WeblogPoMo 2024 - Song 14: The Presets - Talk Like That

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When I inherited my sister’s 1991 Pontiac 6000 LE, it came with the custom CD deck that she installed after she inherited it from our grandma.

My vanity mirror-mounted CD sleeve contained the 5 or so burned CDs that I would rotate through, as was the style at the time.

Apocalypso was one of them.

This was the record I’d throw on when I needed to wake up before a party.

This was the record I’d throw on when I was making my way back from Edina after an exhausting truck unloading at Best Buy.

This album took me all over the metro area up until the day my car died and I needed a new one.

Related: I saw the Presets open for Cut Copy my sophomore year of college. Rob and I walked in flip flops from my house in the Como neighborhood all the way to the Fine Line in the warehouse district to see them.

That’s a 3 mile trek in one direction.

The show was incredible, but I will never forget how much pain I was in on the walk home.

I’ll also never forget how hard we were laughing about it.

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What are you getting paid in?

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A long time ago, a manager friend of mine wrote a book to collect his years of wisdom. He never published it, which is a shame because it was full of interesting insights. One that I think a lot about today was the question: “How are you paying your team?”

With this question, my manager friend wanted to point out that you can pay people in lots of currencies. Among other things, you can pay them in quality of life, prestige, status, impact, influence, mentorship, power, autonomy, meaning, great teammates, stability and fun. And in fact most people don’t just want to be paid in money — they want to be paid some mixture of these things.

When I was in college, the phrase “it’s all about the perks” became something I ironically said often when people described their jobs.

I’m realizing as I get older just how true that axiom is.

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WeblogPoMo 2024 - Song 13: Anxiety Attack Mitigation

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A heads up: this post talks about mental health and suicidal thoughts again.

When you mention suicidal thoughts to your therapist, the first thing they do is work with you to write up a plan.

The plan is a series of steps you can take when you are unable to pull yourself out of a funk.

The steps start out small and accelerate all the way up to “go to the hospital.”

My first small step was to write down movies, TV shows, or songs that make me happy.

The movies and TV shows were easy, but I struggled to think of songs that made me happy.

As I’ve written a lot about this month, most music simply distracts me or serves as a sympathetic friend. It’s not often that songs put a smile on my face.

I started a new playlist in Apple Music called Anxiety Attack Mitigation1. Over the following few weeks, I added songs that brought a legit smile to my face when I heard them.

Here are the songs on it as of today:

Black Box - Fall into My Love (Radio Edit)

One night, my daughter was eating at the table while I was doing dishes. We were arguing about something unimportant. She was “very mad” at me.

This song comes on shuffle and I begin dancing. I can’t help it with this song, it’s too damn groovy.

I turn around and look over at my daughter. She looks up from her plate with an angry scowl. She sees what I’m doing and her jaw drops like a cartoon character. She gets this look on her face that’s equal parts amused and shocked.

She quickly realizes that she’s supposed to be mad at me, so she quickly covers her mouth and looks away.

Whenever this song comes on, even if I’m “very mad” about something, I can’t help but crack a smile.

Coolio - The Winner

I mentioned this song in my Hit ‘em High writeup, so I’ll make this quick:

This is a song that I’ve heard all my life, but never actually listened to until very recently.

Seriously, read these lyrics.

I’ll admit that I didn’t expect this sort of message from the same guy as Gangsta’s Paradise, but I’m grateful for the wisdom of Coolio.

Des'ree - You Gotta Be

102.9 Lite FM was my second favorite radio station growing up2.

I’d fall asleep to that station every night.

The song I most looked forward to hearing was this one.

Even as a fourth grader, this song made me feel good about myself.

As an adult, the song serves as a manifesto for how to keep moving through life.

Sum 41 - Fat Lip

I had this song on my Cybiko.

That’s a big deal because my Cybiko had a 16 megabyte card, which could store a whopping 16 minutes of low quality MP3s.

This song reminds me of middle school. Wanting to rebel but never feeling courageous enough to do it.

I’ve been lucky enough to see them perform it live twice this year3. I used to think pop punk music wasn’t something I was allowed to have as part of my identity, but the past few months have needed a soundtrack to help me make sense of my present situation.

Now, I’m no longer ashamed to admit that I love it.

12 year old Tim would’ve loved to see Sum 41 live. 36 year old Tim is grateful to have had that realization before it was too late.

And every time I hear this song, it reminds me that I need to put on my own oxygen mask before helping others.

Rêve - Still Dancing

I already covered this one.

Hoobastank - Crawling In The Dark

I’m embarrassed to admit I listen to a lot of these songs, and this one is probably the one I’m the most embarrassed about.

Maybe I’m reaching a point in my life where I want to care less about what other people think, and this post serves as exposure therapy.

But I can’t rock out enough to this song when I feel angsty. It helps me feel less alone.

Jimmy Eat World - The Middle

This was another song that was on my Cybiko.

Every time I hear it, I try to place myself into the perspective of either the singer or the girl.

As the singer, someone pops into my head that I feel could use a pat on their back, so I shoot them a text and see how they’re hanging in there.

As the girl, I allow myself to get the pat on the back.

Bluey - I Know a Place (The Creek Song)

The best children’s television show of the past few years is unquestionably Bluey.

The soundtrack to the show is part of the reason why.

Close your eyes when listening to this song and picture the scene being described.

It’s a sure fire way to ground yourself back in reality, to give you a chance to let go of the thing that is causing you so much stress, to make space for thoughts that matter.

Em Beihold - Numb Little Bug

I went out for karaoke a month or so ago and heard someone sing this song that I’d never heard before.

The lyrics match the way I feel when I’m especially down, and listening to her helps me feel less isolated.

Modest Mouse - Float On

Like the Coolio song above, here’s a song that’s been in regular rotation for years, but I hadn’t really listened to the lyrics.

This song is a reminder that life often works out just fine in the end.

Hoku - Perfect Day

You listen to this song and try to not get a dumb grin on your face.

Curtis Mayfield - Move On Up

Yet another song I’ve enjoyed for years without considering the lyrics all that much.

The uplifting lyrics and encouragement to persevere through struggle make this song perfect for this playlist.

It also often gives me perspective for my own struggles. I know there isn’t such a thing as “the suffering Olympics,” but come on, my struggles aren’t much compared to those of an African American in the 70s.

The Linda Lindas - Talking to Myself

I’m seeing Green Day this summer, and the Linda Lindas are one of the opening sets.

Their entire Growing Up album is very good, but this song made it on this playlist because, much like the Numb Little Big song, it often feels like we’re alone when we have depressive thoughts.

I’m super lucky to have friends I can call to talk about the things I think about that I can’t help.

Some of you may even be reading this post! I can’t believe people read this stuff, but again, I’m a very lucky guy. ❤️

  1. This is an incredibly dorky name. Just needed to admit that here. 

  2. My first was Radio AAHS. The ink I could spill about my love for Radio AAHS… 

  3. They are currently on their final tour. I’m not sure if this is like pro wrestling when people have retirement matches and then go on to wrestle for another 30 years (looking at you, Ric Flair), but it sure feels like they are ready to call it. Yet another reason I’m glad I took the opportunity to see them live this year. 

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Personal Website Aesthetics

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I came across this list of various questions for how personal websites reflect social movements these days, and this one got me thinking:

what’s punk online today? what’s the website equivalent of a zine? the photocopy look or the ethic of throw this up fast and cheap?

When I started designing websites in the late 90s, we didn’t have much by way of templates or nice aesthetics to adopt. Everything was looping MIDIs, seven baked-in fonts, and maybe a <marquee> or <blink> tossed in for good measure.

Nowadays, the kids have an incredible amount of templates and tooling available to make websites look really polished and smooth out of the box.

But I guess the point Tracy is trying to make here is that stuff isn’t really punk or counter culture. People expect corporate websites to look polished. Rounded rectangles. Big, bubbly fonts with (shudders) dynamic carousels.

I am feeling the itch to redesign my site again, and I am unsure what direction to take. My personal braaaaand is still being defined, but the elements I can identify off the dome would be inclusive, optimistic, sarcastic, and warm.

Are those elements counter culture these days?

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Generative AI is for the idea guys

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When I started working in tech in the early 2010s I began running in to idea guys. Upon discovering I was a developer, they would get very excited and pitch me their big idea for an app/website/service to see what I thought.

After receiving a polite reaction they would often say something like: “I think it would do really well, if I could only figure out how to get it made”. Like the idea was the main thing that mattered, and the pesky task of actually building it was an insignificant little bump along the road to success. At this point I would usually tell them that ideas are worth nothing, until they are implemented.

This post is brilliant. Sometimes, I use generative AI like cardboard to prototype an idea.

Testing out an idea is the first step toward doing the countless hours of work needed to make an idea a real thing.

Since I don’t think I’ve said it on this blog yet: “Ideas are worthless. Execution is everything.”

(I also love Rachel’s footnote after the word “guys”, saying “it was literally always guys” 😂)

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Effective obfuscation

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Some have fallen into the trap of framing the so-called "AI debate" as a face-off between the effective altruists and the effective accelerationists. Despite the incredibly powerful and wealthy people who are either self-professed members of either camp, or whose ideologies align quite closely, it's important to remember that there are far more than two sides to this story.

Rather than embrace either of these regressive philosophies — both of which are better suited to indulging the wealthy in retroactively justifying their choices than to influencing any important decisionmaking — it would be better to look to the present and the realistic future, and the expertise of those who have been working to improve technology for the better of all rather than just for themselves and the few just like them.

That’s it, I’ll admit it: I’m a Molly White stan.

Effective altruism always felt wrong to me, but leave it to Molly to explain those abstract feelings in such clear and well considered terms.

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Why I pay myself first - with my time

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We've all heard the personal finance advice popularised by Robert Kiyosaki: "Pay yourself first."

I've never liked this advice. It rings hollow. It feels selfish.

When you run a business, you don't pay yourself first. No, you have an obligation to pay your taxes first. To pay your employees second. Your vendors and suppliers third. And yourself? Dead last. This is how business works in the real world. Personal greed is a poor substitute for personal responsibility.

As an individual, yes, I find the “pay yourself first” mantra to work well for me.

As a business owner, I feel gross paying myself. I feel like someone is always gonna come after me for more money.

Maybe this is why I’m not a great entrepreneur.

But maybe there's a kernel of wisdom in "pay yourself first" that we can apply - not to money, but something far more precious - to our time.

This feels like a way more fitting application of the axiom, and it’s certainly something I’ve been prioritizing these past few months.

Maybe this advice will help you, too.

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WeblogPoMo 2024 - Song 12: Crystal Castles - Untrust Us

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Many a term paper was written to Untrust Us.

Many lines of code were generated to Vanished.

Many long walks from home to class were accompanied by Magic Spells.

The first Crystal Castles album is a prime example of how I've consumed music for the majority of my life.

The indiscernible lyrics, the rhythmic blips and bloops, and the strong repetition provide a great outlet to keep my spiraling thoughts distracted long enough for me to get something else done.

I think distraction is a perfectly reasonable purpose for music to serve.

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A Plea for Sober AI

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Below all this hype, there’s a quiet revolution happening. I keep meeting new companies and seeing new products that make practical use of LLMs. They use them to solve narrow problems and prioritize consistency and efficiency over giant, all-singing, all-dancing models. I keep meeting people who are amplifying their capacity and abilities by handing simple, mundane tasks to AIs, which they then refine and improve. AI-assisted coding has been a boon for early-stage start ups, which are shipping products with a maturity and polish beyond their years.

This is the world of Sober AI.

Sober AI is an incredible concept.

There’s so much progress that people can make using this tool. While it might not be able to solve all our problems, knowing how to wield it is a superpower in this economy.

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WeblogPoMo 2024 - Song 11: B-Real, Coolio, Method Man, LL Cool J & Busta Rhymes – Hit 'Em High (The Monstars' Anthem)

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Space Jam was my favorite movie growing up.

I didn’t own it on VHS, so it was one of those movies where I would watch it whenever an opportunity presented itself.

My oldest cousin got me the Space Jam poster for my birthday one year. It was one of the best birthday presents I ever got.

I took that poster with me into every place I moved. My dad had a thing where I wasn’t allowed to use nails or push pins to hang things on the walls (“Think of the resale value!”), so pretty much everything in my room was held up by that two-sided tacky tape which, ironically, left huge grease stains on the wall.

This soundtrack was the very first CD I ever purchased1. I didn’t even own a CD player at the time I purchased it, so I had to wait until the house was empty so I could put it into the 5 disc changer we had in the living room.

At the time, I skipped the vast majority of songs on this album. Most of the songs on this album are hip hop and R&B, both being genres that my white, suburban self had exceptionally low exposure to.

I mostly skipped around to the same songs I’d hear on Radio AAHS: Fly Like An Eagle, I Believe I Can Fly, Space Jam, and Buggin’.

Over time, I found myself gravitating toward the non-kid radio songs. The most compelling of those is Hit ‘em High (The Monstars Anthem).

Here, you’ve got five of the biggest names in hip hop collaborating on a song for the heels of the movie, and it goes hard.

To this day, this song is what I play when I’m driving my kids up to their track meets.2

(If this song isn’t your jam, might I recommend Coolio’s The Winner? I hadn’t really listened to the lyrics to this song before, but given all my mental health struggles in the past few months, I think it appeared at the perfect moment for me. The song is impressively positive and reaffirming.)

  1. I know I’ve mentioned that on here before, but I wanna be crystal clear in case someone is trying to steal my identity down the road. 

  2. I’m writing this post at my desk in the kitchen and playing this song to help spark memories. My daughter just walked in the house, heard the song, and started rapping along with Coolio’s part. I think I’m nailing this parenting thing. 

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