Beating Isla’s Ex-Boyfriend to Death with a Sock Full of Gummy Bears

This is one of those posts that gets weird before it gets useful. By the end of it, I hope to share with you one of the most life-altering realizations/techniques which has made me a tangibly happier man.

To start, we need to talk about psychology for a hot second. Specifically, we’ll look at 2 innate mental reflexes that must be tweaked in order to make us permanently happier. The first reflex up for modification is our hedonic adaptation. The second is our ability to visualize the future.

To be clear, this post isn’t about big, laborious or dramatic shifts in thinking. There is very little effort required here. We don’t need to go off into the mountains and meditate on mushrooms in a cave in order to make these changes to our brains. We are not monks, this is not Nirvana. We are monkeys, and this is merely a bigger stick to shove into a juicier mound of termites. I want you to think of these 2 mental techniques as being more like simple realizations, doorways into a different (and much happier) way of thinking. Simple is good. Simple can be profound. So let’s grab us a stick and get some motherfucking termites!

Hedonic Adaptation

Hedonic Adaptation is one of the great human advantages. We have this shit wired right into our core programming. Hedonic Adaptation is what allowed our ancestors to adapt to the absolute shittiest living conditions, make nature our bitch, and ultimately take over the fucking planet using only fire and stabby objects.

Hedonic Adaptation, put simply, is our ability to get used to anything. It brings our happiness levels back up after something horrible happens to us, like death in the tribe or getting our genitals mutilated by barbed wire whilst attempting to escape over the fence at summer band camp. On the other hand, Hedonic Adaptation also automatically lowers our happiness back to our normal levels after something insanely awesome happens in our lives, like finding a legit lightsaber amongst the wreckage of a UFO crash site or inheriting a sizeable troupe of (highly obedient) samurai chimpanzees. If left alone, our Hedonic Adaptation will reliably return our happiness levels to normal no matter what happens in our lives.

So how can we fuck with our hardwired Hedonic Adaptation? To start, take a coat hanger and unbend it so it’s nice and straight. Then take that twisty part that’s like a cork-screw and, with great care, guide it up your left nostril until you feel some pain. Next, find a power outlet and…

Hedonic Override

If I want to consciously override my Hedonic Adaptation, I need to have a look at my desires/appetites. If I have a shoe fetish (which clearly I do), a big part of my fetish is fantasizing about new shoes. I get a major jolt of pleasure when I buy the latest Prada Stilettos, black, because they make my calves look sexy and I can wear them with anything. But the moment those beauties belong to me, they begin losing their appeal. Hedonic Adaptation is already eating away at how happy they make me. In no time, I’m swiping through celebrity Instagram accounts hunting for my next shoe fix.

This is the common pursuit of happiness we all grow up with. Everyone we know does this to some degree, some more egregiously than others. There is this treadmill approach to happiness through creating external jolts of pleasure, as illustrated by the highly scientific and technical chart below:

Happiness chart

You can see how the black line (a person’s happiness) is like an excited heartbeat, spiking when something good happens (like buying a brand new hot tub), then fading a little below the average happiness level as the person Hedonically Adapts, compounded by a healthy dose of buyer’s remorse upon reviewing his credit card statement. Once the hot tub no longer gives adequate pleasure, the person makes another indulgence in order to spike happiness levels again.

So apart from not ever buying hot tubs, how do we set up our happiness such that it resembles the chart below?

increasing happiness over time

Here we have a nice, gradual increase in average happiness over time, with a smoother rise and fall in our high and low levels. External events still affect us, of course, but our inherent happiness is far less reliant upon our ability to repeatedly indulge our various novel appetites.

The answer is drugs, so many drugs.

And a little golden nugget of awesomeness blatantly stolen from A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy called “Negative Visualization”.

Negative Visualization

First let’s look at Positive Visualization, because that’s going to be much more familiar to us.

Positive Visualization gets shit done. We picture the job we want and we go out there and get it. We picture the person we want to marry and we don’t stop searching until we find her. We picture a big, greasy hamburger and we drive to McD’s and crush one in the parking lot with the A/C blasting into our sweaty, desperate faces.

Positive Visualization is one of the most powerful techniques humans are innately capable of. It gives us the power to create the future we’ve imagined. With our minds, we shape god damn reality as we see fit.

That all sounds awesome! So why bother with Negative Visualization? That sounds like it sucks! Why would I think about un-eating a hamburger? Why would I picture myself without a job? Why would I picture my wife leaving me for Ellen Degeneres? I imagine all of this because, however counterintuitive it might seem, picturing my situation as worse than it currently is makes me happier by making me realize what I already have. It shifts my desire away from things I don’t have, to things I do have. And while I’m visualizing not having these things, my built-in Hedonic Adaptation reflex starts adjusting to the shittier reality (if even just a little bit). Then when I come out of visualizing not having these things, I’m suddenly very grateful for having them!

Positive Visualization helps us get what we want by creating present dissatisfaction. Negative Visualization helps us want what we already have by thinking about being without it, creating present satisfaction.

OK! I Get it! Just Get to the Gummy Bears Already!

I have an almost-2-year-old daughter, Isla. Positive visualization with Isla includes seeing her, in my mind, on her first day of school, taking her to her first beach volleyball tourney, and beating her first ex-boyfriend to death with a sock full of gummy bears just so the next kid in line knows I’m not fucking around.

While these fantasies make me smile and look forward to the future, they preclude my full enjoyment of the present moment with my little lady. I believe happiness derived from the present moment always trumps happiness derived from looking forward to some future moment, or happiness derived from memories. If some kid breaks Isla’s heart, it’s way more enjoyable to actually beat said kid into unconsciousness with a sock full of gummy bears than it is to merely fantasize about it. Don’t worry – I wouldn’t actually beat a kid to death with a sock full of random gummies. I’d make sure to eat all the red ones first.

Negative visualization, by contrast, is much more morbid. Negative visualization with Isla is picturing that she’s mortal (which she is) and that one day I will hug her for the last time (which I will). Even just writing that chokes me up. But it also makes me more loving and appreciative of the sound of her little voice as, while I write this, she sings the Paw Patrol theme song:

“Da da do, da da do, da da da da da DA DOOO!”

Realizing that my time with Isla is finite motivates me to actively and immediately increase the quality of my time with her. The more often I’m able to remind myself of our limited time together, the better that time will be, and overall the happier we both will be.

Yes, thinking about the inevitability that both of us will die (and I fucking hope it’s me first) does invite a quick dose of heartache into my present moment, but the immediate payoff of being hyper-aware of my love for my little girl and the resulting (and overwhelming) joy of having the time with her that I do have, is well worth a quick look at the harsh reality of our inevitable separation.

I’m more a fan of a little preemptive sadness if it buys us a happier today. I’m less a fan of avoiding sad thoughts with the assumption that we’ll always have tomorrow.

 

 

 

Sourdough: How To Piss Yourself Off

So about 8 months ago I stupidly asked my buddy Tyler if he could teach me how to bake bread. I didn’t even know or care what kind of bread we’d be baking, so in many ways the suffering I later endured was completely Tyler’s fault.

Tyler bakes sourdough. The most challenging fucking bread in the world to master.

Why Sourdough is so Fucking Difficult to Bake

This isn’t baking a cake. There’s no middle-ground. Either your bread is world-class or it fucking sucks. And when it sucks and you’re just starting out, you just want to scream at the ceiling and rip all of the hair off your body because it took you DAYS to get that bread made.

You don’t get to use commercial yeast. No. You get those fuckers out of the motherfucking AIR and from the flour itself. And that takes a long god damn time to happen. Days in the summer, weeks in the winter. Then only hours when you’re a Bread God and have a little colony of yeast domesticated in a jar in your kitchen, ready to bake with when you god damn well feel like it.

sourdough starter
Sourdough “starter” – fermentation using wild yeast that you fucking captured out of thin air.

For something with such simple ingredients (only flour and water, with some optional salt) – sourdough technique is next fucking level. If you don’t have a clue what you’re doing, you’re completely fucked. You stand exactly a 0% chance of getting it right. Luck can’t help you. You stand no chance. It’s that hard.

However, if you know someone who can teach you how to create sourdough bread, you’re marginally less fucked. I’m only saying marginally less fucked because during that first bake with a sourdough master, there’s going to be so much going on that you simply don’t have the ability to see – yet. The master has spent months developing a refined sense for each step of the process – from how “strong” the dough should feel after folding it, to how “alive” the dough seems after fermentation (all jiggly and full of air). The beginner only sees a ball of dough in a bowl.

The subtleties of fermentation are pretty much impossible to get a sense for by reading a blog or watching videos. Though you still have to spend many hours reading this blog if you want to stand a chance. Even with all that reading, you’ll likely have to fuck up dozens of god damn times before the table starts to turn in your favour.

Here’s a photo of a shitty loaf I baked:

shitty sourdough loaf

Every time one of these came out of the oven, I was very sad.

There were so many more depressing loaves like these. These things had the texture of hockey pucks. I threw some of this “bread” to a squirrel during the winter and it jumped over it. I baked some for my relatives and they made fun of both me and the bread. I would have laughed at me too, the bread was fucking terrible.

dense sourdough

Even near the end, when I was getting some success by using some angry-ass rye flour to power-punch my fermentation in the face, I still had to resort to using a pull saw to get through the bread:

pull saw through sourdough

It turns out that after months of fucking around and failing over and over and over and over and fucking over, I’d developed reasonably acceptable sourdough technique. Through repetition alone, I had gained a pretty obsessive understanding of the timing for fermentation and the development of strength, flavour, and how temperature retards or accelerates everything. I learned how to shape these shits with a drywall blade. It seemed like I was doing everything right.

But after half a year of failure, my bread still fucking sucked, and I was very sad. I had tried everything and nothing was working. Lia thought it was the flour that was causing the repeat failures. So I texted Tyler.

The TSN Turning Point

The next day I went down to the most reputable bakery in town and ordered 25kg of their no-fucking-around STRONG BAKER’S FLOUR.

PH Flour

And then I started dominating the absolute shit out of sourdough.

The bread was so soft and beautiful a normal bread knife couldn’t cut it without totally squishing it and ripping it apart. So I ordered the bread-equivalent of a god damn Japanese samurai sword.

And now I’m happy.

Final Thoughts

I wanted to give up so badly. And to tell you to truth, I did twice. In my head I’d quit. Fuck this, it’s way to fucking hard, I’m done.

But then I’d read something new like how you’re not supposed to cut into the bread until 1 full hour after you’ve removed it from the oven because it’s still baking and if you cut into it too early it will be all dense and shitty and the crust will be really thick and hard.

So I’d be like, “Well, I have to try that.”

And then through brute stubbornness, I stumbled into the solution, which was to switch up the god damn fucking shitty flour I was using.

And the final triumph felt amazing, made all the more blissful from all the struggling and failure.

Here’s how those beauties turned out:

Huge oven spring sourdough

 

blistery sourdough loaf

epic sourdough

Sourdough sandwich

 

15 Foot Waves out of Nowhere

The crazy thing is the ocean was flat for an hour before it suddenly tried to drown me.

There were maybe 20 of us in the lineup waiting for a wave, and nothing was happening. Maybe 3 guys caught waves in that first hour. I was starting to think about paddling in a little bit and catching a smaller wave breaking closer to shore and calling it a day. But I didn’t. Like everyone else, I was waiting for the big waves to come.

A couple days prior I’d caught the biggest wave of my life. It was 8 feet, maybe 10, I don’t know exactly because I didn’t see it. I just remember the feeling of being picked up and staring down a massive hill of water as I popped to my feet and dropped down its face, dug in my heels and turned right before hearing it detonate behind me. Then I full-on screamed, I couldn’t help it. I was narrowly avoiding being crushed by a school bus of water. It was the best wave of my life.

Just like all the other guys, I was staring out to sea, watching for the first big waves to come. Then one came. There was a bulge on the horizon, darker than the rest of the ocean. Everyone watched it without much interest because the first wave is usually the smallest. The second, third, and fourth waves have all the power. The shitty thing is because of the up and down motion of the ocean, you only get to see one wave at a time. As one passes below you and lifts you up, you see over the hump and there’s the next one. Maybe it’s small, maybe it’s the biggest wave you’ve ever seen in your life. You don’t know until the last wave passes.

When you’re at the bottom of a big wave you don’t get to see much of anything. This is where nightmares form. I watch the guys at the top of the oncoming wave, and if they go from a relaxed, sitting position to urgent paddling, I don’t even question it. I paddle out like my fucking life depends on it before I’ve even seen the next wave, just based on everyone else’s reaction. Paddling out to sea is how you get over a wave before it breaks. You can paddle over a wave while it’s still forming. But once it breaks, you’re pretty much fucked.

You only have 20 seconds between waves, so acting early is good. When I saw those front guys start paddling as quickly as they did, I knew the time for sitting around was over. I just gave it as hard as I could toward the oncoming waves. Cresting the second wave, I looked over it and was fully terrified. What I saw was a dark wall of water, 15 feet high. The wave was already vertical, and as wide as the horizon. I barely made it over that one and there was another one right behind it. I had enough speed to get over its shoulder without being devoured, but the guys behind me weren’t as lucky. With a loud BOOM and a few seconds of blowback water like torrential rain the wave broke just as I crested it, annihilating all the surfers paddling behind me. I looked back over my shoulder and saw boards everywhere, random heads and harms thrashing in the churning foam. The wail of a jet ski as the lifeguard hauled guys out of the water.

“Look at that!” Someone said. He was off to my right, a bit ahead. He was pointing way out to sea. I looked at where he was pointing and saw a wave far off in the distance to our left, the biggest wave I’d ever seen in my life. It looked 20 feet high and was breaking out on the horizon. It was so far away and the waves around us were so loud we couldn’t hear it, which was terrifying. Like watching an atomic bomb go off and but with no noise.

Seeing a wave that big breaking that far away meant we didn’t have a lot of time before something similar was going to happen where we were. So we paddled, the two of us, like animals. Big waves came, and we got over them. I couldn’t tell how big, but the guy said 15 feet. My eyes were probably pretty wide because he looked at me and said, “We maybe have 10 minutes or so before that happens again, and if it does we’ll get washed back to shore. If it gets bigger though, to 20 feet, we’re not getting in here. We’ll have to paddle to Waimea.”

Waimea was a couple miles away.

“Yup I think I’ll go in then. Are you going in?” I asked.

“Ya we can go together.”

I was pretty fucking happy to have this guy with me. The jet ski was still rescuing people. We paddled for a bit and eventually the jet ski came to check on us.

“IT’S CRAZY OUT HERE!” The lifeguard yelled. “THAT CAME OUT OF NOWHERE!” Then he pointed at me and shouted, “DO YOU WANT A TOW IN?”

“YES!” I shouted back at him. Pretty god damn sure I had never looked so happy about anything in my life.

The lifeguard checked with the other guy, who shouted “I’M A DISTANCE PADDLER, I’LL JUST PADDLE TO WAIMEA IF IT GETS BAD!”

“YOU WOULD!” The lifeguard replied. They apparently knew each other.

I paddled my board onto the raft thing on the back of the jet ski and grabbed the rubber half-rings mounted to it. The lifeguard watched me do this until he was satisfied that I was sufficiently attached to his vehicle, then wasted no more time in absolutely pinning it back toward shore. We were in the air as much as we were in the water.

“WHEN I SAY LET GO, LET GO, OK?” The lifeguard yelled over his shoulder.

“OK!”

I expected him to slow down, but I guess you can let go of a jet ski at a pretty fast clip and you just flop around in the water a bit. Anyway that’s what I did because he didn’t slow down much, and when I surfaced I was only 30 feet from shore. This distance I panic-paddled in no time at all, and was on solid ground again at last.

I found Lia and from the look on her face, she’d been pretty worried. She gave me a big hug. Isla gave me a hug too, but it was her normal hug. She didn’t seem to have noticed that her dad was as close as he’d ever come to not coming back from surfing. I was very shaken up from the whole thing, and was still a bit in shock that evening. I definitely had that feeling of a near death experience where it’s hard to think about much else for a number of hours. I was dazed. Like I didn’t really know what to do next. I still feel that way a bit. Some things seem to matter a lot more, and some things seem to matter a lot less than before. It will probably wear off over time.

Here’s a surfer catching a big wave at Sunset Beach (where all this happened):

Life Change = Feeling Stupid and Incompetent

Last night I was working on a code problem and not getting anywhere with it. I had to write some code (an algorithm) to convert a sentence into “Spinal Case” like this:

“My name is Ryan Lowe” = “my-name-is-ryan-lowe”

The problem was there were several other conditions that my code was failing, like when the original sentence was “myNameIsRyanLowe” or “My nameIS-Ryan lowe”. The algorithm needed to figure it out no matter what format of original sentence was entered.

So between 9pm and 11pm I failed over and over to get it right – feeling profoundly stuck and frustrated. All the while my morale was dropping and thoughts like, “You’ll never get this, it’s too hard” crept closer and closer to establishing themselves permanently in my core belief system. This is the important part, because if that had happened I might have stopped learning code and just gone back to doing the code I already know and am comfortable with. And that would be have been bad.

The problem with change is this: it’s easy and comfortable not to change or to change in a negative direction, it’s hard as fuck and extremely uncomfortable (mentally and sometimes physically) to change in a positive direction.

I don’t know why this is but I’ve noticed it in myself and it’s a pain in the ass. Any time I embark on a serious mission of positive change (such as learning difficult code) the road of progress is fraught with signs that read “You’re just not suited for this” and “It’s more efficient and profitable to continue to perfect the code you’re already good at.”

These thoughts seem to be an automatic reaction to my immense psychological discomfort while trying to grasp new and abstract coding concepts. Concepts that I struggle to even somewhat understand, and that struggling makes me feel both stupid and incompetent. Feeling truly stupid and incompetent is so uncomfortable for me that I’ve already given up at learning 4 other coding languages prior to this attempt. Each failure has hardened the core belief that I’m just not all that good at abstract “back-end” code and I should stick to the stuff I’m good at (design and “front-end” code).

Yet here I am, back at the drawing board and trying for a 5th time to “get it”. This time I’ve made more progress than ever before, been more consistent in studying, and have come to truly grasp some of the concepts that have baffled me in the past.

So what’s different this time? A couple things have helped a lot. The first is knowing that learning something new hurts a lot, especially when I’m not picking it up with ease. Knowing that I will be in a constant struggle and want to quit helps me not quit because I’m prepared for those feelings in advance. They still suck, but at least I’m more aware of them and can be cautious of their ability to sway me towards giving up (again).

The second thing that has helped is being aware of the idea of my own personal “depletion” throughout a given day. Smart sciency people have figured out that our inner “wills” become depleted throughout the average day as the weight of life grinds us down and weakens our resolve.

Events like dealing with a difficult client or arguing with a family member do actually decrease our ability to be our “ideal selves” and increase the likelihood of our self-destructive behaviour.

This knowledge suggests we should do the hard things first, like work out in the morning. We are far less likely to have the resolve to work out at the end of the day after having dealt with all the other crap.

The good news is our depleted “will-power” levels reset every morning, after a good sleep. So if something feels impossible, I’ve learned to just leave it the fuck alone for the night and to give it another shot after I’ve slept. It has worked for me in the past, and it worked for me again for the algorithm problem. This morning, with a fresh tank of “I can fucking do this” in my head, I solved it in under 10 minutes.

And, for now, I feel neither stupid nor incompetent.

It’s Like Magic

I recently discovered all of my old journals and sketchbooks from my late teens and twenties, high school through college and into “real life.”

The spooky parts were the bits where I wrote about what I wanted, or where I wanted to go, or what I wanted to do in the future. Most, maybe all, of those things have become reality. This isn’t unique to me. I just listened to Debbie Millman’s podcast with Tim Ferriss and she goes into way more detail about it than I do here, so if you’re curious you should listen to the full episode.

It’s as close to believing in baloney like The Secret as I’m willing to go, and the only reason I do believe that writing about your own future is an effective method in realizing your dreams is because that pattern has been revealing itself in my own life.

The exercise goes like this: write down what a typical day looks like for you 10 years from now. Go into crazy detail. Specify everything from what your spouse smells like to how many kids you have and what their hobbies are. Go from waking up to falling asleep at night, and everything in between. Again, as much detail as possible. I’ll do one now so you can read it and maybe do one of your own. I swear, so far whenever I’ve written these, they’ve done way more good than bad. For example, the first time I wrote about wanting to earn $10,000/month passive income I think I was earning $200-$400 passively. That number is now over $2000. Under $8000 to go!

OK here’s my dream day, January 30th 2027:

I wake up fully rested, early. Like, when the sun is just coming up early. The first birds are doing their thing, but not all of them.

My house is quiet. We have land, by the water. I can hear the waves against the shore. There are old trees on the property too, and I can hear the breeze in the branches just outside my bedroom window, which is on the second floor of the house.

Lia’s in bed with me. Maybe some of our kids come running in and jump on us. Maybe two are old enough to do that, and the other one is too small so they had to carry him/her in. The baby’s shat itself and Isla’s 10 so she can do a pretty good job of changing the diaper, which she does. The kids are happy. Lia and I are happy. We’re somewhere warm, or cold, it doesn’t really matter, but we’re together. Is it our house? I don’t know. Maybe it’s somewhere we’re staying for a while. It feels like home, wherever it is.

Anyway, we get up and shower. The bathroom is connected to the bedroom, I know that’s important to Lia and now that I think of it I like it too. The whole family doesn’t shower. Actually I don’t even think I shower. Nobody showers, we just get up and brush our teeth and do our thing, there’s a breeze coming in so it can’t be winter at this point, wherever we are.

Big breakfast gets made. Isla and her younger bro/sis help but mainly I do the cooking. Lia makes a smoothie or a salad or something. The food I make is fucking terrible for you but delicious. I’ve gotten pretty decent at cooking all kinds of things over the past 10 years. I’ve even figured out how the FUCK to make sourdough god damn bread. Fuck.

Isla says “FUCK” when she burns herself on something hot and nobody cares about the swearing.

Things feel easy, calm, peaceful. Real chilled out. There will be higher-energy stuff because that’s in our blood. But for the morning, things are calm.

Family breakfast, no fucking phones. There’s a mini gong and the baby smashes it with something hard and we all hold hands and feel gratitude for whatever until it finishes ringing. Might take a minute. This isn’t religious, it’s just presence and coming together in a token way as a family.

We eat. Food’s great. Kids pack it in like animals. Lia’s smoothie isn’t just greens and water, it tastes good. Dates or something. But we’ve hit that balance between my version of a smoothie (which would include ice cream) and hers (which often smells like a fresh cut lawn).

Off to activities. Do we exist in some kind of permanent vacation? Not in a conventional way. It’s like a ninja-in-the-mountains kind of training. Like when Bruce Wayne becomes a part of the League of Shadows before becoming Batman. We’re all studying different, or the same, things and that sometimes influences our location for a while. If we all want to learn to surf, as an obvious example, we would need to be in a place like Nosara Costa Rica for several months. Or roadtripping along a coast, preferably with waves that wouldn’t drown my god damn children (or me). Soooooo not Hawaii.

This sounds like we live in a trailer, which we very well may.

Late morning, the kids are studying something or another or we’re surfing or have just finished surfing or hiking or doing something we’ve never done before. Safe to say there’s a good deal of variety in our lives at this point. Lia’s a yoga pro by now, of course. Nobody doubted that for even a second.

I think I’m much better at web design than I currently am – like scary good, and “Full Stack” so capable of building full-on god damn anything I want. With databases and users and automatic two-step verification and payment processing. I know how to do all kinds of shit, and I have clients that love it and pay me to do it from wherever I am.

I am the ninja in the mountain.

What else….

Lunch time – again we maybe get food somewhere or eat something simple. I don’t want my family to get too extravagant. I’d like to be able to feed us but I’m also horny about efficiency. When I cook, there are leftovers (which taste damn good) and nobody complains about eating it for a day or three after the fact. I make good money but I don’t spend it like an asshole. In fact, a decent amount of it gets invested, donated, used for travel in a modest way.

The kids are awesome. I’m reminded of that every so often. Not every time I look at them or my brain would burn out, but a couple times a day let’s say. They piss me off too but I like that about them, they challenge things. They’re not pussies. They speak back and fight me the best they can and I usually win but sometimes they do and that’s the best moment of all, because it means they’re learning and they’re independent. They’re learning how to use their tools, and they’re pumped about it. Lia and I reward their efforts profusely. Our kids are really starting to turn into gritty little bastards, and it’s awesome. Sure, they’re weak sometimes too, and that’s OK – so am I and so is Lia and we show them that it’s OK to be vulnerable. These aren’t machines. They’re kids, but you get where I’m going with this.

Lunch is done and we’re driving, why not? I know I woke up in a house but I think I was confused. I’m probably in a kick ass trailer. We own a property or a couple properties but Lia AirBnBs them when we’re away.

I think we’re driving somewhere none of us have been before. It isn’t sketchy, it’s safe. There’s no real stress about this trip.

I don’t think we own the trailer. I think we’ve rented it, because we’re going to leave it in some town in Sweden and get in a rented sailboat and sail somewhere cool. Lia and I have heard about these islands where people sail and camp throughout them. Maybe we’re there. Maybe we know some Swedish and that’s what the kids were studying before lunch.

I check in with the office and things are normal, I have a bit of work to get through and it takes me an hour or so. Nothing crazy. All of my clients are very cool people, they know who I am and what my life is like. They’re cool with it.

We set sail, maybe we catch a fish or something and maybe by then I know how to clean and cook a fish. That’s dinner.

The kids are documenting these things. They already have developed little followings of their own. They get the value in connecting with their own online audiences and communities and they also earn modest incomes of their own and I probably don’t really understand it fully because I’m 41 and the social side of the internet has long left me behind. I just don’t have time for that shit.

Evening is closing in, the sun is setting. The water is glass. Maybe I do some sketching or watercolour painting or writing. Lia and I have some alone time. The kids have friends I guess, they’re hanging out with them for a bit. Things get steamy on our boat, BOW CHICKA WOW WOW.

Everyone is together before bed. We hang out on the boat and watch the stars. Lia still almost shits herself every time she sees a shooting star. The kids have inherited that from her so actually all of them almost or actually shit themselves as a result of shooting stars. We heat up some hot chocolate, Lia puts cheese in hers. Isla crushes cherry tomatoes into hers. The other kids are normal, they just drink it plain like I do.

We pack into our small sleeping quarters, chat a bit, then one by one we pass out. The kids talk in their sleep but I can’t hear it over Lia’s epic snoring.

Note to Self: Re: Self

This is an excerpt from my travel journal, relatively sure the date on the entry is Sept 11/2009:

Note to self: re: self: I float through despair when I am uncertain about something important. It robs me of my confidence and the issue, whatever it may be, weighs down heavily upon me day and night. I am happiest when things are clear and I know what I’m doing. I feel powerful when I believe in something and can work towards it. I feel useless and helpless, depressed and frustrated when I have no golden destiny to work toward realizing. So think hard, make choices by the heart, believe in them, believe in yourself, and step into the ring.

How Brain Phones Might End Violence Forever

I think humanity is on course for world peace, either via a biotechnological mass-evolution or by slower means. Here’s how technology could accidentally force an end to violence:

It starts with emoticons 🙂😃😄😆😂😈. Emoticons enrich our ability to communicate remotely by imbuing text with emotion. These “emoji” already exist and have become indispensable in our text messages, Facebook posts, tweets and emails. Our phones incorporate emoji sets as a part of the keyboard. We even draw them in hand written notes to one another. Humans use emoticons where possible because it’s just better to be able to add some emotion to the message.

As technology changes, it’s reasonable to expect emoji to come along for the ride. I would expect a hands-free version of calling and texting to replace smartphones. Something we maybe wear as an earpiece or get wired directly into our brains: a brain phone. Then we’d just have to say or think messages to each other. I don’t think it would be a huge leap to be able to add emotional context to the messages either.

And here comes the crazy shit:

If these devices are connected to our brains, they could probably manipulate our neurotransmitters in order to trigger whatever emotional response we want to add to our message.

Here’s the new emoticon set for the brain phone (click to enlarge):

neurotransmitters
source: compoundchem.com

Okay, so now we’ve got brain phones allowing us to send and receive emotions. Cool. Bob just messaged us that he’d won his hockey pool! We’d get a little cocktail of adrenaline mixed with dopamine (I’m just guessing at the mix) to simulate Bob’s excitement and make our brains feel it too.

You’re getting the idea by now. Technology might eventually give us the ability to simulate shared emotions.

Syncing up our feelings would be really useful in a variety of situations where the group should be cohesively feeling the same thing. For example, a movie theatre might want everyone in the audience to feel a surge of endorphins during a sex scene and a dose of serotonin for the part where the boy finds his lost dog. Schools and universities might want to lower adrenaline levels in their students during exams (to lower stress), and increase acetylcholine and glutamate (which are involved in thought, learning, memory, and attention).

So the jump would happen, as with any evolutionary step, if there was to be a mutation or accident or problem with our brain phones.

Say we could no longer control the sending or receiving of these emotions, but instead went into some kind of “live mode” where our devices could relay emotion directly without our consent. We’d be in a position where any suffering we caused we’d have to feel, and any pleasure we gave we also received. Kind of a “forced instant karma”, thanks to the brain phone. I would expect violence to stop entirely, to be replaced probably by lots of borderline-inappropriate massage parlours.

This little sci-fi walkabout might be far-fetched in terms of exactly how world peace comes about, but regardless of the means I think humanity is ultimately bound for a peaceful destination. It might just take a little longer than in the brain phone story.

Here’s the slow, realistic look at how world peace is already in progress:

Information is proliferating like a motherfucker. 100 years ago, people were lucky to have read 50 books in a lifetime (source). Now, not only do we easily dominate that number of books in our lives, but we also suck up podcasts, Netflix serieses, movies, blogs, YouTube videos, and a bonanza of social media content.

This is causing us to get way the fuck smarter. According to reason.com, American IQ in year 1900 averaged 67 points. By today’s standards, that’s borderline mentally retarded. We are all geniuses compared to the people who came before us, and our grand-children will look like rocket-geniuses compared to us.

Our ancestors, apart from being retarded, where also extremely violent. Including all deaths due to both world wars and all wars since, we are still much more peaceful overall than our ancestors were. Here’s a smart guy with graphs to prove it:

So we might not need brain phones to trigger absolute peace among humans. We seem to be getting there all on our own, thanks in large part to our growing minds.

The Selfish Road and Why I Take It

Living with the least external resistance possible means doing a lot of what other people want you to do.

One can avoid conflict by yielding to the wills of others, and enjoy easy relations with friends, family and coworkers. Smooth sailing.

I did this for a while and I got all angry inside.

I’ve realized recently that I’m very stubborn. When I yield to something I fundamentally disagree with, it fucks me up inside. Lots of stress. I get cankers in my mouth. Not a great way to be. Sailing can be smooth on the outside (between myself and other people), but what good is that if I’m experiencing a fucking hurricane on the inside?

So I’ve started being more aware of my own internal resistance. If I’m resisting something internally, I consider that along with the potential social damage I stand to incur if I decide to do things my way. More and more, I’ve been choosing my own happiness and life has improved dramatically.

For example, last Christmas my aunt was in town. To put things mildly, we don’t get along. So, I didn’t attend family Christmas last year. Lia, Isla and I stayed home, did our own thing. I got a lot of heat for that, but that was the price for a stress-free holiday. Looking back, it was 100% worth it for me and for the family I’m building (with Lia and Isla). They deserve the best version of me (not the stressed me), and at the end of the day my priorities lie with them, and with myself.

Let’s look at the word “Selfish”.

We think the word is bad. It’s simple. “Selfish” is not a good thing to be. But sometimes it is. I think some selfishness is absolutely necessary in the maintenance of personal happiness. I personally believe we should all be more selfish than we currently are. You know what I mean. Don’t hog all the candy, don’t eat the entire cake, don’t be a shit. But do be selfish in prioritizing your happiness over all else. If you’re not happy, what good are you to anyone? I just don’t see sacrificing personal happiness for someone else’s as a sensible long-term approach.

 

Bonus Points if Your Kids Aren’t Torturing Small Animals

I just woke up from a dream where I was photoshopping a car while my grandparents were driving away in it. Both of them are gone now and it leaves an emptiness in me. I find myself forgetting that they’ve died. It will take a few years to adjust to it I think.

It’s easier to see what matters when someone dies. Work doesn’t matter, to me anyway. Maybe yours does. My work could disappear and someone else would fill in the gap.

To say I care about my work isn’t really true. I want it to be good, and I’m compelled to do a very good job – but my reasons for doing a good job aren’t very altruistic if you look closely at them. Business is just better when you do a really good job. More work comes, and there are fewer complications with quality work. I can charge more money because most of the time, I’m the best option on the table. But I’m not doing a good job because I care about it. I used to think I cared about it. I like the work, but that’s different. I like writing code, I care about my cat. You know what – I care about my clients too. But I don’t care about their projects. I don’t invest emotional attachment in the jobs themselves. And the clients I don’t care about, I don’t work for them. I tell them I’m too busy to do their work, and they move on. Things get horrible when I don’t care about the client.

But ya, my grandparents are dead.

Everything they’ve done is over, or at least to them it is. I don’t believe in the afterlife or that Grandpa’s up there looking down on me. And if there was an afterlife, he’d probably watch me once in a while but realize that I’m extremely boring most of the time, or doing things he probably doesn’t want to see haha!

The closest answer I have to thinking about death is that it makes me want to create life. The fact of my death coming makes me want to have more kids. The universe can be seen as battle of life vs cold dark nothingness, and it can be proposed that our job, as living things, is to fight to keep life going. The fun kind of fighting. Where you get to have sex.

Genghis Khan would agree with me here. So would daffodils and rats and even influenza virus. If I had to pick either a virus or nothing, I’d hope the virus lives on. At least it’s alive.

If you zoom out far enough, back away from the details of your reality, you’ll see that success can be measured as basically as you want. I sometimes look at successful parenting as: “Are your kids still alive?”

If you can answer “Yes” then you’re parenting successfully.

Bonus points if your kids aren’t fucked up and sad and torturing small animals. Extra bonus BONUS points if your kids have made their own kids. I think that’s part of why grandparents are so stoked on their grandchildren. The first grandchild means they didn’t fucking fail as parents. They made kids that were at least not too fucked up to attract a mate and have more kids.

I hope old fashioned families come back. It’s shitty that our choice today is “kids or a career” because who wants to be poor with a bunch of kids? Most of the people I know are delaying having kids because it’s the right financial decision. Get established in a career first, then have kids. I’m in that boat too. Lia and I were stable enough financially to have a baby before we decided to go for it. Not rich or anything, but not worrying about bills or food was enough security for us to say fuck it (literally).

You might think a kid would add meaning to your life. I used to think so too, but really what happens (at least for me) is the amount of “meaning” stays roughly the same – it all just transfers to the kid. Everything else loses meaning, and the kid sucks it all up. Even your marriage/partnership is in danger of losing meaning as it all transfers to the new baby. Lia and I are lucky in that we’re game to ride out the changes in our relationship. We’re flexible, and patient. We know we still love each other even when we don’t have time or energy to spend together the way we used to.

If you look at kids from an investing standpoint, the payoff is potentially huge. There’s the obvious emotional reward and fulfillment of watching a miniature version of yourself grow up. This assumes the kid isn’t a complete fuck up, in which case the investment is a horrible one. But in ideal circumstances, there’s also the security of having someone to look after your ass when you’re too fucking old and useless to hack it anymore. Or maybe robots will do it. Or maybe medical breakthroughs will make it so we don’t die.

Here’s a smart guy taking about us not dying:

So here’s the kicker: if medical technology is likely to bring us to a point where we can prevent aging, what does that mean for having children? According to this article at davidsuzuki.org, the earth can only sustain 200 million North Americans indefinitely (because our high-consumption lifestyles and profit-driven corporations suck up so many god damn resources). Last I checked, Canada + USA = about 330 million. This doesn’t include Japan or Australia which suck up resources just as hard as we do.

I interpret this as presenting would-be parents with two choices:

  1. If you want to have a big family: better get started soon. The need to limit global population growth is already here. It’s not unrealistic to expect to see something similar to China’s “One Child Per Family” policy take place within our lives, even as privileged Canadians.
  2. If you want to help the planet, don’t have any kids at all. Stop buying so much shit OR stop driving your car so much OR start sending even a small amount of money to Africa every month. I’m sending 2% of my annual pre-tax income and I haven’t noticed a difference in my quality of life at all. But you can bet those 400 kids that now have mosquito nets and aren’t getting fucking malaria can tell the difference! Go to http://www.charityscience.com/ and start sending money right now. ($6 prevents 2 kids from getting malaria for 1 year. If they don’t have malaria they can go to school. If they go to school their odds of getting out of poverty are exponentially higher. Source: Doing Good Better by William MacAskill.) If you actually sign up to send cash each month, say so in the comments below so we can peer-pressure more people into doing it. Any amount is infinitely better than nothing. We are the richest 1% on the planet. We can afford it.

Is Adulthood the Death of Fun?

Apparently I stopped having fun a long time ago, and became all serious and cunty. This process didn’t happen quickly – and it didn’t happen on purpose. Gradually I just stopped doing the fun things I grew up doing.

Here’s an example: my snowboard has been sitting in my basement gathering dust for probably 5 years now. My parents used to take me to the local resorts several times each winter when I was younger. We even did week-long ski trips! Then when I was in high school my friends and I still snowboarded a fair bit. One of us would borrow a car, and we’d all pile in and go. In college I went a handful of times, maybe once or twice a year. Post college I stopped altogether. Snowboarding became extinct in my world.

Here’s another example: skateboarding. I picked up skateboarding in grade 6ish and was avid for the next 8 years of my life. The skateboard became less about fun and more about transpo in college. Then I got a motorcycle and never skateboarded again. It was either the motorcycle or a car, and rarely a bicycle. But never a skateboard. I was mentally comparing the skateboard to the other vehicles from a transpo perspective, and naturally it lost every time. Fun wasn’t even a consideration. Until now, I don’t think I’ve ever really thought about how fucked that is… that I don’t think about having fun. I don’t try to have fun. I schedule in things that are probably going to be fun, like camping and parties and sports during the week. But day-to-day fun? No. Normal days are for work. I don’t expect to have any fun on a work day.

Super. Fucked. Up.

Rewind to when I was a kid, I made it my god damn business to have fun every day. Hockey, lego, building dirt huts for G.I. Joes, Shooting G.I. Joes with a pellet rifle, throwing a football, playing street hockey, throwing rocks at a telephone post. FUN SHIT WHENEVER POSSIBLE. EVERY SINGLE DAY WITHOUT FAIL.

For adults, even at sports, come to think of it, fun is an afterthought. We play sports for “adult” reasons like the often cited “I need to stay in shape” or “it’s a good way to socialize.” What the fuck does any of that even mean? It means we’re all cunts. Boring, dusty, cunts. (Unless you’re the rare bird who plays sports for the fun of it, then you’re exempt from being a cunt.)

Adult sports teams mostly want to win. Adult athletes generally evaluate their level of enjoyment based on whether they’re winning or losing, making good plays or not. We analyze it and poke at it and inspect it. I think that’s OK now and then, but not as the norm. I think we should be playing sports with the primary reason of sports are fun as fuck to play. We don’t do sports. We play sports. We’re all playing together. That’s all it is. We should be aiming to have as much fun as we can, not arguing about calls or fouls or other bullshit. And hey, I’m like that too. I’m guilty! I get all angry and shitty when I’m playing sports. It’s no good! I need to fucking stop and slap myself and get back to the basic, simple fun of it.

Recently I did something new. I took my skateboard on the GO train because my bicycle wasn’t allowed during rush hour. It was busy in Toronto so I did a lot of weaving through crowds, at a good clip. The weaving was different than just going straight, from point A to point B. The weaving was fun. I was accidentally having fun again. I didn’t realize that I’d ever stopped having fun on a skateboard. I also didn’t keep it up. Months went by, and I still didn’t skateboard for fun.

Today I took Isla out for a rip in her stroller. I took my skateboard too. Pushing a stroller is a fuck of a lot more fun when you’re on a skateboard. The stroller wants to go the opposite way I lean on it, so if I lose my balance a little and push on the stroller things get interesting! It was fucking awesome. Isla loved it. I loved it. We covered like 4k. We went fast. I got stares from everyone. One guy yelled, “Yaaaa you’ve figured it out!” and I yelled “Quality parenting right here!”

Isla on my skateboard

I also play Pokemon Go, so I caught a bunch of Pokemons too.

We also somewhat bombed down a couple hills that we maybe shouldn’t have. That’s the only part that felt a little unsafe and we’ll definitely bring helmets for the next round because the hills were the best part.

Galavanting concluded as 6 o’clock rolled around, so to speak, and we headed home for Isla’s dinnerbathbedtime. Baby down, Lia hopped over to the other side of the house to get some painting done in the bathroom. I was left to my own devices and figured hey, fuck it, I’m going out to tear around a bit more.

I found a parking lot, freshly paved, and shredded the fuck out of it.

Kids yelled at me “HEY COOL TECHNIQUE!” because I was pumping the skateboard like a surfboard. And it was cool technique. Remember, I spent 8 years skateboarding. I’m pretty fucking good at it. And now I surf too, it’s a surefire combo for looking dope as fuck to a bunch of high schoolers.

For reference, this is how Kelly fucking Slater pumps a surfboard!

I found a couple hills and bombed down them (nearly wiped out on a wide turn at the bottom of the last hill, but held on)!

It’s the most fun I’ve had in months.

We don’t need to drink to have fun. We can do things we did as kids, that’s fun too. I’m not anti-drinking, but I am anti-not-doing-fun-shit-you-used-to-do-as-a-kid. If you wanna get drunk and play with lego, I’d be your first and biggest and possibly only fan. But I expect a lot of people would be jealous of your “childish” ass, deep down. So do it.

Fun and work can coexist in the same day. I think it needs to. Otherwise, the best we can hope for is a fun to boring ratio of 2:5. Not so hot.

I’m going to be trying harder not to be such a serious cunt and to just have fun again.

Adulthood is not the death of fun.

This is your invitation to play again.

Because, according to the immutable genius of Taylor Swift, you’ve got two choices:

The player’s gonna play and the hater’s gonna hate.