“Financial gurus” are selling a get-rich-quick scheme for the digital economy.

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Passive income is income that requires little to no effort to earn and maintain.

It’s easy to see the appeal of this concept. Every person on Earth would love to get money in exhange for little to no effort. But if everyone wants passive income, what’s stopping them? Nearly all of us are still either working or looking for work, yet there’s thousands of books, articles, podcasts, etc. explaining how we can start building passive income streams. …

How the COVID-19 crisis has revealed fault lines in excessive positivity.

Storm clouds, rain, lightning, but then a idea bulb appears.
Storm clouds, rain, lightning, but then a idea bulb appears.
Icon vectors created by freepik. Animation is my own.

“An Unforeseen Problem”

Now that COVID-19 has been found in nearly every country on Earth and has spread throughout every American state, there’s been a whiplash in concern among those who mere weeks ago thought the threat of the virus was no greater than just another flu season. Conservative politicians and pundits in particular had dismissed any need for caution among everyday people. Echoing the views of the network, Fox News’ Jesse Watters early this month downplayed the threat that the novel coronavirus posed to himself and other Americans.

”If I get it, I’ll beat it. I’m not lying. It’s called the power of positive thinking, and I think America needs to wake up to that.” …

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Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash
  • Catch up on emails.
  • Read a book.
  • Work out at home [imported from New Years resolutions years 2012–2020].
  • Rank those most likely to be the office’s patient zero.
  • Facebook stalk Greg who coughed into his hand last week and then went right back to presenting his quarterly sales report.
  • Find out what The Good Place is about.
  • Try not to gain weight on a diet of mostly panic-bought black beans, white rice, and peanut-butter stuffed pretzel bites.
  • Give Duolingo another shot in case international travel becomes a thing again.
  • Don’t worry about whether job will still be there.
  • Polish resume.
  • Reacclimate to sitting alone with self for hours at a time, then watch The Irishman. …

An upside-down ice cream cone melts on a beach at dusk.
An upside-down ice cream cone melts on a beach at dusk.
Composited using photos by Heather Barnes and Mourad Saadi on Unsplash

Originally published in Vol. 2 Issue 5 of New Reader Magazine.

In a flash of revelation Lucas detached the hose from the spigot behind the trailer and duct-taped it around the exhaust of the ice cream truck. The other end he threaded through the cracked-open window and into the back, situating it next to the two KingKool chest freezers. The whole thing, this contraption, only took a few minutes to set up. He turned the key to the ignition before turning back inside to polish off the last of the strawberry vodka. By the time he stumbled out to the truck he could scarcely keep the plan straight or his legs grounded. It was as though he’d constructed a trap for himself. Only this one would save him. He threw wide the rear double-doors, stepped in, and slammed them closed in turn. …

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GIR sings the “doom song” in the premiere episode, “The Nightmare Begins

Note: Does not contain any spoilers for Invader Zim: Enter the Florpus, streaming now on Netflix.

“Doom” is the single most commonly used word in the early 2000s television show Invader Zim. I didn’t do any sort of analysis to come to that conclusion — I just know it to be true. Now, you may be thinking, “That can’t possibly be it. It’s gotta be like ‘the’ or something,” and you’re probably right. The point is that “doom” in all its tenses and conjugations is a constant refrain for the characters of this short-lived but beloved children’s show.

From the very first episode, Zim’s alien race, the Irkens, embark on operation “Impending Doom 2” (the first having failed when Zim started destroying things before leaving their home planet), Zim announces they’re going to “reign some doom down upon the filthy heads of our doomed enemies,” GIR sings his “doom song,” Ms. Bitters teaches a lesson on how “the universe is just doomed, doomed, doomed, doomed,” and so on. It starts to lose its meaning after a while. Doom. There’s something phonetically appealing about that long o͞o sound. But I want to pause on the word for a moment and really consider what it means. …

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Photo by Jessica Lewis on Unsplash

Starting a habit, or breaking an old one, is notoriously difficult. Tracking these goals can be a useful way of keeping yourself committed to new routines. Whether through an app, a spread street, or a journal, habit tracking can help reinforce behavioral change by providing daily reminders, insightful analytics, and incentivizing rewards. There is, however, one problem — in order for habit trackers to work you also need to get in the habit of using the tracker.

A study out of University College London looked at the way in which habit-forming apps are able to “instigate and maintain new behaviors.” …

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Photo by Freddy G on Unsplash

I’ve lived in America my entire life, so have all the family members I’ve ever known, but I would not be American, let alone exist, if not for this country’s open borders at the turn of the 20th century, when Silvio Albasi came to the United States from Italy, and the chain migration that brought him here.

I don’t know exactly how or when he made the journey across the Atlantic, but to understand the system of immigration at the time you don’t need to know a whole lot. What the White House has described as “chain migration” is actually a complex set of privileges, immigration caps, and vetting processes that allows citizens and permanent residents to sponsor certain immediate family members to come to the United States. Trump and conservative allies have tried to paint a picture of a single immigrant causing a chain of dozens of extended relatives being admitted into the country, but the truth is that it can take decades for just one relative’s visa to be approved. An F4 visa to bring the sibling of a US citizen into the country has a 13 to 23 year backlog (depending on the country of origin) and involves hundreds of dollars in fees, a criminal and terrorism background check, and an income determination. …

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Photo by Neslihan Gunaydin on Unsplash

Whenever someone asks what I like to do with my free time, the most honest response is something like, “You know, the usual, mostly television and looking at my phone.” Instead, I wrack my brain for anything with a modicum of skill or individuality. It feels important to have some pastime that’s unique and active and interesting. But then, besides making my life sound more impressive to strangers and acquaintances, I’ve haven’t always seen the value of hobbies per se. I enjoy watching television. Unless the joy of a newfound hobby is above and beyond just re-watching episodes of Bob’s Burgers it shouldn’t really matter, right? …

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Photo by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash

We live in an age of productivity hacks, where every little thing you do in a day stands to be tweaked and optimized. Many of these tell us how to get the most out of our calendars or workplace meetings, but others extend to even some of our oldest means of communication and information gathering, like reading, “the complex cognitive process of decoding symbols to derive meaning.” The invention of systems of writing and by extension reading goes back at least 5,300 years to ancient Sumer (modern-day southern Iraq). …

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Image of Psilocybe semilanceata, composited using a photograph by Alan Rockefeller.

On March 14th I had the privilege of attending a talk by Roland Griffiths, Ph.D., as part of the CNS Public Talk Series at the University of Pennsylvania. As a psychopharmacologist and a researcher at Johns Hopkins, Griffiths has spent nearly twenty years “investigating the effects of the classic hallucinogen psilocybin” and has been at the forefront of modern research into this class of chemicals.

The title of his presentation was, “Psilocybin: Implications for healthy psychological functioning and therapeutics.”

Griffiths opened his talk with a brief overview of the chemical compound, which, like other psychedelics, is primarily mediated by the activation of serotonin 5-HT2A receptor sites. Quoting from one of his co-authored paper’s, the result is “a unique profile of subjective effects including robust changes in perception, cognition, affect, volition, and somaesthesia.” To demonstrate the drug's effect on the brain, Griffiths referenced a study published in 2014 which used fMRI to capture resting-state functional brain activity in a group of healthy volunteers after either a placebo or a dose of psilocybin. …


K. Albasi

// writer of random musings, blog posts, short stories, unpublished novels, spec scripts, forgotten notes, and unsent letters // kayalbasi.com

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