Good morning. Hello. How are you? #486

On routines and yearning, sick cat, Cube Club, WaPo UX dark pattern, George Lucas and 2FA

Good morning! Hello! How are you? Good? Good, good. Me? Oh, thanks for asking. You know, all things considered, I am doing very well. I should be doing worse. It is very, very weird to me how much I enjoy being cooped up and having the same routine every day. It’s weird to me how much there is in a repetitive routine to keep you interesting. I was helping Jane clean up after breakfast yesterday, and it really just struck me. We have a whole routine — meticulously documented, geez, about a year ago now. I wonder how much its changed. I should go and find that entry and compare. Anyway, this whole routine, we do the same freakin thing every day. Like the exact same thing — the same words, the same gestures. Yet somehow every day, it can feel different. And somehow, every day, when I, say, toss the rag into the sink, she is still enthralled and excited about how it’s going to go. Because, of course, even though I toss the rag into the sink every day, it does not go exactly the same every day. Like imagine trying to become a great free-throw player, but you can only practice one shot a day. It would take you years to get really good at it. Each little piece of the routine, even though you do it every day, is such a small, quick thing that, even after years, you’ve not actually done it that much. The day itself undulates and evolves and is a fairly varied and changing day.

Yet there’s a paradox there. The routine, the day can be fine, mostly entertaining even. I think I could count on my fingers the number of times in the last eighteen months that I’ve been overwhelmed with stultifying tedium and repetition and just hate my whole existence. Most of the time, any given moment is pleasant and engaging. I’ve sanded off and eradicated most unpleasant things (except Zoom meetings but what are you gonna do). So, yeah. Pleasant times. And yet. The paradox is that for how pleasant things are, there exists within you a yearning, a sadness for what might have been, what could be, what you’re missing. Of course, now, that yearning is exacerbated by FOMO as other people go about their lives, but underneath the FOMO it is something more primal.

I read an article a looong, long time ago — before I was wise enough to care about bylines or even, really, publications, so I can’t find it anymore, but it stuck with me. It was a rebuttal piece to the question: if depression is medical and has been around forever, why wasn’t there more depression amongst the slaves? And the researcher’s answer was something along the lines of “well, of course, there was, and lots of it. It was so universal that it did not have a name, but we can see plenty of evidence in the history we do have. It was all-encompassing.” And of course another metaphor is capitalism: we are so used to being bombarded with ideas to do things that we simply cannot do. We cannot fly private jets or buy Lambos or go to Met Galas. These things make us a little sad, but we survive, we exist just fine, and we can even find happiness.

My existence these days is as if that sphere of impossibility has enlarged, encompassing more activities. Now encompassed in the sphere are not just unattainable activities, but activities that I could once do but now cannot. Of course Kahneman and Tversky tell us that we suffer losses more than we enjoy gains, so we acutely feel the loss of these activities to the Sphere of Impossibility (it is capitalized now). And I think that was very true last year. In March and maybe April we didn’t really feel the loss, we were having a kind of fun and we were busy, but by last summer, we felt their loss very much.

But now? Now I think we’re used to it. We lost them long ago, now we just don’t have them. We don’t possess these possibilities any more than we ever possessed the possibility of being King. Academically we think about being King all the time and we have little fantasies about it, but it does not have a real-world impact. We’re not actively planning on being King, or considering going and trying to become King. We can still find happiness in our lives without being the King.

Absolutely, hands down, the worst I feel these days is when I look at Instagram and it shatters this myth, it shows me normal people doing fun things that I could be doing, right now. It gets into my soul, just like they say Veblenian (hrm wonder what the adjective form of Veblen is) advertising does, but in a much, much more effective and poignant way. Three minutes on Instagram and I’m thinking “hrm you know maybe I should travel again, maybe I should put myself in a large crowd of people. Like seeing all those kids crammed together on the VMAs or a movie or in an ad doesn’t fuck with my equilibirium. I don’t want those things, and the people in ads are fiction. But show me a group of people standing around watching Saint Vincent? Oh my god fuck all of this I want to be there right now.

Instagram is so bad for me.

I’m just like a teenage girl! (link: Facebook Knows Instagram is Toxic for Teen Girls)

Some miscellenia:

One of our kitties, Roy, is sick today. Like not eating, doing a little dry heaving. Seems a little bit better this morning but of course has us both worried. Come on Roy! Get well!

Yesterday was the 20th anniversary of the Nintendo Game Cube and do you know, I do not seem to have a single photo of my time as a Nintendo Game Cube ambassador at Cube Club, the pop-up Nintendo Game Cube arcade that existed in the Kendall Square area of Cambridge. I was between jobs, having quit Arnold but not yet having started the Barbarian Group, and this was some easy money. It was kind of fun! My friend and Archenemy partner Tony was the ringleader, and he got me, I think Sean did it, Ben definitely did it. Cube Club, man. It was a good time. Still have the shirt. But no photos.

There are some photos online. But they are all comically small. Because it was 2001.

Can anyone give me a rundown of the Boston mayoral race? Who is everyone supporting? Who’s gonna win? I have not been paying attention at all, since, you know, even when I lived in Boston I did not actually live in Boston, well, not after 2002.

Here is a bullshit dark UX pattern that the Washington Post is doing these days. Now, I don’t know if it’s this bad if you’re a healthy, visually-gifted person who does not need to make their text larger, but my god this is just so annoying. I have to click this stupid doc on every single story. It only cuts off the first line of text in each story, and you’d think I could just ignore that and intuit the words in the first line from context but turns out, nope, I am not able to do that, my brain absolutely insists on knowing the first line.

I also love how even after you click the X and get rid of this stupid dialog box, they keep the little blue alert dot next to the gift icon. You have a notification! Of what? Just that this new icon here exists! But we will put a notification dot here because we know that they drive some people crazy and they will feel compelled to click on them.

Do you think when George Lucas wrote the line “It’s an older code but it checks out” he was thinking about 2-factor authentication from tokens? I remember very vividly when I was a kid, not even ten years old, thinking to myself that was kind of a weird line. A code works or it doesn’t, what does the age of the code matter? If you don’t like old codes, expire them? But now, every day, here I am using either my physical security token with rotating codes or my authenticator app on my phone with rotating codes, entering codes into websites. My bank, in particular, gets very fussy if I put in a code just as it’s about to expire. I think we all know at this point that most 2FA codes have a little wiggle room. They’re like the movies: seven minutes of previews, amirite? What would I know I haven’t been to a movie in years. Someone tell me what the preview situation is like. Anyway, yeah, my bank hates it when I use a code just about to expire. Like sometimes it will just not load the entire website. It won’t give you an error, but it just won’t load. And you have to wait two 2FA cycles before trying again. I only know this through years of experience. But man. It is weird. But in Star Wars, the empire did not hate older codes! Even if it is an older code, as long as it checks out, you’re good to go.

George Lucas was clearly ahead of his time with 2FA. Or did they have 2FA back then?

Woah a quick Google search indicates that the infamous Kim Dotcom claims to have invented 2FA. Well there’s a rabbit hole I will be going down very soon.

Okay let’s do a mix. Just minutes ago — as I was writing this — Emma messaged me that Kari Byron from Mythbusters posted the cover of an old mix tape to her Instagram stories. I joked “oh ha I will make that a mix tape some day” but then it occurred to me, why not just do that right now. So here it is? And… it’s a good mix! I mean. Starting off super strong with The The, god I love The The. Personally I would have gone with “I can’t read” by Tin Machine instead of “Andy Warhol” because of the line “Andy where’s my fifteen minutes,” but even I recognize that my love of Tin Machine is a rare thing indeed. And that Cracker song rocks, even if Dave Lowery is becoming increasingly strident and hardcore on his Twitter about musician’s rights (N.B. He is not wrong). Mazzy Star one of my all time favorites, of course, Belly is fantastic. I had completely forgotten about Freedy Johnston and think I might need to give him a re-listen. That Breeder’s song is a low-key sleeper hit that I’ve loved forever. God I miss seeing them live all the time. And, of course, I’ve been in a Jane’s mood these last few weeks so that works great and I live just down the road from the James Taylor memorial bridge since, you know, Chapel Hill. Great mix. A+ Kari.

Okay! It’s Thursday! Let’s do that annual Harassment Training at work today and have an Accounts meeting! Woo! Man. That fictional company in the Harassment Training is just so diverse but has so many workplace problems, it really is something. They should talk to HR.