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.
I’m blogging so I don’t go on my phone and play chess. The robots in Westworld run loops every day, and I do too. Their loops are programmed by someone else, my loops are programmed (I hope) by me.
Sometimes I take a step back and look at my loops. The day is made up of a handful of them. Routines. There are bigger routines for the week, and the season, and the year. I live with them. We all do.
I don’t think I’ve actively created my loops. I think they’ve just come into existence naturally. They seem to form mostly utilitarian functions. I don’t think loops are good or bad for the most part, they’re just helpful so we can get shit done without having to spend lots of brain energy making decisions.
So maybe loops are a product of our brains going into a “decision-economy” mode, and allowing for some surplus mental power.
Surplus mental power, mmmmmmmmm.
The problem is I rarely spend my surplus mental power on anything useful. I sit the fuck down and play games on my phone is what I do. Like a lazy cunt. But sometimes when I do something NEW that I’ve never done before, that’s when shit is amazing. That’s when that extra brain energy gets SPENT instead of getting sucked out of my eyeballs by my phone screen.
Spending brain power on new things feels good. As we get older, we need to put more effort into seeking out and doing new shit. Kids don’t need to worry about this yet. Everything is new. I showed Isla a paper-thin sheet of ice today melting under a slow trickle of water from the tap and it blew her mind. The way the ice melted with a bit of water running over it blew my mind too, because I was looking at it with Isla and really paying attention. I’d never tried melting ice with water to make it look cool. It had all these holes like swiss cheese, and was spiky like antlers, and so thin it felt like it was barely there. It was amazing for a few seconds where the ice was in that insanely delicate stage, I’d turned off the water and the warmth of the air was still causing it to melt and change rapidly.
Another way I found “new” was cooking some dinners I’d never done before. Just following recipes that had awesome ratings online. You know how people talk about being in the “zone”? I was in the fucking zone, baby.
How you can tell you’re in the zone:
You lose track of time.
You are consumed with what you’re doing.
You aren’t thinking about the past or the future. You’re PRESENT.
You have that feeling that you’re in the fucking ZONE, bitches.
So I guess the moral of this blog post is to let your loops be loops, don’t get too worried about life being Groundhog Day. Just be the version of Bill Murray who gets in the zone and does a bunch of new things and learns how to play piano. Don’t be the version of Bill Murray who turns into an asshole and shits all over everyone because he’s fucking miserable. The difference between the two Bills is zonal positioning – one is fucking in, the other is fucking out.
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.
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.
At home the toilet seat stays down. Things can’t fall in, and Lia doesn’t like to touch the seat. Makes her feel gross.
But shared public washrooms got me thinking.
I want to be as courteous as possible for the next person, so sometimes when I’m feeling all do-goody I get a wad of TP and sop up all the piss covering the seat, lift the seat, piss in the bowl, and return the seat to the down position. It might seem like this is absolutely the kindest possible thing to do for women everywhere, but it isn’t and I’ll tell you why. The “Clean Seat Down” policy benefits the next person if she happens to be a woman, or a guy that needs to shit, but there’s third person who fucks everything up. If the next person’s a man needing to pee, there’s a good chance he’s not going to lift the perfectly clean seat. He’s going to enter the scenario with the best intentions possible, telling himself he has perfect aim and fully planning to leave the seat spotless. But alas, nobody’s aim is perfect all the time. Even a dude with really good aim is going to get a few tiny, piss-mist (or piss-missed) splatters on the seat which, unto itself doesn’t seem like a flagrant breach of public dual-sex bathroom etiquette. Piss mist is easy on the conscience. Lots of guys leave piss mist without a second thought. “Hey,” he thinks, “at least I’m not that asshole that pisses all over the seat.” He zips up and walks away feeling pretty good about himself. But really, he IS the asshole that fucked everything up.
Here’s how: The piss-mister puts the next pisser in a pickle. If the next pisser is a lady, she’s got to wipe up those little piss speckles, or hover. If the next pisser is a guy, he’s going to spy those few speckles of missed piss and go, “Hey! This seat’s all ready been peed on! I’m not lifting this seat and touching that gross piss.” So he pees, probably pretty carelessly, and from there things just get horrible. Guy after guy visit the stall with decreasing give a fuck about where their streams end up.
I’ve been there. If I show up and the seat’s a write off, I’m not at all careful about aiming. The damage is done. Total mob-mentality and diffusion of responsibility. I’m guilty. But I want to change. That’s why I’ve given this so much thought.
And all that thinking about public toilet seats lead to this epiphany: It’s better to leave the seat up.
I just checked with Lia and she said if she finds the seat up, she uses her foot to lower it. This is way better than Lia having to wipe up piss, or hover over a pissy seat.
And, if the seat’s clean when I show up, I don’t even have to touch it. I can lift it with my foot pretty easily.
Now that I’ve written this post I’ll probably also use a handful of toilet paper to wipe the pissed-on-seat before lifting it and leaving it. Just to be able to feel like a hero to all of womanity.
Did this post bring public bathroom horror stories to mind? Leave them in the comments!
This week I made a few things, and it felt awesome. In keeping with my previous post Is Adulthood The Death Of Fun, I’ve been consciously having more fun during the week. Doing those things I’ve been meaning to do.
To kick it off, I finally got around to brewing beer. During the process, I was fairly certain I’d never do it again. Luke, a friend with brewing experience, says this is how most new brewers feel. It’s a lot of work. BUT, after the brewing is complete, you have this beautiful bubbling jug of (very nasty looking) India Pale Ale:
I’m a big advocate of doing things that are intrinsically rewarding. Brewing beer wasn’t like that for me. But the payoff at the end of even just looking at it every day while it ferments is very rewarding. Enough so that I’d do it again, with better gear, and more people to share the work. I picture brewing a large batch with several buddies as being some real good fun.
My friend Tyler knows how to make sourdough bread, so I asked him to teach me. I didn’t even care to know how to make sourdough specifically, I would have been happy with just mixing water and flour and baking it. But that’s not how Tyler does things so instead we tackled one of the most difficult breads, and it took several days. This is what resulted:
Riding high having just baked that awesome loaf, I tried a solo bake at home and failed utterly. The dough was all soupy, it wasn’t even bakable. I had to chuck it.
Sourdough is a god damn tricky process. You’re working with water, flour, and yeast that just floats around in the air. That was a revelation for me, the fact that you don’t add yeast. It just kind of finds your mix and gets in there and starts colonizing. Awesome. You can’t even take yeast from one place and use it in another, long term. The local yeast will just take over, and your foreign yeast disappears. So the most important thing about French bread, it turns out, could be that it’s made in France where the yeast is apparently awesome. That’s how I interpret it anyway. That and they really know how to fucking bake in France.
This is the opposite of beer. I love everything about the early stages of getting wood ready for the winter. Hiking out and finding some decent lumber, hauling it home, cutting it into logs, stacking it inside. The whole thing feels amazing. This is how I imagine squirrels feel.
Lia and I talk about “feeling rich” when we have certain things taken care of. Like groceries. A full fridge makes us feel rich. A stocked wood cubby makes me feel rich too. It just looks abundant. I just sit there and stare at my wood sometimes. It’s almost a shame to burn some of these pieces, they’re gorgeous.
I don’t draw anymore and it’s a fucking tragedy. I used to absolutely love to draw. But then I went to college and spent 4 years learning how to draw better, which was great, but I also learned how to look at art and mentally dissect every little thing about it. Being hyper-critical ruined the fun for me, and I stopped drawing because my mind wouldn’t get out of the way. I was pissing myself off. But now I’m finally getting my toes back in the water and it feels great. Lia was gum ball machine for halloween so I was a quarter.
I drew it with sharpies.
So that’s it! If you’ve been doing anything cool and new, throw it in the comments! Let’s dog-pile some fun shit!
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 internalresistance. 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.
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:
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.
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.
The new version of Monopoly is played with bank cards instead of paper money. The game’s still fun, and goes a lot faster than the original version, but it does away with our ability to fuck with the rules (because there’s a central card reader which keeps track of player cash balances and property holdings. No more free-wheeling land trades or desperate negotiations because you’re broke! In the old game, my specialty was piling up a lot of cash then going for a “night on the town” and blowing it all on expensive hotels (which I never owned). I was generally out first.
Playing the new Monopoly got me wondering about old games vs. modern games, and why I preferred some over others. I think it comes down to the same reason why my jiu jitsu instructor preferred grappling over striking. Jiu jitsu over boxing or muay thai.
“It’s rare, but an amateur can get lucky and knock out a professional with a wild punch. That just doesn’t happen in jiu jitsu. On the ground, the amateur loses every single time.”
There’s no luck jiu jitsu. The better guy wins every time. I like that.
That’s also why I like chess. Both players have exactly the same pieces. There’s next to zero room for luck. Chess just gets out of the way and lets two people compete in as fair and true a way as humans have yet devised.
The best games do that. They move aside and let the competitors clash directly. The shittiest games do all the playing and the opponents are just puppets, playing out the will of the rules, the luck, and the dice.
Slot machines are shitty games.
Roulette is a shitty game.
Poker is a great game.
Most sports are excellent games.
Mobile games are almost all shitty. Clash of clans, which I was addicted to but am now playing less and less because of Pokemon GO, balances complex strategy and totally unfair match ups. As players progress in the game, they cannot be beaten by newer players – not because of increased skill but because of flat out better troops and defences.
Pokemon GO is similar. Brand new players have absolutely no chance of winning battles. Their pokemon just suck way too much. Advanced players dominate entire towns, only because they’ve been playing for longer. The longer you play Pokemon GO or Clash of Clans, the more powerful you become in those games.
I’m not a big fan of that. Playing something for a length of time shouldn’t guarantee progress. And that’s why I think it will eventually peter out and die like every other mobile game. It has a lifespan. You progress through the game, maybe you make it to the end, and then you either finish the game or quit.
Chess will never die. The pieces in chess don’t get better or worse. The amount of time someone plays chess guarantees nothing. It’s on the player to get better. The game doesn’t help us along.
This is maybe a reflection of our times vs our ancestors. Our ancestors invented chess, we invented Pokemon GO. Our ancestors were ballsy enough to fight with the same weapon as the new guy, year after year. We seem to think that we deserve a better weapon if we’ve been around for a while, so we can utterly obliterate the new guy.
This is why we’re a bunch of pussies and why our grandparents are so much tougher than we are. It’s also why the next generation is 100% useless compared to us.
Humans, in North America anyway, are getting really god damn soft.