:-)

Monday, September 16, 2019

Bitcoin is a Tool

Technology can be used to help anyone.  It can help criminals, and it can help upstanding people, and it can even help people who want to control everyone.  I recently had a reason to review Larken Rose's "The Tiny Dot," an explanation of which will soon be available on the voluntaryist website, in the newsletter, or both.  The reason I cherish bitcoin despite its ability to help people who want to control everyone is that they are a tiny minority.  As Larken explains, the reason they cause the problems they cause is that the rest of us have not "fixed what's between our ears."

I was one of the first people who started talking about the ability to track bitcoin.  I know this because I described what has been called "taint" before it was used in reference to tracking bitcoin. I'm not talking about that episode from Weeds where the actor who looks like Harry Connick Jr. explains what "taint" is.  That's a different kind of taint.

In a post on bitcointalk.org, I mentioned that the bitcoin stolen from a useful enterprise necessarily goes to an address (or a script) that can be watched on the publicly available bitcoin blockchain.  If bitcoin wallet software allowed it, the user could enter that new address or script into the software and if he ever got any of the bitcoin that was stolen, the software could tell him, and also tell him how many transactions happened between the heist and his receipt of stolen bitcoin.

It was amazing to me how many people resisted and challenged what I had pointed out.  No one said it was impossible, but rather they suggested it was "bad or wrong" because it would make bitcoin less fungible.  A few months later, blockchain.info provided a "taint analysis" tool that did exactly what I had described.  That tool is now gone, and I haven't found a good replacement for it.  It is the kind of thing that Chainalysis does.  If you know of a (free) replacement, please let me know.  I assume such a service would not be free because it takes some computing resources to do "taint analysis."  However, if the software were open source and you could run it on your own equipment, then you'd be paying that computing price.

Bitcoin is less fungible.  Companies like Chainalysis exist and can (sometimes!) track down bitcoin users, and this causes some bitcoin to be less useful than other bitcoin (the essence of fungibility).  If I remember correctly, some exchange or service accepted a BTC deposit and then would not let the depositor access the BTC, and offered the reason "Came from an illegal service."  It is a fact that what I described was possible, and it is being used, but it is not being used effectively to stop scammers.

Scammers are all over every website that allows peer to peer trading of bitcoin.  They are most likely all over other sites that don't do bitcoin, but which do other cryptocurrencies which also can be tracked.  I view this as a failure of the public to cooperate (which, I understand, is very common), but I'm part of that public, and so are you.  For that reason, I create a group in Telegram called "Impersonator and Scammer Reporting."  You have to have some funds (at least 25 Satoshis, or about a quarter of a penny) to get in, but I can provide that for you.  Just ask me (@dscotese on Telegram).

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Gibberish and Mind Control

Have you heard someone making sounds that didn't carry any meaning? By speaking words, we control the minds of those who are fluent in the language and can hear us. Speech is a form of mind control. Please be careful how you use it. 

Writing is also a form of mind control that can be used on those who are literate. Please be careful when you write.

Because you are literate in English, I'm responsible for a lot of what is in your mind right now, but there's plenty that is completely out of my hands. We currently share an important responsibility, the contents of your mind. If it disturbs you, don't forget that you can stop reading, or that your actions are entirely under your control.

Even if someone holds a gun to your head and demands a certain behavior, you still have the power to refuse, or even just lie about your intention to fulfill the demand.  The beautiful thing about our language-based susceptibility to mind control is that there is a space between the stimulus and the response, and in that space, we have the freedom to chart our own course and follow it. Become adept at processing input before acting on it. Look before you leap, because mind control is everywhere! 

Monday, September 2, 2019

User Manual for lntxbot

lntxbot is a Telegram ("TG") bot which provides a custodial wallet to Telegram users.  The custodian is Telegram user fiatjaf, but anyone else can fork the code from his repository and clone the bot, and get help on their efforts in the development channel.

Commands are issued to telegram bots, both in a chat with the bot and in any group of which the bot is a member, using a forward slash. For example, in a group that contains @lntxbot, or in your direct messages with it, /help produces the text below, but without the hyperlinks.  If there are other bots in the same group, the command itself must be suffixed with "@lntxbot" (for example, /tip@lntxbot) so that TG directs it to the correct bot.
Usage:
  /start[<tutorial>]
  /tutorial[<tutorial>]
  /receive(lnurl <lnurl> | (<satoshis> | any) [<description>...] [--preimage=<preimage>])
  /invoice(lnurl <lnurl> | (<satoshis> | any) [<description>...] [--preimage=<preimage>])
  /fund(lnurl <lnurl> | (<satoshis> | any) [<description>...] [--preimage=<preimage>])
  /pay(lnurl [<satoshis>] | [now] [<invoice>])
  /decode(lnurl [<satoshis>] | [now] [<invoice>])
  /paynow(lnurl [<satoshis>] | [now] [<invoice>])
  /withdraw(lnurl [<satoshis>] | [now] [<invoice>])
  /send[anonymously] <satoshis> [<receiver>...] [--anonymous]
  /tip[anonymously] <satoshis> [<receiver>...] [--anonymous]
  /sendanonymously[anonymously] <satoshis> [<receiver>...] [--anonymous]
  /balance
  /apps
  /transactions[--in] [--out]
  /giveaway<satoshis>
  /coinflip<satoshis> [<num_participants>]
  /lottery<satoshis> [<num_participants>]
  /giveflip<satoshis> [<num_participants>]
  /fundraise<satoshis> <num_participants> <receiver>...
  /crowdfund<satoshis> <num_participants> <receiver>...
  /hide<satoshis> [<message>...] [--revealers=<num_revealers>] [--crowdfund=<num_participants>] [--public] [--private]
  /reveal<hidden_message_id>
  /microbet[list | bets | balance | withdraw | bet]
  /bitflash(orders | status | rate | <satoshis> <address>)
  /satellite(transmissions | <satoshis> [<message>...])
  /fundbtc<satoshis>
  /qiwi(list | <amount> (sat | rub) [to <target>] | default [<target>])
  /yandex(list | <amount> (sat | rub) [to <target>] | default [<target>])
  /gifts(list | [<satoshis>])
  /paywall[list | <url> <satoshis> <memo>... | balance | withdraw]
  /poker[deposit <satoshis> | balance | withdraw | status | url | play | (available|watch|wait) <minutes>]
  /sats4ads (on [<msat_per_character>] | off | rates | broadcast <spend_satoshis> [<message>...] [--max-rate=<maxrate>] [--skip=<offset>])
  /bluewallet[refresh]
  /lndhub[refresh]
  /toggle(ticket [<price>] | spammy | language [<lang>])
  /help[<command>]
  /stop
For more information on each command type /help<command>.

Conventions used in this manual:
Bold: Something for you to type into Telegram will be in bold.  For example, /start tutorial, below, is followed by an explanation of what it does if you type it into a place where the bot will process it.
Italics: I will use italics only for emphasis.
<Angle brackets>: The name of an argument in <angle brackets> indicates that it can be any value, as long as that value is the right kind of value.  For example, <satoshis> can be any integer, and <lnurl> can be any lnurl.  If it's part of something you can type into Telegram to make the bot do something, it will also be in bold, as explained above.
[Square brackets]: stuff in square brackets is optional.

Commands
Commands to the bot can contain underscores instead of spaces to separate arguments.  This allows users to create full commands that can simply be clicked to execute them (becase TG interprets the forward slash as the beginning of a link to a command).

/start will create your wallet.  There's no harm in sending the command multiple times.
/start tutorial will provide you with a lot of information that is not repeated here in this manual. The manual may refer to information from the tutorial, so it's recommended that you go through the tutorial now.
/tutorial is equivalent to /start, and still requires "tutorial" afterwards, as in /tutorial tutorial.

Commands for Sending and Receiving
/receive, /invoice, and /fund are all equivalent.  This command, followed by one of the three argument patterns shown below, is how you can collect payments.
/receive lnurl <lnurl> will generate a BOLT11 invoice using the data available through the lnurl you provide. Amounts will be added to your @lntxbot balance. 
/receive <satoshis> [<description>] [--preimage=<preimage>] will create an invoice for the number of satoshis you indicated.  You can tell lntxbot what to use as the preimage.
/receive any [<description>] [--preimage=<preimage>] will create an invoice without any amount, allowing whoever pays it to choose what to pay.

/pay, /decode, and /withdraw are equivalent.  This command, when sent as a reply to another message containing an invoice (for example, in a group), asks privately if you want to pay the invoice, through your chat with @lntxbot.  It also lists the value of the invoice, the Node ID of the receiving node, and the hash of the secret, or "preimage," used to route the payment.   If it isn't a reply, then it must be followed by one of the two following argument patterns, and in the second case, the private request to confirm that you want to pay can be skipped by adding now before the <invoice>:
/pay lnurl <satoshis>
/pay <invoice>
/paynow is a way to skip the private request without using "now". At the time of writing, /paynow lnurl <lnurl> returned a larger lnurl instead of simply paying the lnurl'ed amount.

/send and /tip are equivalent.  This command, when sent as a reply to another message, will send a payment to the author of that other message only if no other user is specified as the receiver.  The receiver will be notified of the payment if they have never talked to the bot, or they have but subsequently blocked it.  That notification will identify the sender unless one of the three following methods is used to send (or tip) anonymously:
  1. anonymously appears after the command, and before the amount.
  2. --anonymous appears at the end of the command arguments.
  3. The command used is sendanonymously.
/lottery and /coinflip are equivalent.  This command starts a fair lottery with the given number of participants.
/coinflip <satoshis> [<num_participants>] will create a message that allows num_paticipants (or two, if that argument is not specified) to participate, but you will be one of them, so /coinflip <satoshis> 3 is what you need to have two more people participate. Once the specified number of people have joined (and paid <satoshis>), the bot will choose one of them at random to collect all those payments.

Commands for Examining Your Wallet
/balance will cause the bot to send you a direct message which displays four amounts of satoshis:
  1. Your current balance.
  2. The total amount you have received.
  3. The total amount you have sent.
  4. The total amount of fees you have paid to route lightning payments.
/transactions will cause the bot to send you a direct message that lists the last 25 transactions with the oldest first.  This list has pagination controls so that you can see your full history, but only 25 transactions at a time.  You can filter this list to contain only receipts or only sends by adding --in or --out after the command.

Commands for Group Activity
In the following commands, chat participants are invited to act together.  It is not possible to accept an invitation twice.  For example, if there should be three participants in a "giveflip," you can be only one of them. Clicking the button to join something in which you're already participating will generate an error message.

/giveaway <satoshis> will create a message in your chat with two buttons.  One of them allows you to cancel the giveaway.  The other can be used by anyone to claim the amount you specified.

/giveflip <satoshis> [<num_participants>] is just like coinflip with two important differences:
  1. There is no entry fee.
  2. You can't participate, but you pay the winner the amount you specified.
/fundraise and /crowdfund are equivalent.  This command invites others to contribute to a fund that, if enough people participate, will collect funds for a specific user.
/crowdfund <satoshis> <num_participants> <receiver> [<message>] places a message in the chat with a "contribute" button.  By issuing this command, you become the first contributor.  It is not possible to cancel this message. <receiver> must start with the @symbol, although TG  may remove it if it refers to a user using their name instead of their username (for example, for users that don't have usernames).

/hide creates an opportunity for you to get paid for providing some content. You may hide the whole message, or prefix the part to hide with a prompt that will be displayed to everyone and then a tilde (~) to indicate where  the hidden part starts. You can reveal the hidden part to everyone or just to those who paid.  You can require that any number of people pay before everyone sees the content, or restrict the content to the first people who pay.
/hide <satoshis> ["<prompt>" ~] "<secret>" will provide you with a message ID for your hidden message.  Below it will be a button you can use to share your hidden content in any other chat where each user can pay to see it or a subset of users can pay so everyone can see it.  Be sure not to use double-quotes inside the secret or the prompt, and to surround each of them with the double quotes.  You can limit the number of users who have to pay, or limit the number who get to see it.  Here are the optional arguments and how they work:
--revealers=<num_revealers> will only allow this number of people to see the secret.
--crowdfund=<num_participants> will show the secret to the whole group once this many people pay.
--private will allow any number of people to pay to see the secret privately in their chat with the bot.
--public will allow everyone to see the secret once one person pays the price.
--public and --private will both be ignored if one of the other two arguments are used.
Your hidden message will remain in the bot's database for 72 hours.

/reveal <hidden_message_id> will provide you with a (perhaps customized) prompt to pay to see hiden content.  If you are the user who hid the message, you won't actually pay.  When you click the button from /hide to share your hidden content in a group, it executes the /reveal command in the group, giving everyone there the opportunity to pay for your content.

/sats4ads creates a marketplace for advertisements.  To get paid to receive ads in your chat with the bot, use the "on" command.
/sats4ads on <millisats> tells the bot to send you ads and pay you the indicated rate per character.  Pictures and videos in ads count as 300 characters.  If you demand a high price, you will see fewer ads and may earn less.
/sats4ads broadcast <satoshis> will send ads to lntxbot users who have turned on the feature, starting with those who demand the smallest fees, and spending the indicated number of satoshis until it runs out of subscribers or funds. To send an ad to others who have subscribed to ads, use this command as a reply to the message you want to use as the ad.  The bit will respond with the number of sats you spent and the number of advertisees your message reached. The broadcast command has two optional arguments:
--max-rate=<satoshis> will prevent the bot from sending your ad to people who have demanded enough millisats per character to make your transmission to them cost more than this amount.  Note that every ad sent costs the broadcaster one additional satoshi beyone wht they pay to the advertisee.
--skip=<offset> will skip the indicated number of advertisees.  If you used too small a budget and reached fewer people than you wanted, you can broadcast again and skip that many people. Note that if any advertisees who have not seen your ad set their rate low enough to be one of the first offset advertisees, they will be skipped, and possibly someone who has a higher fee and already saw your ad will see it again.  Fret not! Repetition is crucial in advertising.
/sats4ads off will prevent you from receiving any more ads in your chat with the bot.
/sats4ads rates will respond with a list of each rate (millisatoshis per character) that users have chosen to use and the number of users demanding that rate.

Commands Integrating other Apps
The following list of application names are integrated with lntxbot to some degree.  It's currently beyond the scope of this manual to describe their use, but an understanding of the apps themselves (URLs provided below) ought to make their use clear.  The author requests that you let him know if there are potential misunderstandings about how these integrations should work that he can address by updating this post.
/apps is a command that will provide a list of the apps that are integrated into lntxbot.

/microbet is a simple service that allows people to bet against each other on sports games results. The bet price is fixed and the odds are calculated considering the amount of back versus lay bets. There's a 1% fee on all withdraws.
/microbet_bet displays all open bet markets so you can yours.
/microbet_bets shows your bet history.
/microbet_balance displays your balance.
/microbet_withdraw withdraws all your balance.

Bitflash is a service that does cheap onchain transactions from Lightning payments. It does it cheaply because it aggregates many Lightning transactions and then dispatches them to the chain after a certain threshold is reached.
/bitflash_100000_3NRnMC5gVug7Mb4R3QHtKUcp27MAKAPbbJ buys an onchain transaction to the given address using bitflash.club's shared fee feature. Will ask for confirmation.
/bitflash_orders lists your previous transactions.

/satellite connects lntxbot to the Blockstream Satellite which is a service that broadcasts Bitcoin blocks and other transmissions to the entire planet. You can transmit any message you want and pay with some satoshis:
/satellite 13 'hello from the satellite! vote trump!' queues that transmission to the satellite with a bid of 13 satoshis.  The following commands can be used as the first argument to /satellite:
/satellite transmissions lists your transmissions.

GoLightning.club is the cheapest way to get your on-chain funds to Lightning, at just 99 satoshi per order. First you specify how much you want to receive, then you send money plus fees to the provided BTC address. Done.
/fundbtc_1000000 creates an order to transfer 0.01000000 BTC from an on-chain address to your bot balance.

/qiwi (list | <amount> (sat | rub) [to <target>] | default [<target>])
Transfer your satoshis to your Qiwi account instantly. Powered by @lntorubbot.
/qiwi 50 rub to 777777777 sends the equivalent of 50 rubles to 77777777.
/qiwi default 999999999 sets 999999999 as your default account.
/qiwi 10000 sat sends 10000 sat as rubles to your default account.
/qiwi_default shows your default account.
/qiwi_list shows your past transactions. 

/yandex (list | <amount> (sat | rub) [to <target>] | default [<target>])
Transfer your satoshis to your Yandex.Money account instantly. Powered by @lntorubbot.
/yandex 50 rub to 777777777 sends the equivalent of 50 rubles to 77777777.
/yandex default 999999999 sets 999999999 as your default account.
/yandex 10000 sat sends 10000 sat as rubles to your default account.
/yandex_default shows your default account.
/yandex_list shows your past transactions.

Lightning Gifts is the best way to send satoshis as gifts to people. A simple service, a simple URL, no vendor lock-in and no fees.
By generating your gifts on @lntxbot you can keep track of the ones that were redeemed and the ones that weren't.
/gifts lists the gifts you've created.
/gifts_1000 creates a gift voucher of 1000 satoshis.

paywall.link is a Paywall Generator. It allows you to sell digital goods (files, articles, music, videos, any form of content that can be published on the open web) by simply wrapping their URLs in a paywall.
By generating your paywalls on @lntxbot you can keep track of them all without leaving Telegram and get information on how much of each you've sold.
/paywall will list all your paywalls.
/paywall https://mysite.com/secret-content 230 'access my secret content' will create a paywall for a secret content with a price of 230 satoshis.
/paywall_balance will show your paywall.link balance and ask you if you want to withdraw it.
/paywall_withdraw will just withdraw all your paywall.link balance to your @lntxbot balance.

Lightning Poker is the first and simplest multiplayer live No-Limit Texas Hold'em Poker game played directly with satoshis. Just join a table and start staking sats.
By playing from an account tied to your @lntxbot balance you can just sit on a table and your poker balance will be automatically refilled from your @lntxbot account, with minimal friction.
/poker_deposit_10000 puts 10000 satoshis in your poker bag.
/poker_balance shows how much you have there.
/poker_withdraw brings all the money back to the bot balance.
/poker_status tells you how active are the poker tables right now.
/poker_url displays your secret game URL which you can open from any browser and gives access to your bot balance.
/poker_play displays the game widget.
/poker_watch_120 will put you in a subscribed state on the game for 120 minutes (2 hours) and notify other subscribed people you are waiting to play. You'll be notified whenever there were people playing. If you join a game you'll be unsubscribed.
Inline query: This command can also be called as an inline query from group or personal chats where the bot isn't added. The syntax is similar, but simplified: @lntxbot poker then wait for a "search result" to appear.

/lndhub and /bluewallet are equivalent. This command duplicates your bot wallet into the Bluewallet app
/bluewallet prints a string like "lndhub://<login>:<password>@<url>" which must be copied and pasted on BlueWallet's import screen for importing your bot wallet on BlueWallet. After that, you can use the same account from both places interchangeably.
/bluewallet_refresh erases your previous password and prints a new string. You'll have to reimport the credentials on BlueWallet after this step. Only do it if your previous credentials were compromised.

/toggle Toggles bot features in groups on/off. In supergroups it can only be run by admins.
/toggle_ticket_10 starts charging a fee for all new entrants. Useful as an antispam measure. The money goes to the group owner.
/toggle_ticket stops charging new entrants a fee.
/toggle_spammy toggles 'spammy' mode. 'spammy' mode is off by default. When turned on, tip notifications will be sent in the group instead of only privately.

/help [<command>] will provide a help message if there is a command with the specified name.

/stop will stop the bot from sending you messages.To allow it to send you messages again, use /start.

Thanks for reading!  If you'd like to tip me for this manual, /tip@lntxbot [You Choose] @dscotese in Telegram.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Chapter Seven: Kimberlee


Dr. Sloane and I sat there for about a minute in silence.  I had always had a strong desire for proof and now I could see that I was expecting that desire to be in everyone else.  I was waiting for her to say something else, remembering that she was supposed to interview Kim and me together soon.  Finally I realized that her patience and silence and receptivity were a demand that I respond somehow to the fact that we all take it on faith that everyone else also has experience, that we are all experiencing.

"Is she here?" I finally had the courage to ask.  I see now that it took courage, and as I write this, I wonder why it took courage.  What did I fear?

"She is.  I'm finished interviewing you alone, but if you have any questions before she comes in, now is the time to ask them."

There was another very long pause during which I slowly realized that it was my turn again.  For a few more seconds after realizing that, I enjoyed it.  She was waiting patiently for me in case I had questions.  I couldn't think of any, and I really wanted to see Kim, so I said, "I can't think of any, and I really want to see her."

Dr. Sloane nodded and smiled and concentrated on her phone for a few seconds.  "She'll be here in a minute or so."

She looked at me as if to study my state of mind, and I looked at her the same way.  I think she was the first one to look directly at my eyes, or we did it at the same time, but I was overcome with some kind of connection.  We both smiled and I looked away.

"Thank you," I said, near a whisper.

Kimberlee had come in the front door and was there when I looked up, looking at me the same way Dr. Sloane had.  I stood up to hug her, and she received me warmly and held me long enough that I felt we might be using Dr. Sloane's time inappropriately, but I didn't stop holding her.  Then I felt her kiss my neck and tilt her head back to kiss my cheek and then my lips.

I wasn't ready for the kind of intimacy where I'd kiss her back, especially in front of Dr. Sloane, but I understood it as a very good sign and it made me really happy.

We sat next to each other facing Dr. Sloane and turned toward each other.  We both started speaking at the same time, her saying "How are you doing?" and me saying "What have you been up to?"  She smiled to let me go first.

"I missed you.  I feel weird because, ... I guess because this," I said, curling my hands to point all my fingers at my head and body and sweep down it, "isn't really me.  I think I'm okay though."  I looked at Dr. Sloane for confirmation and she nodded.

Kim said "I was talking to Rod.  He said you were worried that I might think you're just a machine."

"Yeah." I looked at Dr. Sloane for help, and Kim then looked at her too.

"Kimberlee, will you share what you told me was your primary concern?" She asked.

"I said that if he's really here- Okay, wherever he is, I want him to be happy."

"Right," said Dr. Sloane, "and you also said you hoped that- ...?"

"I hope that's really you," she said to me, quietly.  We gazed at each other and then Kim looked at the psychologist, who said "... because ...?"

Kim took a deep breath and blew it out and said, "Because I miss you and you help me so much and... you hold me up."

We sat in silence for a few minutes after I rested my head on her shoulder and held her hand.

I said, "Thanks, babe.  I remember the first time you said that.  And... umm... I'm sorry for my shitty driving skills.  I'll be more careful from now on."  I giggled a little at the end of saying that.

"It's not funny," she said, but Dr. Sloane was visibly stifling her amusement.  Then Kim said, "Okay it's a little funny, but I'll kill you if you do it again.  Kill yourself in a car accident, I mean."

"Yeah," said Dr. Sloane, "I think you two are fine.  Do you have any more questions?"  Neither of us said anything, and she just got up and left.

Chapter Six
Chapter Eight

Respect Your Body's Intelligence

Drawful is a party game I've been playing with my family for a couple months. I was tasked with drawing "shaved bears."  We only get to use two predetermined colors. I drew the outline of a teddy bear but the legs were kind of messy.  I drew some "fur" on the ground next to the bear, same color as the outline. I drew a T at a diagonal (looks like a razor) above the bear.  I drew a can with some shaving cream next to it.  How do I make it look like the bear is shaved?  I couldn't figure it out, so I decided to fix the legs.  I colored over the messed up part, filling in about half the (very short) leg.  I did the same thing to the other leg.

When my drawing came up, many players recognized the bear.  Some recognized the razor.  When they had all finally guessed what it was, I realized that filling in the legs was the answer to the question I couldn't answer.  It made the rest of the bear look shaved.  I believe this was my subconscious at work.  The solution that my brain came up with did not make it into my consciousness, but "fixing the legs" did.  The fact that I didn't realize I had found the answer until later in the game fascinates me.  Sure, it could have been dumb luck, but that theory would only present itself to someone who wants to deny the existence of the subconscious, the processing power to which our awareness doesn't have access.

I've been working on a book the beginning of which is Chapter One: Waking Up. The book is a kind of diary for me, rendering my life into story along with my search to be known better by the people who love me.  Chapter Seven is about the main character's (my) wife, and I was stuck on how to write it because I wanted her input.  A friend emailed me asking about my progress and I wrote back that I was stuck on chapter seven, but while writing the email, I thought that maybe if I looked again, I'd be able to continue writing.  When I looked, chapter seven was already there.  I had forgotten that I wrote it.  I assume that having forgotten about it made me act a certain way until that moment.  I had already figured out how to write it, and I don't know why I still felt stuck.  Again, I think forgetting that I wrote it was a function of my subconscious, trying to help me with ... something - and I don't know what it is.

I'm in several Telegram groups and in one of them, someone posed a problem and asked for help.  The simple answer I provided was: Meditate.  Since I've developed the habit of taking my own advice whenever I give it, this made me chuckle.  I meditate every morning, but when I sent that message, it was the afternoon and I hadn't meditated yet.  It was a slow day, I guess.  More and more, I notice subtle benefits of meditation.  Meditating is something to which I don't mind being addicted.  Now I'm curious what are the symptoms of too much meditation?

As I try to understand myself better, I wonder about how that mind-body connection can be so elusive. Maybe it's not elusive at all, but we just take it for granted. It shows up starkly for me sometimes, and maybe what's different is that I have the humility to recognize that something my body did was not my intention. Sometimes we actually disagree, me and my body.

I noticed my motivation to do sit-ups, squats and pushups disappeared for a few days and then came back. I had done the extra exercise anyway, but it was getting more difficult each day to find the motivation.  I traced it to my use of a mat between me and the floor. The hard floor doesn't bother me, but I guess it bothered my body enough that it sapped my motivation away.   Since I started using a mat again, I find the extra exercise a lot more enjoyable.

My hope for this post is that by making you more aware of the processing power inherent in your body, power of which you might not be aware, you'll appreciate and accept yourself more, and respect the intelligence that your body exhibits in those moments when you discover it doing something you didn't intend to do.  Evolution has been chipping away at the singular goal of creating things that reproduce themselves. Apparently, intelligence is very helpful, and there is no reason to doubt that some of that intelligence is built into the structure and not available to the awareness of the being that inhabits the structure.  Not available, that is, until you look for it, and possibly not until you learn to appreciate it.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Handling the Pretense to Authority

I have a speech about the pretense to authority.  In the speech, I refer to the following resources which I list here for those who would like to explore the issues I raised more deeply.
  1. Johann Hari's "Chasing the Scream"
  2. Michael Huemer's "The Problem of Political Authority"
  3. Stanley Milgram's Experiment on Obedience
  4. Larken Rose's "The Most Dangerous Superstition"
  5. Philip Zimbardo's Stanford Prison Experiment
A video of my speech may be available, but in case it isn't, I provide what follows.  Please note that I don't speak the way I write. It would be more accurate to say that I try to write the way I speak, but my speaking skills are far less polished than the prose you're reading.  Watching me speak will help you get to know me.  Reading this will help you understand me.

First we need an idea of what genuine authority is.  There are two basic meanings for the word, one being about expertise and the ability to, for example, "author" a book. The other meaning is the right to coerce someone into doing or cease doing something.  My view is that this second meaning has unfortunately grown while the first meaning has given way to it.

Michael Huemer calls that second kind "Political Authority" and refers to it (as I do) as a problem.  In fact, the view of authority as the right to coerce seems to be a perversion.  If someone is an expert, then it's sensible to do things the way they say to do them so you can benefit from their expertise.  If you choose to try some other way, does it make any sense for the expert to punish you?  The modern meaning of "authority" says, "yes, of course you should be punished for defying the authority."  This is a prescription for halting all progress.  It's a mistake, and it is the pretense to authority.

Harry Anslinger is an example of someone who abused our conception of authority.  In 1930, he became the commissioner of the U.S. federal department of narcotics. According to Johann Hari, Anslinger worried that his sub-department of the Treasury would not have enough power or longevity.  His department was responsible for preventing and punishing crimes related mostly to cocaine and heroin, and that just wasn't enough, so he decided to add cannabis.  Hari, the author, (actually the journalist who wrote the article about his book) said that Anslinger was already on record using the word "absurd" to describe the idea that cannabis was dangerous.

Anslinger contacted thirty scientists to ask if cannabis was dangerous and twenty-nine said it wasn't. He publicized what the 30th scientist had said, and so we got laws against cannabis and waged the "war on drugs."  I think that blowing up the words of one out of thirty scientists when they are the opposite of the other 29 is a pretense to authority.  What did we do about it?  Anslinger was commissioner for 32 years, and then the U.S. narcotics representative to the UN.  We did nothing about it.  Instead, we rewarded him

Pharaoh says "I am God." The king claims a divine right to rule his subjects.  Nowadays, elected officials claim that they have a mandate from the people to rule their subjects. I say, "I rule me, and you rule you."  If your conscience doesn't stop you, then it's my responsibility to exercise some self-defense.  Who is the authority?  If you tell someone that the law says X but your conscience says no, what will they say?  "Well, you gotta do the right thing, right?"  We all know what the right thing is.  The authority is the self.

Larken Rose drives the point home with his book, pointing out how dangerous the belief in authority is.  He mentions the Stanford Prison Experiment, Milgram's experiment on obedience to authority, Pol Pot, Mao Zedong's "Great Leap Forward", and the Nazis. Authority is necessarily a pretense if it uses coercion.  Auto, or Auth, refers to the self.  The "author" of a book is the one who created the words in it.  "He wrote the book." It makes sense to seek the advice of an expert, but it also makes sense to respect those who try stuff other than what the expert prescribes.

Dr. Martin Luther King ran with the words of Henry David Thoreau in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail.  He wrote that there are just laws and unjust laws and "one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws."  How we tell the difference is with our consciences. Take responsibility for developing your conscience, and I'll trust you to obey it, but don't forget that I encourage everyone to learn self defense too.  Don't fall for the pretense to authority.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Underdose and Overdose

For decades, I've been fascinated with the idea that every substance has an ideal dosage for each of us. It may be true that a single molecule of some substance will kill me, but I doubt it. 

My body makes platelets, just like everyone's does, but mine makes more than average. A higher platelet count is associated with an increase of risk for strokes. A lower platelet count is associated with increased risk for other problems. Except risk is not a symptom, it's a statistic. I think there is great wisdom in not fixing something unless it's broken. A higher platelet count has some symptoms, and I watch for them.  The medical industry recommends that I take a mild poison (Hydroxyurea) in order to suppress activity in my bone marrow where platelets are made.  The recommendation is a prophylactic against me having a stroke.  One side effect of this medicine is the possibility that the person taking it will develop leukemia.  By suppressing bone marrow activity, it also diminishes the power of the immune system.

Platelets are the main ingredient in the human body's recipe for healing.  I heal faster than average because my body makes more platelets.  I do like that, but I don't want to have a stroke.  There is both "too many" and "too few" and I try to stay between them.

Everything has side effects.  "Too much of a good thing" is certainly possible, although we wouldn't call it a good thing if we got too much of it. Looking for the negative side effects in a good thing makes for pessimism.  I'm an optimist, but I also recognize that, for everything (not just substances), there is both "too much" and "too little."  "Too much" optimism, for example, suggests to me ignoring the negative effects of something, whether it's considered "good" or "bad." There's always a sweet spot, and for me, finding that sweet spot is part of the fun in this game of life.

If you'd like to practice my "underdose / overdose" analysis, re-read the previous paragraph but translate for "Too much of a bad thing," and use pessimism as the "bad thing."  It reminds me of a quote displayed at voluntaryist.com.