🎵 The song for this post is Rata de dos patas, by Paquita la del Barrio. 🎵
Been a while since I blogged! Let's get another temperature reading on the Pablo. It's nearly two months since I talked about roadblocks, how I'd identified a bunch of them, and was hoping to get past them. How'd I fare?
Long roads are long
At the beginning of the MCU, people noted that Iron Man 2 and Thor 2 and various other sequels… seemed weaker? I heard something I think about a lot:
"Origin stories" play a lot better than "character maintenance." The story of someone normal discovering new powers and adjusting to that reality is almost always more compelling than "well… I'm super… and here's today's conflict!"
Starting journeys is great! You can imagine yourself about to board the bus out of town, your friends and family sending you off with care packages, waving you goodbye, celebrating your upcoming growth and adventures. But the very next scene? When home is far behind, and you've still just started the journey? It can be lonely. It can be hard.
I hosted some events, I'm greasing the wheels of friendship. I'm becoming more mindful of when things do and don't serve me, and being more selective about my attention generally. I'm investing in myself. It's all progress. But it's slow going. I'm at mile 5 of the marathon and excited to be someone who can look back one day and say "I ran that marathon." But my proverbial body hurts at mile 5, man, and my brain likes to remind me how long I've got to go.
Here are some things that aren't backslides, but… challenged me.
Fuck COVID, man 🤮
After 2+ years of never testing positive while also observing how most of society has given up on pretending to care, I both thought I was going to survive the pandemic never catching it, and that catching it was inevitable. Well, I caught it.
It was miserable, I can't remember when I've ever been that sick. The intensity had two peaks, but mostly it was long: I was "out" and isolating for over 3 weeks. I once described Mono as a body pain that fucked with your brain: you really can't conceive how tired you're capable of feelling until you've had Mono. You feel as tired as you've ever felt after spending all day resting: it's like starving after you've spent days eating meals continuously. Mono was like that, and the worst of COVID reminded me of Mono.
But some weird things happened too. Work was gracious about my illness, people covered for my meetings and interviews. And I was so surprised how relieved I was. I was burning out pretty hard, and it took getting incapacitated to remind me. One of my favorite articles on management is this one, by Hillel Wayne on optimizing your team's performance. Should you use static or dynamic types? AWS or Azure? Actually none of that tech shit matters (it's staggeringly hard to empirically test choices like these and they're largely inconclusive), but there's mountains of evidence that your team will perform better if they sleep and aren't under stress! He elaborates more on sleep here.
(There are other examples like this: what's the best way to improve educational outcomes? People fight over class size or teaching methodologies; turns out if you make sure kids are fed and their households are economically secure, you get the biggest wins)
Anyway, it hurt like hell. But it was a good wake-up call; the most common feedback I gave reports after looking at their timecards was to take more vacation, and I didn't take this advice. My last big trip was my two weeks in Asia pre-pandemic, I'm kicking around going to Argentina/Brazil in August or September.
Cutting ties 👔
i always liked house cleaning
even as a child
i dug straightening
putting new paper on
washing the refrigerator
and unfortunately this habit has
carried over and i find
i must remove you
from my life
- Nikki Giovanni
For a brief moment after NY, Karen and I were "friends." After cutting off all contact from our breakup in December, in April I reached out to say I didn't need us to be no-contact anymore. Where I was previously a hate beast, consumed with bilious rage at everything that reminded me of her, I was no longer driven by it. Releasing it left me feeling other parts in the space it took up, including the one that missed her (and I know she missed me too). Little logistical conversations became a little friendlier, we took a walk in a park once or twice and talked for a few hours. We exchanged memes every now and then.
This surprised a lot of my friends, and I tried assuring them that this wasn't forgiveness: yeah okay I was still upset, but complete separation wasn't necessary. This feeling didn't last long. I found something while cleaning out my closet that brought all of last year back. I was overcome with emotion, and that got me to the place I needed to be to cut off contact again.
I won't give concrete examples here, but while much of my anger relates to how I was treated in the final year of our relationship (I wrote at length about it being a Bad Time), there were many, many instances of being treated poorly in the previous years. She boosted me when the stakes were low, but in many very important ways, she never treated me like someone you deeply respect. In those smaller instances from most of our relationship, and I swallowed the indignity: I felt there must have been limits to it, felt she was capable of growing out of it, and that if the relationship was on the line, she'd compromise. To my horror, none of those were true.
I've done (and am doing!) a lot of instrospection for why I tolerated some of the things that happened, and am clear that I won't tolerate it again. But on the point of her and I, today: if I continue to give her the benefits of knowing me, the benefits of my care and attention, after what she did, I validate her demonstrated value that I'm not worthy of respect. She treated me the way she did thinking I'd just take it, and if I allow her back into my life, she would have been right. I would be the chump she treated me as.
Time doesn't heal all wounds. Some go gangrenous, and those, you have to amputate.
Aside: breakups offer very interesting failure modes in storytelling and friendships. For example: if you're with someone uncompromising, and you settle for 10% of any dispute, after a break-up friends will never believe (or understand the implications of) you compromising 90%, they'll bias towards modeling it/feeling it as 50/50. Additionally, if folks are nominally friends with both of you and you have conflicting stories, even if yours are absolutely, factually the more correct one, people will split the difference in their heads to the middle of both sides they hear.
One of the big side effects of cutting off contact was also extending it to those who are "splitting the difference," which is most of my previous community here. A friend told me they cared for both of us deeply; I told them this is a contradiction. I get it: breakups are hard to look at, people have enough of their own drama and messes to deal with, and most people prefer harmony in the absence of context. I don't judge or expect mutual friends to behave any differently. I miss these folks, but honestly? The separation has been great for me. And truly, if a community makes space for someone who made deliberate choices to hurt me this way, it's just a fact: that community isn't for me.
Good things: art! 🎨
Okay, enough of the heavy stuff! Good shit!
I did an art project with a new collaborator! And it was a success! She is Elise Liu, a brilliant poet, crafter, observer, and nascent builder of installation art. An acquaintance of mine did a project called Library of Dreams, where some participants got a cardboard box "book" to make a tiny installation inside, meant to be a look into someone's mind. My grandparents, who lived in the house with us growing up, are currently suffering dementia, so Elise and I wanted to investigate a mind in decay.
Here are some progress pics, but the idea was: have delicate, tear-able rice paper that the viewer had to destroy to get to the narrative bits underneath. The original conception had other "destructable art:" a scratchboard bottom, and we wanted the rice paper to disintegrate with water droplets. In either case, there are narrative hints of a beautiful, full, lived life, like my grandparents had, but to get to it you had to destroy the "mind." To accept that decay is a part of life, and to avoid or turn away from decay is to miss life entirely.
The pictures don't do it a ton of justice, but you get some idea. We used photos of my family at various key moments. We blotted out the faces since, well, dementia. Some quotes about memory and time. Lots of little trinkets and artifacts. And a wire "brain" that enclosed it, with the rice paper inside. We provide a tool (dental hygenist pick) to tear the paper to see what's underneath, and a bit of lights. Finally, we lined the sides with craft mirrors, giving it a bit of extra depth, and a bit more mileage out of the little lights.
Working with a new collaborator is always risky: something I heard that I liked was "whatever you think about someone, they're a different person to live with, and a different co-worker, and a different romantic partner." Ditto art collaborations, some people shift quite considerably! And I'm super pleased to report, this felt… great. One of the best collaborations I've had in years. We both set intentions for this to be simple, fun, and low-stakes, and it was. 🙂
I'm better at the accordion! It's a process. I'm still a far cry from playing multiple songs, or for friends, but every week I feel myself getting just a little bit farther.
I hesitated to share this, because it's VERY beginner. This is after two months of following Palmer-Hughes books, and I'm already 50% more experienced than I was when I took this video 😅 But yes, I have my first video; a friend asked me as a gift to "play them accordion" so this is me playing from a book of songs for 8-year olds. It's good for a "before" shot, a year from now I'll do an "after."
Again, I'm already way better than this. I've still got the mustache there. But it's my first artifact, so that's cool.
I said I'd made my apartment great, and next I'd work on wardrobe. I didn't!
The Raspberry Pi projects and the photos of my living room didn't
include where I actually slept, an upstairs loft. I did the living room first
impress dates host events, but the upstairs was where I did all my
work and slept, and it was… underinvested. While the fuel for the lower floor
was spite and performative recovery, the loft got delayed because I was out of
But this effort: this was not fueled by spite! A lot of my therapy is on realizing that I developed a very efficient and powerful engine that takes spite as fuel, but to get the things I want I need to use it less, and invest in the engine powered by renewable sources. Spoiler alert! Most of the spite was for myself.
I'll post more photos sometime, but you can check out the paintings I got commissioned by a Guatemalan artist. Eventually, I'll fix my wardrobe (idk, I seem resistant to it lol).
Thanks for the read! Disagreed? Violent agreement!? Feel free to drop me a line at , or leave a comment below! I'd love to hear from you 😄