Like architecture?

Most importantly, I think we need more software that’s done—not allof it, just more of it. Just like we’re always going to have prefab buildings to serve a particular function at a particular time, software that continues to change and improve pushes us forward and is absolutely necessary. But maybe it’s ok for that app you’re working on to be done. And by going into it with a realization that it’s going to be done some day, you might even make something that lasts for decades.

~ Rian van der Merwe, from https://alistapart.com/column/the-analog-revolution/

It’s taken me a long time–like, maybe, right up until about ten minutes ago… It’s taken me a long time to realize just how much I enjoy creating physical artifacts. I built a bunch of universes worth of stuff with Legos as a kid, lots of model airplanes, and a scratch-built glider that I flew untold hours. With the help of various others, I built a complex shed from plans I purchased, and a small retaining wall that solved a fundamental problem with how our home was built 60 years ago.

The internet and computers clicked right into my obsession for understanding things and for making things work. The ephemeral nature of the digital things I’ve built, or been involved with, over the years is a big positive; it enables one to take big swings with vastly reduced down-sides. On the other hand, it’s ephemeral.

I know exactly where and when I became inspired to start this, my web site. The inspiration arose from within me. At the time it was because I felt I had something to say—something to share. At the time I already had a long established personal website which I tossed in the trash bin and started anew. It turns out, I now see, that what I really had was the ongoing urge to think and learn and to build something as permanent as is possible on the internet.

Today, it may well be that I do have something unique and interesting to share. (…or it may be I don’t.) But I’m quite certain that the thinking and learning I lured myself into, day after day as I built this site one post at a time, was without exaggeration the smartest thing I have ever done (and will continue to do.)

Are you too called to create?

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The arbiter of truth

What is the arbiter of truth? Some things might be unknowable, and some questions might be unanswerable. But for everything else, what is the arbiter of truth?

The really big questions— Why are we here? What’s the meaning of life? The really big questions may not have answers. But for everything else, what is the arbiter of truth?

How do you decide if you have the correct answer to a question?

How do you decide what to do next? You just finished something and time is marching on; what will you do with the next moment?

How do you decide what to not do? Suppose some topic interests you; how do you decide how much time you should spend on it?

Difficult questions, certainly. Can you think of any questions which are more important than these?

If not, what are you doing to work on finding answers to these questions?

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Self-improvement

If you’re the sort of person for whom success in life means stepping outside the comfort zone that your parents and high school counselor charted out for you, if you’re willing to explore spaces of consciousness and relationships that other people warn you about, if you compare yourself only to who you were yesterday and not to who someone else is today…

~ Jacobian from, https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/8xLtE3BwgegJ7WBbf/is-rationalist-self-improvement-real

Wait. Wat?! Some people think self-improvement isn’t real?

I mean, if you are not using your rational faculties to improve yourself… Honestly, that’s redundant; How could one improve oneself without using rationality? I suppose one could just make random changes, (which seems to be what a lot of people do,) but as soon as you observe and reflect, then you are engaging your rationality. To be human is to be all the things the animals are, and to have the ability to be—to various degrees at various times—rational.

There’s a reason I really like the three words: Observation. Reflection. Efficacy.

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A new year’s question?

Instead of the usual resolution for a new year…

What is a new question you could ask yourself?

A completely new question. One you’ve never challenged yourself with before. Some question you’ve never previously considered.

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Once things click

It is amazing how obvious things are once you figure them out. Something I struggle to understand, can instantly be glaringly obvious once some final, little piece clicks into place. Small things, big things, click, click, click.

Question: Which is better, to be at the click part marveling at how clear something is, or to be in the puzzling part doing the work?

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Leverage

In sum, there isn’t a clear ladder of actions a person can progress through, with easy unimportant ones at the bottom, and hard important ones at the top. There will be hard-for-you unimportant actions, and easy-for-you important actions. The last thing you should do if you come across a hard-for-you unimportant action is stop looking for other things to do.

~ Katja Grace, from https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/pmifMjht6Y4dBPhqF/skill-and-leverage

One variation of this is, “a messy desk shows an organized mind.” It’s not important that I do everything perfectly, have everything organized, and have no loose ends. In fact, that’s patently impossible. What matters is that I figure out what should be done perfectly, what should be organized and which loose ends should be tied up. Got it.

I’m currently spending a lot of time reflecting on being comfortable with some imperfectly done things, some disorganized things, and some loose ends. Not trying to complete nor eliminate those things, but rather, simply being comfortable with those things, in those states.

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Reflection

What makes this moment so precarious is that most of us are unconscious, in the event, both of our aspiration and of our Resistance. We’re asleep. We know only that we feel bad. Something’s wrong. We’re restless, we’re bored, we’re angry; we’re seeking something grand but don’t know where to look 

~ Steven Pressfield, from https://stevenpressfield.com/2011/05/resistance-and-addiction/

These days, the skill of reflection is on my mind. I’ve become convinced that discovery, reflection, and efficacy are the three stepping stones to self-actualization. It seems to me that the way out of the Gordian knot presented by Pressfield is via reflection.

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Focus on what’s before you

And when you’re distracted? See what’s distracting you and choose, mindfully, what’s most important in that moment. Maybe what’s distracting you is worth your time after all.

But where your energy goes is where you’re going.

~ Hugh MacCleod from https://www.gapingvoid.com/blog/2017/06/27/how-to-stay-focused-at-work/

Slowly I changed how I interact will waiters, how I reply to email, how I use my phone (note particularly that I use it and it never uses me,) how I chop wood, how I show up for video calls, how I walk, and so on, and so forth…

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Goals versus aspirations

A distinction I’ve been making in recent years:

A goal is something specific. It will be clear when the goal is achieved. For me, goals should always be the classic specific, measurable, actionable, relevant, and time dependent, sort of SMART goals.

An aspiration is something directional. It will be clear when progress is made in the direction dictated by the aspiration.

The more goals I set, the worse my life becomes. I set great goals… big challenging, self-stretching goals. They pile on like dead weight and drag me down. Lose 10 pounds. Read an hour a day. …and so on.

Aspirations, being open-ended, don’t feel so daunting. Provided the aspirations lead to actual action, then I don’t need to worry about tomorrow. I can simply do the things—today, now—which are guided by my aspirations. Be someone who moves. Be exposed to lots of fresh ideas. Be someone who helps others. Be someone who creates value. Be someone whose mind works well.

What aspirations do you have?

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Did I mention I gave up coffee?

They even offered some decent life strategies: look at everything, pick up anything you can, avoid wizards, and always haggle for jetpacks.

~ Peter Welch, from http://stilldrinking.org/coffee-is-hard

The quote has nothing to do with what I’m writing today. The only relation is the word coffee. That said, you should totally go read Welch’s piece. You should totally go read everything he’s written; it’s generally awesome and often downright alarming. I digress.

On a Sunday morning–June 23, 2019 to be exact–with a congratulatory high-five, I gave up my morning coffee. I’d been thinking about doing so for months. Truth be told, the catalyst that day was to support a particular lady’s efforts wrestling with migraine headaches. With a brave, “huzzah!” my fate was sealed.

There’s a song by Frank Sinatra, “Hallelujah, I lover her so,” which begins with a telling verse:

Let me tell ’bout a gal I know
She’s my baby and she lives next door
Every morning ‘fore the sun comes up
She brings my coffee in my favorite cup
That’s why I know, yes, I know
Hallelujah, I just love her so

Setting aside the completely wacked concept of your girlfriend living next door and bringing you coffee before dawn. (1969 America. amiright?) I want to just draw attention to the coffee being how he knows he loves her. That’s just wrooong.

Over a few decades we had settled into a morning routine that started with the coffee maker. As anyone everywhere will tell you, if you drink coffee every morning it just becomes the neutral baseline, and without it, things aren’t happy-land. Occasionally, obtaining the morning drug hit would be a challenge leading to un-happy-land.

But mostly, it just meant getting out of the freakin’ bed was rough. …and like the addict I was, I went to the drug quickly.

Is it easier to get up now? Absolutely.

Do I spring out of bed like a happy rabbit? Absolutely NOT. But it’s better. I still need a bit of time to wake up fully–which I do via some morning stretching and movement.

Do I still drink it? Absolutely. Anytime I go anywhere, and I find myself near a real coffee shop . . . hello darkness my old friend, I’ve come to talk with you again.

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