Saturday, August 31, 2019

Zip Zippers

Previously I wrote about carrying a hundred dollars in assorted bills for unexpected expenses.  By happenstance just a few hours after I wrote that, I had such an expense of exactly that amount while I was out and about.  This has inspired me to write another practical advice blog entry.

Zip zippers.  Unzipped containers tend to leak their contents.  Even if you need to access the contents again soon, zip it up just in case you forget later.  Even if it is empty, zip it up just to keep spiders from nesting in there.

Lock doors.  If a door is unlocked, a child might enter and get trapped inside.  Even if you intend to come right back, lock the door before you go because you might get distracted.  An unlocked door is an unnecessary temptation but a locked door is peace of mind.

Shut cabinets.  Cabinet doors keep dust and vermin off of your items.  It is easier to focus in a work area when you do not have to keep remembering to dodge the open cabinet doors around you as you move.  A room looks less cluttered when cabinet doors are shut.

Close drawers.  People will bump into an open drawer and injure themselves if they do not see or remember that is open.  If enough drawers are open on a dresser or file cabinet, the whole thing will tip over.  An open drawer is a temptation to a child to either investigate or climb.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Cryonics Symposium

I recently watched the live stream of the Cryonics Symposium International hosted by the Church of Perpetual Life.  It was interesting to see how cryonics is spreading to other countries.  You can watch the recorded video on YouTube if you missed it.

The moderator of the event Rudi Hoffman is my cryonics life insurance agent.  He briefly mentioned that he wrote a book on the topic which I have read and can recommend.  If you are interested in signing up for cryonics, consider reading The Affordable Immortal: Maybe You Can Beat Death and Taxes.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Carrying Cash

I rarely use cash nowadays.  Paying with a credit card is more convenient than paying with cash and managing pocket change.  Plus some credit cards provide a benefit for using them such as a reward on each transaction of a percentage of the purchase price.

Because I use my credit cards for all of my purchases, any cash that I put in my wallet for emergencies is likely to stay there untouched for a long time.  Of course if I lose my wallet, I will lose the cash.  I need to balance the risk of not having enough cash on me to cover a future emergency versus the risk of the potential harm from losing all of the cash if I drop my wallet.

I have decided that the amount of cash that I should carry on me at all times is just enough to make change for any bill.  This means that I can break a five-, ten-, twenty-, fifty-, or one hundred-dollar bill upon request.  Here is what I carry:
  • Five one-dollar bills
  • One five-dollar bill
  • Two ten-dollar bills
  • One twenty-dollar bill
  • One fifty-dollar bill
This adds up to an even one hundred dollars.  This is a nice big round number which is easy to remember when you need to know how much cash you have on you.  One hundred dollars is enough without being too much.

Thursday, May 30, 2019


Recently my neuroscience reading group covered the book The Psychopath Inside: A Neuroscientist's Personal Journey into the Dark Side of the Brain by James Fallon.  Sociopaths might be more inclined to abuse others because they lack empathy.  I think the author wrote that some one percent of women and three percent of men are sociopaths

Discovering that as many as one in thirty-three men are sociopaths has impressed me.  It certainly explains a lot both in my personal experience and the history of humanity in general.  I am now more inclined to search for the signs when I meet new people so that I can take defensive measures when dealing with one.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Family Funday

My wife Shannon and I decided to try what has been called Screenless Saturdays or Digital Sabbath. Our specific variation on this popular practice is to ban any form of electronic entertainment from bedtime at eight P.M. until that same time the next day. The idea is to disconnect from devices and reconnect with each other in person.

I started by unplugging the Internet router and confiscating my child's smartphone. Complaints started immediately from those in the habit of falling asleep watching television. I picked up a book that has been on my headboard shelf for a long time.

The next morning, the children slept in instead of arising early to play on their computers in the living room as they usually do. When everyone was up, we drove to the city zoo. In between bouts of fun, a child would grumble a bit, having momentarily remembered to protest.

We read to the children and played card games with them. I introduced the children to a word game in which players make up a story together by each adding one word in turn. The children played with the bubble machine and dug in the sand.

I did yard work without the benefit of an audiobook or music. I know I am old now because my mind has a lifetime of memories to ruminate over while my hands are engaged in menial labor. I guess some quiet time is needed to sort things out.

I chose Saturday instead of Sunday as our day of electronic abstinence because our local sailing club frequently meets on Saturdays. In the past, our children have been reluctant to leave their computers to go sailing with me on a pleasant day. I am hoping they will make different choices now that it is sailing versus board games.

Speaking of board games, books, and blankets, I think this also ties in to the hygge trend. Part of being cozy and comfortable with those around you is being present. This is hard to do when locked into perpetual combat in a virtual Valhalla.

Saturday, March 30, 2019


I dropped off of Facebook back in 2013 after learning that their end user license agreement required you to let them post ads to your friends that appeared as messages from you endorsing products such as herbal supplements for weight loss.  The endorsements were false in that you were not given an opportunity to review the ads or the products before they were posted in your name.  It is unethical to deceive your friends so I switched to Google+.

Google+ is shutting down in a few days so I have switched again.  For my new social network service, I chose MeWe because of its emphasis on protecting user privacy.  I invite you to connect to me on MeWe by using this link:

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Household Cash Flow

My wife Shannon and I manage our household cash flow use an old copy of the desktop software application Quicken.  Instead of entering our transactions as we go, we enter our anticipated credits and debits for up to a year in advance.  If our account balance goes negative in the future, Quicken shows the balance as red which alerts us ahead of time that we will need to shuffle some cash around.

Quicken software is probably overkill for this purpose so I am not sure that we can endorse it, especially since we are not using the current version.  I am guessing you could instead use a spreadsheet for this purpose.  The main point is that you want to be able to see in time to do something about it whether buying something today will make your balance dip below zero in the future.

As much as possible, we use our two percent cashback credit card and our five percent cashback store card for our bills and purchases.  To avoid paying interest, we pay them both off in full every month.  For budgeting purposes, we assume that our future credit card bills will be the average of our recent past credit card bills.

Keeping track of our household cash flow at this level of detail permits us to do some things with our money that require careful timing.  We can ensure that we can make our Health Savings Account  contribution just before we file our taxes so that we can take the maximum deduction.  We can also set aside money to pay off a credit card in full just as the zero percent introductory rate ends.

Juggling debt by transferring balances from one credit card to another to take advantage of introductory rates is risky because when one introductory rate ends there might not be a new credit card offer.  One could be stuck paying interest rates at levels that in the past would have been considered usurious.  The only way to play this game successfully is to be able to accurately forecast whether you will have enough cash in the bank to pay off the credit card in full if you need to when the introductory rate ends.

When I have recommended this kind of long-term budgeting at the detailed individual transaction level to family and friends in the past, a couple of folks with irregular earnings and expenses have objected to me that they would not like to do this because it would just show them that they do not have enough income to meet their outgo.  I find that in these cases you can enter a predicted deposit with the label "magic" for the amount that you need to keep things from going in the red.  Knowing in advance how much your shortfall is somehow seems to make things work out right, possibly because you now know what to do with the unanticipated check that shows up in the mail.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Explicit Consent

A couple of decades ago when I was living in West Virginia, I made local news because I had publicly objected to a new city law requiring convenience stores to mount security video cameras.  These cameras and their recordings were to be accessible to the police at any time.  Effectively these were government electronic surveillance devices within privately-owned places of business in which the businesses were obligated to purchase, operate, and maintain the equipment on behalf of the government.

About a decade later, I was shocked to learn that audio monitoring was used at a state university library desk where library patrons request books and information.  Apparently you grant implicit consent to having your conversations recorded merely by entering a building in which a decal has been positioned somewhere within to meet the minimum legal requirements for notification of monitoring.  It was not apparent to me that there was an option to deny consent to audio monitoring and still be able to use this government public facility.

More recently as a juror, I saw a video and audio recording used as evidence against a defendant in a trial in which it was clear that the defendant was not aware that he was being recorded.  Failing to notice that a camera in the back and off to the side of the interrogation room was still recording after the police had left, the arrested man had mistakenly assumed that his verbalized slurs against his accuser were private to himself.  These angry mutterings were later used against him in court in what I assume was an attempt to show state of mind.

This month I was checking out a local makerspace which provides members with shared onsite access to woodworking tools, 3D printers, electronics equipment, and virtual reality gear.  The makerspace I visited also provides video and board games for use by members and visitors.  Attendees are encouraged to socialize and learn from each other in an environment conducive to the collaborative exchange of ideas.

About an hour into my visit, I discovered the video and audio monitoring notice on the snack room refrigerator.  I then spotted the video camera above the couch where I was sitting and had been talking with others.  If I had first seen the video camera before reading the notice, I would not have assumed by default that there were also microphones that could record my conversations as well.

What security benefit does audio monitoring provide over video monitoring other than providing evidence of spoken thoughtcrime? Since the privacy versus security trade-off is much worse with regard to audio monitoring compared to video, there should be a higher bar above and beyond that of implicit consent.  Just as we currently have laws in some states forbidding hidden video cameras where people have a reasonable expectation of privacy such as bathrooms and changing rooms, we should also have a law banning audio monitoring without explicit consent anywhere microphones are not immediately obvious to those within recording range since all conversations are potentially private.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Optihumanist Principles 2018

In my annual update to the Optihumanist Principles last year, I replaced "Reason and the Scientific Method are paths to the truth" with "We uphold reason and science as paths to the truth".  At the time, this seemed a bit redundant to me with the following statement later in the document that "We answer the call for a new religion compatible with reason and science".  I resolved to fix it in a future version.

When I write "We answer the call for a new religion", I refer to the 1933 document written by the original Religious Humanists now known as the Humanist Manifesto I: "Religion must formulate its hopes and plans in the light of the scientific spirit and method."  To make it clear that Optihumanism is a direct response to this call, I have revised the Optihumanist Principles to state:
We answer the call for a new religion compatible with the scientific spirit.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Stimming as Applause

My autism-spectrum son frequently engages in stimming behavior when he is excited by YouTube videos featuring computer games. Wikipedia describes stimming as:
Self-stimulatory behavior, also known as stimming and self-stimulation, is the repetition of physical movements, sounds, or words, or the repetitive movement of objects common in individuals with developmental disabilities and most prevalent in people with autism spectrum disorders. [...] It is considered a protective response to over-stimulation [...].
To me it appears that he is so pleased by what he is watching that he is shaking uncontrollably with excitement.  Whereas his stimming behavior used to consist primarily of rocking and arm flapping, it is now frequently supplemented by short bursts of rapid claps.

Wikipedia describes applause as:
Applause (Latin applaudere, to strike upon, clap) is primarily a form of ovation by the act of clapping, or striking the palms of the hands together, in order to create noise.  [...] The age of the custom of applauding is uncertain, but it is widespread among human cultures.
I speculate that applause clapping as a learned cultural phenomenon to express pleasure in response to entertainment has its origins in the mimicry of autism-spectrum stimming.