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

Galveston

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

Luxhom

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

Scottsdale

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.









Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Super Blood Moon

I took photographs of the super blood moon a couple of days ago by holding my mobile phone camera up to the eyepiece of our telescope.  I was able to share this experience with my wife and our boys.  The next time there is a super blood moon, all of my sons will be men.





Monday, August 31, 2015

Pacific Northwest

I recently visited the Pacific Northwest for the first time.  A number of my friends and family members have moved out there over the last few years.  They just love it and have been sending me pictures of the beautiful scenery.

I was curious to see it for myself as I have been thinking about moving from landlocked Silicon Prairie to somewhere with access to the ocean, that is not as hot, and that has less mosquitoes.  By coincidence, I discovered while I was there that one of my oldest friends had recently made the jump from Silicon Valley to Portland just a few months ago.  Apparently, this is a trend.

If you visit Port Angeles, take a quick drive up into the mountains to see the unique clear blue waters of Lake Crescent.  While in Seattle, be sure to ride the Ducks, amphibious tour buses that drive into the water to become boats.  Go see why Portland was ranked one of the world's most livable cities.

My thanks to my Pacific Northwest family and friends for showing me their new homes and giving me tours of their new home cities.


Oregon City, a suburb of Portland, the "City of Bridges"
Downtown Port Angeles
Port Angeles Waterfront
Lake Crescent
Seattle Waterfront
Lake Union
Riding the Ducks

Friday, July 31, 2015

First Catfish

I recently caught my first catfish.  I think this is the first fish that I have caught that was bigger than a panfish.  All of my previous catches might have been bluegill.

Unlike a bluegill, this catfish did not put up much of a fight.  Within a few seconds of my first cast of the chicken liver into the water, I thought I might have felt a tug.  I could not tell for sure so I started reeling it in slowly.  I stopped reeling after a bit as there was no resistance.  When the line kept moving toward me, however, I then realized that I had something.

The body of this catfish was pretty scrawny relative to the size of its head.  It looked like it had seen better times.  When I released the fish back into the water, it swam away languidly.  Until just recently, nobody had been fishing this cattle watering "tank" on the family farm for many years.  I suspect that the catfish population contained in this tiny pond is at a Malthusian limit.

My son Tom paddled around in a kayak while fishing.   Unlike his younger brothers, Abe and Ted, Tom has yet to catch his first fish.  The next time we go to the farm, we might take him to the other pond where there is plenty of bluegill that love redworms.

As the sun started to set, you could see Venus just above the crescent moon.  It was bright enough that you could see it reflected in the water.  Later and more faintly, a third point of light joined the others, mighty Jupiter.

My thanks to my brother Steven for hosting this event and taking the picture of me with my catch.  Click on the photos below to see them full-size.