Saturday, September 26, 2020

Logotherapy

I recently finished listening to an audiobook recommended to me by a friend titled Man's Search for Meaning by Victor E. Frankl.  The author pointed out that those who had something to look forward to after the war were more likely to survive Nazi concentration camps.  The author treated his psychiatric patients using logotherapy in which patients are led to find their own reasons to live.

I like the idea that optimism helps you survive.  I agree with the author that people need to have some reason to get out of bed in the morning beyond the primitive drives of hunger, thirst, and caffeine addiction.  I also agree that it can help in cases of functional paralysis due to crippling fears of personal mortality.

To one patient who was depressed because he could not have children, the author pointed out that life on its own must have meaning beyond mere propagation.  When I think of one of my favorite movies Children of Men, I wonder if that is true.  I think a better suggestion for the patient might have been to adopt.

Another point on which I disagree with the author is his promotion of any reason for living when a patient is suicidal, whether it is true or not, so long as the patient will accept it.  For example, he lied to one patient by telling him that his current suffering would be rewarded in the afterlife.  I think finding some meaning based in reality is important and to do otherwise is likely to have negative long-term consequences.

The author pointed out that staying alive long enough to find a meaning of life in the future can become a sufficient meaning itself.  I think this works on the level of our species as a whole.  While spreading conscious life throughout the Universe seems worthwhile for what we are now, the descendants of Humanity at some future level of intelligence might determine deeper truths such as why the Universe exists and what that means with regard to our purpose within it.

 



Saturday, August 01, 2020

Storage Rotation

Everyone knows that when you store milk in your refrigerator, you put the containers with the most distant expiration dates behind containers with imminent dates. This ensures that your family is more likely to consume your oldest milk first before it expires. You due this to reduce waste.

Years ago I set up a first-in, first-out (FIFO) can storage organizer in my pantry. When I insert my cans into the top slot they roll to the back and then down behind the older cans. As I pull the oldest can out from the bottom slot, the next oldest can rolls forward.

More recently I have been using this practice of storage rotation for my clothing as well. To ensure even wear, I store my newly washed shirts on hangers behind my previously washed shirts. Bear in mind that one of my clever children once said that I dress like a cartoon character since I wear the same outfit every day.

I also started putting my newly laundered towels on the left side of the shelf and then sliding them over after I have used all of the towels on the right. I do the same for my socks so I can replace all of them at the same time when they reach a certain level of wear. When it comes time to replace all of my shirts, I might go down a size since I have been losing so much weight recently.

I have heard about parents rotating toys. They only provide a subset of the entire collection at a time. When an old toy comes back into rotation after being in the attic for some months, the children play with the toys as though they were new.

Look for more practical tips like these on my website Papa's Anthology of Paternal Advice.



Wednesday, July 01, 2020

One-up Card Game

I invented a road-trip card game for two or more players.  The rules of the game are simple and can be quickly learned by young children.  It is designed for play where there is no table for laying out cards such as playing from passenger seats in a vehicle so there is no draw pile and it does not require shuffling.

Each player starts with their own pack of cards as their hand.  If there is only a single pack of cards to be shared by all of the players, divide the pack between the players by suit colors or suits.  The time to play a game is proportional to the number of cards in a hand so some ranks or suits may be removed from play for a shorter game.

A player may view the card faces in their hand but should keep them hidden from the other players.  At the beginning of a round, each player selects a card from their hand and holds it out with the back of the card facing the other players.  After each player is holding out a card, all players simultaneously flip the cards around to reveal the ranks of the cards.

The player with the card with the highest rank adds all of the cards played that round face down onto their points pile.  If there is a tie for the highest rank, each player adds the card that they played that round to their own points pile, regardless of whether or not they were one of the two or more players that played the cards that tied for the highest rank.  Players may not review the faces of the cards in a points pile from their own points pile or that of another player.  A shirt pocket may be used to hold a points pile where there is no table space so long as the card faces are not showing.

The rounds continue until there are no more cards remaining in the player hands.  The winner of the game is the player with the most cards in their points pile.  Each pack should have a different card design so that the cards can be easily sorted back into their original packs after the game ends.

In some ways, this card game feels like playing the hand game Rock Paper Scissors except that a card can only be played once during a game.  Because of this, a player wants to avoid winning a round by playing a very high ranking card against very low ranking cards.  I named this card game "One-up" based on a winning strategy in which a player guesses the highest rank of the cards that will be played by the other players that round and then selects a card which is just one greater.


Monday, June 01, 2020

Paternal Advice

I decided to create a website collecting the advice that I want to pass on to my descendants.  I was able to get the website up and running tonight with some initial placeholder content.  I am calling it Papa's Anthology of Paternal Advice (PAPA).

I was inspired to create this website by similar books which were written by authors for the benefit of their children.  I have also heard that one should leave letters to your children to be read after you have passed.  As I document my thoughts on a variety of topics, I plan to keep in mind my children and grandchildren who are reading it as adults, possibly with children of their own.

I plan to harvest some of my essays from this blog to add to the site.  Eventually I might like to republish the PAPA website as a print book.  That way my descendants can have a tangible expression of my hopes for their success.


Monday, May 25, 2020

Weight Loss

For the last couple of months, I have been at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic travel restrictions.  Now that the "shelter at home" orders have been lifted, I finally got out of the house a couple of days ago to visit relatives at the family farm.  Since I have been wearing nothing but athletic shorts and t-shirts recently, it was a pleasant surprise when I put on my jeans and discovered that they were loose.

Over the last two-and-a-half months, I have lost twenty-two pounds.  I now weigh less than I have in more than seven very busy years.  I will explain how this serendipity became the silver lining in my coronavirus cloud.

It started in mid-March when I suddenly found that I had some unexpected free time on my hands due in part to the beginning of the pandemic.  To reduce stress, I converted that into treadmill time.  I was then able to achieve my daily goal of ten thousand (10k) steps per day on a consistent basis.

Shortly thereafter, my employer announced a step challenge for April with a gift card as a reward for each employee who reached a specified threshold.  Half-way through the month, my employer also announced that a matching amount would also go to a charity chosen by the participating employee.  That month I averaged 25k steps per day with a peak of 40k.

I have had a treadmill desk called a TrekDesk for five years but before April I had never really tried to use it while working from home.  Mostly I would just use it to walk while watching movies or playing multiplayer video games with my sons.  Because of the informal competition of seeing the recorded progress of other employees on a shared online spreadsheet, I decided to step up my game.

I was able to figure out a treadmill speed that was just fast enough that the pedometer on my mobile phone would consistently record a step while also still slow enough that I could continue to use the mouse and keyboard effectively.  I think this was only possible because I am a touch typist.  Once I was able to get into the zone while writing code, the time would slip away without me even noticing that I was also exercising.

I do the treading in two to four sessions per day.  I will tread for a bit, eat a meal, do some sit-down work for an hour or so while I digest, and then get back on the treadmill and repeat.  On some days when I am really motivated I will do my first treadmill session before I eat breakfast.

I think I have been losing weight by doing this for two reasons.  The first is that when I reach a certain excessive number of steps per day, I am going to lose weight no matter how much I eat.  Previously I have been able to lose weight by carefully counting my daily calories but this way just seems so much easier.

The second reason is that I am doing less snacking between meals.  I do not want to put food in my stomach if I know I am going back on the treadmill for another session soon.  I also do not want to snack at night when I am eagerly looking forward to weighing myself in the morning to see my progress.

I think getting good sleep is also an important factor in losing weight.  My extra free time lets me get to bed earlier which then makes it more likely that I will exercise more the next day.  To complete the virtuous circle, exercising more during the day helps me to fall asleep earlier at night.

There are a couple of reasons while I have persisted in continuing to walk daily since the step challenge ended almost a month ago.  The first is that now it has become a habit and I actually start to feel somewhat uncomfortable when I have not used the treadmill for awhile.  This corresponds with what I have heard about regular exercise becoming physically addictive.

This feels like some kind of cool mind hack like choosing video games that are both addictive and educational.  I am looking forward to the day when the virtual reality technology that lets you run while playing first-person multiplayer shooters becomes affordable for home use.  I think at that point the world-wide obesity epidemic will come to a screeching halt for the young male demographic.

Speaking of which, the other reason I am still striving to increase my average daily step count is that I know that "diabesity" is a major co-morbidity factor for COVID-19.  A couple of decades ago I was in bed for a month with pneumonia in which I constantly felt like I could not breathe.  I might say that for me personally there is a tinge of panic to this shared pandemic experience that has me "running" scared.



Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Minimalist Home

Previously I wrote about my Fits on the Boat approach to minimalism.  This month I finished reading the book The Minimalist Home by Joshua Becker.  I was able to find a large-print edition at my local library.

One of the best ideas in the book that was new to me was the concept of the "convenience fallacy".  Instead of leaving items out for easy access later, I now put my work papers and flip-flops away when I am not using them.  The benefits of having a clean desk and floor space and the effect on the room as a whole outweigh the minimal extra effort.

Another idea was to get rid of specialized tools that do not work as well as simpler tools.  After reading this, I happily threw away my three-in-one avocado slicer without a trace of guilt.  I find that using a knife and a spoon is at least as effective.

The author describes his "Becker method" for de-cluttering a house.  My simpler approach is to find something to get rid of each day.  I have added the task "Minimize" to my advancing tasks grid for daily maintenance.

When I am struggling to find something that I am willing to get rid of on a particular day, I will often resort to simply throwing away an unread magazine.  I am of the opinion that a magazine that I have already read does not count for this purpose as this is also about unburdening myself from unnecessary obligations.  Minimalism is about clearing the way, in both space and time, for new chapters in your life.



Saturday, March 21, 2020

Seven at Sea

I just finished reading the book Seven at Sea by Erik and Emily Orton in which parents describe their adventures sailing with their five children.  Stressed out by the struggle to get by in the big city, the family takes off for a year in the cruising catamaran Fezywig.  They later return to the comforts of home but then continue to seek escape as summarized in the epilogue.

It was an interesting contrast with another cruising family that I have been watching on YouTube, the crew of Zatara.  Recently I had a chance to attend a meet-and-greet event with the Sailing Zatara family in Flower Mound, Texas.  You can see me briefly in the background of their latest video.

The main difference between the two crews is how much money they had to spend for their journeys.  For Fezywig, the trip was a temporary respite which left them financially drained.  For Zatara, going back to land is just a vacation from their vacation because they are enjoying a well-funded early retirement.

The main similarity is how the fathers were stressed out by their careers and craved more time with their families while their children were still young.  These fathers sought the refuge of blue space.  I also see this in the first few minutes of the first episode of Travels by Narrowboat in which a man describes the burnout that is his life and then enthuses about gliding away from it all.



Saturday, February 29, 2020

Sailing Zatara

One of my favorite YouTube channels is Sailing Zatara in which a couple documents their adventures sailing around the world on a cruising catamaran with their four youngest children.  Their oldest child is not on the boat with them since she recently gave birth.  The family is able to enjoy this alternative lifestyle because they are living off of retirement savings.

In a previous blog entry Floating Families, I noted that alternative lifestyles are often not sustainable through multiple generations.  When the crew of Sailing Zatara came to the Dallas area where I live for a meet-and-greet recently, I asked during the question and answer session how likely it was that their children would be raising their grandchildren on a boat.  The parents identified by name which of their children probably would or would not and mentioned that their oldest daughter and grandchild might join them on the boat in the next season of the show.

This response also answered my unspoken question as to how the next generation could afford to raise a family while continuously traveling.  In this case, it appears that in the initial phase the second and third generations will live off of the accumulated wealth that was earned by the first generation from working on land.  I can see where the children might be able to sustain this lifestyle at sea by growing income from a spin-off YouTube channel and its associated branded merchandise.

In the 1952 novel The Rolling Stones by my favorite science fiction writer Robert Heinlein, the fictional "Space Family Stone" sustains their space-cruising lifestyle by writing scripts for a television series in addition to dabbling in trade.  I think the key here is that this sort of migratory lifestyle can work for those who are able to telecommute, especially those who are able to create intellectual property wherever they might happen to be from day to day.  While earning a living as a seafaring family strictly from YouTube celebrity will not be possible for most due to eventual market saturation, I can imagine getting by doing something more mundane such as writing software for mobile and web applications.


Friday, January 31, 2020

Gratitude

One of my favorite YouTube channels Kurzgesagt -- In a Nutshell has a new video which proposes that gratitude can be An Antidote to Dissatisfaction.  They suggest that the feeling of gratitude has its evolutionary origins in reciprocity.  To be happier, they advise, keep a gratitude journal.

The Stoics reasoned that all of our joys and sorrows are ephemeral.  Documenting what you have good right now might someday come to seem at best bittersweet and at worst a painful reminder of loss.  Health, wealth, and wisdom all eventually fade.

The Stoics did not seem to recognize that there are indeed some things to get excited about.  Blessings that extend into perpetuity, such as children and grandchildren, still matter even after you are no longer capable of caring.  I think a gratitude journal should focus on those things that survive you after death.

I am grateful for the following:
  • My children and all of my future descendants
  • That my children will raise their children in freedom
  • That happiness for all people is gradually improving over time
  • That future medical technology will eventually conquer death
  • That the offspring of humanity will expand conscious life throughout the Universe



Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Optihumanist Principles 2019

For 2019, I am updating the Optihumanist Principles to emphasize Optimism:
Optimism is prerequisite.  We pursue our goals tenaciously despite repeated setbacks.  We recognize long-term incremental progress.  We hope for the best and prepare for the best.