December 2021

One Small Step

A new project, walking, fire

What’s this?

If you know me well, you may know that I occasionally write—typically to pin down fleeting thoughts that I’m afraid I’ll otherwise forget. This writing, until now, has not been something I’ve shared publicly, it’s just been a tool to record my thoughts.

Starting now, though, I am embarking on a monthly writing project. I will share something new, each month, on this channel. I don’t want to over-commit, though—my trepidation in taking on a consistent, public writing project like a newsletter stems from a concern about consistency and quality: Will I really be able to publish something worth reading every 30 days? Well, I won’t promise that anything about this project will be worth reading, but I can promise to share something new each month for the coming months.

In this spirit my only rule will be to share something each month. Let’s give it a few months and see how it goes.

Why?

I want to improve my writing. And I believe this project will be a forcing function for my writing’s quality and regularity. Publishing my writing online Throwing my words into the void is different than writing for myself, for school, or for work: I’m not solely aiming to clear my head, get a grade, or communicate an idea. Instead, I’m writing something that I want to put my name on; I’m writing for quality.

In addition to wanting to write better, I also want to write more. At a minimum, I plan to write a couple hundred words each month and publish those exact words. But I hope this project will be more than that—I hope this will push me to write, revise, and pare thousands of words and many different ideas each month into a distilled piece that I’m proud to share.

While I’m unsure if I have anything profound or original to add to the deluge of online content, I hope that at a minimum this will serve as a way for the people who care about me (you, most likely!) to peek into my head and look around a little bit. At worst, you ignore these posts. At best, I craft something I like to write, and you like to read.

This project, I hope, is merely beginning. I want it to be flexible—somewhere between stream-of-consciousness flexible and trapped-into-a-dull-format flexible.

I’m hoping to hit a sweet spot that combines:

  • Personal and life updates
  • Things worth sharing (articles, books, photos, etc.)
  • Musings or arguments on a particular concept or issue

...and avoids:

  • Milquetoast takes
  • Personal over-sharing
  • Vacation photo dumps.

Am I missing something? Let me know, I want to know what you want to read. I won’t guarantee I’ll take your suggestions, but I would love to hear them. I doubt this will be a narrowly scoped project, but we’ll have to see where it winds up.

Here we go.

Long walks

In July and August of this year, I spent six weeks traversing several Colorado mountain ranges on foot. Two friends and I walked about 500 miles—the distance from New York City to Washington, DC and back—with all of our gear on our backs. When we returned to the Real World (hot water! beds! non-instant coffee!), I vowed to never again spend weeks on end meandering through the woods.

And yet, six months later, I am once again yearning for the clarity, the simplicity, of waking up each day and just walking. My observational skills, my sense of time, and my creativity were all heightened on this walk. My chief priority was putting one foot in front of the other. And a small part of me misses being “on trail.”

Six weeks across Colorado was probably overdoing it—the routine and clarity set in after the first week or so. And by the time we hit week five I was beyond ready to return to civilization. The sweet spot is probably closer to three or four weeks than it is to six, but I guess the only way to find out would be to try another adventure. Check out Craig Mod’s writing on walking to get a sense of the inspiration I’m feeling now.

Boulder County on fire

A fire broke out yesterday a couple of miles from I live. It burned hundreds, potentially over a thousand homes. My heart goes out to the people who have been evacuated, who have lost homes, and who are unsure about what the next days may bring. Thankfully, no lives appear to have been lost. But it’s absolutely terrifying to see the places that you live in and visit ablaze.

There is no doubt that the current abnormally dry, hot, and abnormally windy conditions accelerated the severity of this burn. And it seems overwhelmingly clear that these hot, dry, abnormal conditions will continue both in the medium term—like through this coming summer—and in the long term over the next years and decades.

Watching these fires, I can’t help but think of Lydia Millet’s book, A Children’s Bible, which weaves climate change, youth, and biblical symbolism into a phenomenal novel. Its setting in the near future juxtaposes today’s fires with the decades-out climate crises we will inevitably face and has helped me consider in detail what climate change may look like in the coming years. I’ve been thinking a lot about this story over the last couple days and I highly recommend giving it a read.

Also, consider giving to support those affected by the fire.

Próspera

In technology and government news, I recently came across Próspera, a curious governance experiment in Honduras. Started by a group of libertarian-leaning business and finance entrepreneurs, Próspera is a Honduran charter city experimenting with alternative (perhaps better?) forms of government. Think: e-governance policies, a remote work destination, and more effective protections for citizens than the status quo Honduran government offers.

So far, Próspera is a collection of three buildings on land smaller than a golf course—hardly a utopia. Even if it leads nowhere, Próspera is the latest example of experimentation in government. But maybe, if it’s lucky, it will show governments, from Honduras to the U.S., how we might govern better.

I’m not bullish on Próspera, but I am curious...if you’re interested in learning more, I’d highly recommend the thorough writeup in Astral Codex Ten and a less enthusiastic take in Bloomberg.

See you in January.

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