What Sending Fanmail Taught Me

One of my ‘pandemic’ hobbies is sending fanmail (both emails and physical letters).

In sending fanmail, there’s the question, ‘will they read this?’ Some people say, ‘I’d send them a fan letter if I knew they’d read it, but I don’t know if they would.’ I understand this. Nobody likes the idea of putting effort into a letter which the recipient will never see.

I once sent a fan letter and received no reply for half a year. I wondered, did she read it? Did she read it and hate it? Later, I sent a much shorter letter congratulating her on her new project. She replied, and said that she loved my first letter, and had even written a draft of a response, but she hadn’t sent it.

Some celebrities say they read all fan mail, but because of the limits on their time, they sadly can’t reply.

Before I started this hobby, I expected that less famous people would reply more often and more quickly than more famous people. That’s… not the case.

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Do young people fear asking their romantic interests out?

I observed an online chat session where people were exchanging dating advice. What struck me was how many of the people (mostly in their early 20s) seemed to not know how to ask people on romantic dates. Other people gave advice like “you got to put yourself out there, otherwise nothing happens.”

The closest thing I have to experience with romantic dating is guys asking me out. I always said ‘no.’ I have nothing against any of them, I just never wanted a boyfriend.

Intellectually, I understand that asking someone to romantically date you is hard because it feels so important and personal. Emotionally, it doesn’t feel like it should be hard. That I put such low stakes to this is a sign of how aromantic I am.

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Stonewalling Good Air

When I was in high school, my mother joined a group to improve the ventilation on the top floor. That’s where the art classrooms were—they used materials which put out toxic fumes.

This wasn’t for my benefit. I had no classes on that floor.

What most disturbed my mother was that one art teacher was pregnant. After studying the chemicals building up in that air, she believed no pregnant person should work there.

They put together a plan for upgrading the ventilation on that floor. The school district—whose approval was necessary—ignored them. No justification, not even ‘that’s too expensive.’ They refused to acknowledge the problem.

Could they have moved the art classes outside? There was a roofed outdoor area where classes could be held even in rain (a few dance classes were held there). But the wind would’ve blown stuff around.

The ventilation in the entire building was bad, I’m sure. No windows would open, and the school district controlled the vents remotely from a location in a different neighborhood. Just to change the thermostat, teachers had to petition the school district. No, there was one—only one—classroom which had local control. The teachers marveled that they could choose the temperature there.

I wouldn’t trust the school district administrators to keep the vents clean.

Studies show that high carbon dioxide levels impair student learning.

Once in a while, I fell asleep during class. Maybe the classes bored me but… I wonder.

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This Old-School Blog Is Still a Beacon for My Weirdos

Cory Doctorow says in “So You’ve Decided to Unfollow Me”:

“…Instead of trying to figure out what some “demographic” wanted to read about, we wrote what we wanted to read, and then waited for people who share our interests to show up and read and comment and write their own blogs and newsletters and whatnot… In the golden years of internet publishing, the point was to find the weirdos who liked the same stuff as you. Freed from commercial imperatives, the focus of the blogosphere was primarily on using your work as a beacon to locate Your People, who were so diffuse and disorganized that there was no other way to find them.”

This blog started in 2012. That was the twilight of “the golden years of internet publishing.”

I keep that ethos. This blog makes friends, not money.

Doctorow says that dream is dead. Me? I don’t think so.

The blogosphere doesn’t socialize like it did a decade ago, but newcomers still pop in here. Most leave, once in a while someone stays. Maybe I’m too set in my ways to notice the withering of the blogosphere, but if so, other dreamers wander with me.

I’ve avoided the social media platforms which ‘curate’ what I see through algorithms (except Medium, in moderation, ironically that’s where I read Doctorow’s essay). I still follow some old-fashioned link blogs which curate the internet by hand.

My weirdos are welcome here, always. If someone doesn’t like this blog, they are welcome to bounce.

I don’t depend on this blog for financial support. If I did, I’d have to chase subscribers or readers who can draw advertising money, or use this blog to sell products. My freedom to do the heck I want with this blog rests on not commercializing it.

As long as some people keep non-commercial blogs running, these beacons will shine to draw our tribes.

If more people become interested, the choose-your-tribe blogosphere will rise again. If not, that’s cool too—as Doctorow says, we’re fine with unfollows. As long as the basic systems needed for old-school blogging exist, old-school bloggers will stick around. We don’t need to be commercially viable.

Have My Civic Ideals Faded?

Now I’m reading Boundless by Jack Campbell. It’s a military science-fiction novel. The story begins in a multi-planet democracy which verges on collapse. Some characters—reasonably—believe their democracy is doomed.

Why? A faction diverted military resources to building a secret fleet of AI-controlled spaceships which only they control to ensure nobody else—including a majority of elected representatives—can take power away from them. Most of these AI-controlled spaceships were destroyed in the previous book, but a few still exist, and the people who built them still haven’t been held accountable (yet, I haven’t finished the book).

Many characters fear that the admiral who defeated the rogue AI spaceship fleet is so popular he can—and will—install himself as a dictator. Heck, some characters want that to happen.

On top of all that, they’ve contacted several alien species. The alien species are interested in humans, yet their goals are unclear. This is rocket fuel for conspiracy theories—which already motivated two assassination attempts.

This democracy is in trouble. And yet… most of the senators give a damn what their voters think. They care enough that they will piss off other senators to meet their voters’ demands.

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To Keep an Open Mind, Refuse to Comment

A book (maybe Refuse to Split the Difference? Maybe Cues?) said that when you see nonverbal cues that someone is thinking something negative, that’s the time to intervene before they verbalize their negative thought. Once someone has something in public, our desire to appear consistent pushes us to stick with it—even if it’s wrong.

(By the way, here’s the anti-paywall link to my review of Cues by Vanessa Van Edwards.)

I’ve given ‘hot takes’ on current issues which I would’ve reconsidered in light of new information—except I wanted to stand by what I already stated. Now, before commenting on the hot topic-du-jour, I ask myself a) how much did I think about this before? and b) what good comes from me speaking instead of listening in silence?

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My Stomach Returned to Taiwan

One irony of the pandemic is that my lungs are healthier than ever. As far as I know, I haven’t had a single respiratory infection for over two years. That’s unprecedented.

By paying more attention to my nose than before, I figured out that I have low-level chronic hay fever. Xylitol-saline nasal spray is cheap and increases airflow. Wearing masks which screen out nasal irritants might help too.

Then there’s my stomach.

When I lived in Taiwan, I had stomach bugs about twice a year. I accepted them as an unpleasant fact of life. After I returned to the United States, stomach trouble happened much less often. Since the covid-19 pandemic started, I’ve been catching stomach bugs about as often as I did in Taiwan.

I wonder why.

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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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