A Week in the Life: July 5, 2019

I’ve been stressed this week. The 4th of July stresses me out because of fireworks noise and I know I won’t get to sleep. I’ve been stressed about concentration camps at the border, which I wrote about yesterday. I’ve also been stressed about our car, which has been in the shop for the last month. It broke down on the way to Lake Tahoe in early June and we’ve been driving a rental car since. I realized our total cost for the rental is now over $1,000. The mechanics have gone through various fixes including a new fuel injector and now a new computer. But now that there’s a new computer, it turns out the problem is in the engine. It’s like an episode of Looney Tunes where they keep trying to smash down a dent in the car and it pops up elsewhere. No matter what, we’re out over $2000 between repairs and rental and we’re going to have to buy a new car anyway. I can’t wait to throw money away this weekend.


Here are some things I read, listened to, or bought this week.


cover of the book "The Big Nine," taken outside
“The Big Nine”

This week I read The Big Nine: How the Tech Titans and Their Thinking Machines Could Warp Humanity by Amy Webb. The Big Nine traces the history of artificial intelligence and provides an overview of the companies most involved in its development. She then describes three scenarios—one optimistic, one pragmatic, and one catastrophic—for how AI might change society in the next 50 years. Honestly, this book has fucked me up. All three AI scenarios are highly plausible and rooted in events already in motion. The optimistic scenario really made me feel good, and the catastrophic one evoked dread. Webb makes the argument for a variety of counter-measures that would help individuals have rights over their own data and would encourage corporations and governments to collaborate. I’ve never been so invested in policy around artificial intelligence before. Most of the things that would set AI on the optimistic path are things that happen at institutional levels, but Webb closes the book with recommendations for how we can all take part. One suggestion is that we all need to be more aware and more critical of where our data goes and what it’s used for. We should think about apps before we use them. For example, fun apps that require your picture are probably being used to create data sets to train AI. We have to consider what we’re trading for convenience. One site I thought about amid those suggestions is LibraryThing, which I used to link the title above. A lot of people love GoodReads for their book-related social networking, but I’ve been using LibraryThing for years. I refuse to use GoodReads because Amazon owns it and they don’t need more of my data. LibraryThing isn’t selling data, so I feel good about that choice. These are the kinds of choices Webb is asking us to consider when we use the internet and technology.

I also read an article on Rewire.News called The Image America Shouldn’t Need. It discusses the fact that Americans shouldn’t have to see images of drowned migrants to have empathy for everyone struggling to get into this country. I recommend reading the article because it is powerful.


Spotify has introduced me to two songs on the topic of horse girls recently and frankly I don’t know what it’s trying to suggest. First, there’s Adam Ant’s Why Do Girls Love Horses. Then, there’s Tacocat’s Horse Grrls. I’ve never been much interested in horses, but it makes me chuckle that it’s enough of a meme to have songs about it.

Rampant Consumerism

There hasn’t been much exciting consumerism here this week, but I did get my other new favorite shirt, based on a second-grade writing assignment I did that my dad dug up recently. You can get your own from my teespring store.

Making Things and Doing Stuff

Here are some things I did this week.

Language Learning

I’m feeling good about my Icelandic studies this week. I feel like I’ve finally recovered from basically taking a year off when my teacher had her baby. It feels like the language is coming together in my brain more and that’s awesome. I’ve started watching this cooking show to get more listening practice. I can’t claim to understand all of it, but the good thing about cooking shows is that they demonstrate everything, so it’s easy to make connections between signifier and signified.

Kitchen Witchery

I didn’t do a whole lot of cooking this week, but I did finally do something with the cake I made a couple of weeks ago. I defrosted half of it, filled it with white chocolate buttercream and topped it with cashew buttercream. The results were not particularly beautiful, but they were tasty. I also finally tested out the sous vide immersion cooker that my sister bought me for Christmas. I have been planning to do some sous vide cooking to feed myself at rollercon this year, which is why I tested it out in a cooler instead of something more conventional like a pot. The results were good. I think I’ll be able to feed myself reasonably well!

Finally, here are some cat picture for your nerves.