Getting Started with Meditation and Preparing for What Comes Next

If you’re like me, you’ve felt anxiety, stress, anger, and a bunch of other emotions in the last nine days. That’s normal. We’re in a stressful place. 2016 has been a bad year for a lot of people for a lot of reasons. What I’m afraid of, and what I don’t want to happen, is for what’s going on in the world change me. I don’t want to become a more closed off, angry, less gentle person.

That doesn’t mean I don’t plan to do what I can to fight against what I fear is coming, but that I can’t let someone else’s small mindedness and hate turn me into a more small minded and hateful person.

A small thing that I’m doing in order to work against those instincts in myself — that maybe would be useful to others — is to have a daily meditation practice. I’ve been doing this practice semi-regularly for a few months now. When I’m consistent I feel like it helps me have greater awareness, focus, and ability to handle my emotions in stressful situations. I believe that especially now, as things are so uncertain, this kind of clear-mindedness is something that is going to help us respond to the challenges which are coming in the most meaningful ways.

I’m not an expert in meditation by any definition, but I can give a few tips and recommendations based on what’s helped me so far.

My first recommendation is to go easy on yourself. You’re not trying to “clear your mind”, you’re going to miss days, and some days will be a lot harder than others. It will get easier. Just keep doing it.

I’ve found starting with guided meditation to be useful. I use Headspace, but I’m sure there are other places to find guided meditation, and probably some free ones. The reason I like it is that it gives me some direction while meditating so I’m not sitting there wondering the whole time if I’m doing right.

Reading books on Buddhism and meditation is a good compliment to the practice. You don’t have to be a buddhist to meditate, but knowing some of the philosophy is useful for taking your practice with you when you’re not meditating. By far the best book I’ve read is The Heart of the Buddhas Teaching by Thich Nhat Hanh. If you’re looking for a quick intro to meditation — and a little buddhism — Sit Like a Buddha by Lodro Rinzler is short, easy to read, and will get you started.

If you can meditate with others, try it. The times I’ve gone to my local Zen Center, done their meditation class, and listened to their talks on Buddhism have been nice. If you have something like that, maybe check it out. Meeting other people who’ve been through or are going through the same things with their practice can help you stay motivated.

This is a challenging time to stay calm, open minded, and clear headed. Many of us are living in a state of anticipatory grief right now and feeling like we will be for several months at least. It’s normal to feel this way, but it’s also important to realize that letting these emotions control us and make us catatonic, or lash out without thinking, is the least useful thing we can be doing to prepare right now. What we need is to find a way to give ourselves a little space from our emotions so that when the hit comes we’re ready to respond.

My Request for Apple Music: Challenge Me a Little

I use Apple Music for streaming. I try to give it as much data to work with as possible so it can recommend new music to me. If I like a song, I tap the heart icon. I’m pretty consistent about it. The problem is, as much as I do that, it doesn’t seem to be doing a very good job at helping me discover new music.

Whenever I look at “For You”, what I see is a bunch of playlists which are either collections of songs by musicians I already know, or other things that sound exactly like the music I already know. If it’s going to be learning my preferences — and the preferences of millions of people like me — it’s got a ton of data to work with, and what I’d like is for it to be gently helping me broaden my horizons over time.

What I get is: “You like music by sensitive people with guitars, here’s a whole lot of exaclty that.”

What I want is: “We know you don’t usually listen to hip hop, but we really think you might like this.”

Maybe the problem is that the super conservative choice is the right thing because most people just want to hear music they already know they like over and over again. But, for me, I feel like it’s a big letdown and makes these sorts of services a lot less useful and fun than they could be.

Meat Is Killing Our Planet and We Won’t Even Talk About It

Producing meat is destroying the planet, and eating it is destorying our bodies. This isn’t crazy vegan hippie rhetoric — it’s the truth. This article in the Washington Post has lots of charts and information explaining how it is.

Do I expect anyone who reads this or looks at that article to make any different choices though? Not really. But why? So many people — for whom eating meat is entirely optional — are willing to label others climate change deniers, shame them for what kind of car they drive, or refer to others as ignorant and uniformed. But these same people don’t even consider changing their habits, even though just the greenhouse gas effects of meat production are so much worse for the planet than all transportation combined.

I’m not even going to talk about the way we treat animals, but that’s just as upsetting.

Lots of things people do are bad for the planet, and I’m sure than I am no exception. But the fact is this one thing is so much more worse than anything else we do, and people barely even acknowledge it. It’s simple to me: you can’t be an environmentalist and eat meat. Those two things are contradictory. If people really cared about the planet or global warming as much as they say they do, they would be willing to take the one biggest step to actually have an impact. If you eat meat while failing to accept the impact your choices have, you not only are contributing to the problem, you are a climate change denier.

Obviously, this topic gets me pretty worked up. But just being upset and calling others hypocrites isn’t an effective way to help anyone think about their choices, or encourage them to make better ones. So, besides the Washington Post article I linked to above, I want to recommend some things. Even if you have no intention to change, I think that if you’re going to make choices, you should be willing to learn about what those choices mean and reconcile that for yourself. At least then you’re making informed choices.

Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer

This book is great because it doesn’t skip any details of what meat production is doing to the planet, or how we mistreat animals, but somehow keeps the writing approachable and even a little humorous. It also gives voice to both sides of arguments by talking to farmers, factory farmers, people at slaughter houses, humane meat people, etc, and lets them all say their piece without discrediting it outright.


This is a documentary — available on Netflix — which contains a lot of the same information in Eating Animals, and is also pretty light hearted, with less time commitment. The film goes over a lot of the data, interviews environmentalists and animal rights folks, and asks the same question I have: why isn’t this information more commonly known, and why aren’t environmental groups willing to talk about the single worst thing we’re doing to the environment.

A Reasonable Take on Gun Control

This article on Huffington Post lays out what I think is an extremely a reasonable take on gun control in the US, with action steps that don’t sound like they should be impossible (but probably are).

Here’s some common sense for you. I want gun ownership to be as boring and annoying as car ownership. I want you to go to some Department of Weapons and sit for hours. I want folks who own guns to prove their skill, their mental and physical health, and to be licensed and reviewed over the years just as happens with our driver’s licenses. You earn the right to own and drive a vehicle; earn the right to own and use a gun.

I take Adderall as medication for ADD. It works for me. Getting ahold of it was a pain in the ass, not just the first time, but every time. First I had to find a doctor who would prescribe it to me, which wasn’t easy, and once I did explain what I was feeling in such a way where they wouldn’t think I was looking to score (I tried non-stimulant medication first. it didn’t work). Then I had to get my insurance to pay for it. Having achieved those goals, I now have to take a physical prescription to the pharmacy every month. Also my doctor is in Oregon, and I’m in California. Since Adderall is a controlled substance, they won’t fill my prescription here. I fly to Oregon once a month to fill my prescription because that’s easier than going through the whole process of finding a doctor again.

There’s some potential for abuse of the medication I take (although much less since I take the extended release version). Anyone probably shouldn’t be able to just buy it over the counter. But for fucks sake, why is it easier to get a gun — who’s only functional purpose is to take another persons life — than for me to get medication that helps me stay productive and focused and was prescribed by a doctor?

Daniel Jalkut on Apple News

Apple News And The Open Web |

I’m optimistic that Apple’s News app will be a strike against centralized services such as Medium, Twitter, and Facebook. A strike against signing over content to a 3rd party mediator for the sake of a greater chance at connecting to an audience. Apple may not be the world’s best technology company when it comes to either storing data or building a social network around it, but they are damned good at building a captive audience of delighted users who trust the company to provide access to a variety of 3rd party content.

Calling iMessage an impressive social network is a bit of a stretch considering my messages still sync across devices in seemingly any order. I don’t know if the News app is going to pull anyone who’s dedicated to RSS away from it, but it might be great for those who aren’t.

A Few Apple Watch Thoughts

  • Scratches show up on stainless steel easier than I expected. Thankfully it’s pretty easy to polish them out.
  • WatchKit apps have a lot better performance than I expected. Based on Twitter, I thought they’d be pretty much unusable.
  • Parts of the UI are a bit laggy, but I suspect that’ll be fixed in a software update.
  • The screen switching on automatically really only works when you’re standing with your arms at your side.
  • If I don’t wear the band fairly tightly, I miss taps.
  • I love not having everyone around me know when I get a notification.
  • Not having to fish my phone out of my pocket to find out why it’s buzzing is just as great as I hoped it would be.
  • I would really like a way to know who in my address book has an Apple Watch.

Ninety Days

Justin Williams recommends that you don’t spend more than ninety days on a 1.0. I’m with Brent that I want to see apps that take more than three months to make, but I still think Justin has the right advice.

Some apps are deep, and there’s no way around the time they’ll take to get right. Coda comes to mind. Overcast might too. A majority though — especially on iOS — are really all about one thing that makes it unique and everything else falls out of that one thing.

Don’t ship garbage. Do figure out what your app is really about, do the hell out of it, and then start shipping updates.

Thoughts on the Verge Review of Pebble Steel

Nilay Patel’s review of the Pebble Steel is pretty good, but I did have two thoughts after reading it.

  • If the Pebble Steel was rated an 8.5, does that mean that the best a smartwatch released with current technology could have only possibly been 15% better?
  • It’s worth considering that you’re potentially taking fashion advice from someone who, in the featured image for the article, is also wearing a weird studded bracelet of the type a teenage girl might buy at Hot Topic circa 2005.