Notes from the Library

Arrival in Tucson, AZ

I arrived in Tucson to start the Philosophy PhD at the University of Arizona on Monday, and I now find myself in indecision about whether I should do it or not, and I’m stalling on signing the employment papers with the university. I’ve never been in a situation like this before: having travelled all the way here, I would have expected my heart to be committed to giving it a go. But it isn’t, in fact, I’m afraid and I want to go home. For my own benefit, in this blog post, I’ll try to give the best arguments I have for attending and for not attending.

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Worrying about e-mail today

A buzzword in the popular press is to describe Internet access as something that’s becoming a utility, that people are coming to need in the same way they need their water, electricity and gas. I realised today that a reliable e-mail account also has this status. My primary e-mail account has been my SDF account for about three years, but today I paid for a new FastMail account and started using an e-mail address at a .name domain that I’ve owned for six months or so but haven’t been using outside of git commit messages. I’ll talk about the reasons for this and also some observations about the place of e-mail in my life.

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Just going along as before

During my first year in Korea one thing that I complained about was that I lacked a sense of purpose. I didn’t have a clear next step to achieving big, longterm goals in my life. I wasn’t worried that those goals weren’t neatly circumscribed: it wasn’t my having dropped the goal of becoming a professional philosopher that was troubling me. Despite dropping this goal, I still knew that I wanted a life that bore similarities to the life of a professional philosopher, and that also bore similarities to a bunch of other archetypes. The issue was not having a shorter term concrete goal that would push me in the directions of some medley of the archetypes I look up to.

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Organisational principles backfiring on me

A few years ago I was really interested in productivity hacking, that is, creating and sustaining habits that make one more productive. I’m thinking of productivity here not as making or creating stuff. Instead, I understand productivity hacks as ways of using time more efficiently, especially when it comes to boring routine stuff that enables more interesting stuff. If the routines that oil your life take less time out of that life, you win because you’ve more time to do all the other stuff.

My friends made a lot of fun of me when this interest of mine was at its peak and I look back and realise that I was spending a lot of time trying to become as efficient as possible at not actually doing very much. That being said, I did get some good habits out of my productivity hacking hobby, along with a really bad habit. I’ll write briefly about both of those.

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Tory victory

All my lessons were cancelled today and so I ended up spending about 18 hours refreshing the Guardian live blog and election results page, occasionally going off to get some lesson planning done. And now at last they have the 326 sits for a totally unquestionable Commons majority. The country is going to burn. There is no-one to stop the vast majority of what they intend to do.

I have felt today an actual interest in something outside of myself and the people immediately around me: I really care about this. I didn’t expect to: I haven’t followed the election campaign at all and actually failed to vote because my postal vote arrived on polling day (next time I’ll be sure to vote by proxy). My cousin told me that there’s more to Britain than the welfare state. For me, there really isn’t that much more to Britain outside of whats left of the welfare state, qua country, that I have a positive emotional reaction to.

I don’t know how I can turn this interest into action just yet. But I do feel a change of perspective today. My own personal career and future just became a lot less important to me. This is a step forward. Now it’s time to disconnect from the 24-hour news once more, and try to get on with doing something worthwhile.

Edit 2029Z: Polly Toynbee sums it up:

Every time Labour fails, the key issue is not their ejected MPs nor the great Westminster game, but the hardship imposed on the low-paid and hard-pressed. Every Tory government makes the rich richer and the poor poorer, draining public services dry.

Ignore Cameron’s urbane manner, he is driven by a deep anti-state ideology that will leave the welfare state and the public realm unrecognisable in five years. That is what Labour’s failure means.

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