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2023 Annual Review

Article Table of Contents

It’s that time of the year. I often enjoy reading other people’s annual reviews, and I’ve always found value in writing my own, even as there is a few years I’ve missed, since I started the habit way back in 2015.

for a long time, I did annual reviews. 2020 was late, and then for 2021, and 2022, no annual review, though not for lack of thinking about it.

A three year gap is no better than a two year gap. I’ll possibly back-fill at some point, I have drafts floating around for both years, but for now I’ll just try to get 2023 out the door. If I type/write fast enough, I bet it’ll happen.

My previous reviews: 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017 , 2016, 2015

It’s been interesting having this website floating around. I can get snapshots of who I was in 2012, and see ways I’ve changed, and stayed the same, from then to now. The ways I’ve used this website have also shifted, dramatically, over the years. It doesn’t feel like it suits me as well as it once did, and I’d like to resolve that tension.

I believe in my bones that publishing early/often, and ‘working in public’, are often the best ways to go. So, onward.

I’ve been both wanting to write this, and putting off writing this, for a long time. There’s also many other things I want to write, so any form of uncorking the bottle and getting things moving feels good-enough.

I’ll be talking about the year from a few different lenses.

I theme through every review I’ve done will be continued here - travel, books, projects, people.

I think in all of my writing, for all of the years I’ve written, I’ve found it easier to talk about the first three than the last.

I’m experimentally publishing some stuff to substack. I won’t rehash it all here, but it’s an example of me trying to get the right handle for expressing something.

I feel an intense need to write some things down, even if only for me, and I’ve felt stymied in this way for a while. To the degree that I write these words, I’m getting what I want. I’m basically promising myself to always write the first draft in as linear, stream-of-consciousness way, though I do permit myself to jump around. I do a lot of lists and headings and links, whatever feels flowy and effortless, I’ll do. I’ll be copy/pasting in from various other documents and notes I’ve got floating around.

Travel & Places #

Two months ago, as I was struggling to figure out how to vomit up everything I’d want in an annual review, or in this annual review, a friend suggested starting by bucketing it into the travel I did. I thought that was a great idea, so I started with a travel bucket, then also carved out a ‘books I read’ bucket.

Then I wanted to carve out a ‘people’ bucket.

All these wove together in perfectly normal ways, so lets begin.

In 2023, I feel like I finally caught up (mostly) on some trips I’d been wanting to make for several years. 2023 ended with a climbing trip to Viñales, Cuba with dear friends Mark and Dave. We’d first planned the trip for late March, 2020, after having gone a year earlier in 2019, but it was obviously cancelled by something called Covid, and then the last day of the year was returning from a crack climbing trip to Utah, and it was great, rung in the new year with friends, celebrating one of their weddings. Huzzah.

Before Cuba, I was in denver for only two weeks between arriving from a prior trip, and departing for Viñales. I arrived in Denver from Bangkok, Thailand, after spending every day of my 30-day tourist Visa in Thailand. I’ll write much more about that month later, or below. Thailand was the last of three countries I spent time in for that trip:

  • Bali: I count it as distinct from Indonesia, in the same way that Okinawa is distinct from Japan. I spent nearly the entire time in Ubud.
  • Nepal: I spent a few days in Kathmandu, overlapped with a group of ten friends (!!!) passing through Kathmandu to go trekking. How lovely.
  • Thailand: Started in Bangkok, then Chiang Mai, then Pai and beyond.

This year I’ve also visited Taiwan (en route to Bali), spent a few days in Iceland, and spent a few weeks on the east coast of the USA, visiting friends/family, and spent some time traveling around the Colorado/western USA for climbing.

All of those links open up a strange little web application, the likes of which you’ve never seen before. It grew out of an intersection of software development and mobility networks. When I ride my scooter now, on basically every trip, I track the activity in Strava. I have ideas for fancier visualizations than what the web app currently renders, but even as is it’s interesting to me. I could speak at length about certain dynamics observed/experienced in road networks, using this data to clearly illustrate what I mean.

Eden #

She’s a delightful and lovely toddler. Quite enjoyable to observe and share space with. She’s got tons of independence, tons of love for snuggles, and curiosity and skillfulness and attentiveness. I feel privileged to know her, and look forward to many years of friendship and shared experiences.

I’ve never resented her, and I find her very attentive, and easy to attune to. Her eye contact, sign language, attention/focus/use of tone, talking, etc. She’s just fun, and I find so much about her enjoyable.

I could list a bunch of books I’ve read that I think relate well to parenting, I think they’ve helped me, but I’ve listed them elsewhere. I re-read at least two (great) parenting book this year (Parenting from the Inside Out, The Art of Roughhousing) and a few that I probably will not re-read.

I’ve spent dramatically less time with her, at this point, than I would have expected for myself if you asked me about my hopes and dreams for Eden a year and two years ago. A long time ago I read a book title Selfish reasons to have more kids, and it affected me. The author argues, among other things, that the point of ‘having kids’ isn’t to ‘possess children’, but to have a mutual friendship with your adult child. You can have 40 years of friendship with your child, as an adult, relative to the ~15 years you might know them as a child.

To that end, avoid treating them in grievously dehumanizing ways when they’re children, and if you happen to treat them well-enough and with dignity, you might get to have a relationship with your child when they’re grown, and this is a relationship worth celebrating.

Books & Reading #

No good annual review would be complete without listing some standout reads. Here’s my year in books from GoodReads.

Noteworthy items:

The Jakarta Method: Washington’s Anticommunist Crusade and the Mass Murder Program that Shaped Our World #

Bleh. Really good, but painful. I spent a lot of time in Indonesia this year, so when I encountered the book, it was an insteand read. Pairs well with Chalmers Johnson’s stuff

Basically, the US Government has worked hard to support some Bad people who did a lot of bad things, leading to genocides, incalculable harm, hardship, pain, suffering, and an vacuous absence of goodness that otherwise could have existed, for hundreds of thousands of people across south/central America, and Asia. The tragedy is astounding, and but for a book like this, it would be easy to think something like this never happened. Not only for westerners/americans/english speakers, but for the affected survivors.

The author is incredible, the story is told well, skillfully, tragically.

Charles Chaplin: My Autobiography #

Speaking of anti-communism, Charlie Chaplin resented that he got caught up in that American jingoistic ferver a few times. I absolutely loved his autobiography. Feels like a nice balance against Robert Moses. He was an interesting person. Always lived between worlds (he was an immigrant in the USA), but also surfed/shaped the state-shift in media from ‘talkies’ to what we’d consider to be modern movies.

I highlighted/marked many sections of the book, and since reading his autobiography have gladly watched a bunch of his movies, as I could find them on Youtube, or torrents.

He’s delightful, feels as earnest, authentic, opinionated, as the Studio Ghibli production studio.

They Were Her Property: White Women as Slave Owners in the American South #

I’ve spent some time in/around the american South and with Southern Baptists, and, critically, in some places/cultures very different in disposition. Lots of comparing/contrasting data points.

There’s a certain coldness and detachedness that is clearly outlined in this book, that once it’s so clearly enumerated, I think you can see it still persisting into white/southern/feminine/american ways of being today.

Obviously the people who claimed ownership of other people imported their culture/entitlements from somewhere else, so I’m not claiming that anything in the American south is original. Just that there were distinctive bits of slaveholding culture that was visible then, and those bits continue to be visible now. I wish that were not the case.

I have regularly recommended this book as possible promotive of one’s journey to improving their relationship with themselves and others. Clearly labeling unhealthy dynamics within oneself and around oneself is a good step towards harm reduction. White slaveholders loved to pour guilt and game onto those around them, and internalized the harms of

All Who Go Do Not Return #

Fascinating autobiographic tale of a guy born into a rather religious Jewish community, located in NYC ends up leaving that community. Enjoyably for me, and maybe for you, software, and learning it and getting a first ‘secular’ job as a programmer, played a key portion of the story. Absolutely shed tears at least once.

Emotional Labor: The Invisible Work Shaping Our Lives and How to Claim Our Power #

I want ‘emotional labor’ as a thing to be talked about more in society.

There’s a certain forced, non-consensual codependency, societally, when the ‘work’ of things that gets called ‘emotional labor’ gets female-coded, and then tucked away, into the margin and periphery.

There’s ‘gender stuff’, obviously, in this book, but it also all relates to class, ethnicity, supremacy culture, and more. It pairs well with this other book about ‘data bias’ as relates to women and this book about negotiation and this article about salary negotiation.

People #

It often-enough feels like the biggest ups and downs can be fully wrapped up around people.

I’ve noticed in myself arising over the last few years a very perceivable, felt sense of a loss of ability to feel secure, in a few ways, in the presence of others. (physical presence, sure, but also something that could be called ‘an emotional presence’.) Like most things like this, a small experience of something salient or evocative in the present can feel tightly, immediately connected to big experiences of the past.

Because I know with familiarity what it feels like, and thus looks like, to be comfortable in the various people-y situations I find myself in today, I think I wander through them sometimes with a high level of anxiety, relative to how I think I experienced them in the past, but I just keep playing the role that I expect/imagine would be authentic if I was being the non-stressed version of me that I sometimes am. Sometimes this feels fine, sometimes it feels tiring.

Obviously, some of this roots in experiences we’ve had as children, or as adults, or both. Anyway, I notice it, and notice myself trying to avoid various forms of pain/discomfort via something that boils down to ‘embodying the behaviors/thought-patterns of avoidance’.

The last few years have involved a pretty heavy re-organization of my sense of self/place in community, vis-a-vis… everything.

I also have noticed my default ‘safest’ stored-in-the-nervous-system response to perceived threat is to try to get small/imperceivable/unobservable, either to minimize the offense I might cause (and thus perhaps avoid inviting harm) or to minimize the exposed surface area if something bad does in fact happen.

When I shrink and contract, to avoid discomfort, I might be satisfying a short-term goal, but it’s not a great pattern to plan on for the rest of my life. It’s not something that I would want for a loved one, or anyone.

Not responding to something unpleasant feels like a much better initial response than a quick response, or a response that forces an issue or invites further discomfort, and sometimes there’s discomfort in simply being perceived. So, to interact with others is to be forced to feel perceived, and if that’s often-enough unenjoyable, meh. (obviously, articulated thusly, this is ‘self-sabotaging’, if you use that kind of language)

This above statement of ‘sometimes interacting with people is unpleasant’ runs head-long into the opposite sentiment of ‘the best portions of the human experience seems inextricably relational’.

I’ve long wanted to meet Alain Bertaud, and Marie-Agnes Bertaud. Sadly, she passed away of cancer before I got to meet her, but we had all been something of internet friends, united by mutuals, and an interest in, broadly, ‘urban economics’. I got to visit him in NYC, and we had a lovely dinner together, spoke much of Marie-Agnes, and in every way that whole brief trip through NYC was full of delight.

I’ve drunk deeply from the upsides of the human experience in the last year, and I’m thankful for it, and the people who’ve shared in that with me, regardless of if they knew how much it meant/means to me.

[TODO add photo with alain bertaud]

Anarchy and co-creation and mutuality #

Lots of this year was informed by books, but mostly by books I read in years prior.

In 2017, I first read The Problem of Political Authority, and was insta-wrecked on the institution of ‘political authority’ as a needful given. Political ‘rule’ no more given then the religious ‘rulings’ of the catholic church in France in, say 1590. the best ‘desired outcomes’ of political authority are more available to those that refrain from relying upon the use of of violence and domination, which is intrinsic to political authority. So… reasonable people can simply throw it all out.

Thus, I generally have called myself an anarchist, though semi-reluctantly, and never in a way associated with violence. Spraypainting capital “A”s on stuff is not my vibe.

My favorite tool/weapon is a broom, used as intended.

It’s easy for me to capture a sense of emotional safety while thinking about a low-coercion environment. At least easier then when I envision an environment where coercion is welcomed and used regularly. So, i like spaces that are full of co-creation and mutuality. I usually can be attuned to those dynamics well enough that I can ‘hold’ my end of whatever it is that we’re co-creating.

So, when I encountered the words “relationship anarchy”, I was thrilled. Instantly did the standard google/library book rental/read-the-canon thing, and it feels quite right.

It’s a big tent, and technically fully inclusive of the most male-dominated, authoritarian, controlling monogamous relationship style possible (as long as it’s fully consensual, it would simply be titled a ‘patriarchy kink’), and on the other side, something like the standard polyamorous/decolonizing-interpersonal-relationships crowd. There’s a lot of room for health and peacefulness under that umbrella. I’ve noted that I find the topic painful or difficult to write about, sometimes.

painful or difficult to write about? wym?

For example, I wrote, in 2023, a large piece about my formally updated stance towards evangelicalism.

I keep drafting “part 2” or “updates”, but find it to be difficult, so I avoid it some more.

The topic is inclusive of things that have been both important to me, and occasionally filled with difficulty, so I either don’t like to tread there, or tread there unskillfully, or it sometimes hurts when I tread there. But also like a good stretch when pleasantly sore, it feels better immediately after.

Depression & Sadness #

In 2021, I wrote this piece about depression. I’m glad I wrote that! It’s nice to be able to capture snapshots of how things were for me at various times in my life.

In that piece, I say “I’ve possibly been ‘giving depression’ since 2019”, and, well, we can keep on keeping on. I don’t even appreciate so much the phrasing around things like ‘depression’ and ‘mental health’, because of how individualistic and pejorative it is. So much of the depression and ‘mental health’ stuff that is floating around is ‘simply’ the deep, deep malaise that comes from living in something that at least is partially a war zone 1, and an area full of devastation and sadness 2

There’s plenty of global opportunities to feel a sense of insecurity, hopelessness, powerlessness. (Huzzah, yet another American-sponsored genocide in the middle east.) This also isn’t the first time bad things like genocide have been easily viewable online. When I was young, as a chronically online internet-person, I spent time on reddit and liveleak, have seen plenty of footage of people experiencing horrible things. From industrial accidents to vehicle accidents, all sorts of intentional and accidental, it was all available to the curious internet denizen of the 2010s. It’s not easy to feel disillusioned.

I don’t really view depression as an illness, or something that needs to be medicated away.

It’s actively destructive to everyone’s soul to be trapped in a car. There’s so much literature about how walkable neighborhoods are good, how communal Barcelona’s superblock structure is, how harmful and egregious it is to hear the noise and breath the tail pipe emissions, tire rubber microplastics, and break dust powder for vehicles.

Because it’s ‘convenient’ and ‘connected to GDP’, and ‘an outgrowth of high modernism’, some people think cars in cities are reasonable, or that harm can be ameliorated by electric vehicles.3

The supremacy and domination of cars in cities, like legal bits around this supremacy4 is similar to how lead was used in food storage containers for a long time because it was convenient and there was momentum behind it, despite the fact that millions of people were being harmed by that lead. 5

Lets talk about where and how many people in America live. I live in a city (Denver) but as of January, not in a particularly walkable neighborhood.6 I’ve sometimes lived in walkable places, sometimes not. Sometimes in the USA, sometimes not.

Thus, when I read something like this:

Living in a walkable neighborhood is linked to happiness. Such environments enhance the likelihood that residents feel more healthy and more trusting of others. Note, walkability is a measure of how easily residents can attain their daily needs by walking to key destinations from their home. source

However, the overwhelming impulse and energy for roads in America is endless hostility towards every road user, including road users in full-sized cars. You can feel the entitlement some vehicle drivers feel, just radiating from their body. There’s also obviously many emotionally repressed people driving vehicles, and there’s plenty of violent and abusive people driving cars, all of whom look at everyone outside of their vehicle as an impediment to them experiencing the life they want to live.

Lastly, roads (and the asphalt and steel contained therein) were used, between the 1920s and 1960s, by a variety of actors to accomplish their goals of social control.

They talked openly among themselves about things like “How do we get rid of this neighborhood of mexicans?”, and then the local state DOT would say something like “Lets demolish the neighborhood and build giant huge roads through the whole thing.”

And this happened time and time again, in every municipality in America.

It’s painful and frustrating to witness this, and to feel powerless in doing anything about it. It doesn’t engender a sense of fondness towards evangelicals, knowing that white evangelical churches/congregations/pastors were the biggest 20th century advocates for racial segregation in America, and strenuously (and successfully) worked to bring about various regimes of segregation. The ‘stuff’ of the American political structure is just settler colonialism mixed with head-in-the-sand propaganda fed to those settler populations, so they can act as if the populations that got colonized were somehow improved by it.

Gee, Josh, so you’re saying that part of the reason you’re depressed in 2023 is because of bad political decisions made 50-100 years ago?

Yes, obviously this is/can be true. It’s overwhelmingly sad to see the eternal chewing maw of the American military gulping and consuming the world. It’s sad to see the bullying that America does, financially, to countries around the world. It’s sad to see how children are taught to hate themselves for how they look, because their skin color isn’t as light as it possibly good be. It’s sad to see giant billboards in Asia, telling everyone who looks at them that they’re only beautiful to the degree they look white, smooth, trim. Consume consume consume.

Soooo I guess it feels like the most available mechanisms of relieving tumultuous emotional states in America is consumption. Food, TV (so much TV). sports. shopping. going to a brewery. alcohol. weed. lots of people consume exercise, and then we get gym culture. Or we can get perscribed pills, and take the edge off the angst for a time.

It’s all papering over real holes in the fabric around us. I could say much, much more about all this, but for now I’ll just leave my standard recommendation for a book: Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving, and an explanation for why the built america of the USA actively accomplishes ethnic cleansing, to the detriment of literally everyone, including those comprised of the oppressor class.

Regularly enough, I’ve experienced the crushing sense of darkness, aloneness, inadequacy, inability to feel connected to community, and failure. I still overall like who I am and don’t begrudge myself too much, but my gosh I certainly have felt like I’m going through the motions, trying to avoid over-burdening anyone else/myself too much, yet being acutely aware of all the various impacts I have on others. I know the standard therapist response to this, how to regain a sense of internal security, evaluating others for safe-enough relating, etc.

Things I’m thinking about for 2024 #

Scooters #

scooters, parking lots and land use. It’s been living in my mind way too much since at least 2020, so i don’t expect to get free of it this year.

Here’s a little app I built to visualize my own mobility data. Think of how it does and does not correspond to a google maps view of a city:

[TODO: Add screenshot from mobility data app]

1920s-1960s-era Ethnic Cleansing in America #

See also ‘land use policy’, ‘mobility networks’, ‘auto-dependency/car-culture’, ‘parking minimums’.

This is the real top-level item. If I could charge rent to some entity for the amount of time this topic lives in my head and awareness…

A theme throughout all the time I’ve spent traveling, either around Denver or around Asia, is to observe and perceive the influence of racial supremacists like Robert Moses. People that are eugenicists, supremacists, wielding torrential streams of power.

I started a substack:

I made a drone video tiktok about an intersection in Thailand bearing his obvious fingerprints:


such an experiment. the audio was surprisingly annoying to deal with. should I have tried to do the captiona? tbd.

♬ original sound - josh

This feels as pressing of an issue to me as I imagine actual slavery felt to ‘abolitionists’ (why do we label the default mode of existance? I say instead of calling people abolitionists, label the perversion: ‘non-slavers’.)

So, for the regular people who saw and felt nothing but contempt for the hatefulness of slavery, some of what they felt then is what I feel now, watching adults work together, with actual effort, to perpetuate the institutions and norms of the inter-ethnic-group conflict in America of the 1850s-1960s, when ‘white’ people fought tooth and nail to maintain social control over all other ethnic groups, or ‘people of the global majority’.

I see America as nothing more interesting than a mature state whole-heartedly given over to maturing from it’s early days of settler colonialism into a more durable and self-replicating version of the mindset of those colonialists, onto everyone. Their own children, and the colonized. Or, at least, to define the attitudes of those who don’t want to be colonized as ‘deviant’, ‘unintelligible’, ‘anti-progress’, and more.

Related, I’ve read a book titled Legal Systems Very Different Than Ours, and I do not attest that ‘political authority is real’. Even as I feel unbelievably constrained by this highly constraining system we live within, the ‘solution-space’ is enormous, and full of fun.

I hold open contempt for certain policies, norms, practices, powers. This is fine. Quoting myself:

It’s totally appropriate and healthy to feel hate for that which is hateful.

I hate that because immature people continue to run road networks (and much more) in America, it’s considered reasonable that 40,000 people a year die on them, and untold millions more are negatively effected across every dimension of the human experience, because these road networks are basically held hostage by emotionally immature, violent people.

Pay-as-you-go pricing models for parking #

Most parking in America is currently either free, fixed-cost per term ($100/mo) or fixed-cost per hour ($10/hr).

Parking pricing is currently impervious to dynamics around usage and congestion, which means a ton of potential value is being completely missed.

Other people’s annual reviews #

such is my annual review. This touches on a fraction of a life lived, and I know you, the reader, including future versions of me, are experiencing life at the normal, regular speed.

  1. America/ethnic conflict between white people and people of the global majority 

  2. Denver, city centers in the USA that have been touched by ‘urban renewal’/state-sponsored inter-ethnic-group violence. 

  3. this is no different than proclaiming “the sun orbits the earth” because it’s politically expedient. 

  4. For example, that carless drivers always must yield/submit to car-ed drivers, and must bear the indignities that come with that submission, is downstream of this supremacy thinking. In some cases, persons on both sides of the equation willingly and expectantly play the role of dominator and submitter. (hah. Sounds kinky.) 

  5. NIH says:

    We estimate that over 170 million Americans alive today were exposed to high-lead levels in early childhood, several million of whom were exposed to five-plus times the current reference level.

    If your next google is ‘symptoms of lead poisoning’:

    Symptoms of lead poisoning include headaches, stomach cramps, constipation, muscle/joint pain, trouble sleeping, fatigue, irritability, and loss of sex drive. Most adults with lead poisoning don’t look or feel sick.

    That looks a lot like what might get mis-diagnosed as ‘depression’. I don’t think I have lead poisoning, based on the age of the paint and the sources of drinking water I had growing up, but… meh, I think there’s explanatory power for ‘lead poisoning driving some of the irritability visible in the world today’.

    Millions of tons of lead were added to gasoline worldwide beginning in 1922, and leaded gasoline has been a major source of population lead exposure. In 1960s, lead began to be removed from automotive gasoline. Removal was completed in 2021, with most of that removal being completed in the 1970s.

  6. it’s residents tout their neighborhood as walkable, and as far as walkability in America goes, it is above-average, but on an absolute scale, it’s trash. I WAS living a few blocks east of Cheeseman Park, right here. There was nothing that wasn’t single-family-houses within a short walk. A long and unpleasant and dangerous walk separated me from a grocery store, but I almost never actually did the walk, usually rode my scooter, and driving would have been hellish.