25 years and counting

I’ve been publishing writing on the web for almost 25 years now — at least, the oldest snapshot I can find for a website of mine dates back to December 3, 1998 (it’s possible I published this even earlier, because the footer notes that I wrote the article in "November 1997"). I look back at those attempts at academic writing by my 22-year-old-self and sometimes have to grimace at how strained the wording is, but I don’t feel that bad about it. I graduated in the end, after all.

Lately, life has been too busy to write anything on here. I have a number of topics I’d like to dip into, but I can’t do them justice in the time I’m willing and able to allocate them. So for now, this will have to do.

Command-T v6.0 — the Lua rewrite

For a while now I’ve wanted to do a ground-up rewrite of Command-T in Lua. After sitting on the back-burner for many months, I finally got around to doing some work on it. While the rewrite isn’t done yet, it is so close to being an "MVP"[1] now that I can talk about the new version without worrying too much about the risk of it being vaporware. So, let’s start.


This isn’t the first time I’ve written about Command-T on this blog. Back in 2016 I wrote about how I’d been optimizing the project over many years. As that post tells, ever since I created Command-T in 2010, its primary goal has been to be the fastest fuzzy finder out there. Over the years, I’ve found many wins both small and large which have had a compounding effect. If you make something 10% faster, then 10% more, then you find a way to make it 2x faster than that, and then you find a way to make it 10x faster than that, the end result winds up being "ludicrously" fast. At the time I wrote the optimization post, some of the major wins included:

  • Writing the performance-critical sections (the matching and scoring code) in C.
  • Improving perceived performance, somewhat counterintuitively, by spending extra cycles exhaustively computing possible match scores, so that the results the user is searching for are more likely to appear at the top.
  • Memoizing intermediate results, to make the aforementioned "exhaustive computation" actually feasible.
  • Parallelizing the search across multiple threads.
  • Debouncing user input to improve UI responsiveness by avoiding wasteful computation.
  • Improving scanning speed (ie. finding candidate items to be searched) by delegating it to fast native executables (like find or git).
  • Avoiding scanning costs by querying an always up-to-date index provided by Watchman.
  • Reducing cost of talking to Watchman by implementing support for its BSER (Binary Serialization Protocol) in C, rather than dealing with JSON.
  • Prescanning candidates to quickly eliminate non-matches; during this pre-scan, record the rightmost possible location for each character in the search term, which allows us to bail out early during the real matching process when a candidate can’t possibly match.
  • Recording bitmasks for both candidates and search terms so that we can quickly discard non-matches as users extend their search terms.
  • Using smaller/faster data types (eg. float instead of double) where the additional precision isn’t beneficial.
  • Using small, size-limited heap data structures for each thread, keeping small partial result sets ordered as we go rather than needing a big and expensive sort over the entire result set at the end.

After all that, I was running out of ideas, short of porting bits of the C code selectively into assembly (and even then, I was doubtful I could hand-craft assembly that would be better than what the compiler would produce). There was one PR proposing switching to a trie data structure, which would allow the search space to be pruned much more aggressively, but at the cost of having to set up the structure in the first place; in the end that one remained forever in limbo because it wasn’t clear whether it actually would be a win across the board.

Why rewrite in Lua?

Neovim comes with Lua (or more precisely, LuaJIT), which is well known for being speedy. It’s an extremely minimal language that optimizes well. I previously saw huge wins from porting the Corpus plug-in from Vimscript to Lua (GIF demo). While I wasn’t planning on throwing away my C code and rewriting it in Lua, I could throw out a bunch of Ruby code — mostly responsible for managing the UI — and rewrite that. This, combined with the fact that Neovim now offers neat APIs for doing things like floating windows, means that a Lua-powered rewrite could be expected to have a much snappier UI.

The reason Command-T had Ruby code in it is that, in 2010, it was the easiest way to package C code in a form that could be accessed from Vim. You build a C extension that integrates with the Ruby VM (ie. you can call C functions to do things like create and manipulate arrays, access hashes, raise exceptions, call Ruby methods, and so on), and then you can call into the Ruby from Vimscript. There is overhead in moving from Vimscript through Ruby into C and back again, but because most of the heavy lifting is done in C-land — the actual work of trawling through thousands or even millions of string bytes and producing scores for them — it ends up being blazingly fast compared to a native Vimscript or pure Ruby implemention.

The other nice thing about Ruby is that it is a "real" programming language, unlike Vimscript, which is a bespoke and idiosyncratic beast that you can use in exactly one place[2]. If you need a working Ruby layer in Vim just to get the C code, you may as well leverage that Ruby layer once you have it. That gives you access to niceties like object-orientation, modules, and a relatively flexible and extensible programming model that allows you to write expressive, readable code.

The downside to all this is that Ruby installations are notoriously fragile inside Vim as soon as you start involving C code. You must compile the Command-T C extension with exactly the same version of Ruby as Vim itself uses. The slightest discrepancy will crash the program. In a world where people are on an eternal operating system upgrade train, are constantly updating their editor with tools like Homebrew, and playing endlessly with Ruby versions via tools like RVM, rbenv, chruby — not even a complete list, by the way — you wind up with an incredibly fragile and unstable platform upon which to build. Over the years I have received uncountable reports about "bugs" in Command-T that were actually failures to install it correctly. A glance through the closed issues on the Command-T issue tracker reveals dozens of reports of this kind; command-t#341 is a representative example. The basic formula is:

I can’t get Command-T to work (or it stopped working)…

(Various installation commands are run or re-run…)

I got it working in the end.

(Issue gets closed with no code changes being committed.)

This alone is probably the main reason why I have never heavily promoted Command-T. Over the years there have been other fuzzy finders that have more features, or are more popular, but none with performance that scales to working on repositories with millions of files, and none which provide such a robust and intuitive ranking of match results. Those are the features that I still care about the most to this day, and that’s why I keep on using Command-T. But I don’t want to actually promote it, nor do I want to keep adding on features to attract new users, because I know that the bigger the user base, the more support tickets related to version mismatches, and the more hair ripped out from frustrated scalps across the globe. So, I continue on, quietly using Neovim and Command-T to get my job done, and I don’t twiddle my editor versions or my Ruby version unless there’s good reason to.

At one point, I was considering a way out from this in the form of running the Ruby code outside of the Vim process itself. The idea was to run a commandtd daemon process, and communicate with it using Vim’s job APIs. This would totally decouple the version of Ruby used by Vim from the version used by the daemon, and "solve" the installation woes once and for all. Users would still need to run a make command to build the daemon, but they could forget about versions at least. In the end, I didn’t pursue this idea to its conclusion. I didn’t like the complexity of having to manage a separate process, and I worried about the overhead of sending data back and forth via IPC. Finally, I figured that if I could just access the C code from Lua instead of Ruby, then I might be able to side-step my Ruby headaches.

So, I thought, let’s make a clean break. I’ll drop the Ruby requirement, and move wholesale over to Lua and Neovim (I’ve been using Neovim myself full-time now for about 5 years, if the first traces of evidence in my dotfiles repo are to be believed). Forget about Vim support, forget about Windows, and just go all-in on modern APIs. The nature of Git branches means that anybody wanting to continue using Vim or Windows or Ruby can do so just by pointing their plug-in manager or their Git submodule at the right branch; in the meantime, I’m going to ride off into a brave new world.

A huge amount of the Ruby code in Command-T is about managing windows, splits, buffers, and settings. Back in 2010 nobody had dreamed of putting floating windows inside Vim, so if you wanted to present a "UI" to the user you had to fake it. Command-T did this, basically, by:

  • Recording the position of all windows and splits.
  • Remembering the values of global settings that need to be manipulated in order to get the "UI" to behave as desired.
  • Creating a new buffer and window for showing the match listing.
  • Setting up global overrides as needed, along with other local settings.
  • Setting up mappings to intercept key presses; the "prompt" was actually just text rendered in Vim’s command line.
  • After a file is selected, clean up the prompt area, remove the match listing, restore the global settings, and reestablish the former geometry of windows and splits.

The code worked remarkably well because it was the product of extreme attention to detail and relentless refinement over the years. But it was an enormous hack, and it was incredibly ugly and annoying to maintain. In comparison, throwing up a floating window with the new APIs is an absolute breeze. No need to think about window geometry, no need to set up mappings, no need to construct an elaborate fake prompt. The importance of having a real prompt is not to be understated: with the old approach, Command-T couldn’t even support extremely natural things like the ability to paste a search query in a uniform and reliable way; with a real prompt, we get that "for free", along with the all of the standard Vim motions and editing bindings.

Other wins

One thing about a clean rewrite is it gives you a chance to reevaluate technical decisions. There are two examples that I’d like to highlight here.

The first is that I turned the C library from a piece of "Ruby-infested" C (that is, C code littered with calls to Ruby VM functions and using Ruby-defined data structures; example matcher.c) to a pure POSIX one (matcher.c). There is no mention of Lua in the C library, which means that any Ruby-VM-related overhead is gone now, replaced by nothing, and the library can be cleanly used from more places in the future, should people wish to do so. In the past, I extracted Command-T’s fast scoring algorithm into a Python package (still C, but adapted for the Python runtime instead of the Ruby one). Doing that was fiddly. With the new, pure POSIX library, grabbing the code and wrapping it up for any language would be a whole lot easier. Pleasingly, this new version is about 2x faster in benchmarks than the old one, which is pretty amazing considering how fast the old one was; maybe the Ruby-related overhead was more than I’d thought, or perhaps the LuaJIT FFI is unexpectedly awesome… And naturally, on revisiting code that had been iterated on for over a decade, and reworking it profoundly, I took advantage of the opportunity to improve readability, naming, structure, and a bunch of other things that you might classify under "spring cleaning". I also implemented some fast C-powered scanning functionality that had been proposed for the old version but never merged due to some doubts about performance. Overall, the C code is in much better shape.

The other aspect that I noticed was the effect of moving from heavily object-oriented Ruby idioms to light-weight Lua ones. Lua mostly favors a functional style, but it does provide patterns for doing a form of object-oriented programming. Nevertheless, because OOP is not the default, I’ve found myself using it only when the use-case for it is strong; that basically means places where you want to encapsulate some data and some methods for acting on it, but you don’t need complex inheritance relationships or "mixins" or any other such fanciness. The Ruby code is probably more legible — Ruby is famously readable, after all, if you don’t go crazy with your metaprogramming — but there is so much less Lua code than there was Ruby code, that I think the overall result is more intelligible. The other thing is that when I wrote Command-T in 2010, I was coming from Apple’s Objective-C ecosystem, and Rails too, both of which had spins on the "MVC" (Model-View-Controller) pattern, and which influenced the architecture. In 2022, however, we see the influence of React and its notion of "unidirectional data flow" to guide me whenever I have a question about where a particular piece of data should live, who should own it, and how updates to it should be propagated to other interested parties within the system. Overall, things seem clearer. My work-in-progress is still at very "pre-alpha" stages, but I’m confident that the end result will be more robust than ever.

It’s sometimes tempting to look at a rewrite and marvel, prematurely, at how much better and lighter it is. Think of it as the "Bucket Full of Stones v1.0", long creaking under the weight of all the stones inside it. You start a fresh with "Bucket Full of Stones v2.0" and are amazed at how light and manoeuvrable the whole thing feels without any stones in it. As you add back stone after stone, it still feels pretty light, but eventually, you discover that your bucket is as full as ever, and maybe it’s time to start thinking about "Bucket Full of Stones v3.0". Nevertheless, I still feel pretty good about the rewrite so far. It is much smaller in part because it only has a subset of the features, but the foundations really do look to be more solid this time around.

The upgrade path

This is where things get tricky. The Vim ecosystem encourages people to install plug-ins using plug-in managers that clone plug-in source from repositories. Users tend to track the main or master branch, so version numbers, SemVer, and the very concept of "releases" lose significance. You can maintain a changelog, but users might not even see it. In this scenario, how do you communicate breaking changes to users? Sadly, the most common answer seems to be, "You break their shit and let them figure it out for themselves". The other answer, and I think the right one, is that you simply don’t make breaking changes at all, ever, if you can help it. Put another way, as a maintainer, ya gotta do some hoop-jumping to avoid user pain[3]. Command-T is not the Linux kernel, but it stands to learn a lesson from it, about not breaking "user space".

My current plans for how to do this release with a minimum of pain are as follows:

  • The new version, version 6.0, will effectively include both the old Ruby and the new Lua implementations.
  • If the user opts-in to continuing with the Ruby version, everything continues as before. It may be that I never remove the Ruby implementation from the source tree, as the cost of keeping it there isn’t really significant in any way.
  • If the user opts-in to using the Lua version, they get that instead. For example, a command like :CommandT will map to the Lua implementation. A command that is not yet implemented in the Lua version, like :CommandTMRU, continues to map onto the Ruby implementation, for now. If you ever need to fallback and use the Ruby implementation, you can do that by spelling the command with a K instead of a C; that is, :CommandTBuffer will open the Lua-powered buffer finder, but :KommandTBuffer can be used to open the Ruby one.
  • It the user doesn’t explicitly opt-in one way or another, the system will use the Ruby implementation. We show a message prompting the user to make a decision; technically this is the breaking change (a new message that will bother the user at startup until they take the step of configuring a preference) that requires the bump in version number to v6. As far as breaking changes go, this is about as innocuous as they come, but it is still one that I make reluctantly.
  • In version 7.0, this default will flip over in the opposite direction: if you haven’t specified an explicit preference, you’ll get the Lua version. By this time, however, I expect pretty much everybody actively using Command-T will already have set their preference. In 7.0 the aliased version of the commands (eg. :KommandT) will go away.

A couple of things to note about this plan:

  1. All of the above applies on Neovim; if you’re running Vim you aren’t eligible to use the Lua backend, so you won’t see the deprecation prompt, and you’ll continue to use the Ruby version transparently.
  2. Maintaining two parallel implementations "forever" is only feasible because this is a hard fork. That is, there is no commitment to having an equal feature set in both implementations, having or fixing the same bugs, or even having the same settings. The Ruby backend, as a mature 12-year-old project, is mostly "done" at this point and I doubt I’ll do much more than fix critical bugs from here on. For people who don’t want any part of all this, they can point their checkout at the 5-x-release branch, and pretend none of this is happening. As an open source project, people are free to contribute pull requests, make a fork, or do whatever they see fit within the terms of the license.

How will all of this work? We’ll see. Last night I published v5.0.5, which may be the last release on that branch for a long while. As I write this, main doesn’t have any of the new stuff yet (currently, 81dba1e274) — the new stuff is all still sitting out on the pu (proposed updates) branch (currently, 9a4cbf954c). My plan is to keep baking that for a little while longer — a timespan probably measured in hours or days, but probably not in weeks or months — and then pull the trigger and merge it into main, at which point we’ll call it the "6.0.0-a.0" release. As I said above, this feels real close to being an MVP now, so it hopefully won’t be long.

  1. I’m defining "MVP" (Minimal Viable Product) here as having the subset of features that I use heavily on a daily basis: a file finder, a buffer finder, and a "help" finder (for searching the built-in Neovim :help). ↩︎

  2. In Vim, that is. Two places, if you count Neovim. ↩︎

  3. To make this more precise: users come first, so you default to hoop-jumping if necessary to avoid user pain; the only reason you might relent and actually break something is if the cost of hoop-jumping becomes so prohibitively high that it dissuades you from working on the project at all. ↩︎

Loneliness in a modern world

Ok, not sure exactly where this one is going to go so I’m just going to start writing and see what comes out, stream of consciousness style. The other day, I tweeted about how modern life seems to be pushing us in the direction of loneliness. Twitter is not a very good forum for exploring any ideas in depth, really, much less complex ones with personal dimensions, so I didn’t get into the details, but the reason why I didn’t start off with a blog post in the first place is that this also doesn’t feel like the best place to discuss something intimate and emotional — it’s literally just "uploading into the void". I also wondered whether a Facebook post might be the right vehicle, but that didn’t feel right either: FB is too ephemeral, too filled with superficial "my wonderful life" posts from acquaintances I once knew to host a serious discussion.

So after a night sleeping on it, I decided to hash it out here after all. One of the reasons it’s hard to select a venue for this topic is that I’m not sure how much I should say, and about what. There is part of me that wants to do the rational/analytic thing, talk about societal trends, and try to analyze their impact. And then there’s another part of me that wants to just relate my personal experience. And I guess there’s a part that wants to do both. Even two paragraphs into this, I’m still not sure where I want to go with it.

Let’s start with the broad societal stuff then. I can’t be bothered digging up references to actual research, and it’s my blog, not a peer-reviewed academic journal, so I feel ok about just tossing out a series of impressions and leaving as an exercise for the reader the whole business of seeing how this stacks up against "the data". With that disclaimer out the way, it seems incontrovertible that a number of technology-fueled innovations have set us up to feel more lonely today.

These include the rise of remote work, enabled by technology and accelerated by the pandemic. Then there’s the transformation of almost every aspect of life by the internet, which seemed pretty fun and novel at the beginning, but with smartphones in every pocket and smartwatches on many wrists, it has taken on a new role as an ever-present distraction. Combine that with the effects of social media, engineered to maximize engagement, and we find ourselves in a dystopia where even when we’re physically together, we’re never really fully present. I live in Madrid, a city that apparently has one of the highest counts of "bars per square mile" of any metropolis, yet here — like everywhere else, I imagine — it’s hard to go to a bar or restaurant without seeing full groups, all heads bowed, every gaze fixed on a glowing, personal screen, as they scroll endlessly through shiny baubles and exquisitely captured "portrayals" of perfect lives on Instagram and alike. All of this, instead of talking to one another. And the truth is we don’t even need internet-enabled pocket computers to make this happen: I can’t help but notice when I talk to my parents on Facetime, 16,600 kilometers (10,000 miles) away, that they always have at least one eye and sometimes two on the television set playing endlessly in the background. With the younger generations, tactile screens have replaced the passive rectangle of TV screen, but the state of divided attention is the same.

Whether it be the naturally emerging "organic" properties of these platforms, the actions of hostile intelligence agencies seeking to disrupt our societies through them, the role of powerful corporate entities and media conglomerates intricately interrelated with the centers of governmental power, or a decidedly not-new marketing machinery finding new avenues for exploitation, all of this adds up to a state of constant agitation, wanting, conflict, and distress. Society seems more divided than ever, but I suspect that’s an illusion; we’ve always inhabited different worlds: what is new is that the differences between us are continually being made visible in a way seldom seen outside of wartime.

At a personal level, these global circumstances intersect with my own due to a series of choices that I made: choices like moving to Spain, where I don’t have a network of friends, and taking up remote work with a company where people in my timezone constitute a minority. And obviously, I’m on the internet, which is a choice too. I’ve done what I can to minimize the deleterious effects of social media without disengaging from it entirely[1], but there’s no denying that social media probably harms my life at least as much as it helps it.

Growing up in Australia when I did, I internalized — apparently permanently — enough of the traditional masculine ethos to ensure that I rarely talk about emotions and feelings. Given all of the above, you could say that I feel quite lonely, but I was raised (not intentionally, of course) to not talk about feelings. Instead of dwelling on my loneliness, I distract myself so as not to feel it. For example, I read a lot. I walk a fair bit. I work on software projects in my spare time. I keep occupied. And all of that stolid activity stops what is objectively a "lonely" existence from turning into depression. I simply exist, or perhaps you could say I exist simply, and I generally try to lose myself — my "I" — from subjective experience, not because I am some kind of enlightened Buddha type, but because I’ve found that if I can enter a "flow" state wherein awareness of myself recedes and my full attention is occupied by some other object, some problem, some focus, then that’s the closest I can find to being "happy".

I put that in inverted commas because I’m mostly defining happiness in the negative sense, as in, as an absence of suffering as opposed to the presence of something positive, like euphoria. This latter category of states, in my experience, is at best enjoyed only fleetingly. It’s nice work when you can get it, but I’m not going to organize my entire life around the pursuit of it. My definition of happiness, the thing I actually seek, is probably closer to "contentment", or "satisfactoriness" (and here I am starting to sound a bit Buddhist, I think). Basically, a state in which suffering is minimized, or at least one doesn’t dwell on it, just as one doesn’t long for things that one doesn’t have.

But despite all that, reality does occasionally impinge on my carefully constructed local environment. I can’t be in a flow state all the time (quite obviously, I am probably only in it a very minor part of my time). I live with small children, and every interaction with them is an uncomfortable reminder of my own inadequacies as a parent, as someone who feels they should be the best possible parent, partner, worker, and in general, human being, but feels like they are at best doing a half-assed job of all of the above. When I go out into society, as I must, I am jolted with the occasional harsh reminder of just how unpleasant society can be. Whether it be being on the receiving end of a bout of homicidal road rage, or experiencing rudeness in a supermarket checkout line, or just seeing evidence of people in general being assholes and douchebags, I can’t escape the sensation that our "communities" are weaker than they seemed to me in the past[2]. How much of this is reality and how much mere perception, I don’t know, but I find myself increasingly despairing of how bad things are and wishing to retreat back into my home to read a book until I’ve been distracted from thinking about how things are. One of the reasons I like books is because they generally have to pass through a great editing and publishing filter that ostensibly increases their quality, but also adds a bunch of latency between the moment of their authorship and my consumption of them. That delay may be months, years, or even decades or centuries. The hope is that, if something endures that long, then maybe it has some deep, residual value that makes it worthy of your attention in a way that a viral tweet or a flippant hot take may not be. Generally, I don’t find that things written in books have the same ability to raise my blood pressure that a current newspaper or a tweet does.

And maybe I am more sensitive to all of this of late because I’ve been participating in a clinical trial for a new drug. And no, I’m not talking about side-effects of the drug[3]. I’m referring to the fact that the trial takes several hours out of my work week, hours which I feel obliged to make up for, and which in turn means that I have ended up canceling a video chat that I used to have every two weeks with one of my former colleagues. It wasn’t much, but that one hour of video calling every two weeks was the only regular contact I had with anybody that I could call a friend. This is the end of an arc of ever-increasing isolation that I have felt over a number of years now: in 2005 I entered my current relationship which increasingly demanded that I prioritize it absolutely above all things in order for it to prosper[4]; in 2011 I worked at a start-up which was all-consuming and where the boundaries between "work" and "life" were blurred, but it did mean that I had a lot of friends there; in 2013 I became a parent, which meant that I had less time for socializing with those work friends; in 2014 I switched to a new job at a much bigger company, and involving a long commute, which massively curtailed the amount of work-enabled socializing that I could do (or hope to effectively integrate with my family life); in 2018 I moved to Spain and where I effectively began with a completely blank slate as far as friendships were concerned (and which remains blank to this day); in 2020 my meagre work-based socialization was curtailed by the switch to remote work due to the pandemic; in 2021 I switched to a fully remote role at company based in a far-off time-zone. Without getting into the fraught territory of comparing subjective experiences, I do spend about 23 hours a day either sleeping or alone.

Last May, I started visiting a psychologist. My working life hadn’t been affected by the pandemic, but my social life had: I had some surplus cash to spend, and therapy sessions seemed like a good way to convert money into "self care" (pre-pandemic, self care might have consisted in going out to a restaurant, and we barely did that at all in 2020 and 2021). I’m thinking of stopping it though, as I don’t seem to be making any progress. I’m not even sure what I would define "progress" as in this context. It can be hard to change much in yourself once you’ve been on this planet for a few decades, so I wasn’t necessarily expecting anything dramatic, but I can’t shake off the feeling that I am going nowhere with this, even though I don’t exactly know where I would realistically wish to go. In a nutshell, it comes down to this: I think I avoid talking about anything truly painful or risky in these sessions, and they effectively turn into superficial "rent a friend" meetings in which I get to bore somebody for 50 minutes — talking about whatever the heck I feel like — in a way that I would not feel comfortable doing in a real social context. If that’s really all I am going to use the sessions for, then perhaps I’d be better off just writing blog posts instead.

The thing I don’t really want to talk about with my therapist is that, at a very low level that I am internally quite aware of, but which I rarely make any explicit acknowledgement of, I don’t really like myself very much. That’s why I’m so good at seeking out flow states and getting into them; because they’re the best tool I’ve ever found for making myself "disappear" from my own consideration. And I haven’t been able to bring myself to talk to my therapist about this because any such discussion would seem to have as an implicit goal, a desire to reprogram my internal worldview or interrupt the related internal dialogs that go with it. But here’s the thing: I don’t want to replace my reality with another one, even if that reality is in some way "healthier" for me[5]. The thing about reality is that it seems, er, real, even if it is just your own reality (and the truth is, unless you’re completely unhinged, there’s got to be at least considerable overlap with how you perceive yourself and the world to be, and how other, similarly "well-hinged" people see these things to be). I like reality. I like "truth". I like "facts". I know these are only ever contingent and provisional, but it’s very deeply ingrained in my to seek these things out. Maybe you can make the argument that "ignorance is bliss", and once you’ve reprogrammed yourself to see yourself more positively, you won’t be troubled by the pesky fact that you had to effectively brainwash yourself in order to talk yourself into believing that you’re a good person. But it just seems so much easier to do nothing at all, and continue being really good at distracting yourself with flow states, books, YouTube videos, and other fleeting nonsense that has literally zero significance at a cosmic scale, just like you, me, and everything else that has ever existed. If you can do all of this in a state of relative contentment, keeping overt suffering at bay, then that seems like quite a reasonable outcome. And in the meantime, I’m just going to try to be the least of an asshole I can, to minimize the downside on others that any of my own choices might have.

  1. On Twitter, for example, I follow almost nobody, and instead add people to private lists that I can dip into as mood and appetite permits. On Facebook, I mostly passively consume, preferring not to volunteer too much content of my own, nor engage on anything that might be controversial or conflictive. ↩︎

  2. And you could be forgiven for remembering here, and wondering if it might apply to me, the old adage: "if everybody around you is an asshole, then guess what: you are the asshole". ↩︎

  3. I’ve got a 50% chance that I’m in the placebo/control group anyway, but regardless of the group I’m in, I’ve had all manner of blood draws and other samples and measurements taken, none of which seem to be showing any significant difference at this stage. ↩︎

  4. For complicated reasons which it doesn’t feel appropriate to go into on a public place like this blog post. The only reason I mentioned even this much is that I don’t think anybody is going to read it, or if they do, they won’t do anything with the information. ↩︎

  5. Obviously, if you don’t like yourself much, then it’s hard to make a priority of looking after yourself. ↩︎