Trying out audioblog's video service. I took this video near Westlake... this last week the birds have been loud, sitting in trees and yelling, and sometimes flying in circles like this.
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.
A friend of mine talks about the zeitgeist... things that you hear or come across several different times in unconnected contexts as if the plot of your life was trying to foreshadow something. It's fun to keep track of the personal zeitgeist. There's always something. And our brains give the random constellations of objects meaning.
Right now a few things are in my zeitgeist. Foxes are in the zeitgeist. Moby Dick is in my zeitgeist. Eggs are currently falling off the zeitgeist. Happiness is in the zeitgeist. I should keep track of this better. What's on your zeitgeist?
What are you trying really hard to do? I think I'm trying really hard to do two things: build an interesting and sustainable company, build an interesting and sustainable personal life. I guess it comes down to trying really hard to build an interesting and sustainable life. By interesting I mean one that is capable of surprising me, challenging me, and changing me for the better. By sustainable I mean one that runs on less than it consumes, one that gives more than it takes, and one that can last a while even as it and I change along the way. In practice, in my own life this means having a company that includes some of my best friends and lets me work on stuff that I would work on for free if I had to. It means trying new things like office hours and online dating and taking pictures of all my friends and buying art from friends and drinks for friends and thinking about whales and foxes and happiness.
But I don't think I'm trying hard enough. This is what the hunger challenge has taught me... for the most part, I'm fairly wimpy when it comes to trying really hard because many things come easy. Why try hard to build an interesting and sustainable life when that's what I already have? At the same time though, there is no ceiling to how interesting life can be... I'm certainly nowhere near the ceiling at least. So I need to keep trying. What form does that take? That is the rub since most people equate working more and sacrificing more as symptoms of trying. So they work more and sacrifice more. But as symptoms, they are not the thing itself. The thing itself I think involves the right side of the brain and the feeling of trying to solve difficult problems.
This goes back to my theory that most of life as it is given to us is about hiding or fixing weaknesses. But life becomes most interesting when you build strengths. Take what comes naturally and then try really hard to improve it. I'm thinking about going to therapy in order to improve my happiness. Not to solve depression, but to become even happier. I also want to get glasses in order to see even better than 20/20.
I've noticed that a lot of internet ideas are about footprints: cataloging your books, finding your friends, listing everywhere you've been. This is my footprint on the world of whatever. Then there are ideas about trails: the trail of photos I take, the trail of thoughts I have, the trail of places I've been, etc. This is the difference between weblogs and homepages. I like trail ideas.
This might be one of my crazier ideas. It came to me as I was going to sleep after a weird day. There was a death in my family. Cars are driving themselves off of parking garages. People are getting stabbed in front of my favorite bars. I'm reading a really bad book on the really good topic of happiness. This idea has nothing to do with these things.
We should give every country nuclear weapons. Every company. Every citizen. The right to bear arms taken to its logical conclusion. Guns used to be enough for a revolution. Now you need nuclear weapons and biological weapons. This is what our country is all about. We should give our enemies and friends the map to building killer viruses, and blueprints to all of our secret buildings. Everyone should have a gun to each others' heads at all times. It should be a complete game change. Nobody should have any privacy. Everyone would be in power. What then?
First, we would be able to trust each other. With privacy, there's always a lack of trust. You can't trust someone you don't completely know unless you have more power than they do, and you control them. Well, actually, you can trust them but they can't trust you. Only with equal power can you have complete trust, and only with complete publicity and public responsibility for everything you do can there be equal power. The ultimate table for negotiation is when you both have each others' lives in each others' hands. Pass me the briefcase. Deal. Trust. It's double blind falling into each others' arms. Trust has to be two-way. Sure, it's nice that babies trust their parents, but we don't live in an ideal world until parents trust their babies.
Second, we would quickly find out who the crazy and evil people were. Interesting from a sociological perspective, and also in our own trek to know ourselves. We might find out, of course, by being killed by them all. Or, we might find out by being the crazy and evil people and killing everyone else. Without equal power, you can't tell non-crazy people from people who are forced to be crazy and evil in order to gain power, and you can't tell them from the people who don't seem crazy and evil because they don't yet have the power, or have the power on certain terms. You can't tell if you're crazy because you can't change your situation, or if you're crazy because you have too much power, or if you're actually not crazy at all but just weird.
Third, our society would be forced to evolve so rapidly to the change proposed that we'd probably have to reinvent ourselves. Things would certainly be a little unstable for a while... but if you're an optimist you might say that in the end, we'd have a better world. Right now, we're stuck in a compromised position of being under control of the most powerful entity: the people that control the money of the world. They're a very small group of people, and even though "cooperation" and "working together" is the best game-theory for getting to the top and staying at the top, you also have to take a very special interest in staying there, even when your more cooperative, considerate, and good successor comes along. Also, there are different strategies for public and private conduct. Nobody wants to be replaced. What is a good thing for the person at the top (weapons of mass destruction) can be the worst crime for everyone else. Our system is biased to protect whoever has the most power.
I wonder what would happen. Probably anarchy and the end of the world, but maybe our society would break the bone and it would set better. Crazy late night idea. I think I'm going to have good dreams.
A couple weeks ago I had the grand idea of experimenting with my hunger tolerance. It's a theme throughout history: dieting, fasting, gorging... how do we change when we tempt the muses of our appetite? Also, I wanted to lose a few pounds. Also, I read that one of the things that "old students" of Vipassana meditation do is refrain from eating after mid-day. Also, I was having nightmares about oysters due to my late night romp through the oyster beds of Hood Canal, and was feeling consumer guilt. It's one of those zeitgeist moments when you find a way to tidily fell several personal issues with one stone. The only stipulation of course being that I didn't want to draw attention to this fact, as people might think I'm anorexic or just weird... so I decided that this experiment could only take place when I was alone (perhaps making me sound even crazier). If I was out with friends I would behave as per usual and pig out.
The plan was to not eat after mid-day, and to see how hungry I got. What I quickly learned is that I often indulge my sense of hunger. I humor it by focusing on it and magnifying it to grand proportions and saying things like "I'M STARVING!" when really there's only an echo of a whisper of a hunger statement. In any case, by talking to my hunger, asking it things like "How hungry are you?", "Is this really very important?", and "What if I drank a glass of water, would that help?" I found it to be a very wimpy force indeed. Not even a challenge.
Another thing I immediately learned, by effectively only having one meal a day, is that the one meal became much more enjoyable. Delicious and satisfying. I never reached lunch (this is the one meal that is almost always kept with my coworkers) ravenous... and the strange thing is that I suddenly began craving healthier foods. I was much more aware of the fact that this food was going to be used by my body to keep it going for the next 24 hours or so. Perhaps the cravings for junk food, or greasy fatty foods, or even meats is a result of your body having reached some plateau of what it really needs, and it doesn't really care what else you give it as long as it tastes good. When it actually needs certain kinds of sustenance, then it tells you "eat vegetables!", "drink water!", "we need some carbohydrates badly!" etc. For years I've experienced the same kind of thing after exercising... my body wants certain kinds of energy to replenish itself.
It's fun to get back to the basics and experience the problem of nourishing the body on a more literal level. It's something I'm sure some people are more conscious of than others... being someone that has never really had to worry about weight issues probably lands me in the more ignorant camp.
Finally, I ended up losing 6 pounds in the last week. That's a little worrisome... I will have to not waste away, and figure out a way of keeping my weight and health while still experimenting a bit more. I think that by combining this with healthier eating and some exercise that my body will re-equilibrilize to its new environment, if I choose to continue this for longer.