Helplessness

The last three weeks has been terrible in every sense of the word with the outbreak of war in Europe. Even though I’m more than eight time zones way from the action, my anxiety level is through the roof, and has caused my heart rate to spike. Part of the reason is that I have absolutely no control over the situation. Nothing I do can effect the news.

I think one indication of maturity level is how one handles helplessness. As my world opened up while aging, there’s more and more things which I can’t change. The way I fundamentally look, the way mustard taste, the way someone else feels about you. And now, the way global geopolitics is shaping up for the foreseeable future.

My approach right now is best encapsulated by Vonnegut’s “so it goes.” It’s okay to be frustrated at what’s going on. In fact, one should absolutely be aghast at what’s happening to the climate crisis, Ukraine war, the pandemic… but alas, what can I do besides my little part?

It’s odd how I think about this right now. Perhaps it’s a strategy to deal with overwhelming anxiety, but I always believed that I have an internal locus of control. I firmly believe that my future is under my control, but having moved to ABQ, home of a nuclear lab, I fully realized that if nuclear war were to break out, I would be incinerated instantly. Furthermore, there’s also issues of health in my family that I can’t control. It just sucks that as we age, chaos increasingly dominates our life and helplessness goes up.

So it goes.

 

Simple Neural ODE Code

 

 

Hitting the Slopes

I recently had an epitome the other day: having fun skiing entails skiing less.

Ski Santa Fe

The logic is simple. A tired skier is an unhappy skier. A tired skier is a an injury-prone skier. A tired skier is a miserable skier.

Another particular benefit of skiing less is I can save money, since many ski parks offer half-day passes for a discount. By only opting for the afternoon session, I also get to experience a warmer day with less crowds since après ski tend to set in around lunch time. There’s also the fact that I could sleep in more, and not contend with the early morning rush.

I finally understand less is more now.

A Walk in the Woods

My third Bill Bryson book after a Short History of Nearly Everything and At Home. As usual, I loved his writing style and humor. I found myself laughing and snickering more while reading this book about struggling through the Appalachian Trail then the Anxious People novel.

Pros:

  • Lots of facts, and his usage of vocabulary has always been strong.
  • Dry, British humor

Cons:

  • No sources; there is a fact about the average American walking less than ____ miles a week which I couldn’t verify.

The novel was published back in 1998, I do wonder if anything has changed since. There were quite a few sections where Bryson crucified certain governmental actions (or lack thereof) which I suspect will have gained a lot of attention due to the book/movie. It’s just so depressing sometimes to read about the accelerating decline of nature.

My Castle

Nowadays, home is not only where the heart is, but also where my office is. I spend over twenty one hours per day on average inside the confines of the four walls. This is partly why I splurged for the two bedroom instead of the one, and why I’ve been sort of obsessing over air quality recently.

Ever since college, I’ve developed some sort of allergic reaction whenever I visit my parent’s house in Florida. I’m convinced it’s due to some sort of ragweed floating around, or the sudden changes in stress leads to a floundering immune system. When there’s nobody around, I just stuck tissues up my nose… luckily, my sinus passage has so far enjoyed New Mexico… for the most part.

I’ve noticed in the afternoons that my nose are constantly flared, and that repeated vacuuming of my carpets still leads to large amounts of dust piling in the bin. The rays of sunshine streaming into my apartments laid bare the amount of dust floating around. It makes sense; the dust comes from, well, the twenty one hours I spend at home and the fact that the dry, high desert environment readily kicks up the sand and particulates from the ground. Since no home is sealed, those little particulate matter diffuse into my castle.

Ever since I got my Airmega 200M air purifier, that nose flaring has gone away for the most part. A side effect is that I have to dust my home less with that HEPA filter running. It has also made me more aware of the effects on indoor air quality of cooking and vacuuming. The filter plus my humidifier really makes my indoor air quality much better. This translates to a happier Marshall.

Now, I’m concerned about my water quality…

Anxious People

I wasn’t sure what this book was supposed to be.

It started off as a bank robbery gone awry. A few dozen pages later, it become a surprisingly heartfelt discussions on morality of intentions, and depressive thoughts. At other times, it tried its best to be a comedy (though, I don’t think it really worked for me).

In the end, I thought it tried to hard to be all three. As a mystery, I thought the “twist” was not that inventive. I did like how the the individual stories from each character played into the overarching mystery though. And also to be fair, it was arguably one of the more realistic resolutions that one can imagine.

As a comedy, it just didn’t click with me. I’m not sure whether it’s the characters or just the way my humor works… but I just didn’t laugh that much at all. Compare this to the Walk in the Woods which I’m currently reading now which has me audibly snickering.

Finally, as a character study, I didn’t much care for the characters. I found them grating, and rather unenjoyable to be around.

I can see why some people would like the book (hence the Netflix adaptation), but it’s not for me.

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue

The Faustian bargain at the heart of the novel is intriguing: our protagonist Addie is allowed to live forever, but she is not allowed to make a “mark” on the world during her life. This means that everyone she meets will forget her as soon as she leaves the room. The curse is the embodiment of “out of sight, out of mind.”

Beyond the social aspects, she cannot draw, paint or write, for those can leave marks. Photographs of her develop to be stubbornly out of focus. Even her transient footprints get wiped away remarkably quickly. She is, in society’s eye, invisible.

While intriguing to discuss the consequences (such as how does one travel internationally in this day and age without a passport if one can be forgotten instantly with no records… or the fact that I think the author could’ve spent much more time in the “meat” of the time period rather than mostly near the beginning and end), the central driving force behind Addie is her desperation to be remembered. In time, she found that she can influence artists to create art inspired by her, supposedly remarkable, face and figure. I really liked this loophole for some odd reason.

Without spoiling the story too much, she meets a… remarkably… dull man who can remember her. Character traits notwithstanding, I did very much enjoy the writing in the last few chapters of this man. Speaking too much here would spoil the ending.

Overall, solid book. Decently interesting plot points. Fun read.