Secrets about People: A Short and Dangerous Introduction to René Girard

Perhaps one of the paradoxical benefits of the internet, in the long term, is shifting the way we think about peer relationships from “opt-out”, which it’s been since pretty much forever, towards “opt-in.”

In an opt-out peer set relationship, we default towards needing to look good in front of people; towards caring what people think, towards being embarrassed about aspects of ourselves, almost automatically – regardless of who the other person is. Not caring about what other people think has to be this deliberate act of bravery that’s hard to do.

But in an opt-in peer set relationship, we only people in as peers and role models selectively and deliberately; not caring about what most people think comes naturally, because it’s on by default.

I’ve personally been struggling with this concept for the last few weeks, and this article really helped set some things in perspective for me.


The Real Book

Like many jazz students, I grew up learning the standards, and despite not being an amazing jazz musician, I still came across a Real Book or two in my time.

The story behind the Fake Book and the Real Book is so enjoyable, and I think its impact on music is hard to overstate.

This 99% Invisible podcast episode on its origins and the attempt to uncover the identities of its authors is a great listen, especially if you enjoy the cross-section of jazz music and intellectual property rights like myself.


The Dinkytown McDonald’s has closed: Remembering the U of M’s Golden Arches

No one's nostalgic for the Dinkytown McD's. But some of us are nostalgic for who they were when they went there.

I think the author of this article laid it on pretty thick.

But to be fair, they were of an older generation of U of M alums, born to complain about the corporate raising of our beloved Dinkytown.

I have many fond memories of that McDonald’s. Back when I ate there, it certainly was a chance to, as they say in the article, “soak up the suds.”

My fondest memory there was right after Blarney’s closed the night I met my wife. I remember enjoying a burger and continuing our discussion on which animals would win in a fight.

The pull quote I chose for this piece, though, is right. I don’t care about McDonald’s. I just miss simpler times.

And maybe they’re simpler because they were manufactured in a way. My life isn’t manufactured much at all these days, leaving me in a constant state of anxiety and fear of what’s to come.

Maybe the closing of that McDonald’s aught to symbolize the start of something better. For myself, and for the next generation of alumni who pine for things to just stay the same for just a little longer.


This Is How To Change Someone’s Mind: 6 Secrets From Research

We need more discussions where no one is demonized, shamed and both sides are open to changing their mind. Not only is it more pleasant, but that harsh stuff doesn’t actually work. It just makes enemies more vicious. Yes, some topics will always be controversial and things won’t always go smoothly, but they don’t have to go badly.

Now it would be great if someone had taken the time to pull all the insights from peer-reviewed research, professional negotiations, cult exiting and applied epistemology into one book… Oh wait, someone has.


Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed

We’ve been led into a culture that has been engineered to leave us tired, hungry for indulgence, willing to pay a lot for convenience and entertainment, and most importantly, vaguely dissatisfied with our lives so that we continue wanting things we don’t have. We buy so much because it always seems like something is still missing.


Inside the Great NBA Bubble Experiment

This was a wonderfully written account of life inside the NBA’s bubble that was formed during the COVID outbreak.

There are a ton of great stories, but this one actually made me laugh out loud:

Once, I played Heads Up! (the charades-like game where you hold your phone up to your forehead) with Kemba Walker of the Boston Celtics at the end of an interview. The answer on the screen was “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone,” and the clue he gave me was “They be flying on brooms and shit.”


Iowa’s love affair with gas station pizza, explained

There’s a reason Iowans get so worked up about their gas station pizza. It’s good. Not just cheap-pizza good, but actually, genuinely good. Casey’s pizza dough is soft and airy, creating a crust that’s the perfect blend of bubbles and bread, much closer to homemade dough than you’ll find in most pizzerias.


Programming Sucks

Here are the secret rules of the internet: five minutes after you open a web browser for the first time, a kid in Russia has your social security number. Did you sign up for something? A computer at the NSA now automatically tracks your physical location for the rest of your life. Sent an email? Your email address just went up on a billboard in Nigeria.

These things aren’t true because we don’t care and don’t try to stop them, they’re true because everything is broken because there’s no good code and everybody’s just trying to keep it running. That’s your job if you work with the internet: hoping the last thing you wrote is good enough to survive for a few hours so you can eat dinner and catch a nap.

As poignant, true, and depressing as it was back when it was 2014.


Working on a suicide helpline changed how I talk to everyone

It turns out that conversations with friends are not so different. Even when you think you know somebody, you never have all the information; something always gets lost in translation. Sometimes you strip away unnecessary banality but, often, something essential is cut. Friends might avoid the truth because they are afraid of being judged. They might be unable to put their thoughts into words, or they might be held back by motives or concerns they don’t even fully understand themselves. Or they might be expressing themselves perfectly well to you, but you twist their words because you are superimposing your own models of the world onto them. To varying degrees, there is an uncrossable chasm between you and everybody you care about.


The power of low expectations

At the end of January, I had an epiphany.

Kim and I were sitting in the living room one evening, relaxed in our easy chairs, both reading books. All four of our beasts were nestled nearby. The house was quiet. For the first time in forever, I felt completely content.

For maybe twenty minutes, I paused what I was doing and simply savored the moment. I stopped. I looked around. I made time to be present in the Now.

This article is really helping me cope with my anxiety as of late.

I think the expectations I place on myself are too high.