Newsletter: Issue Five

Welcome to 2022. Early indications suggest that it will be a year unlike any other, full of wonder and beauty.

Kidding. Like every year since (at least) 2016, this year promises to blow chunks. But I’m learning to expect the worst, focus on self-improvement and anything else I can control, and let the chips fall where they may. A good way to do that is to stop doom scrolling so you can actually see the wonder and beauty when it happens.

Last year I took a break from Twitter and Instagram, the two social networks of which I still remained a part. Not participating was a clear net positive gain.

Did I miss Twitter and Instagram? Twitter, sort of. Nothing beats it for discovering what I’m supposed to be outraged about on any given day. And for a few laughs.

Instagram, on the other hand, is a cesspool designed to showcase the worst of humanity. I used it to follow photographers in the hopes of improving my own work. In reality, I ended up being shown the half-assed outtakes from advertising pros who reused the same effects for whatever boat, motorcycle, or coffee product they were being paid to shill for that day. The algorithm says that’s what I must see, so that’s all I see. And that’s still the best of Instagram.

I tried Glass, an alternative photo network that attempts to pare down Instagram to the good parts and charges a subscription fee instead of targeting members with ads (and the feed is chronological!). On paper, it’s fantastic. In reality, it’s the same popularity contest. It promises “community not comparison” but there are clearly people who know other people who get more feedback and there are the rest of us. Same body, different skin. Almost as if humans aren’t at their best when competing for attention in a global arena.

So I realized I just don’t need any of it. For my own photos, I’ll post to my own photo site, a showcase of my best work made mostly for myself. To view other peoples’ photos, I’ll buy monographs, browse NatGeo, or visit a gallery. To get the news, I’ll read the daily NYT email. To keep in touch with people, I’ll actually text or talk directly to them instead of “liking” and commenting on their posts. To communicate my thoughts, I’ll write—longer form, edited, considered.

You’re either eaten by the algorithms or you escape to find out what life could be without them.


Jason Kottke shared a list of 52 things he learned in 2021. Did you know more people have walked on the moon than have been born on one of Earth’s continents?

Apparently fake elective surgeries are just as effective as the real version in 51% of cases.

The benefits of compounded interest are pretty easy to understand on paper, but humans aren’t great at translating compelling evidence into action. Maybe this video will help emphasize that in saving and investing, starting earlier is exponentially better than starting later.

There’s only one age: alive.

–Agnes Varda, to Oliver Jeffers, via Austin Kleon

Elon Musk is a misogynistic child (possible paywall). I will never consider a Tesla product while he’s involved.

Furthermore, in stories like these and in my own experience, it seems clear that HR departments exist to support the executives of a company, not the employees.

Barraza says she was harassed almost daily for three years at Tesla, with no response from HR except for them disabling their email address that handled complaints.

Erica Cloud, a Tesla assembly line worker, in another lawsuit says she experienced “continuous and pervasive” sexual harassment from her manager. When she complained to HR, she faced retaliation from other managers.

If you’re lucky enough to work for a company with a benevolent CEO—one who recognizes the value of a work life balance, equality, and taking care of people— the HR department creates policies, defines benefits, and handles complaints accordingly. However, if the CEO is a woman-hating toddler or the board thinks cutting costs somehow makes the company more competitive than attracting top talent would, the HR department ensures you’ll be screwed over.

Which is why employee unions are so important.