Gruff is a new Ruby gem that allows you to make cool little Keynote-esque graphs, and it works nicely in Rails. So, I thought I might take the time to resurrect my old Morale-O-Meter (if you're reading this somewhere other than from my blog, you can see the graph here).
People are always asking me how they can get something like this to work on their site. Unfortunately, I haven't built this in a way is easily portable to other people's systems because instead of making it easy to port I've instead made it super easy for me to update. The main barrier for me to keep track of this data is laziness, so I have come up with a rather crazy system to make this all work. It goes something like this:
1) I purchased a copy of Moodstats. It's a cool desktop app (both PC and Mac friendly) that has a cool interface for scoring up to 6 dimensions on a 1-10 scale, and allows you to add short diary entries. Why use a desktop app? Well, first of all, I want the data to be private. Second, it's pretty. Third, it's fast.
2) However, since Moodstats doesn't let you choose all of the categories (it only gives you 3 configurable dimensions), I had to find a way to hack it. Luckily, it was easy since all of the configuration for the app is in a single xml file.
3) Not only is all of the configuration in an xml file, but all of the data is also stored in the xml file. Every day's morale, sleep, alcohol, and caffeine levels are in a single easy to access file. Yay! Now I just need to find a way to get it online.
4) Using iCal, Automator, and Transmit, I could schedule a daily event in iCal to upload the file to my server. This should be easier to do. Automator also then hits a page on my server that uses Rails and Gruff to generate the graph.
5) Add a simple image tag to my homepage and voila!
Even though this is a crazy setup, it's really pretty amazing that it all works together. If you think about it, all I'm doing is inputing data into a commercial app on my personal computer, and it magically gets stored in a readable format, uploaded to a remote server, triggers a script to generate an image, and displays on my blog. This is the weird world that we live in.
Incidentally, I'm doing something similar with Photo Booth and my built in iSight to take a picture of every day and have it uploaded automatically to the top right corner of my blog. I want to find a way to get my most played iTunes albums (in the last 30 days) in an easy format so I can display that on my blog too. Any ideas?
The great futility has two parts. First, the absurd, ultimate, complete futility of life. Second, the system aesthetics of a futile life. Albert Camus believed that the only worthwhile philosophical question was whether or not to commit suicide. This philosophy of the absurd, or absurdism, evolved out of existentialism, I think. Anyway, he thought that most people in history have either realized that the world is completely devoid of meaning and have killed themselves, or else have created a false hope in an artificial meaning in the world via religion or some similar faith-based system. The third option, though, is to perpetually be conscious of the ultimate futility of life, but to continue to live anyway. The person who does this is the absurd hero. According to Camus, there are three types of absurd heroes: the rebel, the Don Juan, and the artist. I haven't been able to find much more about those three types of heroes, but they sound interesting. If you find anything, or know anything, let me know.
How many people believe that life is futile? I think I do. Strangely, though, I don't feel saddened by that realization. In fact, I feel strangely happy. It's a freeing thing to not have to find meaning in things... we strain so hard to find purpose and meaning and what was "meant to be", and stopping that is a bit like drowning and then realizing that you didn't need air to breath after all. It's a dream world.
What exists post-futility, post-absurdism? I think a beautiful system of aesthetics emerges. Life becomes a gallery with blank walls, and you can put anything on them and call it art. There is no need to think about anything other than whether or not the things on the wall, and the floor, and hanging from the ceiling look good. If something looks bad, throw it out. It's all about style, intention, spirit, enjoyment, grace, and taste.
What makes bones great is not that they are difficult to break but that they can be repaired. I wonder if evolution tried out different strengths of bone (and say there's a trade-off between the breakability of the bone and the ability for the bone to be healed quickly). Maybe bones are designed to break, just like some cars are designed to crumple in order to absorb blows.
Life should be designed to break too. Personal philosophies, principles, and opinions should all be designed to handle some level of violent impact. Let them fall apart for a while, and work on a good immune system that can put them back together again (maybe not exactly as they were before, maybe in a slightly better way). One of the main catalysts in the evolution of life has been several breaking points where life was put under severe violence and pain, and changes had to be made quick. Things like the eye and the thumb were born in relatively short periods of difficulty. Actually, I just made that up but I'm sure something like that is the case. Right?
That's why, if you're religious, you shouldn't always necessarily pray for health and safety. Sometimes pray for challenge, pain, and loss. That is, if you want to improve, and live a life worth living.
Mmm... I love tea. The "launch early, fail early, iterate often" approach is a "designed to break" philosophy. If you make the bones too strong, it might be too difficult to change them when they need to be modified. Maybe you built the hand and accidentally only put 4 fingers on it. Your morals and ethical code should be written in pencil.
A lot of people don't drink or don't take risks because they don't like it when things are out of their immediate control. If you let things break, it's like allowing things to pass through the permeable membrane of your life and personality. Imagine that you're a balloon. You have air inside. There's also air outside. Do you want to let some of that air in? Which air is better? A life designed to break is betting that there's better air outside the balloon than inside. It's an optimistic view of the world to believe that there are things outside the balloon worth letting in. A pessimist would insist on sticking only with what they've got.
This goes along with a saying I think sounds counter-intuitive but might have something to it: live and don't learn. I don't mean that you shouldn't ever change behavior and thoughts in response to things that have happened. I just mean, don't set the new behaviors and thoughts in stone... just take them as the most recent version of behaviors and thoughts... and let those in turn get broken, reset, etc.