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How I Pack: 2016

Swanky One Week Travel


This was the sheet I used for my Paris trip: October 11th-16th. This is good for one week of business travel or several nights of vacation. This was an early-winter vacation so this works for that time of year (or year-round in San Francisco).

I’ve tried to generalize my particular flow so that this could work for a woman as well. I’ve tried to add a few extra generic things that might / not apply to you.


The goal is to get you to fit all your belongings in a 1-case overhead-compliant suitcase.

"B&R Baseline"

I use a Briggs & Riley Baseline Expandable Upright Suitcase. For an international trip I check my luggage which means that items that are prohibited in-cabin are listed here but denoted with a (TSA) flag. I’ve used this same system for week-long trips as well. In this case the TSA flagged items cannot be carried on-board.


You will be required to do laundry one day. The goal is that easily washed or cheaply washed things are packed lighter.

Your charcoal slacks are used on the plane where grungy seats or airport sweating will be least visible. Light slacks are kept for the location where you’ll be under more controlled circumstances.


For a business traveler I might recommend that your second pair of shoes be running shoes and that you pack 2 running shorts, 2 pair of athletic socks, and 2 running tops. Running gear rolls (see below) well and a rolled pair of shorts can go in one shoe while a rolled set of technical shirts can fit in the other. Thus your net change from this specification is minimal.

Also running on foot is a great way to shake time-change issues and see the city you happen to be in. If you wake up at 6am in your new location you could either use that time to fruitlessly fall back asleep, waste time on social media, or go see the city that you might not be able to enjoy.

The Plan

| Day: Activity | Underwear | Socks | Undershirt | Dress Shirt | Slacks | Winter Coat        |
| Day 1: Flight |     X     |   X   |     X      |      P      |   Charcoal    |    (Wear)   |
| Day 2: Day 1  |     X     |   X   |     X      |      D      |   Light       |             |
| Day 3: Day 2  |     X     |   X   |     X      |      Q      |   Charcoal    |             |
| Day 4: Day 3  |     0     |   0   |     0      |      P      |   Light       |             |
| Day 5: Day 4  |     0     |   0   |     0      |      D      |   Light       |             |
| Day 6: Day 5  |     0     |   0   |     0      |      Q      |   Light       |             |
| Day 7: Flight |     0     |   0   |     0      |      D      |   Charcoal    |             |

In Suitcase
  * Half-zip sweater
  * Sport Coat (Fold using [Trunk Club Method][])
  * Jeans: Useful in case of slacks needing dry cleaning, hitting a bar, etc.
  * Alternate shoes (usually brown; wear black on the plane)
  * Shaving Kit
  * ===========
    * 1 razor blade (TSA): I use a safety razor
    * Razor
    * Razor lubricant
    * Hair Gel
    * Toothbrush
    * Toothpaste
    * Floss
    * Birth Control / Fem. Hygiene
    * 2 units: Travel Tide Packets
Day Pack / Laptop Bag
  * Vitals
    * Tickets and Vouchers
    * Passport
    * Medication (Inhaler? Pain relief? Chronic flare-up meds?)
  * Sunglasses
  * Camera

Packing Methodology

Here are two secret weapons to packing tightly and efficiently:

  • Hair rubber bands
  • White tissue paper

Roll Every Loose Item of Clothing

So roll your undershirts, your underwear, socks (if you don’t do the sock ball nesting thing normally) and then use the hair bands to hold the roll. Trunk Club even uses a long strip of fabric to tie loosely tie and bundle the sport coat. I don’t typically do this, but you might consider it. Set these to the side with your folded sport coat.

Fill your extra shoes with socks or rolles shirts. Don’t pack air, pack stuff.


First, pack your dress shirts in the “suiter” of the B&R suitcase. Unclip the cross-chest belt. One at a time put a shirt on the “hangar.” Then feed the shirt through the foam holders. Crease the shirt about 4" below the waist (no one will see a crease there. Pull the shirt in at the sides to make it fit in the suiter (no one will see a crease there). Fold the long sleeves at the shoulder across the chest. Fold each sleeve’s wrist section backwards at the wrist cuff. Creases here are less visible. After all your shirts are folded, zip up the suiter, you’re done with that piece.

Here’s B&R’s video demonstrating a basic version of the technique.

For the remainder I was inspired by this video:

It’s a bit long and the lighting is poor, but this laid out some of the key points I use below.

Lay pants such that the waist and hips are in the bag but that the length of the leg hangs out. After completing the pants use a sheet of tissue paper. Lay your pants / slacks / trousers such that the legs are pivoted by 90 degrees from each other. That is if pants are pointed WEST on the first pair, have them point EAST on the next pair. This stops the extra fabric at the hips from mounting up inside the case and thus creating a “wedge” where that fabric is gathering. We want to try to keep a flat surface inside the case.

We use tissue paper between pants so as to ensure their buttons, etc don’t snag on our sweater which will be on top of them. It also helps minimize mess if (Heaven forbid!) something should leak. Further if we’re packing other shoes / athletic shoes we want to make sure whatever’s on the bottom can’t touch our clothing.

Our pants create the outer “wrapping.” We now need to fill the inner core. Here’s where all our other belongings go. Our pant legs (now dangling oddly outside of our case) will be folded backward over the the inner core once it’s done.

I wrap my sport coat in a tissue paper sheet as well as my second pair of shoes. I laid my coat, my shaving kit, my extra sweater in the middle. I also put odds and ends such as electrical cables, birthday presents, etc in this section. I took my “rolls” on end and tried to stuff them around the corners of the case. We will be folding the pantlegs back over our core momentarily, so try not to let your rolls block this folding effort.

After I finished this “core” I coverd it with a sheet of tissue paper that I then bunched it tight over the contents.

I then folded the legs of the hanging-out traousers back over. I put a top layer of tissue on the legs. I then used the B&R’s strap kit to hold the bundle in place. I put my spare tissue paper on top (I used them to pack for the return trip). Zip it all up and you’re done! This kit is my go-to default now.


I’ve iterated on variations of this for 3-day and 5-day trips to Chicago, a solid week in San Francisco, and a 5-day trip to Paris. This is how I’m traveling these days. Hope it helps!

Mr. Robot Season 2 and the Prisoner

Spoilers: Discussion of “Mr. Robot” Seasons 1 and 2, including finale. “The Prisoner” including finale.


“Mr. Robot’s” second season (which ended this week) marked a departure in narrative from the first season that left some viewers confused and possibly disappointed. While Eliot’s psychology has always been a key element in the show, this season marked a shift from the “hacker heist” episodic narrative structure into a psychological examination of many of the core characters. This move, within the context of network television, is surprising, non-traditional and subversive; it’s bravery may serve to make “Mr. Robot” timeless. I’d like to look at how this narrative shift recalls another pioneering television program, ITV’s “The Prisoner” which did something similar.

“The Prisoner”

“The Prisoner” instantly makes a deep impression. Much like the first time you hear The Doors' “The End” or watch Ponnelle’s presentation of “O Fortuna”, you’ll never forget it. It taps not only into good storytelling but to something out of the Collective Unconscious: something abstract, universal, and deeply unsettling.

When I first came across it, in the pre-YouTube era, it was in newsprint in an article in the “New York Times” called: “After 34 Years, Unable to Let Go Of ‘The Prisoner.’ (Read the original)” Atop the full-page article was this scene from “Free for All:”

"Prisoner Free for All Episode"

No, I’d definitely never seen anything like that before: a ruly mob in colorful clothing in an oddly Rococo-hodgepodge English garden with campaign signs and a never-before-seen typeface (“Albertus”). What was going on there?

"Albertus typeface"

Big World and Small World

I think that the two most considerable politico-economic happenings of the moment are the rise of Donald Trump and the “Brexit.” While the former is galling and the latter astounding, both of them are upheavals that I choose to contextualize in a political phase that I have taken to calling “The Globalized World” realignment. In the US, I believe, this realignment will culminate in half of each of the main-line political parties finding more common cause across the aisle and may lead to a fracturing of the current political party order into new parties that I call “Big World” and “Small World.”1

The American political order of my generation (after the late-1980’s wind-down of the Cold War) has been defined by the Democratic and Republican parties. The Republican platform has ever been explicable in a bumper sticker:

“Small Government, Traditional Values, Individual Autonomy”

Being a Liberal, I can’t leave simple-enough alone, so let me bring out two logical consequences of this simplified summary:

  • Laissez-Faire Capitalism
  • Gun ownership sanctified by the Constitution

The liberal position, which is essentially defined by its inability to be put on a bumper sticker, is the hand-wavey confederation of a sentiment like:

“Government can be a force for good. It ought help make sure the little guy doesn’t get screwed; also, individual over church interests and let’s try to be a bit less racist.”

Here’s the simplest possible diagram:

The Rifts

There are some interesting curlicues in this simplification of course. How the racist party of the Dixiecrats became the home of welfare entitlements contra the Reganite narrative of (black) “Welfare Queens” is torturous. Similarly strange is that Republicans ostensibly advocate personal responsibility and self-determination - unless it happens to be in your womb or if you happen to be a homosexual who’s interested in how to pass material wealth to their beloved.

It is ultimately these cultural curlicues which have created a sorting out within the parties from the mid-90’s “culture wars” unto the present. I can recall the ire and the “Rush is Right” bumper stickers appearing in my native Houston and the religiously overtoned presidency of George W. Bush. Surely there were hard-core conservatives who were nominally religious who merely sought to keep the Big Government and Entitlements Democrat in office in check. Similarly there were certainly very devout religious citizens who identified with the Republicans' lip service to family values but probably had a bit of an issue with their party-mates' overinvestment into what is rightly due Caesar.

And this friction has been building longer (I’d say around 1992). It’s not surprising that the GOP’s fissure has finally become a tectonic rift first in the rift surrounding the presumptive nomination of Donald Trump.

But the Democrats are not immune, they have a fissure of their own that I think began more slowly, or later, but widened through the nineties. The young, educated and liberal who flocked to SF and NYC found themselves staggeringly well-remunerated for their work in the liberal urban cities. Their quinoa and Soylent diets, crossfit, yoga, and hashtag-advocacy was at a real distance from the less-urban Democratic strongholds in the Rust Belt.

The Future

It’s very imaginable to me to imagine the (wealthy) and progressive, free-trade and globalized factions of each party uniting under the label “Big World.” This, internationally, is the party of the Brexit “Remain” vote. It’s the voice of Barack Obama and his peripatetic life. It’s the voice of the re-urbanization of youth in places like San Francisco, New York and LA as they leave behind the Rust Belt cities whence they matured and whose left-behind population they’re increasingly at odds to understand. It’s the home of the Tesla, the $500 a plate campaign dinner and the iPhone. They’re, and to be honest it’s probably appropriate to say “we’re,” confident, relaxed and change-receptive. It’s the group that has, to be honest, a nasty streak of condescension and lack of empathy toward its other. Sometimes you can hear the eye-roll when places like “Florida” or people like “Donald Trump” or “Mike Huckabee” are mentioned.

But the other side of that are those who feel run roughshod by globalization: “Small World.” In this perspective, the traditions of the ancestors (e.g. Christianity, Islam) feel like they’re losing ground and that they once animated a nation-state we ought try to return to. It’s a group that feels an untenable cognitive dissonance when their unwittingly-privileged reminiscences “Good Old Days” are interrupted by the harsh reality that those days weren’t so good for Latinos, Blacks, or Gays, or Women. It’s a group that feels like America shouldn’t become and surely wasn’t an economic affiliation or trade empire or “state of mind.” It was a landmass defined by the Manifest Destiny and limned by the hand of the Almighty. Speaking of, the Almighty gave us Founding Fathers, European-Enlightened gentlemen who set forth an Enlightened Republic on these shores unfettered by the alliances and monarchies that held Europe back.

Questions of the Present Day

So when I consider the anti-Free-Trade, pro-Trump contingent, I can see whence their anger. They’re uneducated in matters of macroeconomic globalization. They don’t see that the stuff they’ve filled their modest homes with: plasma screen televisions made in Thailand or near-Polo shirts bought in bulk at Sam’s Club, Wal-Mart, and Costco are all the fruits of globalization they reap. The Toyota or Nissan truck in the driveway in the suburban home a moderately soul-crushing distance from work was made by Japanese companies with footprints in the American South East. No, globalization feels like “cheap, shitty spatulas from China” and “Mexicans taking our jobs.” It feels like the boarded-up windows on Main Street. They see only globalization’s drawbacks and don’t know its benefits. They’re not running cool and calm in the face of change: they’re gripping white-knuckled to what they have because they’re not sure the next great step forward in the globalization game won’t take away the little they have — and possibly their pride alongside. And they’re sure as hell angry that some liberal “elite” in New York City is writing on a “blog” reasoned explanations about why they should like it.

And in this fear they’re also angry. Angry at the plutocratic Big Worlders who are so anxious to let go of affiliation of common country and shut down factories and pocket the savings. They’re angry at their own party-mates. And they’re certainly angry at the Liberal Globalists (mea culpa). The only people who seem to know their pain are their economically dispossessed bretheren in the Rust Belt / the Conservative South…even the British Midlands.

So who is Trump? The man that says it’s OK to feel that nostalgia. He doesn’t put facts in front of you like that steel production had already left Monessen, PA before George H. W. Bush entered office. No he tells you that your feeling of anger is justified, that America when “it was Great” is that dream you recall being reality.

Who were the Brexiteers in Britain? They were saying the same thing. The country that helped take down the Nazis certainly didn’t need to find common cause with Germany to justify it’s economic stability.

And what was 9/11 or the goals of al-Qaeda if not an anti-globalization act? It has all the same thumbprints of domestic terrorism: a yearning for a mythic past, an overreliance on emotion versus economic fact, a perception of “selling out” to corporate interest versus “sticking to one’s principles.” It’s no surprise that Mohammed Atta was radicalized when constantly bombarded with McDonald’s, porn, and unveiled women continually creeping from West to East. Robert Wright called out this terrorism and globalization axis in 2002 in Slate (article).

So when I consider the Brexit: it’s the Small Worlders of England pleading not to be left behind; Trump supporters, the same; 9/11 jihadis, the same.


1. I’ll not profess any great ingenuity in seeing or naming this moment, but it’s allowing me to see these titanic events as having a context. I’ll also fully admit that I may have seen snippets of this theory elsewhere publicly and that if brought to my attention all prior art will be acknowledged.Return

Study Latin to Become a Better Programmer

This is a post I had sitting in my drafts folder, uhm, for about 2 years. I’m fishing it out now because I’m a completionist masochist.

A friend forwarded on to me this post entitled: “Don’t study latin if you want to become a better programmer” by Daniel Lemire, professor of Computer Science at the University of Quebec. His piece questions the wisdom of teaching Latin as a means of creating a better programmer. As a lover of the Classical world, Latin student, programmer, and teacher of programming, I found myself disagreeing with his conclusion: in my programming practice I definitely recognized competencies learned while studying Latin resurfacing again and again. I believe Lemire is missing some nuance to his description of learning and I think that they might explain how we come to different conclusions. Let me start with a usage where I agree with Lemire.

I Program, Should I Learn Latin to Get Better?

Let’s start with the obvious case. If you are, say, learning Python and then one fine day you think: “My goodness, I’d like to be better at this” and your solution is “I’m going to go buy a copy of Wheelock’s Latin and get to it,” you’re probably choosing a sub-optimal strategy. Your time would be better spent at one of the following

  1. Writing Python
  2. Reading Python
  3. Finding a Python mentor / meet-up, etc.

While I agree that there are individuals who, upon learning Latin with some background in programming probably found some way to have it drive their programming acumen forward — say, by writing a RubyGem ;) — this is probably a vanishingly small amount and not something I’d recommend as a general rule.

So let me concede the obvious use of this utterance and agree that you should not do task Y to become better at task X. However, I don’t think this is what the author’s post was intending to analyze. My interpretation of his post is that since he “believe[s] that knowledge is only weakly transferable, …[he favours] practical skills that are immediately useful.” And here’s where I think his model loses some of its nuanced understanding of learning and thus becomes less compelling.

Does Latin Study Contribute to Learning Programming More Easily?

I believe that there are transferable skills that come from broad-based learning and that they are worth the time and the effort of acquiring.

Specifically broad-based topics that train, enhance or instill facility with metacognitive competencies do transfer well to other studies. I would contend that learning Latin tends to force its students to acquire a series of metacognitive competencies that would prove highly useful in learning to program (a raw skill) and learning to be a programmer (a set of behaviors).

Is it guaranteed that other “practical, immediately useful” skills such as Karate or swimming would fail to offer these learnings — certainly not! And I should hope that learners of all ages and all disciplines experience the joy of finding these metacognitive competencies in new nooks and crannies as they learn more about their world. For me, that’s quite possibly the best part of learning and, as I approach mid-age, one of the great advantages I have in learning material over a 16 year old: I know that I have a battle-tested series of competencies that allow me to ascertain, interpret, and integrate learning in a way such that new facts feel natural versus foreign objects that must be toted about.

Nevertheless, I believe that the pedagogy of Latin has something special to it: something instructs both moral character (the noble sentiments of the ancients) as well as intellectual character, its metacognitive competencies. There’s a reason, after all, that the archetypal “teacher molds the mind of a future generation and is never forgotten” movie is Mr. Chips and Latin, long before Keating taught poetry in “Dead Poets Society” or Escalante taught calculus in Los Angeles in “Stand and Deliver.”

Let me try to list a few of these competencies.

JavaScript and Christology

From my time teaching at Devbootcamp one of my “famous” lectures was the “JavaScript is like Jesus” lecture. This is a simplification, and I would have called the lecture “What Aristotle and the Arian Heresy teach us about thinking about JavaScript,” but terseness was never my strong suit (you are reading my blog after all).

Nevertheless, if one of these simplifications managed to help my flock remember and appreciate some of the subtleties of JavaScript, then all the better. I’ll now share the “JavaScript is like Jesus” content.

Content Warning: this post is written without a religious point of view. It considers Christianity as a historical phenomenon (what happened historically) and Christian dogma as philosophy. If your beliefs forbid consideration of this faith from such a perspective, you might want to skip this post.

Let’s start with a simple demonstration:

> f = function() {}
< () {}
> o = {}
< Object {}
> Object.getPrototypeOf(x)
< () {}
> Object.getPrototypeOf(o)
< Object {}

Here we define f and o and then ask the Chrome V8 JavaScript engine to tell us what it considers f and o to be. Helpfully enough, Chrome tells us that f is a Function and o is an Object.

From a certain perspective, and certainly in common programing pedagogy, we learn that Functions are things-that-do-work and Objects are things that hold data like 1 or 3.14 or "Manhattan". Functions change data, but data is not runnable.

Consider this JavaScript expression: x.color = "Red";

“Is x an Object or a Function? What is the essential nature of x?”

The battle of wits has begun! More after the jump.

The Brexit and the Londonexit

I’ve been morbidly obsessed with the Brexit process. I happened to be working a late night when the vote came through and my phone pipped with an NYTimes news alert that Britain had chosen to exit. But I’m inclined to wonder, based on my recent readings of “Connectography” whether some of the global cities will come to view the nation-states that bore them as less and less necessary to their continued prosperity.

Noted Khanna:

…the more London…[props] up England’s depressed and depopulated regions…[Londoners] view the rest of Britain as a liability sapping London’s finances rather than a strategic asset. (p. 75)

London Mayor Sadiq Khan gave us a taste of the future on June 25th:

London Mayor Sadiq Khan says the capital needs more autonomy to adjust to the new reality of Britain leaving the European Union.

In a speech to business leaders Tuesday, Khan says that more autonomy is needed to protect the economy from the uncertainty ahead. Khan says he isn’t “asking for London to get a bigger slice of the British pie,” only for Londoners to “get more control over the slice of the pie we already get.”

Khan wants the devolution of fiscal responsibility including tax-raising powers, as well as more control over business and skills, housing and planning, transport, health, policing and criminal justice.

Though London has some independence, city leaders do not have the same powers as other global cities, such as New York.


There’s been a clear and growing gap between the country and the town since the arrival of William the Conqueror, extending through Jane Austen (“Country manners? I find them charming.”) unto the present, globalized London. While London keeps its view fixed to the ends of the Thames estuary, the country continues to look unto the salty water-bound borders of Fortress Britannia.

More and more the urban profit centers and their outward, urban, inclusive view seems at odds with the nation-state that house them, afford them national defence, and bleed cash out of them. I called this phenomenon Big World / Small World.

Khanna's Connectography, Bootcamps, and Mobility

One of the points Parag Khanna brought up in “Connectography” is that mobility is a key to keeping influential cities thriving. The pointed example he pitches (around page 122) is that of the city of Detroit (a city I love) which, at one time, was the wealthiest city in America. As the automobile industry slackened, the talent largely stayed put hoping that patriotic sentiment (“BUY AMERICAN”) or trade protectionism would restore their coffers and their civic trajectory. That, of course, did not happen. Hondas and Toyotas were bought by the boatful and the future for Detroit diminished with each bill of lading.

But is there a lesson for us that we can take from this error? Let’s take a look at the systems they had built in the early 80’s in Detroit:

  • early robotics-based industrial work
  • industrial development practices expertise
  • labor facilitation expertise

In 2016 all of those skills are valuable expertise that are, in essence, locked in an old industry and which will share the fate of it (lest they find a way to unbundle themselves).

But what might have history looked like if the experts had realized that their host incubator was not necessary to their success earlier?

  • …WHAT IF those engineers who built the assembly lines had encoded better logistics systems in software (to rival Germany’s SAP)
  • …WHAT IF those engineers who built auto-assembly robotics had roboticized the port of SF, the port of Oakland (there might be dock work in SF), been influential in the upgrades to the Panama Canal, Corpus Christ’s port, the Nicaragua canal?
  • …WHAT IF….that expertise had allowed the first generation of port (re-)builders to win contracts in central America in the late 90’s instead of Chinese competitors in the 2010’s?

If that were the case I could imagine many snowy Monday mornings in Detroit leading to direct flights to Managua, Corpus, or linking to a hop to Shanghai. And the reverse could be true as well: Detroit could have become the home of process optimization, industrial flow analysis and the flights (and capital, and residents) would be flowing in to offset the decline in automotive manufacturing dominance.

Based on my reading of Khanna there are two principal institutional changes that could have helped and one cultural change. Ease of mobility, ease of spot education, and the unwinding of American exceptionalism. I’ll start with the last first, after the jump.

Parag Khanna's Connectography and Refactoring by Martin Fowler

Khanna suggests that the over-large nation-states of the 19th and 20th centuries - many of which were created by the fiat and bureaucracy of the British Empire or other colonialist machinations - be “refactored” in line with the “SOLID” software design principles. In this post I take the SOLID principles and try to transform them into the language of national identity establishment.

SOLID and Refactoring

In my previous post about “Connectography” I noted that one of Khanna’s Big Ideas is that:

Many nation-states are held together by fiat or tradition but have no real internal attraction to one another: we should let these break apart or break them apart e.g. Iraq, Yugoslavia.

As a programmer I knew exactly what Khanna was saying. How many times did I, as a beginner in object-oriented programming, allow a class to stand unchanged because its functions had “always gone together?”

I began steering away from those negligent practices when I learned the SOLID principles listed by “Uncle” Bob Martin. These five simple dicta set a new bar for how (new) code ought look. But how to go about fixing the historical messes? For that, I read Martin Fowler’s book Refactoring where “refactoring” is described as:

…a controlled technique for improving the design of an existing code base. Its essence is applying a series of small behavior-preserving transformations, each of which “too small to be worth doing”. However the cumulative effect of each of these transformations is quite significant.


Having learned from both of these inspirations I was able to methodically pull apart complexity and limit its creeping in. So in software, so, too, in nations.

Read: Parag Khanna's Connectography

I recently heard Parag Khanna on the A16Z Podcast and I was sufficiently interested that I bought and read “Connectography.” In this post I’ll give an review of the book qua book and also cover an outline of its big ideas.


In subsequent posts I explore some of those ideas further:


It’s the Hegelian in me: I love a Europe-coming-to-know-itself through history (and economics) master narrative book. I’ve found the most predictive book for the last 15 years of economic and global theory has been (Marxist) Hardt & Negri’s Empire. Empire predicts a move to a global communist panacea only after global capitalism (i.e. multinationals) guts and obviates the nation-state. Accordingly to understand capital’s progression to this end, we should listen to the most passionate global capitalists.

In the early part of the aughts I found the leading writer on the topic to be (capitalist) Tom Friedman, NYT Op-Ed columnist and author of The World is Flat. While Friedman always had big ideas, I found his over-emphasis on who he knows and anecdotes a bit sloppy and frankly, taxing. Like Hegel, Friedman’s work benefits from being read at a swift clip: he’s meant to be enjoyed like the Romantics: with loud thundering emotions and sweeping torrents of vision.

Khanna offers an update on Friedman’s work but with considerably more economic data. While Friedman was occasionally insufferable in mentioning where he had lunch and with whom, Khanna’s core critical ideas occasionally get lost in maps or exhaustive detailing. Given a choice, I’ll take Khanna’s approach and take the data versus the Friedman’s social itinerary, but we lose sight of many of his core pillars in the sea of details about Malaysian trade agreements.

The big ideas I extracted from 390 pages follow:

Read: Super Sad True Love Story

"Super Sad True Love Story Cover"

To grow old is a strange thing: you watch agog as all you loved turns cheap and tawdry: gold to tin, elegance to chintz. The titillating becomes the pornographic, the folly becomes incalculable error, the youth become parasitic, and the open-armed city becomes a clutch of exploitative vipers.

The student of history knows that it has been ever thus. They can only smile, sadly, faithfully reporting the reality of their times and accepting it as a backdrop for the master narrative of their own life: whom they loved, the career that seemed so important, the rituals and places whose importance seemed natural and unfeigned.

In unremarkable times, death comes to the lucky and they never have to question these narratives and backdrops. But for those caught at the locus of the rupture, they feel their world change and wonder whether the most important tatters of the old life and its beauty will make it across the gap with them.

Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart is a story of a man in such a time. A man in a future not so terribly far off from our own whose encounter of utter, wrenching true love has the challenge of happening in interesting times. Leonard Abramov: middle-aged, over-fond of rich food, moldering collections of words on pages called books finds himself trying to court, win, seduce, and become desirable to Eunice Park, a girl born part-and-parcel to the zeitgeist.

Spoiler Warning: I recommend the book highly. If you want it in all its unspoiled glory come back later.

Setting plays an incredibly important role in this book, so I’d like to note some of the more interesting aspects of the dystopia where our rupture happens.