Your Biggest Control Over Comfort: Changing What ‘Comfort’ Means to You

In “The Collapse Will Not be Like the Thunderdome,” Sharon Astyk says that in collapse, “You aren’t going to be able to live in relative comfort, or if you are, it will because you changed your definition of comfort.”

That last line stuck with me: change your definition of comfort.

There are hard limits to what we can accept as ‘comfort.’ When we die, we can’t feel anything, let alone comfortable. Wet-bulb temperatures beyond above 35 C cannot be comfortable. It’s not clear that mammals can survive wet-bulb temperatures above 35 C long-term.

And yet, it’s possible to change one’s definition of ‘comfort’ within the range of wet-bulb temperatures which allow humans to stay healthy.

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Is My Age Why I Find It So Hard to Enjoy Fiction?

I Do No Finish (DNF) most novels I try these days. It makes me wonder… why is it so hard to find novels I want to complete?

Part of it is that I’m more honest with myself when I don’t enjoy a novel. Or maybe, because I DNF so many books these days, I expect most novels I pick up to be not worth finishing, and I find what I expect…

Somewhere, I read that when people get older, they prefer nonfiction over fiction. Obviously, this isn’t true for everyone. But I can’t help noticing that I’m much more likely to read a nonfiction book cover-to-cover these days. I think about them more after I put them down.

Yes, I pick nonfiction based on what interests me… but that applies to fiction too, doesn’t it?

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I start out talking about a fun song, then this post gets dark.

For over a decade, I’ve been a person of good taste who didn’t fall for that Kpop crap. Yes, I may have stared at the Kpop music videos playing in the electronics stores a little long (this was in Taiwan, where all the electronics stores use Kpop music videos to show the quality of their screens), but I chose music based on what sounded good, and the local Taiwanese pop music sounded better.

In the past year, something in me snapped.

Here’s the evidence of my downfall:

That’s right, I watched a music video for a debut Kpop group as soon as it dropped.

That’s a screenshot of me watching “Shut Down” when it had only one official view on YouTube

If the person I was ten years ago saw that, she’d be ashamed of her future self.

I’ve even… horror of horrors… bought the album. But only one copy.

I like this group’s mix of voices. That’s how I justified the purchase. But I’ll be honest. There’s more.

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I Don’t Want to Write Bestsellers. I Want to Write Evergreens.

I’m currently re-reading The Bestseller Code by Jodie Archer and Matthew L. Jockers. Such a thought-provoking book. It reveals things about reader behavior few others discuss—and which some people refuse to believe despite the evidence. Maybe that’s why only computer algorithms could dig up those truths.

The book is also a failure.

It promised a system for predicting which manuscripts would become New York Times bestsellers with 80% accuracy. But it doesn’t deliver. It hints at which features predict a bestselling manuscript—to be fair, the hints are strong—but it falls short of giving an editor the tools to make the predictions at 80% accuracy themselves. It teases the reader about the ‘code’ without sharing it.

The book never made it to the NYT bestseller list itself. Over five years after publication, acquiring editors don’t use the system to evaluate manuscripts. This book has fallen into obscurity. It didn’t deliver on its promise.

It’s a failure, yes, but it has much to teach .

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History Curricula Aren’t Cheat Codes for Changing Other People’s Worldviews

Many people talk about changing history curricula, especially in grade schools, to instill their preferred worldview in the population. This has been a thing for as long as mass education/schooling has been around, though the temperature of the debates is currently higher-than-average.

Does changing history curricula actually change students’ worldviews? A little, but not nearly as much as proponents think it does.

Most of you have been in a grade school history class. Did it always interest you? Do you remember all the history facts the class covered? Did you uncritically absorb your teacher’s point of view with no resistance, not even resistance confined to your own mind?

I’m going to go out on a limb and claim that the answers to all those questions are ‘no.’

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Why I Search Under the Streetlight—and Why That’s Okay

I thank everyone who commented on my post from last week, publicly or privately, whether you felt it described you as a reader or not. You reminded me that, as I try to get a better understanding of readers, I have a ‘drunk searching for keys under the streetlight’ issue.

My ‘original’ research is binge-reading Amazon reviews of books and sharing the analyses with my newsletter—speaking of that, I’m running a silly giveaway to build my email list, if you need an antique book from Victorian England with a broken spine and have a U.S. postal address, this is a great giveaway for you.

Amazon book reviews are a convenience sample—I only get information from people who post them. That is, the readers who have especially strong opinions. Lukewarm/casual readers are severely underrepresented. (But how do I know that? Actually, I don’t. I’m making an assumption. I don’t have concrete evidence to prove that lukewarm/casual readers are underrepresented in Amazon reviews).

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We Have Hella Psycho-Baggage About How We Read Books

Never did I imagine that researching how and why people read books–really read them—would be so hard. Even finding books about the topic based on observation and not theory is tough.

It’s because we all have to peel away so many layers of psychological baggage of how we read books.

First, I have to take out my own trash—that is, I need to face the role book-reading plays in my life. If, over the past few years, I hadn’t increased my self-awareness of how I feel about books and reading, I would miss so much. I’m probably still missing a lot because of my own hangups about books and reading, so that’s a work-in-progress.

Then there’s everyone else.

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I React to a Thought-Provoking Essay On Whether Reading ‘the Classics’ Is Good

Naomi Kanakia’s essay, “Are “The Classics” Bad for You?”, provoked many thoughts. I enthusiastically recommend the essay.

This isn’t a coherent reaction essay. Instead, I’m jotting down a train of thought.

Here’s a quote to get me started:

Some people try to strike a middle ground here and say, “Well, you don’t have to read white people, but you really ought to read books from before the contemporary era.” Except who are we really talking about? What nonwhite writers specifically? The Indian and Chinese and Latin American writers from before 1900 are usually just as wrapped up in prejudice and exploitation as the white writers.

I know so little about Latin American literature from before 1900 that I won’t comment. However, based on what I know about Indian and Chinese literature from before 1900… I’m not sure that the statement that Indian and Chinese writer from before 1900 “are usually just as wrapped up in prejudice and exploitation as the white writers” is true. A good-faith argument could be made that the statement is false. However, doing a deep analysis to figure out whether they are just as wrapped up in prejudice and exploitation would be a waste of effort since, ultimately, what benefit would come from settling the question? And to answer the question, one would first need a comprehensive description of ‘prejudice’ and ‘exploitation’ are, and trying to define those things too rigidly would be unfair to people suffering in the edge cases. And the most expansive definitions may find that writers after 1900 are just as ‘wrapped up in prejudice and exploitation.’

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If Nothing Bad Happened, How Can I Say My Childhood Wasn’t Happy?

I heard Rosendale’s newest song, “Just a Kid,” about how he wants to be a kid forever and I realized… I don’t want that.

Childhood wasn’t a happy time for me. Nor was it an unhappy time. It wasn’t about any external events which happened in my childhood—I was more fortunate than many, perhaps most children, in the circumstances I was born into. It was more about the internal experiences. (And yes, there were times when I felt happy as a kid, that’s just not the dominant mood when I recall my childhood).

One of my oldest memories is about trying to reach the sink and failing because I was too short. It was so awful that I do what I wanted. No authority figure stopped me from reaching that sink—I just lacked the ability. That’s what my childhood memories feel like—an inability to reach for my goals.

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