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Author: switchknitter

Echo chambers and critical thinking

Posted in books, and magick

Lately I’ve been reading a ton of new-to-me authors. Books about philosophy and spirituality. I read a lot anyway, but my current selections have required a lot of deep thinking and critical thought.

I love it. Normally I read history or science, books where I am taking in facts written by an expert (or someone who has interviewed experts for the book). I don’t analyze them too much, just enjoy them. So flexing my mental muscles so much is delightful. I can almost feel my neurons lighting up with connections as I read and think. It’s glorious.

(And I’m thinking about doing a book blog. I used to, ages ago. Might resurrect that.)

I was talking to someone this morning about Jordan Peterson. I asked why he listened to the man, when he’s against trans rights. My acquaintance said he tries to listen to people whom he doesn’t agree with, and often finds value in some of their work even if he doesn’t like the person. And it got me thinking.

On the internet, it’s really easy to get trapped in an echo chamber. It’s also easy to write off someone’s work completely if they say one problematic thing. I think my acquaintance is right; it’s more nuanced than that. Someone can be both great and terrible, and you can learn from the good parts even while acknowledging the bad.

For example, I’m currently reading Stuart Wilde’s Infinite Self. It’s a roller coaster of reactions. About 70% of what he says is worth listening to, and he makes some good points about ways to approach spirituality. But he also believes we shouldn’t help those worse off than us, because it would be interrupting their spiritual journey. And that there is no such thing as a truly innocent victim. It’s repugnant.

But I am reading every sentence with more awareness than I normally have, because I want to take in the good ideas and make use of them. I can separate the wheat from the chaff as I go, and appreciate a great idea when I see one. I’m also not getting angry about the things I don’t like. I’m analyzing, not getting overly emotional about it.

That said, I have no desire to financially support someone who is, like Peterson, transphobic. I will not buy his books (if he has any; I’ve only heard of him making YouTube videos, but I imagine there are books somewhere), I will get them through the library or borrow from friends. I suspect it’s a fine line to walk.

I’m going through a period of great personal growth right now, I think. Taking in new ideas, tasting them to see if they’re congruous with my personality and worldview, and incorporating the ones that pass muster. I’m also learning to speak up for myself more. I attempted to read Alan Chapman’s Baptist Head trilogy last week, and when it wasn’t to my tastes I bluntly said so to the people who suggested I read it. I was polite, but explained my reasoning. It was accepted and we all moved on. Even last year, I would have made some bland but positive comment about the book and then quickly changed the subject because I was afraid of making people angry when I dissented. So that’s growth, too.

This journey I unwittingly started on a month ago is taking me to new and wonderful places. Stay tuned.

A Secondhand Anecdote

Posted in family

My eighteen year old nephew drives for a restaurant delivery company. He told me this story this week, and I asked if I could share because it’s adorable and wholesome.

He got an order for a made-to-order burrito chain restaurant: two kids meals, and nothing else. A little strange, but he picked up the order and drove it to its customer.

The house was large and fancy, and had a smart doorbell. My nephew pushed the button.

“Hello?” a male voice said.

“Hi. I’m from the delivery company. I have your order.”

The man shouted. “Goddammit, Marla, stop giving the kids the password!”

The sound of feet clomping down the stairs followed.

The door opened. Two girls, twins, about six years old, excitedly took their kids meals from my nephew.

And this, my friends, is why you should stop giving the kids the password.

Scales and codes

Posted in programming, and random updates

I did something stupid: I got on my scale last night. It depressed me. Which, it shouldn’t. I can see changes in my body, I can see my clothes fitting differently… I wasn’t getting on the scale for a reason, because I knew it might upset me, and it did, so I’m angry with myself. Note that this scale doesn’t actually show my weight; it’s old and analog and the dial goes all the way around and then over, because its limit is 200 pounds. (I am exceptionally tall for someone with a uterus, over 6 feet/184cm. At 200 pounds I look anorexic and have photos to prove it.) The last time I was weighed, it was at my doctor’s. I had planned to hold out until my next appointment, but I don’t have one scheduled, and I was curious… Fucking stupid of me.

I am trying to be kind to myself about it, though. Beating myself up accomplishes nothing.

On a lighter note, I’ve been working on writing a phone app. It hasn’t been going well, but I’m optimistic. At first I tried to use React Native. I knew it was a hack to make JavaScript apps work on mobile platforms, but I was hoping it would work enough for my purposes. The app I’m writing is super simple, so I crossed my fingers and went for it.

I had problems. Today I got my brother, a talented programmer, to look at my code and make sure it was RN and not me. He confirmed that it was RN. Which made me feel better — I hate it when I can’t solve a coding problem I created myself — but it meant I have to buckle down and learn Kotlin.

So I have Android Studio installed and am working on the app. Wish me luck. I am determined to successfully write this thing. One, because I hate backing down from something I want to accomplish. Two, it’s a skill I could monetize in future if I wanted. (The app will be free, but I can use it as a portfolio piece.) Three, the app would make someone happy and get them more exposure, which they deserve. Which is why I wanted to write it in the first place.

Okay, enough talking, more coding!

What the hell am I doing?

Posted in books, magick, programming, random updates, School, and spinning

I never updated the site about it, but I had to drop my fall 2020 classes because of mental health fun. I’m trying again in summer. A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to apply for a full-time job, and did. Didn’t get it because I wasn’t willing to move, but I looked at jobs on LinkedIn and Glassdoor. Talked to my therapist and realized I’d be happier freelancing. So I set myself up an account on Fiverr — contact me if you want the link — for doing WordPress stuff. I’m thinking about adding some automation stuff, as I’ve been writing Python scripts lately to manipulate images and PDF files. So I could offer file processing. I might do that.

Meanwhile, I did a huge spinning commission, almost three pounds of yarn. I just finished it Tuesday, and shipped it off today.

So: freelance coding, spinning, and a trigonometry class. Should be enough to keep me busy.

While I spin, I read books. I have a Bluetooth foot pedal that turns pages in ebooks. It was designed for musicians, but it’s wonderful for hands-free reading. I do spinning purely by muscle memory in my hands; watching myself spin makes me screw up. So I have one foot on my treadle and the other turns the pages on my tablet.

I should start blogging about what I’m reading. During this last commission, I read:

  • Book of Lies: The Disinformation Guide to Magick and the Occult — Richard Metzger, editor. A really mixed bag. I didn’t enjoy most of the pieces in it, and there were few ideas that intrigued me. I enjoyed the biographies of women occultists, though.
  • Life After Death — Damien Echols. Echols was one of the West Memphis Three, innocent men who were railroaded into prison for being “Satanists” in 1993. He was in jail for 18 years. His story is depressing but ends with him being freed. Good biography.
  • The Science Delusion: Freeing the Spirit of Enquiry — Rupert Sheldrake. This book blew my mind. That said, I didn’t agree with everything in it. But some of the problems he has with traditional materialist thinking raised a lot of questions for me. I’ll write more about that a future post.
  • The Elements of Spellcrafting: 21 Keys to Successful Sorcery — Jason Miller. Interesting thoughts about the nuts and bolts of magick. I liked it, and plan to read it again.
  • Don’t Be a Jerk: And Other Practical Advice from Dogen, Japan’s Greatest Zen Master — Brad Warner. I don’t have a lot of experience with Buddhism of any type, despite my dad and sister both following it. This book blew my mind a little too. I plan to write about it in future as well.

What can I say, it was a big commission.

I got all of those books except the DisInfo one as recommendations from the Adventures in WooWoo Discord server. I’ve been talking to AIWW’s creator, Tommie Kelly, quite a bit lately. I built him a Discord bot for his Forty Servants divination deck. (I then modified it into a tarot bot, if you’re interested in such things.) He’s pretty cool. I haven’t actually read much of his blog (I should fix that) but I’ve been binge-listening to his podcast. I like people who freely admit they don’t know everything. (Especially occultists. There’s a lot of big egos out there.) I need to read his comics, too….

Speaking of occult podcasts, my other favorites are Anti-Fragile Tarot and SassafrasCast. I’ve been talking to the hosts of those as well; they’re friends (of each other; I barely know them yet), and Rorie Kelly (the Sassafras host) is a fantastic musician. I’m a goth and normally don’t listen to singer/songwriters. She’s different though.

Anyway, that’s what I’ve been up to. Life’s been strange but I like it.

In the beginning…

Posted in magick

Once upon a time, I was heavily into the occult. I got out of it for several years, but recently got interested again. Since I was twenty or so my magick of choice has been the chaotic sort. Even when I stopped practicing, the basic principles of chaos magick influenced my life.

For this first post on the subject, I’m going to tell the story of how I got seriously into the occult.

By the time I was 13 I already a witchy-minded atheist who owned a tarot deck and read paranormal books from the library. But the life-changer was when my mom’s co-worker, the cop who was the city’s specialist in occult matters, hired me as his infant’s babysitter.

Understand that this was 1989, the height of the Satanic Panic here in America. Police departments had “occult specialists”. And Mark, my boss, had the most amazing work-related library ever. In the months I babysat his kid, I read all of LaVey’s works, several by Crowley, Buckland’s “Book of Witchcraft”… all kinds of books that were mind-blowing for a 13 year old who read fast and was hungry for knowledge.

So yeah. I can thank the Satanic Panic for the beginnings of my occult education.

I flirted with Wicca and Thelema, but then discovered chaos magick through Grant Morrison’s The Invisibles in 1996. It stuck.

About a year ago, just before the pandemic, I started feeling disconnected from any sort of spirituality. I hadn’t practiced magick in a few years, hadn’t meditated or anything… In the past two months I’ve started finding myself again. I hate that term, finding myself, but I really did feel rather lost.

I’m glad that’s changing. I can’t wait to see where this goes…

A moment to remember

Posted in books, and magick

I had a Moment. One of those where you get a taste of an idea and have to just sit there and process it because it’s too much to take all at once.. From this line, and what led up to it, in Brad Warner’s Don’t Be a Jerk (a book about Buddhism): “The universe and the self are one and the same. Time is another name for this thing. So is the “present moment.” You are not a person living in a time and a place. You are the person and the time and the place all rolled into one.” I’m just… wow. Yeah. Not becoming a Buddhist but it was a powerful moment.

Brain Crushes

Posted in sex

Sometimes I meet a man — and it’s always a man — whom I’m somehow impressed by. Their intelligence, wit, knowledge… something about their minds makes me want to Vulcan mind meld with them. And yet it’s completely non-sexual. I tried having sex with some of my brain crushes, when I was much younger. It never went well. Because what I wanted was a mental connection, not a physical one.

(That isn’t to say I’m not attracted to men. And for me to want them, they have to have interesting personalities and intelligence. It’s just that most of the time, my interest in a guy is far more intellectual than physical.)

I never know how to act with men I have brain crushes on. Because my mind is attracted to theirs, so I feel like I should want their bodies too. Or they expect sex because we get along so well intellectually. So generally I wind up avoiding them, because I don’t know how to reconcile my mental attraction with my lack of physical interest.

(This never happens with other genders. It’s easier for me to find someone not-male attractive physically if I’m also attracted to their mind. Maybe it’s because my sexual experiences with men have been worse on average than those with women? Maybe because I’m more sexually attracted to women and non-binary folk? Not sure.)

This rambling post brought to you by the podcast My Favorite Malady, because I have a brain crush on the male host and don’t even know what he looks like. Nor do I care. Because brains.

Media Favorites

Posted in Media

I was in the mood to make lists, for some reason. I stuck to only three of each thing, as to not get overwhelming.

Authors
Mary Roach (everything)
Alex Bellos (math books only)
Bill Bryson (history and science books only)

Podcasts
Lore
Sawbones
History is Gay

Classical (or Related) Pieces
Cello Fury – “Nightfall”
Max Richter – “On the Nature of Daylight”
Mozart – Requiem (especially “Dies Irae”)
Bonus entry: Vivaldi’s Four Seasons is terribly overplayed, but I have a soft spot for it, especially the second movement of “Summer”

Albums
The Cure – Disintegration
Covenant – Northern Lights
REM – Green

Currently on Heavy Rotation
VNV Nation – “Sentinel”
Nicki Minaj – “Good Form”
Boy Harsher – “Pain”

Female Singers (because I mostly listen to male voices; I’m a sucker for baritones)
Peggy Lee
Florence & the Machine (first two albums only)
Siouxsie Sioux (especially Peepshow)

Movies (I rarely watch them, but hey)
Moon
The Princess Bride
The Cook, The Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover
Bonus entry: Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, because when I was a kid I desperately wanted to be Maleficent, and no I haven’t seen the live-action films)

Musicals
My Fair Lady
Sweeney Todd
The Book of Mormon (which I saw live with the Broadway cast and it was amazing)

That’s it. Tell me your faves! I’m in the mood for nonfiction books and music. (I’ll warn you now that telling me to watch a movie is like telling my cat to write a novel. Ain’t gonna happen.)

Back to school

Posted in School

I’m registered for two classes this fall at the community college: trigonometry, and pre-calculus. My goal is twofold.

One, for years I’ve wanted to learn vector calculus just for fun. There’s something awesome about the idea of plotting spaceship trajectories, even though I’ll never go to space.

Two, grad school. For over a decade, ever since I took an intro to statistics class for my undergrad degree, I’ve been wanting to get a PhD in stats. I loved that class, and it was ridiculously easy for me. My two upper-level classes on experiment design also used stats, and those were equally fun. My local university has a pretty good stats program, but I need to get through calc 3 just to apply to it.

I love math. But I didn’t learn to enjoy it until I was an adult. As a kid, math was boring and I dreaded it. Which is annoying now, because it means my arithmetic skills aren’t that sharp. I rely on a calculator more than I’d like to, just because certain elementary skills aren’t ingrained.

I blame my teachers. Math classes were always dull. My high school geometry teacher, for example, had us spend half of each class period copying proofs into our notebooks, and we barely used the proofs. But the notebook was a huge part of our grade. She spent very little time teaching, and I dreaded that class all year.

So I am at a disadvantage compared to those who were taught to like math as young people. But I’m not going to let that stop me. If I suck at calculus when I take it in spring, I’ll go to grad school for something else. But I hope I’m good enough at it to get into the stats program. Because statistics are amazing.

Right now I’m doing the algebra course on Khan Academy, because it’s been ages since I took a math class and I want it all fresh in my head when the semester starts. I am enjoying it immensely. I do at least a little every day, and it’s a rush when I solve something correctly. Like, for a brief second, everything in the universe is just right.

It’s a nice feeling.

Cello lesson #3

Posted in brain fun, and music

I’m a little bleary, having not slept since I woke up early yesterday morning. But I powered through a cello lesson anyway with encouragement from Luna.

(I think I’m mildly hypomanic, despite taking my meds regularly. Hopefully it’s a fluke. Staying up *checks clock* going on 30 hours is never a good idea. And I’m still wide awake.)

Anyway. Right before the lesson I sat down to tune my baby. I happened to be sitting on the edge of my chair instead of all the way on it and leaning against the backrest. And holy hell, I sounded better.

I mentioned this to Luna as soon as the call got going, and she looked gobsmacked. “I didn’t teach you that? Why didn’t I teach you that?”

Glad I figured it out. Made the whole lesson better. More comfortable.

I played the “Long, Long Ago” variation, and then it was on to Mozart’s “May Song.” The rhythm is weird, but it’s a lot of fun. Very whimsical. I enjoyed it.

Because I picked it up quickly, she started me on Bach’s “Minuet No. 1”. This is a big deal, because it’s the first time I’ve shifted my fingering hand. I started learning to go from first to second position and back. I did a decent job sight-reading the bulk of the piece, which felt good.

We also spent a few minutes with the Vivaldi. I was getting worn out by that point, I’ve got to admit.

So my homework is practicing scales (and Luna is having me purchase a scales book), the Mozart, the Minuet (with emphasis on the shifting parts), the first eight notes of Bach’s “Cello Suite No. 1” (continuing from last lesson), and playing the Vivaldi with a metronome at assigned speeds. It’s a lot, yeah, but I’m happy for it. I have two weeks before my next lesson, and I enjoy having a wide range of things to work on. Keeps me from getting bored.

(I still can’t believe I’ve been sitting wrong this whole time. Sigh.)