Adam Isacson

Still trying to understand Latin America, my own country, and why so few consequences are intended. These views are not necessarily my employer’s.

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“Eight Marvelous & Melancholy Things I’ve Learned About Creativity”

From Mathew Inman, creater of the webcomic The Oatmeal, a wonderful set of illustrated reflections about what’s worked for him over 10 years of creative work.

The advice here is equally applicable to those of us whose work may be less “creative” but still involves a rapid tempo of trying to explain and illustrate things to people, and a lot of online communication. (Work like, for instance, trying to make people care about Title 42, aerial herbicide fumigation, or military aid to authoritarian-trending governments.)

Highly recommended, and as funny as Inman’s snarky comic.

Off today

It’s a national holiday here in the United States, and we have a family visit today. I’ll be away from the keyboard for much of the day and unable to respond to messages until, probably, late afternoon.

Back at work

Holiday break is over. Jury duty is over (they almost picked me for a week-long civil trial, but chickened out). I’m back at the job, full time.

Here’s a nice live version of New Zealand’s The Beths playing “Expert in a Dying Field”:

Traveling this week

I’m flying overnight to Chile, where I’ll be participating in a conference on security in the Americas (which will be livestreamed) organized by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation. I haven’t been to Chile in about seven or eight years, and am looking forward to being in Santiago again.

I won’t be posting things here regularly this week, but will resume normal tempo the week of the 31st.

2 weeks of vacation

I’m out until after U.S. Labor Day (until September 6). Because there’s a lot to do during these weeks—a major wedding anniversary, dropping my only child off to start college, giving my first class at GW University—I’ll be difficult to reach. Unless it’s really screamingly urgent, I’d appreciate you waiting until September 6 to contact me. Thanks!

In the classroom this fall

By the end of this weekend, I’ll have completed a draft syllabus for Security in the Americas, a course I’ll be teaching every Monday evening this fall at George Washington University.

There is a lot to talk about: the list of topics I want to cover is about 50% longer than the number of class sessions. Also, I’ve got so much great work archived in my database, it will take me a while to select just a few readings for each session. I also have to figure out how to engage and evaluate everyone.

I’ve guest-lectured countless classes, but have never taught an entire course. In fact, I haven’t been affiliated with a university since I received my M.A. in 1994. So, apologies in advance to the students who’ll be watching me figure things out in real time.

Quote

If we must all agree, all work together, we’re no better than a machine. If an individual can’t work in solidarity with his fellows, it’s his duty to work alone. His duty and his right. We have been denying people that right. We’ve been saying, more and more often, you must work with the others, you must accept the rule of the majority. But any rule is tyranny. The duty of the individual is to accept no rule, to be the initiator of his own acts, to be responsible. Only if he does so will the society live, and change, and adapt, and survive. We are not subjects of a State founded upon law, but members of a society founded upon revolution. Revolution is our obligation: our hope of evolution.

Ursula K. LeGuin, The Dispossessed

Well that sucks

Well, that’s it. I’m officially the first in my immediate family to get COVID. Though I was one of the 20% or so of passengers to keep his mask on, I blame my flights home from the San Diego border region last Friday.

Symptoms are very mild so far: no fever, some stuffy nose, infrequent cough. Like a moderate cold. I plan to continue much work remotely, but with more rest breaks, as long as it remains this mild.

San Diego Yesterday

Had a good day of meetings in San Diego yesterday with border rights and migration advocates, none of whom I’d seen in person since before the pandemic, and some whom I was very happy to meet for the first time.

No interesting photos of me sitting in meetings, so here’s a photo of the Pacific Ocean instead. It was also my first glimpse of the Pacific since before the pandemic.

We’re spending today in Tijuana.

Makes sense

90% of everything is crap. If you think you don’t like opera, romance novels, TikTok, country music, vegan food, NFTs, keep trying to see if you can find the 10% that is not crap.

Kevin Kelly’s “103 Bits of Advice I Wish I Had Known

I’m writing this in a space not owned by a billionaire

  • If I write something on this site and it gets mediocre traffic, 200 people will see it.
  • If I record a podcast for my employer (I prefer “chosen community of colleagues”) and it gets a mediocre number of downloads, 800 people will download it.
  • If I write something on the website of my chosen community of colleagues, and it gets mediocre traffic, 1,000 people will see it.
  • If I post something to my Twitter account and it performs in a mediocre way, 2,000 people will see it. (If it does well, a quarter million people might see it.)

That’s badly backwards, isn’t it? The platform that does the best for me, in terms of “reaching audiences,” is the one that neither I nor my colleagues own.

Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter for $44 billion (imagine how thoroughly infant mortality could be eradicated with $44 billion) is a bright, flashing reminder of how that needs to change.

We should be creating in spaces that we own, not in spaces run by oligarchs for marketers. Those others’ spaces should be more for conversations (hopefully constructive ones) about what we’ve developed elsewhere, in our own spaces.

My personal goal from this point forward to even out the imbalance between the numbers in that bulleted list above. A lot of that means being less lazy: sending a tweet is easier, by design, than writing an open-ended bunch of words like I’m doing now.

I guess I’m just repeating the now overplayed advice to “bring back the blog.” (The format doesn’t necessarily need to be a textual blog, of course.) But I think that advice is still generally right. We should own our ideas and words, and limit Elon Musk’s and Mark Zuckerberg’s properties to being places where we point to, and discuss, ideas and words developed elsewhere.

That’s all to say, expect to see more of me here and less of me on Twitter. Thanks, Elon, for the reminder.

Logged way too many hours this week

This isn’t normal, obviously. I’ve been finishing a giant project about the border which should go public in a few weeks, while writing a border update, a commentary, two speaking engagements, some planning meetings, and… I’m sure I’m forgetting “what else” because I’m very tired.

This is all to say that next week looks way more “normal” on my calendar, and I look forward to posting normally to this site again.

This site will be quiet this week

Back in November I neglected this site as I banged out a massive report on the fifth anniversary of Colombia’s peace accord. It was time well spent—several thousand downloads—but it did mean that adamisacson.com was dormant for a couple of weeks.

The same thing is happening this week (January 24-28). I’m in the latter phases of a big project about the U.S.-Mexico border, documenting abuse, impunity, and organizational cultural problems at U.S. law enforcement agencies. By “latter phases” I mean “the point at which the project has seriously taken shape, and what remains to be done is very fun (despite the subject matter) but very, very demanding of every waking moment of time.” And also some sleeping moments.

So while I’ve bookmarked dozens of browser tabs, I haven’t been able to fill up my news database, so I haven’t been able to post links or anything else here this week.

Since I’m also giving two talks this week, writing a border update, and also a short commentary, I’m more than maxed out. I won’t be able to put any content here.

Next week looks way better on the calendar. See you then.

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