Jason Becker
March 19, 2023

Is there a better breakfast than a baguette with poached egg in tomato? Probably not.

A toasted baguette with two strips of bacon adjacent to a pool of crushed, cooked tomatoes with a poached egg, feta, and fresh parsley.

I think there may not be a city in the US which is/has:

  • Over 250,000 people
  • Walkable and generally traversable without private car ownership
  • Mild winters and reasonable summers
  • Remotely affordable
  • Not in a reactionary political spiral

It’s like, pick 2/5.

I’m reading again. It feels at once both like a healing and a hiding, like I’m gravitating toward other worlds to avoid facing something in this one.

March 18, 2023

I think a lot about all the things I can create and do because I have a stable financial situation, even if I have managed to replace one set of anxieties with another (far better to have) set of worries. It’s incredible to imagine the human flourishing that could exist.

Focus Modes have been great for my mental health, but it also means I just have to yell Elsa’s name to throughout the house to get her attention like in ye olden times. She’s effectively made it impossible to get her attention on her phone.

March 17, 2023

I am starting to work on a more permanent home for Letters here.

I need a better/consistent naming convention. I also think I want to figure out a way to list the name of the person I’m corresponding with.

Finally, I’m thinking about putting the post content, perhaps a full month at a time, behind a show/hide button on the page. As in, “Robb Knight, 2023 - January” listed, and it’s actually a toggle that opens up all of the contents of January’s Letters on the page.

Here’s the current state of my template as I start thinking through this.

{{define "main" }}
<div class="content list h-feed">
{{$pages := where .Site.Pages "Type" "post" }}
{{$letters := where $pages "Params.categories" "intersect" (slice "letters") }}
  {{ range ($letters.GroupByDate "2006-01").Reverse }}
    {{ $themonth := (time (printf "%s-%s" .Key "01")) }}
      {{ if lt $themonth.Year "2023" }}
        About Letters
      {{ else }}
        {{ $themonth.Format "2006 - January" }}
      {{ end }}
    {{ range .Pages.Reverse }}
      {{ partial "li.html" . }}
    {{ end }}
 {{ end }}
{{ end }}


Here’s a shot of my Panobook where I started writing ideas before I began fiddling with my actual templates/code.

You can see I was thinking about a collection of short codes before looking at my own site and realizing that my existing Archive page is actually a pretty good starting point and that my collapsible post content idea may be better as a partial.

Horizonal notebook with dot grid and an orange pen on a purple desk mat.

A proper response to slavery would have been to enshrine in law that it must be taught, clearly and honestly, for the evil that it wrought. That’s my understanding of how Germany handles teaching about the Holocaust. The idea that we’ve gone in the other direction, essentially ensuring we cannot properly teach the history of slavery is wild.

For example, for those who don’t click through, among the concerns in Virginia specifically are:

The problematic presentation of the history of slavery. The standards ascribe sole responsibility for the “Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade” to “Western African Empires” (WHII.6d); imply that indentured servitude (“bonded labor”) was a “type of slavery” (VUS.3b); and remove the term racism (mentioned 22 times in the original August draft) from any of the actual course-level standards.

There’s more that is equally frightening.

For all the right wing fear mongering of a government that’s too powerful, most of which is done to ensure we don’t have enough IRS agents to enforce tax evasion and fraud or a sufficient workforce to enforce child labor law, I’ve never been more afraid of government power than when its erasing history.

The folks who say education shouldn’t be political are using education to push their political project by teaching a narrative we all know they know is false.

Cut the bullshit. We know that these people don’t believe that West African Empires are responsible for the slave trade, or that indentured servitude was slavery, or that racism played no role in our history. We know that they don’t believe its unimportant to teach about history after the 1960s. They don’t believe these things. They’re lying to people who know they are lying and everyone is winking at each other. In 20 years, the kids who grow up under this regime won’t be winking. They won’t know they were lied to. They will deeply believe something untrue, and it will reshape our world into an uglier, crueler, and scarier place.

“As soon as I arrived in the Indies, on the first Island which I found, I took some of the natives by force,” Columbus wrote in October 1492, in a slice of the journal quoted by Zinn. “They would make fine servants. … With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want,” he also wrote.

But last school year, when the North Carolina teacher tried to give this lesson to her sophomore honors world history class, a parent wrote an email complaining that her White son had been made to feel guilty.

The teacher recalled replying by asking, “Why would your child feel guilty about what Columbus did to the Arawak?” The parents of the student escalated the issue to human resources, the teacher said, spurring an administrator to warn that she needed to stop “pushing my agenda — telling me that having my children learn the truth about Columbus was biased.”

We cannot teach what Christopher Columbus said. His words, a primary source.

No one believes that this kid “felt guilty” or that whatever this kid felt was something that was damaging in meaningful way. This is about a weird quirk of inventing an American history because we were a new nation without a single narrative or story to hold us together and a quirk of Italian-American history choosing to uphold Columbus as a hero figure. This is about adults who refuse to grow up, somehow believing that learning more and having a more complete picture of the world taints their previous experiences.

They want to talk about “snowflakes” and “safe spaces”, meanwhile they are conducting a full court press against reality as it was in favor of reality as they wish it to be or reality as they recall receiving it at some previous time in the past.

This kid was not feeling guilty. We all know it. This was another wink, another whistle.

You know, there’s a lot of stuff that we should feel guilty about. Guilt is an important and powerful emotion. Guilt is a sign that we are growing, we are learning, and that we can face turning our moral capacities to judge ourselves by our own standards instead of always judging everyone else. It would be great if more people felt a little bit of guilt now and again.

March 16, 2023

I don’t really love participating in the “despair porn” as often as I do, but this post about the shame trial over mifepristone must be shared. American devotion to an absolutely absurd legal proceduralism is an “own goal” and horror story.

It’s all such horseshit. Everyone knows mifepristone is safe. Everyone knows the FDA approval process in 2000 was fine. Everyone knows there’s more than 20 years of real-world data to demonstrate mifepristone’s safety. Everyone knows it’s been approved for use throughout the entire world. Everyone knows why an obscure judge in a tiny jurisdiction in Texas is hearing this case. And everyone knows the case has nothing to do with safety anyway. It’s just a way to make it harder to get an abortion.

— Kevin Drum, getting it exactly right.

Apple allows you to rotate multiple photos on your Lock Screen. A cool feature of Photo Shuffle is the ability to have it auto select “types” of pictures– I chose nature and pets. Every hour, my lock screen changes, and it’s a delight. Instructions here.

March 14, 2023

I have really liked the font Manrope for my site, but wow these curly quotes look awful. I may have to search for a new font.

So much of &ldquo;peak tv&rdquo; overstays its welcome for me&ndash; screenshot from my site showing the curly quotes

March 13, 2023

Hi Jason! Thank you for your reflection - it’s clear to me that you are someone far more in tune with themselves and I look forward to occupying similar space in the future. I was struck by your “what I know about myself” list. I wasn’t clear enough on them to explain it like that but I am on the same page with that list. #3 has me reflecting on what I’m holding on to (‘relics of people I used to be’ as I noted in my first letter) that do not need being held on to anymore. I hope to find a way to leave a little space in which to honor those people I used to be while not giving them hold on the person I am or may yet be.

But I want to jump in on books and movies! I LOVE movies. I used to go to the Alamo and catch a Tuesday Matinee and have lunch with myself several times a month. I even signed up for their Season Pass… in late February of 2020 so it got basically no use. It worked out though, as I do not have the bandwidth to keep up with the new movie schedule anyway. Now I get to set my own lineup - currently I’m sourcing for my April+ personal showings: Movies Alan Rickman Saw followed by Movies Alan Rickman Was Involved In. I recently read Alan Rickman’s autobiography/published journals and he made enough notes about plays/movies/etc he experienced that it was a rabbit hole I wanted to follow. Plus, apparently there were still a ton of his movies I’d not yet seen.

I get limited time for these things now - especially if the movie isn’t 2 year old friendly (I can quote you the entirety of Cars and Frozen, if you’re so inclined.) But while I traditionally hated splitting up the viewing of a movie (with an LOTR marathon excepted), it’s the only way to go these days and I’m cool if it means I get to watch the movies I want to.

While I’m not active in media critique (I have zero Letterboxd reviews going) I enjoy other people’s reviews. Specifically when something bugs me about a movie or edit and I want to see if anyone else kvetched about the same thing. While I start looking for one thing, inevitably, I find some new insight I can go deeper on, sometimes even making a re-watch necessary.

Having felt a huge void in the last decade or so where reading used to be, I’ve made a conscious choice to go to bed 30+ minutes earlier specifically devoted to reading time. I’ve devoured two fun-and-fast reads - #28 and #29 in a long running series about a female “bounty hunter” in NJ (where I am from) in the last week. I’m also in the middle of a book of essays, a parenting book, a book about boundaries and breaking generational trauma, and some fiction I haven’t figured out the plot for yet. I’d prefer to take it one book at a time but several library holds became available unexpectedly all at once and I went with it.

I’d love to hear what media you’re currently involved in or some that have stuck with you over the years.


Hi Julie,

First off, if you haven’t seen Galaxy Quest, you’re missing one of Alan Rickman’s best. Just skip right to it and enjoy something that should not be nearly as good as it is.

Reviews and criticism are things I’ve struggled with. Last year I started the year writing a Letterboxd review and blog post for every movie I watched. I don’t think I even made it a month before I realized that felt more like a chore than something I was enjoying, so I jettisoned it. I think the best thing with movies is find someone who wants to engage with them on the same level you do and talk. It’s how some of my best friends in college, well, became some of my best friends in college.

There are times I feel compelled to write. I never regret having put down my thoughts on The Batman– I find myself referencing it often online. It seems to be a movie everyone wants to say something about when they’re done watching it.

I try hard to read mostly fiction. I sometimes listen to nonfiction in audiobook format, but I find that very little nonfiction is actually suited for book length. I often joke that every single business book and self-help book is actually just a blog post stretched well past its welcome. I record all the books I read on my site, though I’m not in love with how my host grabs book images. It’s a bit of a crap shoot.

Books are intimate. Any number of books I’ve read over the years have made a strong impression, but I find that recommending books is something I do cautiously and gently. They are a major investment, and honestly, it hurts in a different way when a book connects so strongly with me and falls flat for someone else. When someone doesn’t understand a book I love, it’s like they don’t understand me in some fundamental way. It’s unfair to expect someone else to not just empathize with me, but react and feel like I do to a story. It’s not really what I expect, but being confronted with someone who doesn’t have the same reaction has the effect of underscoring the otherness that exists between the self and everyone else.

I recently read Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin and was blown away. It’s a beautiful story about friendship, creativity, trauma, belonging, and growing. And a lot of what’s in this book is about what it means to know someone, what it means to share with someone, what it means to see someone, or sometimes, not.

A lot of what I’ve read the last couple of years were books that end a trilogy or long series I’ve invested in over time. I’m mostly a sci-fi and fantasy reader, so too much of what I read seems to never end.

Maybe that’s why I abandon television? So much of “peak TV” overstays its welcome for me. I like an ending, but I also don’t like a story that goes off rails to keep production costs low or a show that has an ending they have to write themselves out of to keep going. The best stories know what they have to say and say it. I think that’s why I like miniseries so much. It’s probably why I also tend to like adaptations. Slow Horses, Station Eleven, and The Last Of Us come to mind. All are well plotted, with a clear idea of where they’re going and how their characters are meant to change and evolve. And they all have clear endings. By contrast, Severance was incredible, but I have close to no faith that they will be able to continue to execute at a high level and satisfy on their own mysterious elements.

A toast to our past selves, for the ambitions they had and things they loved; we may no longer share these things with them, but we know what it felt like.


March 12, 2023

I get that Apple likes its artisanal playlists, but if it’s really only going to give me effectively three algorithmic playlists, I need them to do a better job surfacing the playlists they’ve made by hand that I actually might want to listen to.

My least favorite part of Micro.blog custom themes now– figuring out what files I changed locally I need to paste into my custom theme.

Also, registering my complaint that mf2 and semantic HTML entity stuff can be really fucking confusing.

I’m starting to think about how to make a more permanent home on my site for the Letters project. Would love to see more personal site examples for inspiration.

I pull my git repository. I crack open my editor. I open neovim and want to get to work. I notice something that looks strange or I don’t quite understand. I begin to pull a thread. Hours go by.

I have, once again, made small tweaks to the structure of the HTML documents on my site. My h-feed, h-card, and h-entry all look better. The tree of elements makes more sense on the page. I have made one small tweak to colors or spacing or something. I got rid of some extra CSS.

I wanted to work on a new set of pages with a new set of designs. I wanted something I could publish. Instead, I fixed something no one sees, uses, or cares about. I barely do.

It’s a rainy Sunday, and I’ve managed to shave my yak.

March 11, 2023

Why do I sign up to go to the gym East Coast morning coming back from the West Coast time zones?

A lot of people are making the mistake of believing that SVB was a risky financial institution that made all kinds of wild bets or something. SVB is a pretty stodgy, pretty normal bank. This isn’t the subprime mortgage crisis. This isn’t putting deposits intro crypto.

If your approach to the SVB situation is the same as “lol Elon is burning his personal money and a few tech workers in SF might lose their jobs”, you’re dangerously wrong.

It’s disappointing to see liberals decide that the policy they want is the one that shit’s on people they don’t like, exactly what the right has done. David Sacks being a total asshat is irrelevant to what should be done.