Sunday, July 31, 2016

First Sail

Recently I sailed for the first time.  As part of a North Texas Sailing meetup on Grapevine Lake, I learned how to use the tiller of a Catalina 25.  A week later, I brought along my brother Steven and my two sons Abraham and Theodore so they could go on a sailboat for the first time as well.

I am learning how to sail as I am thinking about living on a catamaran someday.  For awhile now, I have been collecting and reading books and magazines about the lifestyle.  I have also been watching videos about making the transition from land to sea.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016


I recently finished playing and beating the new video game Doom at "Nightmare" difficulty.  In the past when I had mastered a previous release in the Doom game series, I would play it again with a rule of my own that I would have to restart from the very beginning when I died.  This new version of Doom has an "Ultra-Nightmare" difficulty level in which this is enforced.  Based partially on my experience with Sid Meier's Civilization, I have decided that Ultra-Nightmare is a mountain which need not be climbed.

When Doom first came out back in 1993, it was distributed as shareware which was free to copy and play.  Back in this pre-Web era, I was a system operator (sysop) running a modem-based bulletin board system (BBS).  Doom was the most popular shareware downloaded by my users because people loved that they could now play a 3D graphics first-person shooter on their desktop personal computers.

In my spare time, I was writing the code for a BBS from scratch with the goal of providing a platform that would support multiple players in the same online game at the same time.  I gave that up when I saw that the authors of Doom had it figured out.  I remember the novelty of playing Doom with co-workers on the office network at a company-sanctioned LAN party.

My whole family has enjoyed playing the various iterations of Doom over the years.  Recently one of my children was playing an older version of Doom running on Steam.  When he got stuck on one of the levels, I was able to help him progress by using my knowledge from playing that particular release of the game some two decades earlier.

Doom was created here where I live in the Dallas area and is probably largely responsible for the growth of the local game development industry.  Just before I took over teaching the class for a couple of semesters, one of the Doom founders, John Romero, used to teach game development at the University of Texas at Dallas.  Another Doom founder, John Carmack, launched a space flight company in the neighborhood.

One of the nice things about getting older is that the video games just keep getting better.  The next time I play Doom, I want to play it in virtual reality.  In the meantime, I think I will content myself with re-watching Doom the movie.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Daily Task Board

In previous blog entries, I described how I use magnets to indicate whether daily tasks were done or calories consumed.  For these checklists, all of the magnets start the day in the first column to indicate that the items are initially unchecked.  As items are finished, the magnets are then shifted to the second column to indicate that the items are checked.

For my daily tasks checklist, I was using "To-Do" as the label for my unchecked column and "Done" for checked.  As time went on, however, I found myself positioning the magnets just before or between the columns to indicate other states of progress.  My updated daily task board now uses four columns arranged in this order:  "Skipped", "To-Do", "Started", and "Done".

The "Skipped" state indicates that I did not finish the task on the previous day.  "Skipped" tasks are prioritized over "To-Do" tasks.  When I get so busy that I am repeatedly having trouble getting all of my daily tasks finished by bedtime, this technique helps ensure that I continue to rotate through all of my tasks without favoring some over others.

The "Started" state between "To-Do" and "Done" serves as a reminder that I have a task in progress that needs to be finished.  An example of this is laundry in the washing machine that needs to be pushed to the dryer before I go to sleep.  It can also mean that I have taken my morning pills but that I still need to take my evening pills.

I also use the "Started" state to indicate that I have done the minimum required for daily maintenance but that more could be done that day.  An example of a "Started" task of this sort is skimming my e-mail for high priority messages.  If later in the day I find the time to more thoroughly read and respond to my e-mail, I will then move the magnet from the "Started" column to the "Done" column.

The order of the columns on the board is significant in that progress always moves the magnets in the same direction.  It also makes it easy to reset the board at the beginning of a new day by simply moving all of the magnets back two columns or until they hit the edge.  "Done" becomes "To-Do" while "Started", "To-Do", and "Skipped" become "Skipped".

I like to use "pawn"-shaped magnets because they are easy to pluck from where they are stuck when I am ready to move them to another position.  Throughout the day, I strive to advance my pawns across the board to the "Done" state.  This transforms my list of daily tasks into an addictive territorial game.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Roy Score

In the sci-fi comedy animated television series Rick and Morty, an arcade game lets you play as "Roy", an average person in average circumstances. The player's in-game decisions create virtual outcomes for Roy from childhood to death.  This fictional game is apparently so immersive that you can forget that you are not actually Roy while you are playing.

Probably the closest thing we have to this in real life is The Sims 4.  This software lets you control virtual people by setting their initial predispositions and then overriding their individual choices as they interact with their virtual environments.  It is considered a software toy rather than a software game in that you play with it rather than "win" it.

In the fictional game "Roy: A Life Well Lived", however, there apparently is a score which can be thrashed by another player.  What are the bases for this "Roy score"? I have put together a list of potential factors with related links:

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Catch and Release

My eighteen-year-old son Benjamin caught his first fish.  Click on the photo below to see it full-size.

Ben caught it out of the same small pond where I caught my first catfish last year.  Unlike the scrawny specimen that I pulled out of the water, this one was healthy-looking.  Since we always catch and release, I wondered whether this was the exact same catfish that I had caught previously but just now seen in better times.  Hopefully the next time we catch it, it will be even bigger.

Sunday, February 28, 2016


Earlier this month, my son Benjamin and I went on another trip together.  This time we went to Galveston Island because I have boats on the mind.  I did a little bit of fishing at Fort San Jacinto Historic Point but I did not catching anything.  Serendipitously, we did catch the Mardis Gras parade along Seawall Boulevard.

After we got back, I discovered a new reality television series about a family-owned commercial fishing business in Galveston called Big Fish Texas.  After watching the first three episodes, I realized that the show must be semi-scripted as everything always seems to work out in the end.  In contrast, an older series that I am a couple of episodes into, Fishing with John, is so clearly unscripted that it is funny.  You can catch both of these series on Hulu.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Homes Are for Children

I recently had the opportunity to spend some time with my eighteen-year-old son Benjamin.  We visited with my parents for awhile.  After that, we visited my brother Steven on the family farm.  It is nice to be able to have some one-on-one time away from home with your older children.

There are a lot of places that my wife and I cannot go with our younger children.  This is disappointing.  People should strive to accommodate children more, whether it is at a public venue or in a private home.

While not all public places can be child-safe, all homes should be.  This is true even if children do not live there.  It should not be impossible for a friend or relative to bring their active toddler to visit for an afternoon.

A couple of my children have been playing a new computer simulation game entitled Who's Your Daddy.  It is a two-player first-person game in which the player controlling the father must keep a baby safe within the confines of a home for a fixed amount of time.  Perversely, the player controlling the highly mobile baby attempts everything possible to self-destruct using household items and appliances.  The game is darkly humorous but also educational and somewhat realistic.  To quote what a neighbor confided about her toddler, "All I do all day is save his life."

In addition to being safe for children, homes should be safe from children.  When choosing the height at which to hang a priceless painting, hosts should consider whether it would be improved by a touch of crayon.  Likewise, visiting parents should not have to be constantly restraining their children from playing with the fragile bric-a-brac on the coffee table.  A visit by children to a home should be a joy, not a stressful game of minimizing damage until time to leave.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Optihumanist Principles 2015

Wikipedia states that the Mormon Transhumanist Association syncretizes Mormonism and Transhumanism.  Here syncretization suggests a fusion which attempts to smooth over and reconcile the incompatibilities between differing belief systems.

Previously I wrote that I was going to redefine my own microreligion Optihumanism to be a combination of American Religious Humanism and Transhumanism.  One incompatibility between the two is that most Religious Humanists accept aging and death as natural and reject extreme life extension medical technologies such as cryonics.  An incompatibility on the other side is that most Transhumanists reject religion in all forms, including those with no supernatural elements.  

Overall, however, I call this a combination rather than a syncretization as the two go fairly well together.  In fact, I think it is inevitable that most Religious Humanists will eventually become Religious Transhumanists as future advances in medical technology are gradually accepted into the mainstream.  With regard to the acceptance of future forms of sentient life, most Religious Humanists come from religious traditions such as Unitarian Universalism which have historically provided welcoming environments to outsiders.

My newly updated Optihumanist Principles for 2015 reflects this combination.  It is a much shorter statement than my previous efforts and, by being shorter, I hope less exclusionary.  It is divided into four brief sections, the third of which espouses Transhumanism and the others which wrap it within the tradition of the Humanist Manifesto.

I will be revising the rest of the content at the Optihumanist website over time to reflect this shift.  This will include an update to my list of recommended books.  Some candidates that I am reading now include:

Friday, November 27, 2015


We had a great Thanksgiving dinner this year. My wife Shannon cooked the turkey upside-down so that the breast meat would stay moist. She also served all of the traditional side dishes such as stuffing, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, mashed potatoes, gravy, rolls, and sparkling cider.  At my request, we also had miniature pecan tarts because I recently became curious about butter tarts after hearing them referenced in the song "Steal My Sunshine" by Len.

It was the largest turkey we ever had so there was a lot left over for the next day.  As is our family tradition, Shannon served us "turkey pancakes" for breakfast this morning. To make turkey pancakes, she cuts leftover turkey into bite-sized bits and mixes it with the leftover stuffing. Raw eggs are then added to hold the mix together when patted into a pancake shape. After pan-frying, the "pancakes" are served with leftover cranberry sauce and gravy. It is one of my favorites.

Today was also Family Day, a holiday which is celebrated by eating dinner with your children. We have been having supper together as a family almost every night for over half a year now and it seems to be working out. Sometimes it is the only opportunity that I have all day to communicate with a busy teenager.

In addition to Family Day, another holiday that I have added to my list of Optihumanist Holidays is Luxhom. Like Vitaspes, the word Luxhom is a word that I made up by joining two Latin words. Lux means light in Latin and is also the English word for the name of the metric unit for illuminance. Hom is short for hominis which means human. In the same way that Christmas stands for "Christ mass", I was looking for a two-syllable variation on the name for the new holiday HumanLight.

HumanLight is celebrated on December 23rd which coincides roughly with the date of the Winter Solstice and the end of the ancient week-long Roman holiday Saturnalia. Until just recently, our family has always celebrated HumanLight on that day.

Starting last year, however, we started celebrating HumanLight on December 25th which coincides with Christmas and the ancient Roman holiday Dies Natalis Solis Invictus, the birthday of the Unconquered Sun. Shannon did not like that our holiday was winding down while others were still ramping up so we pushed our celebration back a couple of days.

So what now is Luxhom? Luxhom is a holiday like HumanLight except that it is celebrated on December 25th.

Saturday, October 17, 2015


I visited Scottsdale, Arizona last weekend to attend the triennial Alcor conference.  While I was there, I met members of different religious transhumanist organizations, including:
I call my own microreligion Optihumanism.  Recently I have been thinking about redefining Optihumanism to be the union of American Religious Humanism and Transhumanism.  This would broaden its scope to be more inclusive while drawing upon the heritage of two established traditions.