What’s Next

So. The 2016 election happened. Many of my friends and I are understandably concerned about the future. But more than anything we want concrete actions we can take to improve things (versus say, writing blog posts about it).

I’d love suggestions. Truly. I want to feel useful. But here is what I have come up with so far:

  • Attend protests. I’m not much of a protests-can-change-the-world person. But I think they are useful for keeping opposition visible and engaged. If anyone knows a good source for tracking protests in the Boston area, let me know.
  • Donate. More on this in a bit.
  • Host fundraisers. Very similar to donating, but you get a multiplier effect for your money.
  • Volunteer for any organization you would otherwise donate to.

Now, three of those four options involve finding an organization to support. The trick is which ones. Here are mine. They’re all political rather than humanitarian, because I’m focusing on long term corrections.

ACLU. Many of the difficulties in the coming years will be around civil liberties. The ACLU has a strong track record here of doing good legal work.

National Popular Vote. This is an organization trying to fix the electoral college in quite a smart way. Basically they want to get enough states (worth 270 electoral votes) to pass a bill they’ve written that says “if enough states have passed this, we’ll all give all of our electoral votes to the winner of the popular vote.” Pretty clever. Eleven states worth 165 votes have already passed the bill (including MA). As a reminder, both the 2000 and 2016 presidential elections were won by candidates that did not win the popular vote.

Climate Hawks Vote. This PAC finds and funds congressional candidates that support strong climate change legislation.

MayDay.us. This PAC finds and funds congressional candidates that support campaign finance reform and anti-corruption measures.

Any other good options?

FastMail is the Perfect Gmail Alternative

If, for whatever reason, you’re looking to switch from Gmail, I think you’ll love FastMail.

Its workflow, interface, and features will be immediately recognizable to you: it has conversation view, archiving, spam detection, categorization, filtering, keyboard shortcuts, a modern and fast web UI (ditto for mobile), fast search, calendars, contacts, two-factor authentication, and the option to use your own domain name.

I’ve looked around and having even just that first one (a conversation view) is a shocking rarity in either webmail or mail apps. Let alone all those features.

Switching is easy too. You can import email directly from Gmail and can just export/import any calendars and contacts from Google. Plus, for any shared calendars that you still want to host at Google, you can have FastMail show them and sync any changes.

The big catch of course is that it isn’t free. But it’s not expensive either.

I know this post reads like an ad, but I’m just genuinely pleased so far (and I’m intentionally not using a referral code on the link above). Hopefully the next person doesn’t have to do as much comparison shopping as I did.

Quick Book Recommendation

I’ve been trying to read more books from my local library’s “recommended” sections, to avoid a reading rut. And one such book was Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell.

It was great! It’s a collection of magical realism short stories. Nice poignant slices of life.

New Music Sources

This past year, I’ve realized I like finding new music more than I previously realized. I figure it might be interesting to share my own sources for new music and maybe receive some good recommendations from others.

Boing Boing

They only sometimes cover music, but that just means that when they do, it’s usually a notable song.

The Hairpin

This is actually a women’s interest blog. But they have good taste, so I generally like any featured music.

Refinery 29

This is a San Francisco fashion, entertainment, and shopping blog. They post a lot about non-music issues, so I recommend filtering by “This is our Jam”, which is the phrase they use when highlighting a new song.

This Is My Jam

Speaking of which, the site “This Is My Jam” is a neat social media music-sharing site. You point it at a song that you’re into right now (say, on Youtube) and it will add that song to your friends’ feeds. After a week it goes away, and you pick a new jam. I’m user “mterry” on it!

The recommendations here are pretty hit or miss, because people tend to post songs that are interesting to them, not necessarily songs that are likely to be interesting to others. But it’s a lot more personal than the other sites for sure.

Lower Frequencies

An actual, honest-to-goodness music recommendation blog. Daily updates and sometimes a link to the mp3 is provided too. They tend to feature more mellow works.

Reddit: r/ListenToThis

This is a subreddit for music recommendations from fellow redditors. In truth, I haven’t found it to be super useful, but it is eclectic. Lower Frequencies puts all their songs here too.

blocSonic netBlocs

This one isn’t a music recommendation blog, but rather a site that puts out regular compilations of interesting free web music. Quite variable quality but with a good mix of genres. I’ve found some gems here.

Rub Radio

This is a monthly collection of 15 to 20 hip hop songs. Worth the listen.

Best of Bootie

Again, this one isn’t a blog, but rather a yearly collection of the best mashups featured in the weekly San Francisco mashup club event Bootie. If mashups are interesting to you, these are worth downloading.

Radio Paradise

This is my go-to Internet radio station. You can play it right from your browser or they have links to play from your media player.

Howliday 2011

As is rapidly becoming a new Howliday tradition, I’m posting my Howliday entry super late.

Nothing of super note, just that we decided cookies were the new tradition, based on Meg’s excellent batch.

Clearly, people of old would leave offerings of fresh cookies to supplicate the banshees.  Much as modern children leave the same for Santa, in hopes of having him reconsider that bag of coal.

Playing Well: Golden Rule

This is part of a series on how to play games well: Stoicly and enjoyably. Not to triumph, but to have fun.

This one is simple. Merely putting yourself in the other players’ shoes is the key to winning or losing well. Sounds obvious, but it’s easy to forget in the heat of the moment.

This is a very subjective rule and audience-dependent, but it’s flexibility is a feature. I’ll just give some examples of things that I find can often be off-putting and worth avoiding.

  • Taking overt pleasure in the conquest instead of the play.
  • Conversely, being angry, depressed, or obsessed about the fact that you’re losing.
  • Blaming luck.
  • Noting the cleverness of your own moves.
  • Suggesting that if a certain thing had happened differently, you would have totally won (obviously all players can construct fictional pasts where they won, but it’s not terribly interesting or helpful).
  • Similarly, the “I would have won in X more turns” argument.
  • Taking too long.

Now, these can all be done in good ways. It’s just that they can easily be unwanted.

Just think about the ideal behavior of someone you’ve just beaten. Now do that when you are beaten. Same for the ideal behavior of someone who’s just beaten you.

One interesting corollary here is that when you are doing well, it’s encouraged to note the bad luck of your losing opponent. Or if you’re doing poorly, how awesome a certain move of theirs was. It gives people the chance to talk about it without having brought it up (assuming you actually do want to talk about it :)).

Playing Well: No Stress Losing

This is part of a series on how to play games well: Stoicly and enjoyably. Not to triumph, but to have fun.

How to deal with failure? Everyone loses, but not always well.

One easy strategy is to realize that the past has already happened. It can’t be changed; period. Nor can the present really. You can control what will happen a nanosecond from now, but not what is happening this moment.

The past of a minute ago is as much a part of the historical record and unchangeable as “before you were born.” And no one sits around worrying about stuff that happened then. You just accept it as your time-inheritance.

So what’s the point in worrying about something you have no control over? Use the past to inform your future behavior, but don’t cry over spilt milk.

Don’t sit there depressed about what you’ve gotten yourself into. Just concentrate on how you’re going to dig yourself out or how you’ll do things differently next time.

In the same spirit, if someone just screwed you over, don’t stress about it to the point of ruling out cooperation in the future. Not that you should forget what happened, but dwelling on it will cause you to miss opportunities for collaboration.

One useful exercise is to imagine that you just walked into the room and took over a spot for someone that left. Then ask yourself, “Now what?” Because that’s what you do every second: take over from a younger, handsomer you.

Ideally this way of thinking about the past will make you happier. You can live in the moment and not stress about the foolish mistakes of you-from-two-minutes-ago. Though hopefully you can learn from them.