Style reveals substance

I am legitimately out of ideas tonight

After my initial idea fell through–it’ll still get posted, just some technical details have to get ironed out first–I have absolutely no idea what to write about tonight.

I’ve been trying to be better about writing, to write more of what I want this blog to be and less of whatever seems convenient at the time.

And yet I find myself writing a convenient-at-the-time meta post. [eyeroll]

Mostly it’s because I’m completely out of steam. This week I’ve been making an effort to get more sleep, but I’ve only gotten a touch more, not enough to make up for whatever sleep debt I have.

So I find myself here, on a Thursday night, after eating a huge dinner, weary and nearly falling asleep.

That means I should get off my butt and go to bed.

I shall return tomorrow with what I hope is the most epic “image of the week” yet.

Sleep well, my batlings.

Academic Staff

Here’s the thing. In the eternal battle between university faculty and administration, both sides are too busy entrenching their positions and launching zingers at the enemy to pay any attention to the third player on the battlefield.

Yes, there are the byzantine ranks of the faculty, where a multitude of micro-status-markers sort disciplines, programs, and individuals into very real pigeonholes.

Of course there are the administrators, who sometimes pretend that they are running a business instead of an ~institute of higher education~. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

And then there’s the third team: the staff.

Neither administration nor faculty, we exist to make sure that things get done. Whether we’re department managers, grant coordinators, graduate program coordinators, fiscal specialists, executive assistants, or whatever, we tend to focus much less on the politics of university life and much more on getting things done. We are the anonymous people who do the work.

When someone decides to once again apply organizational theory to the university setting, they tend to focus solely on students, faculty, and administration (ie, senior and executive leadership). Maybe they’ll focus on adjunct and non-tenured faculty, if they’re really being generous.

But nobody ever talks about the fact that every person in a leadership position has an assistant, or that there are many isolated workers (because silos are a real thing) whose sole function is to make sure that decisions get made, budgets get (sort of) balanced, and the life of the university continues to function.

For every person out there making headlines, I can pretty much guarantee that there’s somebody behind-the-scenes making things happen.

I am one of those people. I want to know more about those people. I want to know why we are so conveniently overlooked, like pieces of furniture instead of active members of university culture and organization.

We are the ones who do the operational things that keep the university running, like pay the bills and keep up compliance regulations. Without us, university life would be a whole lot more painful for the faculty and administration.

Perhaps, then, we are the problem. We are the bubble that allow universities to continue to function, despite incompetent leadership who cannot keep sound finances or a viable vision for the future.

This is something that I would like to know more about. I seriously want to know how many decisions are made de facto by staff as they’re just trying to get the job done, when the boss is waffling. I want to know how influential, or not, staff are in the shaping of their units and departments. I want to know how much of a difference we really do make.

And this isn’t to stir up grievances. I don’t want to start throwing around the victim card. Most of us derive satisfaction from our work in other ways than recognition or money; we’re the ones who care about doing a good job. I don’t want this to sound like “Oh, poor academic staff who are never recognized or appreciated, boo hoo hoo.”

At the same time, though, any “study” of university culture without taking into account the staff is like studying the body without taking into account the lymphatic system.

Sure, it’s not sexy or particularly photogenic, but it plays a huge role in human wellness much like staff are the lifeblood of a university.

If we’re serious about wanting to solve the education crisis, academic staff can do a lot to correctly diagnose and suggest solutions to fix problems. We have a very frank and up-close look with the issues that plague higher ed, and most of us are happy to talk about them.

Just no one thinks to ask.


Optimizing Carnivore: Eating only when hungry

It’s been a while since I posted about my adventures with carnivorous eating.

The word “adventures” makes it sound like I’m wading through some unknown landscape, maybe a swamp or a jungle, fending off alligators and giant mosquitoes or whatever. That’s not true.

At this point, eating only animal products is pretty much second nature. This way of eating has become somewhat routine, and for a long time I didn’t think much of it at all. Shredded beef for lunch, lamburgers* for dinner, maybe some eggs or a natural beef stick occasionally, the eternal battle with cheese (my only love sprung from my body’s only hate).

A few weeks ago, I realized that I was eating dinner without being hungry. It was time to eat, so I ate. But when I scanned my body’s signals, I wasn’t hungry.

So right then and there I decided to only eat when I was hungry. I’m not going to starve myself–not interested in going past hunger into hanger and stupidity–but listen carefully to what my body actually needs.

The first day, I ate a big lunch. Afterwards, I went on a hike, fully expecting to be hungry when I got back. Nope. I drank a lot of water, but that was it.

The second day, I woke up not-hungry. My cousins were in town, so naturally we went on another hike and played some board games. A few hours later, I was finally hungry and ate a huge lunch.

A 24-hour fast without trying.

In the next 24-hour period, I only ate one other meal. It was a little bit trippy and still messes with my head a little bit, but I simply wasn’t hungry.

From then on, I’ve alternated between one and two meals per day.

I haven’t noticed any weight loss, or any magical healing (that’s all because of the Omega-3 fish oil I’ve been taking), but my body feels a lot better.

It’s weird and nice getting a “mental break” from food. For a long time, when I was really sick, I wished (truly WISHED) that I could survive on Nothing Sandwiches for days at a time. Now, it’s not days but I certainly don’t have to cook or eat for long stretches of time.

One of the nicest things of being hungry is the food is so delicious. I am always happy to eat (to feast!) and everything tastes so good. Hunger is truly the best sauce.

Every once in a while I eat when I’m not quite hungry, and the food doesn’t taste as good. Nor do I feel any better.

One thing that’s weirder about this way of eating, at least this early in the game, is that I’m not always sure when I’ll be hungry. It might be at 9:30 am, or it might be at 9:30 pm. There’s not really a set “schedule” like the breakfast-lunch-snack-dinner-snack routine that I grew up with.

Hunger-on-demand hasn’t been an issue when I’m on my own, but for “social” food events (like dates) I try to make myself as hungry as possible and then just roll with it.

If you at all thing of food as entertainment–as pleasure–this method will clue you into it. Sometimes I catch myself wanting to eat carnitas with a fried egg over (my current fave)…but I’m not hungry. I just want to pleasurable experience of eating the food.

Being fat adapted, my blood sugar is steady as anything, so going long distances without eating hasn’t been an issue for mental or physical performance. In fact, it’s been rather freeing.

Overall it’s been a good experience getting back in touch with my body and its needs (and not my head and its demands). I’ll keep doing it for a while, mostly because I love going long stretches without food.



*Lamburgers: Lamb + burgers

When NCT 127 builds a comeback around Lee Taeyong

Let’s not kid ourselves, Lee Taeyong is the centerpiece–the crown jewel, if you will–of NCT 127.

NCT is the group that SM Entertainment is using to prove that they can produce good rappers (and it’s working), so the rap is the king 85% of the time. This is why I’m pretty sure all NCT 127 concepts revolve around whatever Taeyong is into at the time.

Look at Doyoung and Haechan actually pulling it off, the 19th cent. poet vampire lewk

Next month, SM is blessing us with another NCT 127 comeback. This one is called regular-irregular.

Regular-irregular reminds me of Sartur Resartus–another 19th century piece by Thomas Carlyle. What are the odds that a Korean pop act is referencing fairly obscure piece of writing by an old British guy?

I’m also getting flashbacks to reading through the slush pile of the undergraduate literary magazine that I edited back in the day.

At that point in my life I was obsessed with 19th century psychological horror novels, the beginnings of my VAMPIRES phase.

This all feels vaguely synchronous.

And the visuals?

While keeping intact the NCT formal/urban mix, I have a hunch as to where this concept came from. Mostly because of Taeyong’s deliciously 80s hair.

I think Taeyong wanted to look like Kiefer Sutherland in The Lost Boys.

Prove me wrong.

If there’s a sax track in the new comeback I’ll consider that confirmation.

PS. Jungwoo got added to the group this comeback and he’s getting hazed. His turn to wear the dress.

The SM Stylist’s way of saying “get over yourself”

Style reveals substance

I may have finally refined my mental concept of what I want this blog to be, enough to the point where I can start to hone in on an idea without cutting off the option to explore new things.

That is a ridiculous sentence.

Let me explain.

I’ve always loved the structure of communication–speeches, the written word, how well-designed typography conveys a word and meaning in a way that is visually pleasing. In grad school, I tried to organize my studies around this idea. That did not always work, especially when I got distracted by things like the lack of scholarship around Queen Victoria. I was equally hamstrung by my inability to articulate what was interesting to me in this area.

“Rhetoric,” broadly, fits the definition somewhat. “Visual rhetoric” might be a better descriptor, but it’s a very stilted, academic term. And the idea of rhetoric also misses the aim of truth.

My vague idea when I started this blog was trying to determine if the Truth has certain aesthetic qualities. (Talk about stilted and esoteric!) The problem is, I also don’t want this blog to be a dry academic ~tome. I want it to be fun, and useful, and insightful.

So a ponderous quest for Truth was out. Besides, that was too much pressure.

I’m still interested in things like fashion, and k-pop, and the many ways that people can lie in photographs.

Finally, today, I had mulled over enough horrible taglines for the blog that I finally found one worth refining further: “Style reflects structure.”

It’s a good start.

The best visual design is design that most accurately and efficiently conveys the message of the text to the reader. This is both in emotional content (font shapes and evocations) but also in cognitive and vision science–what tends to hook a reader and help him retain information. There’s an interplay between the purpose of the document, and its physical manifestation.

The style is born of the mission. It does not necessarily drive the mission, but it is integral to the communication of that mission.

Not everybody things in structures, so I changed that to “substance,” which I think works fine. Style is not substance. Anyone who thinks they can have substance without style is kidding themselves. (Even the default is a style, and tells you something about the person who uses it.)

And then I changed “reflects” to “reveals,” because I feel like it works better. Like a woman reveals the character of a man, style reveals the character of an argument. Maybe it’s cohesive, maybe it’s utilitarian, maybe it’s the default option, but the style can tell raise many questions.

Now, there are a lot of considerations. What if it’s a book designed by the design pros in a publishing house? Well, that tells us a lot about the book publishing process, doesn’t it. Once a book makes it out of the editing and publishing process, it’s no longer a single idea. It’s an idea that’s been edited (hopefully by someone who cares about preserving the source material but who knows), that’s been reinterpreted by a designer and a merchandiser and a marketing blur writer and an executive or two.

Anyway, I’ll keep posting about a lot of random stuff here, but I plan on making this blog a little more cohesive. I’d like to explore more historical styles and take a look at what people are doing now.

I say I love planning

But I really don’t.

I get stressed out that there’s something that I missed, that there’s a cooler place or a better deal or something.

This weekend I took the first step on finalizing my first-ever Real Adult Vacation with a friend. It’s going to be great. There will be beaches, and sunshine, and hiking. Good food and hopefully some good conversations. Time away from everything, exploring new places.

I’m psyched.

Except for the planning.

Yet, if you told me that someone else could plan it, I’d be saying “BUT DID YOU REMEMBER THIS??”

I think it’s more the “make a decision” thing that gets to me. Especially if there’s always the possibility of a better option hiding somewhere. I like coming up with options, but like the action on those options much less.

Anyway, no matter how it comes out, this vacation is going to be amazeballs.

I need to get over the FOMO and do it.

I miss Martin Shkreli

And I hope he’s doing okay in prison.

That’s all.

A first look at MBTI type frequency

This is going to be a really rough, sketch of a post. But give me an idea with legs, and I’ma run with it.

Yesterday I shared a little of my personal journey with MBTI. Today I started thinking more about how the “shadow” (ie, the converse of our least-used cognitive function) is underdeveloped and somewhat of an Achilles Heel. What is that, more broadly, for people? What are–on a general level–our problems?

To start out, I found this chart of type distribution in the general population. I have no idea how accurate it is (although it seems accurate), but since MBTI is of dubious scientific validity anyway, I’m just going to roll with it for now.

Please note that I am not a statistician. I just like knowing things. I also view MBTI more as a reliable heuristic than anything else.

Anyway. Type frequency:

Type Frequency in Population
ISFJ               13.8%
ESFJ             12.3%
ISTJ             11.6%
ISFP          8.8%
ESTJ          8.7%
ESFP          8.5%
ENFP         8.1%
ISTP      5.4%
INFP     4.4%
ESTP     4.3%
INTP    3.3%
ENTP    3.2%
ENFJ    2.5%
INTJ   2.1%
ENTJ   1.8%
INFJ   1.5%


Then I figured out the “shadow” cognitive function for each of the types, binned them with their pairs, and tallied the percentage. For instance, ENJF and ESJF both have Ti as their inferior cognitive function, which would make Te the shadow function.

Here is a really ugly pie chart of the results.

Ugh, this chart is bad. Please don’t hold it against me.

ISFJ and INTJ top out with a Ni shadow at a whopping 25.4% of the population. In fact, the entire “top half” of the chart (which is conveniently going from bottom-up HOLLA TERRIBLE INFORMATION STRUCTURING) is entirely Intuition and Thinking.

That is 65.8% of the population who are effectively incapable of self-reflection or critical thinking.

Now, that’s overstating it. It’s merely 25.4% of the population (“population,” no idea what the sample is) that is nearly incapable of the self-reflection that comes with Ni.

The next 28% is nearly incapable of arranging their thoughts in an objective manner.

If you pay attention to human beings, this is not news. On the whole, we are an irrational, reactionary species. But dangnabbit if this doesn’t help explain why.

I have a lot more sympathy toward people when I realize that they view introspection or thinking in the same way that I view feelings.

This definitely helps explain why things tend toward a small group of “elite” running things for everybody else.

Anyhow, this is a rough first pass, but I want to look a little bit more about how the relative frequency of type is distributed. It’ll help me get more of a handle on global trends (say hey to my Ne, everybody) and I did a small data project at work last week that has primed my appetite for data visualizations (hi, Ti).

How do I feel about that?

Ask me how I feel about something.

The answer? I don’t know.

Seriously. 95% of the time I have no idea.

Lately I’ve been on an MBTI kick, and while it’s lovely for certain things (reverse engineering the personality type for my boss, for instance), it also makes one come face-to-face with certain truths.

These truths are often things that we try to forget. Weaknesses.

The opposite of strengths.

Anyway, as an INTP, my cognitive function stack goes like this:

  1. Introverted Thinking (Ti)
  2. Extraverted Intuition (Ne)
  3. Introverted Sensing (Si)
  4. Extraverted Feeling (Fe)

I rely HEAVILY on Ti and Ne (even though sometimes I hate it) and this blog is largely the result of those two functions interacting. My Si style preferences often don’t make it to “publish” and Fe rarely. Fe is by far my weakest.

While these are my preferred ways of interacting with the world, the converse also exists. AKA, the sides I don’t prefer to use.

  1. Extraverted Thinking (Te)
  2. Introverted Intuition (Ni)
  3. Extraverted Sensing (Se)
  4. Introverted Feeling (Fi)

It’s funny. My “original stack” are things that I take for granted. Always coming up with new ideas, and being able to sort through them to find the best ones. Knowing every single sensation in my body. Being able to connect with other human beings, even if I don’t feel it myself.

My “shadow stack,” on the other hand, is full of things that I’d like to be. Better at commanding my external environment and keeping my life and household on an efficient schedule (hallmarks of Te). Better at envisioning my future (Ni). More style-conscious, putting more effort into my own appearance and that of my living space (Se). And let’s not get our hopes up, but sometimes I’d like to know how I feel (Fi).

Poor Fi gets the short stick. As the shadow of the function at the very bottom of the hierarchy, it’s the underdeveloped stepchild of the bunch. And I’ve been feeling it lately. I can come up with all sorts of examples of how Fi is my achilles heel.

  • I couldn’t tell you if I liked watching Downton Abbey but I could feel my brain dispensing dopamine while I was watching it. Like literally feel the chemicals. (Si)
  • It once took me a solid month to identify that I was heartbroken. Even though I was crying myself to sleep every night and listening to breakup songs.
  • My dearest desire in college was to be a robot. Or a vulcan.

Fortunately or unfortunately, humans aren’t robots OR vulcans, and the majority of us use Fi and Fe quite a lot throughout the day. This is a fact that I understand, but do not relate to.

Sometimes–usually when I’m hormonal–I feel feelings quite strongly. Most of the time it’s a default straight line, usually a bit on the melancholy side. That’s just how things roll with me.

When someone asks me how I feel about something, I often don’t genuinely know.

It came to my attention the other week that people often expect you to comment on how something makes you feel. This is a particular issue with my boss, who is heavy on the Fe and is always looking for an emotional reaction. I don’t like lying, but I also don’t function quickly enough with the feeling function to make something up on the spot. Usually I fake it with Ne and move on.

But that’s the crux of it. My function stack has left me with a function that doesn’t, well, it doesn’t function very effectively. Other people’s function stacks are that way, too–just with different functions.

Getting frustrated with another person for not being able to think (T) or not seeing the connections between things (N) is like getting frustrated with myself for not understanding how I feel (F).

People I know–people who feel–tell me that I have feelings but I just don’t know what they are. Maybe that’s true. I’m not sure what would happen if I focused on my feelings for a while, to try to innervate them like a muscle.

In 6th grade I taught myself how to raise one eyebrow by staring at it in the mirror. Perhaps I can do something similar on my emotions. Then I would be less of a cripple and would probably have an easier time communicating with people on a gut level.

Anyway, I’ll make an effort on this and report back what I find out.

My Chemical Romance Appreciation Post

It’s not often I’ll admit in public that I like this band, but I’ll make an exception for a 9/11 post.

My Chemical Romance is a band that was born on 9/11. Not the lineup or even the concept, but the emotion that was driving Gerard Way through the whole thing:

“I didn’t see the planes hit. I did see the buildings go down, from I’d say fairly close. It was like being in a science fiction film or some kind of disaster film—it was exactly that kind of feeling. You didn’t believe it. You felt like you were in Independence Day. It made no sense. Your brain couldn’t process it. And for me it was a little different. I’m very empathetic and I’m kind of a conduit emotionally, so I pick up a lot of stuff in that way. There was about three- or four-hundred people around me—and I was right at the edge. All these people behind me, they all had friends and family in those buildings. I didn’t. So when that first building went, it was like an A-bomb went off. It was like just this emotion and it made you nauseous.”

The thing about MCR is that their sound so perfectly encapsulates a certain feeling, and articulates it in a way that makes sense. I’m sure there were a few kids who were drawn into a dark path from their music, but for the most part people started listening to them because MCR accurately represented how they felt.


This was the first song that Gerard Way wrote for MCR, btw:

Steel corpses stretch out
Towards an ending sun, scorched and black
It reaches in and tears your flesh apart
As ice cold hands rip into your heart

That’s if you’ve still got one life left
Inside that cave you call a chest
And after seeing what we saw
Can we still reclaim our innocence?
And if the world needs something better
Let’s give them one more reason, now

The weird mix of innocence and gore that twists through all MCR songs was there at the beginning.

9/11 wasn’t the only thing that influenced Gerard Way. It was just the catalyst. He was into horror movies and comic books, one of those weird hulky goth kids in high school. Horror pop music (or “kiddie emo” according to the music snobs) was a natural fit for someone with his emotional sensibilities and dramatic flair. And he took that flair to the extreme.

There are a lot of things surrounding MCR that you can take issue with, but sincerity is not one of them.

The reason that I posit that MCR is a 9/11 band is because of this song:

It was one of the lead songs from their last full album. I listened to it for a weekend solid (no lie). At this point. Gerard Way is married, has a kid, kicked alcoholism and has written and recorded an album that failed to capture the “emotion” that MCR’s first three albums did.

This album was more like a message to the future, like what he would tell his daughter as she grew up.

Anyway, the lyrics go:

Where, where will we stand?
When all the lights go out
Across these city streets
Where were you when
All of the embers fell
I still remember there
Covered in ash
Covered in glass
Covered in all my friends
I still
Think of the bombs they built

His hope is in his daughter, in the children of the future…but it’s still hope.*

Between these two bookends lies the bulk of MCR’s career. Much like fiction, there’s the inciting incident, and the epilogue. The turn at the end that shows that the emotional journey is over–the true end of the story.

MCR’s last album, Danger Days, isn’t quite like the other albums. It’s still story-driven, like an auditory comic book, but this time the story is cartoonish, full of color and energy. When you listen to “The Only Hope for Me is You,” you know why.

At some point, Gerard ran out of on-brand stories to tell. The darkness that had been driving with him fell away.

We all have points in our lives that change everything, especially regarding death and destruction. Mine came a few years later, when I was in college, but I can only imagine what it would be like to be even mildly empathetic or intuitive and be around NYC that day. I can understand why someone would react like this.

Overactive imaginations R us.


*That’s not to say there wasn’t hope in any of MCR’s other albums. Bruh have you listened to “Famous Last Words“?

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