Observations 5-14-20

  • Watching Aretha sing “Natural Woman” at Carole King’s Kennedy Center Honors ceremony, and Carole’s reaction, and crying (as a fam). It’s moving to watch someone own so wholly. You already know that, but you feel it when you see it.

Observations 5-13-20

  • Driving past downtown Chicago at night and thinking about how hard it must be to see even a single skyscraper project through from plans to the end, and how it’s been done over a hundred times in Chicago alone. It makes our record and book projects seem comically easy (but they’re hard in their own ways). People are nuts.

Observations 5-12-20

  • Being pleasantly surprised by the supportive comments on a woodworking forum user’s obviously in-over-their-head post about a first project idea.

Observations 5-11-20

  • The twofold nostalgia of hearing Tom Petty’s music now: the sadness for him and the sadness for the sound of arenas (which isn’t my venue size of choice, but which nonetheless sounds triumphant and fun now).

Observations 5-10-20

  • Learning that PETA recently bought shares in Tyson and two more of the world’s largest meatpacking companies to push them toward becoming 100% vegan meat producers (via Vox).

Observations 5-9-20

  • Mourning Little Richard, the Architect.
    • The super brief, cool tape slowdown during one of the sax solos in “Keep a Knockin’.”
  • Surprising Mom with a Mother’s Day Cameo greeting from Peter Noone, her all-time favorite.
  • Wondering who is going around building those plexiglass shields for points of sale at local businesses. Or is everyone building their own?

Observations 5-8-20

  • Acid Rain by Amos Pitsch.

Observations 5-7-20

  • The great drums on Mick Jagger’s “Memo from Turner,” which I’m pretty sure are played by Gene Parsons?
  • The tiny fiber on the edge of my lampshade, wiggling in the fan-wind.
  • The loose wooden slats in our living room air vent clacking against each other, making a cute autonomous instrument.

Observations 5-6-20

  • The man drinking out of a gallon jug of milk standing outside the back door of his car.
  • No matter how many times it fools me, always getting fooled again by our soap dispenser that squirts soap across the room no matter how gently you press it.
  • Walking past a neighbor whose face is non-normative, thinking about how this period of wearing masks might be freeing for them, how it might be a relief from the usual stares and glares and reactions.

Observations 5-5-20

  • Mom finding our robot vacuum after years of its missing (and our assuming it had deliberately gone AWOL). Under the couch.

Observations 5-4-20

  • The young person with army green pants, an army green sweatshirt, and an army green face mask.
  • The father and son, my neighbors, riding hoverboards down the street.

Observations 5-3-20

  • Becoming, over the past many weeks, a quarantine-nocturnal person (quaranturnal).

Observations 5-2-20

  • The pickup truck with a custom-made hardwood bed.

Observations 5-1-20

  • The four orange latex gloves strewn along the middle of the street.

Observations 4-30-20

  • The normalization feeling that seems to have set in, for some, about COVID. Crises can only stay urgent crises in people’s minds for so long. All our optimistic and energetic action at the beginning of shelter-in-place orders seems to have mostly subsided, and now we’re just… sad, or waiting for it to go away. Or preparing to forget that this happened, which would be a really disappointing waste of the opportunity to learn and change things.
  • Jaron Lanier and Glen Weyl’s WIRED op-ed, “AI is an Ideology, Not a Technology”:
    • “The term ‘artificial intelligence’ doesn’t delineate specific technological advances.… AI only references a subjective measure of tasks that we classify as intelligent. For instance, the adornment and ‘deepfake’ transformation of the human face, now common on social media platforms like Snapchat and Instagram, was … called image processing 15 years ago, but [is] routinely termed AI today. The reason is, in part, marketing.… If ‘AI’ is more than marketing, then it might be best understood as one of a number of competing philosophies that can direct our thinking about the nature and use of computation.
    • “A clear alternative to ‘AI’ is to focus on the people present in the system. If a program is able to distinguish cats from dogs, don’t talk about how a machine is learning to see. Instead talk about how people contributed examples in order to define the visual qualities distinguishing ‘cats’ from ‘dogs’ in a rigorous way for the first time. There’s always a second way to conceive of any situation in which AI is purported. This matters, because the AI way of thinking can distract from the responsibility of humans.…
    • “‘AI’ might be a threat to the human future, as is often imagined in science fiction, or it might be a way of thinking about technology that makes it harder to design technology so it can be used effectively and responsibly. The very idea of AI might create a diversion that makes it easier for a small group of technologists and investors to claim all rewards from a widely distributed effort.”

Observations 4-29-20

  • The package delivery person walking up to a disaster scene: Casey and me knee-deep in cardboard, trying to free a newly delivered couch from its sarcophagus, creating a mountain of cardboard and styrofoam rubble in the process that blocked anyone else from entering or exiting the building. And offering to help us.

Observations 4-28-20

  • In the grocery store parking lot, a mini Ice Mountain water bottle — a vase — with tulips in it, on the ground in the cart return area.
  • The wooden pallet on top of a baby stroller repurposed by a person reselling pallets.
  • The spring-blooming tree in our front yard.

Observations 4-27-20

  • How, lately, every time I pass a local abandoned storefront where people experiencing homelessness have taken shelter, there are neighbors delivering food or otherwise checking up on them.

Observations 4-26-20

  • The massive bulldog named Queenie running across the street, not looking both ways, trying to take a chomp out of Basil and, in the crossfire, my leg.
  • The CTA bus driver waving “hi” to a fellow bus driver across the street, who didn’t see it and so couldn’t reciprocate.

Observations 4-25-20

  • This great opening line, from J.P. Grasser’s “Letter to My Great, Great Grandchild”: “Oh button, don’t go thinking we loved pianos / more than elephants, air conditioning more than air.”

Observations 4-24-20

  • Contributing a mix to Maison Dufrene’s Radio L’envie series — 30 minutes of some of my favorite ’60s and ’70s songs.

Observations 4-23-20

  • Seeing a Tr*mp bumper sticker in the city (Chicago) for the first time.

Observations 4-22-20

  • Ethan Marcotte’s blog post called “Let a website be a worry stone,” and how I’ve been doing just that, with this site, since quarantine began (and long before).

Observations 4-21-20

  • The frustrating irony that conservative anchors and leaders, who otherwise exaggerate or even fabricate threats, would downplay a genuine crisis.

Observations 4-20-20

  • Steve Albini’s rice pudding.

Observations 4-19-20

  • Stephen Wolfram’s blog post “Finally We May Have a Path to the Fundamental Theory of Physics… and It’s Beautiful.” Almost all of the math and physics goes over my head, but the idea that super complex, world-like structures could arise from deceptively simple origins is exciting and pleasant to think about.
  • Donald Hall’s essay “Between Solitude and Loneliness.” Specifically how, amid all its somberness, he casually refers to his and his wife Jane Kenyon’s “daily fuck.”
  • Wondering how microscopes find their tiny targets. I can believe we have the tech to see tiny things; it’s harder to believe that, after the zoom has blown up the medium into a massive sea of nothingness, that the microscope can find what it’s actually looking for.

Observations 4-18-20

  • Learning about “human challenge” trials: medical experiments wherein people volunteer to be infected with coronavirus in order to help vaccine development.

Observations 4-17-20

  • My first Corona Cry.
    • Later, Basil licking salty tear residue off my face.

Observations 4-16-20

  • Every day, waking up to find out how many nanometers by which my quarantine mustache has grown. The joy of it — even as the overall product remains shame-worthy.

Observations 4-15-20

  • The vacant Chicago Public School storefront with nothing inside except a nearly ceiling-height wooden playhouse.
  • RAW MUSIC by my friend Ridley (AKA Poor Ridley), an album of drawings programmatically converted into music.

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