healthier, I want to keep the house clean, and I am trying to do my job well.

To me, these goals seem like they should be attainable. But somedays they seem impossible. I check Twitter, then Reddit, then Feedly, and then back to Twitter. Twitter hasn't changed because I don't follow many people (an attempt to reduce my consumption) and there is nothing new in the news. So, I just stare blankly at the screen.

"Just do the thing!" my brain screams. My arms refuse to move as if stuck to the table.

Yesterday, at work, I had a very simple ticket. Probably two-hours worth of work. In my head, I knew the solution. All I needed to do was to put it in my terminal. I finally mustered the energy to finish the work at 7 PM.

Also, yesterday, I knew I needed to eat. I planned out easy meals for when Clare was away. Instead, I ate the entire loaf of bread that I baked on Monday, half for lunch, half for dinner.

The overwhelming feeling that comes from these failures is guilt.  Mary encourages me not to judge them as "failures." Instead, they just are. Finding difficulty doing basic tasks is just where I am at the moment, and that is okay.

I am NOT okay with it.

I scheduled another therapy session for tomorrow.

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

GO BIRDS

I do not like the Philadelphia Eagles. Or - at least I grew up disliking them.

In 2003 during my hometown team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were coming off their first Super Bowl victory. In the offseason of our wide-receivers, Joe Jurevicius, suffered a horrible personal tragedy when his three-month-old son passed away. Our first game of the season was against the Philadelphia Eagles. We beat them, and Joe made some spectacular catches.

Later in the week, on a sports radio station that I listened to, Joe recounted that Eagles' fans were taunting him about the death of his son. They said things like, "How's your son, Joe?"

After that day - I hated the Eagles. They became my most detested team.

Now I live in Philadelphia. And I have to say; I was swept up in the excitement of the Super Bowl. The slight against my home team - which I abandoned because of their drafting of Jamis Winston - was fifteen years ago. I think it is time to forgive and forget and embrace this weird city's love for their sports teams.
 

Photo by Fredy Martinez on Unsplash

Lanetix and Tech Unions

On January 26th Lanetix fired a group of engineers for trying to form a union. Employers acting like this should not surprise anyone. Generations separate us from the last large-scale labor struggles in this country. If you are like me - history classes presented labor organizing much like they showed the civil rights movement, essential to history but no longer relevant.

I wasn't around for the early days of Silicon Valley. From what I understand - people were filled with hope. The future Star Trek promised was right around the corner. Technology would flatten hierarchies and free us all from the drudgery of work.

This didn't happen. Open source, instead of creating a world where everyone shared and collaborated - created a world where corporations build fortunes on the backs of coders working for free. And instead of giving back by funding projects or letting employees work on open source on company time, they refuse to hire anyone who hasn't contributed their labor to open source.

Billion dollar companies run servers on Linux or use languages like Ruby or frameworks like Rails, all built and maintained by volunteers.

I am angry that a few are getting wealthy on the backs of the labor of the many. But it gets worse. Not only are they using our free labor for personal gain but they use our creations to create walled-gardens, opposing the core principals of open-source software.  Instead of freeing us from work - they use the platforms we built to trap us with algorithms designed to addict us.

The Silicon Valley giants survive off of our attention and our labor. They steal our working hours to build technological drugs that trap our minds, and they manipulate us into donating unpaid labor to keep the system running.

Venture capitalists understand this system. They know if workers organize - like they were trying to do at Lanetix - it will bring the system down. They are scared.

The time for Tech Workers to find their voice has come. Companies like Facebook and Amazon are among the most powerful in the world, and we are the only force strong enough to resist them.

The struggle against the tech giants is here. Which side are you on?

Photo by Taras Shypka on Unsplash