Saga continues to delight and entertain. I really enjoy the author’s sense of humor and writing style and the art is excellent as well.

The art isn’t elaborate like in Monstress by Marjorie Liu, but it’s clean, bright, and engaging and fits the tone of the story. The story also makes sense. Unlike in Monstress, which is bizarrely hard to keep up with. I think I got up to date with this series late last year but I won’t be reading any more. I think the main issue is that there are too many characters and a lot of them look alike.

8 Billion Genies

I feel like 8 Billion Genies could have been as good as Saga but they tried to do too much in too few issues. There’s still one issue left, but covering 8 decades in 1 issue felt way too rushed. It’s still a brilliant concept and is well worth reading. The author didn’t include a lot of cheesy tropes and even in just 7 issues I started to care about the characters. I’m looking forward to reading the last issue, which should be out today.

Tel Aviv-Yafo, Israel. 2014.

Hopefully, this won’t be a once in a lifetime trip. It was incredible and overwhelming, honestly, but it was also a school study trip so it wasn’t an experience that I could share with my wife, which was a bit of a stumbling block to my full enjoyment of the sights and sounds of the country.

Visiting Israel was also a lot to process. I wanted time to think about the visit before I really wrote anything about it, and then I got busy and weeks became months and months became years. Now, it’s been 9 years since I was there, and I’m looking forward to going back if life permits.

The divine nature of reality

Never forget that the universe is a single living organism possessed of one substance and one soul, holding all things suspended in a single consciousness and creating all things with a single purpose that they might work together spinning and weaving and knotting whatever comes to pass.

Marcus Aurelius

This is an interesting take on the nature of reality, because I wouldn’t expect to hear it from someone with Aurelius’s background. I guess I hadn’t put much thought into the idea of an afterlife from a Stoic point of view, because the philosophy predominantly addresses how to live in and enjoy the present.

What Aurelius is expressing is known as Pantheism, “the belief that God consists of everyone and everything. For example, a tree is God, a mountain is God, the universe is God, all people are God.” 1 It reminds me of the popular quote about how we are all the universe experiencing itself.

This is an artist’s impression of a black hole drifting through the Milky Way galaxy. 2

I’m also reminded of the fact that people are made up of smaller communities of creatures and systems that developed into humans over time, and then I think about the universe as a whole and wonder if the universe is some larger being, or part of a larger being. What if we’re actually just part of a digestive tract and black holes are how the energy we produce is passed on to the other systems of the larger organism? What if our universe is a marble in a sack of marbles? You never know.

But in terms of pantheism and how it was understood, that we are all manifestations of the divine or that some divine essence undergirds and flows through all existence, the idea seems to be common to some Buddhists, Hindus, and some forms of Christianity, like Unity, Christian Science, and Scientology. There is also some overlap between Stoicisms understanding of the soul returning to the Cosmic Fire and being reforged as a new soul and the Buddhist idea of the soul reaching Nirvana, escaping the cycle of rebirth and permanently reuniting with the divine essence. Early Christians believed in reincarnation as well, and the Christian idea was probably closer to the Stoic conception because in Buddhist reincarnation there is an expectation that souls retain something from previous lives, even if it’s just karma.

The concept of pantheism also has parallels with mainstream beliefs about Jesus being an expression of God in the physical realm. And of course, there’s the idea that God blew his breathe into humans to give us sentience, but humans carrying a divine spark is a bit different from the idea that all things are God.

Still, it’s interesting to see how ideas about divinity and existence develop over time, often overlapping, and have common themes between the past and present.

1 Zavada, Jack. “What Is Pantheism?” Learn Religions, Feb. 16, 2021,

2 Strickland, Ashley. “Hubble spies stellar ‘ghost’ wandering the Milky Way galaxy” CNN, June 14, 2022,

Migration and Suffering

Photo by Enric Cruz Lu00f3pez on

This post was written in February 2020 but I left it sitting as a draft until now. I’m trying to get more involved with my blog again so I’m going back through old drafts these days.

I was thinking about Buddhism and Stoicism and how these philosophies might apply to current events, and after reasoning it out, I came to some conclusions that make sense, but aren’t exactly comfortable. Essentially, I focused on the idea that it’s not possible to solve all suffering immediately, so a “middle way” should be found that allows for the most good while making progress towards better solutions. Or, in other words, accept reality while striving towards ideals.

I’ve done a fair amount of reading about both, and I know more about Buddhism than Stoicism, but I don’t claim to be an expert in either. I group them together, because a lot of the ideas in both philosophies tend to overlap.

Buddhism certainly talks about doing the least amount of harm possible, to limit the amount of negative karma that you carry with you into your next life, but when we’re talking about an issue like restricted immigration in the United States, or unrestricted immigration, I think you have to look at the levels of harm caused by both positions.

On the one hand, restricting immigration causes harm to those people who are denied entry, possibly, because they would be forced to face whatever drove them to migrate to the United States in the first place. On the other hand, unrestricted immigration to the United States would also cause harm, a greater harm, because the negative ramifications of that policy would be much greater.

As a nation, the United States doesn’t really have a cohesive national narrative or national myth that binds us all together. We are a nation of multiple groups of ethnicities and religions all competing with each other for limited resources within a system that promotes competition and allows for great suffering for those on the losing end of social and legal policies. Unrestricted immigration would add to the suffering of those on the bottom rungs of society by creating more competition for resources among “low-skill” laborers. Arguably, the scarcity of resources in the United States is artificial, but that issue would need to be corrected before, not after, adding more people to the population. The mere fact of the scarcity of resources being artificial wouldn’t change the fact that people would struggle to make ends meet and would suffer as a result of these policies being implemented in the wrong order.

Unrestricted immigration would also strengthen existing divisions within the nation, both political and cultural. The United States needs time to develop a national character and a common narrative that serves as the foundation for our aspirations and ideals as a nation. By adding a large amount of new immigrants to the population, the country weakens itself from within and guarantees that the population remains fractured and easily controlled by the government and its corporate backers.

A weakened United States could also have international ramifications. The United States currently serves as a buffer for many smaller nations in the world that would be invaded and essentially destroyed culturally and ethnically by other nations who are hungry for resources. China’s destruction of Tibet and their attempts to take over Africa is one example. Russia’s current desire (this post was written in February 2020 but not published until now) to invade Ukraine is another good example. You could say that the fact that these events have already happened or are happening now means a strong United States isn’t really a deterrent, but I would say it’s because the United States is already declining due to internal divisions that would only be exacerbated by essentially not having borders.

I’m not arguing for a unitary State like China, where there’s no such thing as a dissenting opinion that isn’t State-approved. I’m saying that we need to correct our current system to take care of the people that are already citizens and take the time to build a common national identity by limiting the amount of in-migration to a reasonable amount. I’m not naive enough to think that the United States government is some sort of bastion of goodness, but I think the existence of the United States acts as a barrier against greater suffering, so we need the United States to be united and strong.

In other words, I’m in favor of balance, of accepting the reality of the situation and understanding that we can’t stop all suffering, and the way to stop the most suffering is not always the most obvious choice.

March 2023 update: ironically, Canada is implementing stronger policies against illegal immigration to stop the flow of migrants into their country. I mention this, because for a long time, liberals in the United States pointed to Canada’s supposed laxer attitude towards immigration as a role model to be followed, ignoring the fact that even then Canada has a merit-based immigration system.

I think there should be limits and incumbent responsibilities for people who want to immigrate here. I don’t think it should be a free for all. For example, make immigrants serve in the military as a path to citizenship. You really want to be here? Show it. Serve the country. Even kindness has to have limits.

Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

A grilled cheese sandwich made with American cheese.

It was the first thing I learned how to cook, standing at my grandmother’s stove on 14th Street in Manhattan, and it’s still one of my favorite meals.

It’s simple, made with just two buttered pieces of bread and American cheese. It’s quick, ready in about 10 minutes. It’s filling, able to stand in for a full meal. And, most important, it’s delicious!

It’s perfect for any time of day, but makes a great a late night snack while watching TV or gaming.

An unfinished post about COVID-19 from April 1, 2020

This is something that I started writing on April 1st of 2020 but never turned into a full post. I think it was shortly after this that I started working full time for the 2020 Census and I got sidetracked. It’s nothing unusual, but still interesting to see what I was thinking about back then, during the height of the pandemic in New York City. Unsurprisingly, I was concerned about toilet paper.

Coronavirus Journal: Day 28 – Impact areas and hoarding in the city

People in poorer neighborhoods are being harder hit, but they’re also less likely to hoard.

Cheap toilet paper in stock. Everything isn’t being immediately wiped out. It’s amazing, because this area is one of the harder hit areas of the city. It’s an area where people are still boarding the train every day to head to work because they work in essential services. They’re being infected in the trains.

I live in one of the hardest hit areas in the city and the country for COVID-19 and I think it’s because most of the people that live in this area work in industries that kept going during the pandemic, so close contact in public transportation and at work kept transmission rates high.

According to current CDC data, transmission, hospitalizations, and deaths are down, despite people mostly giving up on masking and the lack of interest in booster shots. I imagine the numbers are trending downward because more people are developing some level of immunity. I’d also read previously that viruses tend to evolve into less lethal forms to ensure their own survival as well, so maybe that has something to do with it.

I have a feeling COVID-19 is going to be around for the long-haul now, like other serious illnesses. We’re going to have to figure out how to mentally accommodate that knowledge while we get back to living our lives.