I Have Deleted My Twitter Account

Twitter is kind of awful, to start with. It is also a “safe space” for white supremacists and folks who are otherwise complacent with white supremacy. Why get flooded with ads and support this?

I have decided not to. Gone with it are all of my haiku. Oh well. Everything is impermanent. I will write more haiku, but they will only be on here (my blog). I’m a history eraser.

I encourage you to get off Twitter, and Facebook and Insta-something and Snap-whatever while you’re at it. You’ve got better things to read, better ways to spend your time. In 10 years none of these things will be relevant. Books still will be.

Here’s to more haiku,

The Only Thing to Worry About Is Worry Itself

Sure, let’s appropriate an FDR quote for our own needs.

I haven’t written here in a while. The last time I wrote I was stressed out about my birth/government name. I’m less stressed out about it now, but I still don’t see it as my name. For several months now, I’ve been going by only my first name in most contexts. It’s worked out pretty well. As common as my legal first name is for someone born in the 1980s, I haven’t had too many issues dropping my legal last name. Try it out some time. You may learn something about yourself and your own labels.

I ordered a box of six boxes of Cup of Calm tea just as the FIRST Robotics season was really getting busy. I’ve made a new nighttime ritual of unwinding with a mug of that stuff, maybe a bath. I’m trying to keep my hair for as long as possible. I’m trying to avoid wrinkles if I can. I’m trying to not fall to cardiac arrest, ideally ever.

I’m at the end of a week-long vacation to help thin my blood of some of the cortisol and adrenaline that had built up. (I don’t know human physiology very well, so I don’t know if it actually works like that.) So far I have learned that time spent doing nothing passes pretty quickly. But I am relieved I had some downtime to not do anything, because for months I had thought that the only time I have is for clients and volunteering. It’s been a good reminder that time for myself matters.

As an exercise for myself, I created a note called What Do I Need So That I Feel Cared For? This note contained the following:

  • A good, solid night’s sleep
  • Delicious, nutritious, filling meals
  • Active movement
  • Stretching
  • Socks that I like, ready to grab and wear
  • A place to read
  • A place to write
  • A place to think
  • A cozy blanket
  • Plenty of water
  • Good hygiene
  • Time to listen to music I like
  • Sticking with decisions I’ve made, so as to not waffle
  • The occasional sweets like donuts and chocolate milk

Reviewing this list, I’m kind of amazed how many of these things I didn’t give myself in the thick of FIRST Robotics season. I was not giving myself very good service. I was not taking care of myself. I believe this led to some of the stress and worry I was feeling. I believe the anxiety I was feeling was the animal in me struggling and squirming because it wasn’t cared for. I’d like to get better at taking care of my animal self.

Worry will always be there. Worry can arise and sometimes have really good reasons for being there. Worry can also sometimes arise for no reason, and stick around way longer than its welcome. Worry is a twister in the great climate of emotions. It rises, and it falls. The more I think about my emotions like weather, the less worried I feel about them.

I’d like to offer myself better self-care to better reflect on the temporary nature of worry, and likely overall feel a lot better.

Take care,

What’s In A Name?

I’ve removed references to my birth name from this site. That name is tarnished. I won’t write it again.

Going forward, the only names I will use here are Arthur Hovinc, Arthur, and Art.

I’m not looking forward to interacting with anyone new for the first time, or showing them my government plastic identification for the first time, because then they will see my tarnished name and have something to say about it. I don’t want anyone to have anything to say about my name before I have something to say for myself. It’s kind of like the Michael Bolton situation from the movie Office Space, but worse for the bad name my birth name is.

I’m considering legally changing my government name to something closer to the name I’m writing with right now. I wonder if Samuel Clemens went by that name on his government identification until he died? Did most people know to call him Mark Twain? Maybe most people will call me Arthur Hovinc with enough patience and nagging.

Yours Truly,
Arthur Hovinc


In Search of OK

I haven’t been polictial on this blog, and I don’t think I’m going to use it that way. I could tell you that I was at the airport this Sunday protesting the unjust travel ban created by an administration I don’t support at all and in fact fear quite a lot. That probably wouldn’t surprise you. I could go into more details about my political preferences and current disgust, but I’ll spare you. I’m not interested in assigning labels to myself in any capacity, least not political leanings. My Facebook political views are this: “To live outside the law, you must be honest.” Buy me a beer sometime and we can hash some political debates. Instead, I’d like to focus this post on how I deal with negative feelings like the ones I have now, and maybe you can find something similar in you, dear reader. I think how to deal with it all is the larger theme I’ve been thinking about since November, rather than any particular (if offensive) set of events.

This won’t be a “how to” post. I can’t answer questions of how you’re going to feel OK, because I can’t answer that for myself.

I noticed tonight I was compulsively searching multiple news sources for some hint that things were not as bad as they seemed. Some words I could read between the lines to feel better. They weren’t there. If I had to estimate, reassuring words probably won’t be coming from the news for the next 20 years, if ever. So what mechanism was powering me to graze over cold, upsetting facts even though no good is to come of it?

I think we’re pretty bad as humans of knowing how to just sit and be humans. Negative emotions must be distracted away by something entertaining, or at least that’s the modern way. I admit I’m guilty of it. If not reaching for this very phone screen I’m typing on, I may find fleeting entertainment in alcohol or food that doesn’t nourish. The times I have sat and purposefully avoided leaving negative emotions turned out to be illuminating. One time I noticed how tears are quite hot on your face if you just let them run. Another time I noticed a particular pain in my body I had been ignoring that needed attention. I’m far from being a practicing Buddhist, but I come closer to being a sane animal when I don’t get caught up in words and simply feel. Maybe this applies externally to not getting too caught up in words from news or social media, and focusing more on the present sensations at hand.

I learned from a seminar on hope that “to stand with your face to the cold wind and move forward is the bravest thing you can do as a human” (paraphrased). Incidentally, I was falling asleep to a documentary about Antarctica and carbon dioxide history in ice this weekend. (I watched most of it, and enjoyed what I was conscious for.) I’ve been walking to work almost every day this winter in a cold region, and I don’t feel that brave, just beaten down. Maybe that’s what bravery really feels like. It’s not glorious at all, less a state of feelings than a state of integrity. The Finns have a word that I’m obsessed with that translates poorly to English and means roughly the quote above; that word is sisu. I believe my grandma embodies sisu. I would like to, but I’m afraid of not living up to it. Maybe you grow into it with more scars, windburn, lost loved ones, and time. Many cold winters probably also help.

I don’t consider myself depressed. (Mom, don’t worry too much.) Low energy lately. I think with some practice of quiet moments and breathing, along with long walks in warmer weather, my energy will be higher and better. I haven’t journaled or written essays or blogs in a while, and that likely also contributes. Something in me decides to write as a way of sussing it out when I’m upset. I like this maxim: “When in doubt, sort it out.” I will probably leave this post feeling slightly more OK than before I wrote it, if only for the increased understanding of my feelings.

Realistically, most things are decent or OK. I think we tend to focus more on the extraordinarily pleasurable or disgusting than the unremarkable decent in our lives. Breathing is decent and always there. Carpets are decent. Light bulbs are decent. Most people on public transportation are decent. If you graph out the majority of things along the acceptability axis, it’d look like a bell curve, with the enjoyable and the terrible as several standard deviations away from the norm. In that way, it’s probably not fair to expect pleasure as often as we do, and it’s likely damaging to our sensitivities to indulge in too much pleasure, or, for that matter, pain. Knowledge of this is probably part of sisu, but what do I know? I’m Swedish.

My friend D asked me yesterday if there are any foods that I think taste bad. He is quoted as saying I have a “broken mouth”, i.e. an unrefined palate equal to that of a goat or a garbage disposal. But I threw the question back to him, and he couldn’t come up with anything. He used to hate cilantro, but doesn’t anymore. He doesn’t like some foods for the texture or appearance, but it’s not the flavor that drives him away. Maybe the tongue is a wiser organ than the eyes.


Appreciating Hot Sauce

I’d like to take a moment to reflect on how much I appreciate hot sauce. I don’t just carry it in my bag to follow Beyoncé’s example (although that’s a darn good example to follow).

  • Hot sauce makes so many bland, boring, or flavor-deflated leftovers edible.
  • Whenever I have leftovers and no microwave (this is fairly often), hot sauce almost makes the food seem warm.
  • Hot sauce on eggs can wake me up no matter how tired I am.
  • Hot sauce on pizza (cold or hot) is manna from heaven.
  • Hot sauce keeps me warm on winter days.
  • Hot sauce (sufficiently hot) clears out my sinuses and lets me start anew.
  • Hot sauce on breakfast poutine (fried egg on top) is enough to reliably wake me up and keep my spirits high the whole day.
  • There are several kinds of hot sauce to bring you to particular kinds of bliss! Valentina is full-flavored, roasty, and robust. Cholula is zippy and tangy. Tapatío is  charming and sweet. I don’t use Sriracha very much (blasphemy!) but it goes so well on leftover Asian food. Green hot sauces are so delightfully vinegary. I have more hot sauce favorites than I do favorite outfits.
  • Hot sauce is so accepting. You can add just a drop of ghost pepper sauce for a touch of heat. You can add an epidermis of Sriracha to have lasting mouth flames. You can add just the right amount for you, splash by splash. Unlike other sauces, which may spurt out violently, hot sauces usually allow you to control the amount very carefully. To boot, hot sauce is always there for me when I need it. It never judges, it never lies.


Insomnia Log 9

There’s a humming coming from somewhere in the room. Doesn’t seem like it’s the one lamp on. What could it be?

Sometimes I scroll through my text message logs with individual persons (redundant? seems clear), especially when no new messages come in. Is there a way to link back to old messages and say, “Ha, remember when we said these dumb things?” I suppose a screenshot attached to a new message would work. Would people be interested in that besides me? If the log spans years with few large gaps, you probably have a friendship with someone. Or at least plausible evidence of one. I think these blogs posts are mostly long chat logs with myself.

I haven’t written here in a while, and this was the most likely type of entry to be posted first. I’ve had plenty on my mind to keep me awake, not least of which current events. Some feeling in me feels like it’s waking up (again). It’s shaky and too unclear to name. I’m seeing evidence of it here and there. I wept when driving across a long bridge today, at water with large white and gold (or was it blue and black?) spots on it below tumbling purple clouds. Further weeping at a crashing beach below a yellow ring of sky below those same clouds. My most common exhale lately is a sigh. Puzzles seem fine when there are only a few moving parts, and then you learn the full scope and it’s daunting. Example: making a 10 x 10 x 10 Buckyball cube; mess up the alignment of one row and the whole thing could be ruined! Similar feeling for sorting through and getting rid of my various junk: one box seems to open another, and eventually it’s a good idea to put things away and nothing really happened with the box contents. If only eBay could teleport your items away.

Listening to Courtney Barnett’s The Double LP: A Sea of Split Peas has me wanting to play guitar again. Incidentally, yesterday I found a cassette tape of my recordings that I label “Late Night Radio Hour”, because in between “songs” I pretend to be a radio DJ with a soothing voice. This is normally a secret I save for the third or greater time of meeting someone, so shhhhhhh. I covered Courtney Barnett’s Boxing Day Blues (my favorite song of hers) on that tape, but my guitar Stella is very out of absolute tune (but in relative tune), so I sung, like, three or four half steps down, sheesh.

I want to find more random blog posts of people declaring their favorites of things. I often search for things like “favorite Radiohead Amnesiac song” or “favorite Magic expansion”, but those rarely yield anything. Often I get forums, which I find noisy and unhelpful. I really want to see people with enough courage to just lay down their favorites publicly, and not give a damn about what a “poll” or “top ten list” or “forum discussion” says. I’ll answer my own questions for other searchers with the same questions above: 1) Like Spinning Plates, especially the live version in I Might Be Wrong, and 2) Lorwyn. Bandcamp has a nice feature of marking which song on an album in your collection is your favorite.

While we’re at it, I want to find more random blogs that aren’t about anything really, or ones that take huge tangents to get at what they are trying to say, but it’s such a scenic detour that you don’t mind. An example of the latter is The Pokémon Sprite Guy, whose blog I found two years after it ended, but whose delivery in writing I really enjoy. That’s another criterion: the blog needs to keep being updated! (Hence a stab at writing this very post.) My old friend S and I have scenic detour conversations, and the nonlinear form makes time irrelevant. S had a blog of no-topic musings, but I can’t find it anymore. I think I want more “content” out there that is written by people who just like something, not because they want followers, “highlights”, or money , or something bogus like that. I’m talking something like Geocities, where if you wanted a page about your favorite thing, you wrote it, in your own voice. Now we just click our interests and are served “content”. I’m tired of that. Maybe with enough musings here I’ll have covered all my interests in some detail. I like to read about others’ interests in their own voices, so I’ll pay that forward. For the three of you who know who I am, you might even learn something new.

Mostly I don’t like signing into Facebook, and I don’t want to deal with Messenger. Snapchat makes me feel like I have no life. Twitter is so noisy. I want to asynchronously catch up on my friends by reading stuff like what I’m writing here, but I know that the platforms above are easier to use. They just don’t give me the same sense of knowing someone like you’d get out of reading their writing or having a real conversation with them. I guess they’re not really for that purpose, but it seems shallow to say they are exclusively status-promoting tools. Oh well, I’ll relish the longer form stuff as it comes.

Some more favorite things I have searched for, and my answers to them:

  • Album of the 1990s: The Real Ramona by Throwing Muses, followed closely by King by Belly
  • Radiohead Album: Amnesiac
  • T-shirt brand: So far, AS Colour’s 5002 Paper Tee
  • Painting: The Nostalgia of the Infinite by Giorgio de Chirico
  • Book: If You Want to Write by Brenda Ueland. I have brought this book to a beer festival for re-reading while in line.
  • Pokémon game: Silver
  • Pokémon: Diglett Cubone (but Diglett’s in the top 15)
  • Color on a guitar: Surf green
  • Candy bar: Zzang Ca$hew Cow, Butterfinger does the job for the most part

Infinitely Yours,

Reflecting on a Year of “Daily” Haiku

It’s been a year since I’ve taken on the challenge to write a haiku everyday. Before 2014-11-19, I was only writing a haiku tweet about once a month. I had only starting writing haiku tweets in 2014 after my grandpa passed away. On 2014-10-01, I wrote my first haiku tweet in over 10 months.

Huge air shuts my book/
They say that, “The wind rises! /
We must try to live!”

The haiku was a reference to the poem The Graveyard by the Sea and the movie The Wind Rises, which I had recently seen. The passage I sampled from had to do with living even in the face of death, which was salient with losing my grandpa.

The wind is rising! . . . We must try to live!
The huge air opens and shuts my book: the wave
Dares to explode out of the rocks in reeking
Spray. Fly away, my sun-bewildered pages!
Break, waves! Break up with your rejoicing surges
This quiet roof where sails like doves were pecking.

See http://unix.cc.wmich.edu/~cooneys/poems/fr/daylewis.html

I followed the 2014-10-01 post up with one on the first of November, 2014-11-01, all about visioning.

Go The Artist’s Way/
“Where will you be in five years?”/
Answer truthfully

Then on 2014-11-19, I decided to write haiku daily, or at least try to meet that goal. For a month up until that date, I had much lower energy than I was used to. I was, in parallel, facing the aftermath of losing my mentor and patriarch, feeling the pressure of a new job, and reeling from a relationship that didn’t work out. I needed something to do that would keep my brain busy. I needed a creative outlet that could help me find my voice again. I already had the haiku Twitter, and I’d written a number of haiku as a fundraiser, so it was familiar enough to keep going, but challenging enough to increase the frequency.

Writing 5-7-5 everyday is hard, at least to write haiku that mean anything. I could have cheated and just assembled random seventeen syllables each time, but I wanted each poem to represent something I’d seen or felt. I think some of the haiku turned out beautifully, and some are a stretch. I found that several haiku talked about the same subjects and ideas. Sometimes I had to resort to clip shows.

As of today, I have written 301 haiku on the daily cadence. There are a few more I squeezed in the next day after I missed a day, but I’m not counting those. I’d like to share some of my favorites from the exercise below. They aren’t ranked, and they may not even be the best of the batch. But I think they’re worth sharing.

1. This haiku (2014-12-20) is a translation of John Steinbeck’s letter to his son and some thoughtful advice on relationships. This advice has helped me get through some seemingly rougher times.

Main thing: not to hurry/
If it is right it happens/
Good won’t get away

The original words:

And don’t worry about losing. If it is right, it happens—The main thing is not to hurry. Nothing good gets away.
—John Steinbeck, to his son Thom

2. This haiku (2015-01-05) was my reflection on the book Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut. I volunteer as a store clerk in a fake robot store that is actually a nonprofit tutoring and writing center. This haiku made the newsletter there.

Robots don’t need sleep/
They can do your job, better/
Player Piano

3. In this haiku (2015-01-08), I was upset about the relatively low temperature outside.

Check if Fahrenheit/
Indeed, still zero degrees/
My scarf needs a scarf

4. This haiku (2015-02-15) turned out to be advice, as I found several others in this series to be. They feel kind of like fortune cookies. This is advice about learning.

Slow cook mastery/
Broil not, lest lesson be singed/
All good things take time

5. This haiku (2014-02-17) is about a quiet, starry night.

No wind, stars are loud/
Gripped by wonder, vast blackness/
Ghosts of long dead suns

6. Two pieces of advice within a week. Maybe I needed some inspiration and comfort when I wrote this haiku (2015-02-21). I get some comfort in reading it again.

Move at your own pace/
Be good at being alone/
Then it’s not lonely

7. I wrote this haiku (2015-03-05) on the day I celebrate as “my favorite day of the year”. (There’s no particular reason it’s my favorite date of the year. I do think it’s important to have such a date. For some people it’s Halloween or Christmas or the first day of summer.) It’s about timeless moments. Note that I accidentally put the line break after the last line. Is there more to this poem?

Short breathlessness, peace/
Rare bird spotted once in life/
Elusive feeling/

8. I wrote this haiku (2015-03-08) about winter’s retreat, which seems nice given that I’m currently looking out at the first snowfall of the year as I write this.

Chrome sky, soft mauve, blue/
Air thick, sweet with snow’s retreat/
Dripping percussion

9. This haiku (2015-03-09) sampled from A Tribe Called Quest’s track Push It Along, which itself sampled from Grover Washington, Jr. It’s about keeping at it, like Sisyphus. I read Albert Camus’ The Myth of Sisyphus that winter, and I had learned to appreciate tenacity even in the face of futility. The absurd hero pushes the boulder along.

In my way, a boulder/
Strength in character, not arms/
Just push it along

10. This haiku (2015-03-18) is about naked trees and their gnarly branches. I see in trees a lot of personality, mostly in their shape and not actions.

Inverted talons/
Witchy claws scrape baby blue/
Begging for new leaves

11. This haiku (2015-03-20) creates a metaphor out of dealing with difficult situations. Louis C.K. is very good at observing true things (and thus very funny), and he advocates that knowing how to sit with pain and sadness is how to be a person.

Acceptance as moss/
Sit with it and it’s pleasant/
Know your own way north

12. This haiku (2015-04-04) is about the rise of spring and the surprises buried beneath the snow. When I first learned about haiku, the samples I read were usually about seasons and nature. I think these are important ones to highlight in this series.

Branches a-dancing/
Rich spring soil beneath leaves/
Wind blows fall away

13. I wrote this haiku (2015-04-19) while feeling sad during my road trip through the southern United States. I had stayed in some hotel rooms by myself, with very populous cities outside. I thought about the millions of people surrounding me and how I didn’t want to meet any of them. I looked out my hotel window at a skyline I didn’t recognize, and I hated the skyscrapers I saw. Conceptually and architecturally they were impressive, but by that time I’d seen building after building in different cities, and they were all starting to look the same: just metal, concrete, and glass. My best friend P says, “Home is the skyline you smile at.” This wasn’t home.

City far away/
Buildings are generic blocks/
Hotel room quiet

14. I wrote this haiku (2015-05-25) about a stunning mutt named Zeke.

Soft, cool plot of grass/
Gallop gives to gravity/
Dog day afternoon

15. I wrote this haiku (2015-06-22) in thinking about the joy of exploration. When I was little, the forest outside my grandparents’ cottage seemed to unfold larger and larger as I walked through it. That forest is now someone’s property with dusty driveways and not the fresh, untrodden paths I once knew and still yearn for.

Loamy, twiggy floor/
Soft, wild, and new to the step/
Undiscovered glade

16. This haiku (2015-06-26) is about Lake Michigan at night, to my left as I was driving to my grandparents’ old cottage. The moon had risen white, and the small waves on the lake were picking up its quiet, clear light.

Licorice lakeshore/
Ripples like vigil candles/
Soft and sure in dark

17. One common trait among haiku in this series is the subject: clouds. I hadn’t before recorded how often I look out windows at clouds, for significant lengths of time, and it became very clear that’s my most practiced hobby after writing so many haiku about it. This one (2015-07-17) is one of my favorite “cloud haiku”, in that it doesn’t have the word “cloud” in it, and it doesn’t need a picture of a cloud to support it, but a nice picture is attached anyway. (Most of these cloud haiku have an associated cloud picture attached, but I think the haiku should stand on its own.)

Turquoise shines from soot/
Late day sky ponders next move/
Lumbering liftoff

18. This haiku (2015-07-29) is another “cloud haiku” that doesn’t mention “cloud”, but finds ways to express what I’m seeing in metaphor.

Suspend in gray clay/
Sun is somewhere, butter spread/
Ambiguous light

19. This haiku (2015-09-04) is another “advice haiku” about using the right words.

Diction is a knife/
Too sharp, certain injury/
Honed just right, a tool

20. I have a fascination with rivers. When I stopped going to church, my temple became the riverbanks. I wrote this haiku (2015-09-09) to express my reverence.

Rivers never end/
To sea, to rise, and to fall/
Infinity stream

21. This haiku (2015-09-10) is about “the little things”. It’s also about my grandpa going on a walk with me through the woods on a cool summer morning when I was maybe 8. He told me to look closely at the sparkling morning dew on a spider web below a fern along the trail. I’ve been looking at those kinds of details ever since.

“Is all common, base?”/
“Have you seen the morning dew?/
There’s no rarer gem”

22. This haiku (2015-10-13) is about a dream I had the previous night, where I was lost at sea and questioning some of my values.

Silent sea beckons/
Great water doesn’t douse your/
Roaring inner flame

23. I wrote this haiku (2015-10-27) about the impermanence of the beauty of fall. Some people living near deciduous trees make rituals out of seeing them in their traffic light state. I’m one such observer. About 10 years ago I remember falling to the ground as one of my crutches landed incorrectly, and I didn’t get up because I was lost in the golden leaves of a tree. I was feeling a similar awe when I wrote this.

Rush and lust for gold/
Great treasure needs reverence/
So impermanent

24. Precisely one year after I started this practice, I wrote this haiku (2015-11-19) about the practice itself. I think to live up to the phrase, “We must try to live!” we have to do more than merely passively survive, but create artifacts, ideas, and practices that can help and inspire others. (The owner of a local bookstore here replies to “That author has a gift!” with “No, he has a practice.”)

Create or consume?/
The former a firmer stance/
Against entropy

25. I wrote this haiku (2015-11-21) at the first snowfall of the season, rounding out the weather observances for the year.

Light and sound diffused/
All will be immobile soon/
As silver dust falls

That’s it for the highlights, but there are plenty more haiku available at my Twitter page, @ArthurHovinc.

I intend to continue the “daily” haiku practice for the rest of the year. I’ll decide then if I want to keep the frequency into the new year, or resume a monthly contribution.