Sunday, June 30, 2019

Chapter Four: Honesty, Almost


After twitching for a couple hours and rolling over a few times, I heard Rod come back. He asked if I really trusted them.

"You're the only one I've met.  I do trust you.  Maybe I'll trust more people as I meet them?'  I started worrying because of his question.  It seemed remarkably easy to hide that I was worried, but then I started worrying that things may not be the way they seem.

"Well, thanks," he said, "Did you sleep?"

I was trapped.  If they knew that the machine wouldn't twitch if I were asleep, then my plan would prove that I am willing to lie to them.  Since I was willing to lie and my best chance of getting away with it was not to ever let them have any idea that I was willing, I decided I better not lie.  Honesty turns out to be the best policy.

"I didn't.  I just don't feel tired at all."
"Do you know that you were twitching, as if you were asleep?" he asked.
"Yeah... I was wondering if pretending I was asleep would help me actually go to sleep.  It didn't work as far as I can tell."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, maybe I did sleep, but I don't think so."

"Okay.  I'm on my way home now, but I wanted to show you how to use your remote to see the video from the other four tries to bring you back."

I grabbed the remote and looked it over while he listed off the functions and pointed to the buttons.

"Tomorrow morning, Dr. Sloane will interview you.  While you didn't sleep, she interviewed your wife.  She has requested to interview the two of you together after your interview in the morning so that's scheduled too.  Do you have any questions?"

"A lot, but I want to try to find the answers myself.  I'm basically living in a machine and I'd like to know how the machine works.  Like you said new memories are formed in here," pointing to my chest, "so can I get blueprints, schematics, design docs... ?"

"I'll ask our night tech to set that up for you, and if you hit the menu button and he gets it set up, you'll have access to a lot of that material."

"Great.  Thanks!" I reached out to offer him my hand, we shook, and he left me alone.  I started watching the videos.

Chapter Three
Chapter Five

Raising the Baby Lightning Network

One of the key developments in modern technological advancement has been the ability to transfer important information between automated systems.  The systems that motivated this post are Lightning Network Clients ("LNCs").  I run two flavors of such clients, Lnd and Eclair.  Both of these software programs implement the "BOLT Protocol" ("Basis Of Lightning Technology") and so each of them must store some information.

These two flavors of LNC are already able to transfer some information between each other because BOLT requires them to have that ability.  That's the only way they can participate in the Lightning Network.  There is also information which the software cannot transfer from one flavor to the other, and that information represents, at a minimum, the secret information that each LNC must hold in order to protect itself and be able to manage "Lightning" channels.

I'm writing this post to motivate myself and interested readers to help to create a standard way to represent all the information that LNCs must hold in order to function.  Once such a standard is in place, anyone can write a program to read the information from their favorite LNC and save it in the standard format, or read the information from the standard format and write it into their favorite LNC.  This solves a problem I have, which is that I have channels on my Eclair node that I would like to run from my Lnd node.

The next step for me is to examine the structure of the backups that Lnd and Eclair make.  These backups necessarily hold all the information required.  It's entirely possible to use the code and the structure of the backups to write a program that will convert between Eclair backups and Lnd backups.  However, such software will only work for the specific versions and flavors of LNCs for which it is written.  I'd prefer to see a common format for the backup to make it easy for Lightning Network Enthusiasts to switch between LNCs.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Multiplier: Take the Advice You Have for Others

Whenever you notice that you have some advice for someone, look for ways you can take that advice yourself. I wrote about this before but I want to address it specifically. There are benefits to this that take some consideration to recognize. 

Imagine that you have already found a way to put into practice the advice you'd like to offer your friend. Do you think there is much difference between telling the story of going that way (whether you imagine it* or already did it) and offering the advice directly? I think one would be far more effective and I see two reasons for that. 

When I hear a story, I like to draw my own lessons from it. Those lessons are mine, not anyone else's, even if they are exactly the lessons that the author of the story was trying to teach. The author reached me in a meaningful and intimate way, obviously.  This often happens without me even being aware that I learned something. 

If all I read was the author's description of the lesson (without any personal story), I can imagine writing it off as obvious, or finding ways to challenge it. Of course, I can also imagine taking the lesson to heart, but the chances of that seem way lower than if I derived the lesson from his or her personal story instead. 

If the author's intended lesson reflects some poor analysis, the story still provides fuel for some kind of lesson. The naked advice doesn't. Instead, it just suggests something that is a bad idea,  after all. You don't lose points for telling a story in which you took some bad advice unless you explicitly endorse the bad advice. This holds true even when you don't realize it's bad advice. It could even give your audience a chance to see how to handle your role in the story in a more effective way. 

*If you have only imagined taking the advice you're thinking of offering, and you can't remember ever following it yourself, consider switching directions.  Lay out the situation of your imagined story for your friend and ask if they have ideas on in how to handle it. Think of your conversation as a cooperative search for truth instead of you offering them a solution. In fact, that approach is nearly always better than trying to convince someone of something you already assume (or "know").

Friday, June 28, 2019

Solidifying the Future

Knowing, or at least having a working assumption about, what other people are going to do nearly always enhances your life. Inverted, this means that you can enhance the lives of others by planning and sticking to your plan, or promising, and keeping your promise. Aside from sharing an intention, this two-way sharing of future behavior (and sharing its description, which is the promise) is the essence of cooperation.

This shows up as advertising ("We will trade away our product for your money"), agreements ("You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours"), contracts (written agreements that can be published to punish a party who breaks one), promises, plans, group discounts, limit orders, vows, etc.

The benefits of sticking to what you said you'd do include benefits to yourself.  For example, there will be some positive chemical change in your brain if you decide that after reading this paragraph, you will do something, like maybe get up and stretch, and then, when you're done reading this paragraph, you actually do that thing.  It will increase your self-esteem, at least a little bit, in addition to positively altering your brain chemistry.  You may have been too excited to make that decision before reading this far, but if not, consider this the end.  If so, here are a few extra filler sentences for you so you have time to decide.  Oh, and a call out to ask why you're still reading and not taking a moment to consider doing what I proposed.  Plus this funny reprimand to myself for ending the paragraph with two sentence fragments before the final instruction.  Don't forget to do that thing you decided to do after checking that this instruction was preceded by two sentence fragments!

Feel better?  I do.  I was actually hungry and made myself a smoothie and I've been kind of giddy ever since.  Let's solidify the future a bit more, or at least examine the benefits of planning things and then doing what you said you'd do, or at least letting those you believe might be affected by your not doing those things know that you might not be following through, if, in fact, there's a chance you won't be following through.  If you can't keep your word, at least honor it.

I have another exercise for you now, if you're game.  If not, at least, since you're still reading, it'll be in your memory so you can try it later.  You have to have a dollar.  A five works, but that makes it more difficult and reduces the return on your investment.  Take your bill to someone, a stranger or someone you know, it doesn't matter.  Ask them if they would like a dollar.  You may have to explain what you're doing, so tell them, and I will absolutely appreciate it if you tell them to check out litmocracy.blogspot.com because that's where you got the idea.  If it turns out that they would like a dollar, give it to them.  If not, thank them for entertaining your offer.

I just did that and ended up giving my youngest daughter and her boyfriend each a dollar.  Then I told them, "This cost me two dollars, but what did I get from it?"  Brennan said "Ooh, that's deep," which made it a little deeper for me. He also mentioned reading my June 11th post in which I mentioned writing about how I floss without providing a link to it.  I was lazy then, but A) I just updated the post to B) add this link which you can read without going to the other post, but if you haven't read the other post, maybe you'll check that out too.  And thanks for reading!

When we're young, we learn the value of making promises and usually don't notice the consequences of being sloppy with them.  This is why asking for forgiveness is recommended over asking for permission.  If you meet awesome enough people, they will help you understand that it's good general advice, but not with them.  An awesome person will expect you to make up for all the problems you caused by doing something you should not have done without first getting permission.  They will also nearly always grant you permission.

As we evolve, we will get better at recognizing the two sets of consequences that result from making promises.  Our brains currently only handle the first set because we so recently developed language and the ability to communicate with many people we don't know.  We evolved in tribes where saying you'd do something generally put you in a position where you had to do it, and most people who tried getting the benefits of promising without having to pay the price of delivering could not get away with it.  That's not true any more, but our cognitive evolution hasn't yet caught up.  Oops!  There I go saying things as if I know they are true when I don't actually know it.  It's my best guess and I'd LOVE it if you add comments that might refute that guess.  The first set of consequences from a promise are the benefits that come from the people who want you to keep your word, who will feel and show gratitude even if you haven't yet done it.

The second set of consequences from a promise are the results produced when it's clear to others whether or not you've kept the promise.  Since we like to be positive and avoid being judgmental, these results are often hidden if the fact is that you didn't keep your promise.  People will trust you less, without saying so. When you are less trusted, you will have less opportunity, fewer friends, and less joy.  We often don't notice this kind of downtrend in our lives, but in may cases it can be traced to some past failure to keep a promise, even a promise to oneself.

Go ask someone you know if there's any promise you made that they feel you haven't kept, and be open to fixing whatever they come up with.  I'm going to go do that now because it will solidify my future and my wife's future a little bit, and we'll both be happier for it.  Even if she doesn't come up with anything, it will enhance the trust she puts in me, and perhaps the inverse will happen too.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Balancing the Present

We all have at least as much as we need of each resource we need to be alive, and most of us have some extra of each one. "Successful" people generally have a lot of extra of those resources associated with success, like money and property. Sometimes we feel the threat implied by being close to the minimum necessary, dying of thirst (water), suffocating (oxygen), destitute (money), or desperate (hope).  Everyone feels that sometimes.  Give yourself a moment if you'd like to ponder it.  I could cry if I think about it long enough.

For a bigger picture than I intended to cover in this post, check out Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, and feel free to disagree with parts of it. I'm going to address the balance of assets in what you think of as your savings, which is a very narrow application of the general and very useful idea of balance.

First, let's get the numeraire out of the way. If you think of the value of something in terms of price then you will think of a number and a unit. Most people reading this blog use the dollar as the unit because that is their numeraire. While it's healthy and smart to imagine using other numeraires, I'll use the dollar here.

To be in balance with your investments, you decide what portion of your investments should be in investment classes, like stocks, bonds, cryptocurrency, real estate, business ventures, cash, cars, toys, precious metals, etc.  Let's take a simple example for someone who agrees with me that keeping all of your savings in dollars is not a great idea. I know someone like that, me!  Let's say bitcoin will also be part of my savings and that I choose to do 50% bitcoin and 50% cash, and that my savings is $2000 (all dollars!  Oh no! What do I do?).  My next move is to implement balance.  To keep it simple, let's say it costs $10 to do a trade, so I can buy $995 worth of bitcoin for $1005 and have $995 left in my USD savings.

A lot of people love to speculate, and they will point out that if bitcoin is going up, I'm going to miss out on half the gain they will get. I'll most likely point out that if it goes down, I will miss out on half the loss.  "But bitcoin will go to the moon!"  Okay, you win, friend, go all in.  I'll be happy with my peace of mind and half as much gain as you.  However, most of the time bitcoin does go to the moon, it also comes down.  I prefer to be balanced and I want to describe the benefit of that other than my peace of mind.  However, at some point, hyperinflation will make "the price of bitcoin" meaningless.  No one will care.  No one will use the dollar as their numeraire any more.  I expect cash won't be in my list of assets any more at that point.

Let's say Bitcoin doubles (it just did, from 4000 to 8000 between March 27th and May 12th). I will have $995 in cash and $1990 in BTC.  Friend will have $3980 in BTC.  Friend will sit on the gains and hope it's not yet time to sell.  I will regain my balance by selling about $495 worth of bitcoin.  Then I'll have $1490 in cash and about $1490 in BTC. On May 16th, the price drops back down under 7000, and I regain my balance again, spending some of my profits to add to my position. Friend bites his nails and curses, perhaps even figuring that he waited too long already and he better just bite the bullet and sell.  Now he has $3500 in cash.  He's still ahead of me. We both bought at the right time, I sold a little away from the $6200 bottom, and he sold... too early.  Selling bitcoin will probably always be selling it too early.  Friend is kind of unmoored, floating along not really knowing what to do or even if what he already did was for the best.  In fact, we both bought and sold at the same times.  I have peace of mind, and we can say it cost me $500 or so.  Is it worth it?  This was an idealized example. So let's make it a little more real.

Oh!, more real, and more exciting - say I had $20,000 instead of $2000. Let's say the two of us decide that we'll trade whenever the price has changed by $1000.  At $4000, we both bought.  Because friend's strategy is "Bitcoin will moon!," he's not going to sell unless he needs cash.  That doesn't happen to me because I always have cash.  That's a perk of being in balance (when one of your assets is cash). When it hits $5000, My gain is $2500 (I bought 2.5 BTC at $4k), so I sell $1250 of it for cash. At $6k, 7k, and 8k, I do it again but each time my gain is a little less than $2500 because I keep pulling out bits of cash. When Bitcoin falls back to 7k, I spend some of that cash, buying back a bit more bitcoin than I had sold. Then it goes back to 8k and I sell a little less than I bought. On each cycle, I end up with a little more cash and a little more BTC than I had last time we were at that price.  It's fun, it's profitable, and it gives me peace of mind.

If you trade on smaller moves, you'll be trading more often so watch out for what you spend in transaction fees.  I don't actually use $1000 moves.  I consider whether or not I'd be happy if I buy and then it falls, or if I sell and then it goes up. If it's not a big move, it's not going to be a big trade, so if it does keep going up after I sell, the gain I will miss will be the gain on the small amount I sold, so no big deal.  Likewise if I buy a little and then it drops, no big deal.  If it drops enough, I can buy some more.  If the price goes back and forth* I gain a little bit of profit each time.  Friend just gets to sweat, or, perhaps, read the charts and make a ton more money than I can, but sweating more, or maybe losing money and sweating.  The sweating is what I like to avoid.

There is another benefit to balancing, which is the same effect that all trading profit has.  Trading profit reduces volatility.  Making a profit means that you sold when the price was higher than when you bought.  Selling pushes the price down and buying pushes it up, so since the sell is at a higher price than the buy, they are both pushing toward a price between the two.  Balancing has this effect and that is very good for whatever asset you're doing it with.  Price stability leads to healthy economies by enhancing the ability to plan.

I use a spreadsheet to tell me when the precious metals and cryptocurrencies I hold have values that are not in balance (more than 2% away from the target percentage of my savings).  I have target percentages for gold, silver, cash, bitcoin, dash, ethereum, litecoin, bitcoin cash, eos, and monero.  I get to trade a lot, but I don't have to if I don't want to.  I might miss a move here or there. I might buy or sell when the price move is just starting, but it doesn't bother me.  It feels good to be pushing the prices back toward some average, especially while I don't even know what that average is.

Here's a step-by-step guide to follow if you want to use a spreadsheet to have a balanced savings strategy:
  1. Identify the assets you want to have in your savings, and include cash if you dip into savings often.
  2. Assign percentages to each asset so they add up to 100%.
  3. Make a spreadsheet with a table with the headings Asset, Units, Price, Value, Actual, Target, and Trade!.
  4. Add each asset to the list (for example ["Gold",# ounces you have, PriceOfGold, (Units * Price) = same formula for every asset, (blank1), Target % from step 2], (blank2)).
  5. Add a row at the bottom for the totals. The total of the Value Column in the spreadsheet is what your savings is worth.
  6. In the Actual column ("blank1" in my example), put a formula that divides the value of that asset by the total of that column (In Excel, F4 toggles the $ on the row/column references so that copying a formula into a different row or column won't affect the row/column selection for that item in the formula) and format it as a percentage and copy it down the column for all the assets.  It's the "actual percentage" of each asset in your savings.
  7. In the Trade! column, use the formula (Target - Actual)*Value.  You'll get negative values for assets that are over-represented in your savings, meaning you should sell some of it to raise that much money.  The positive values tell you to spend money.  You can reverse the polarity if you want, but be careful.  I can see it both ways, but it gets confusing when I actually do see it both ways.
  8. A good sanity check is that the totals for each of the Trade!, Target, and Actual columns should always be zero.
  9. Examine the values in the Trade! column to see if there is some trading to do.  If the numbers on two assets are large but one is negative and the other positive, consider trading one for the other to get closer to balance.
* BTC's price on Bitstamp went back and forth between 7700 and 8125 between 5/12 and 6/12 five times, a 5% gain each time, but that would be five 5% gains on 5% of your BTC holdings, so, from my example, on 5% of $1000, or $50. A 5% gain on $50 is $2.50, so $12.50 total. $12.50 in a month on $1000 is an annualized return of 16%.  The last move from 7700 to 8125 has still not been erased, so if we ignore the increase in bitcoin's price, we can say it's only an 11% annualized return.  Still pretty good.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Potpourri

Thank you, Carl Watner, owner of voluntaryist.com, for all the opportunity you've given me.  You're the one who taught me how to spell the title of this post.  I chose it because I didn't feel like deciding what to write, so I identified a few short draft emails that I've written over the past years that I can share.  And since I'm on gratitude...

Thank you, Telegram App developers, and members of the groups I'm in.  You have encouraged me and enlightened me.  Before I decided this post would be filled with "potpourri," I planned to read through the channels on there for inspiration.  That is what prompted Here's a Hopeful Prediction.

Untitled Poem:
Coercive imposition of public education
Kills differentiation all across the nation.
Rampant legislation encouraged by taxation
Produces the destruction of healthy competition.
So...
Insubordination represents my obligation
To fight indoctrination, enslavement and castration.

I'll Be Honest With You: I'm Gonna Lie
Trust me, you can't trust what other people tell you if you want to succeed.  Authorities release information every day about the worst kinds of deception.  You can rely on them to guide you through the complicated maze of claims made by your friends, financial advisors, lawyers, bosses, teachers, cops, and even your own research.  Don't trust your own conclusions, but instead, always run them by an authority to see if they will help maintain the status quo.

Just turn on CNN, CNBC, or MSNBC to find the latest helpful tips from your senator or representative.  If someone disagrees with someone else, don't bother thinking about it.  Instead, wait and see what the TV tells you.  Our personal capacity to reason things out has been severely damaged by school, and there is no recovering from that, so lay down your concerns and trust the mainstream media.

Some Welfare For You
If you really feel that welfare is a good idea, I have a plan.  Find one other person who agrees with you.  I will force you to give them $10, and I'll force them to give you $10. This way, both of you will have an extra $10, and from that, you can each pay me $2 for my service.

My Pledge of Allegiance
I pledge allegiance to my wife and to the children for whom she's "mom," one family lovingly stuck to Earth under a blanket of oxygen for animals, CO2 for plants, and a self-regulating cycle of resources for all.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

What I Started on Sunday

I didn't walk yesterday or the day before. I considered being very late to the Temecula Valley Voluntaryists meetup on Sunday so I could do my whole morning routine, but didn't pull the trigger. Most of what is written below is from Sunday...

I don't think any of that is particularly interesting, but I'm back from my meetup and I went on my walk and did half of my extra exercise. I meditated for a couple minutes after I wrote that first paragraph. 

In The Righteous Mind, Jonathan Haidt explains that most of the use to which we put our frontal cortex processing power is post hoc rationalization. We think mostly to justify ourselves and maintain our reputation. Maybe that's what you see below, or maybe I worked it out subconsciously before seeing it while I meditated. Maybe those two options are not very different from each other. 

We are constantly presenting ourselves to others, so it's a good idea A) to be honest, respectful, and honorable and B) to make our intentions clear to others. Being on time is part of A. I'm pretty sure I have been conditioned and trained to feel like being on time is important, but I also agree that there are many situations in which it is, actually, important. I'm lucky that the training matches my analysis. Going to the meetup on time, I decided, is a good way to maintain my reputation. 

When I wrote "I didn't pull the trigger" above, it was because I decided to go, but the option was still there to be late and finish my routine. I can't remember whether or not that calculation about maintaining my reputation had happened yet, or if it only happened a few minutes later while I meditated.

Why have I decided this subject is fit for publication in my blog?  Honestly, it's because it's Tuesday and I haven't been inspired to write about anything else.  Introspection is valuable.  I think I over-represent its value specifically because I have the feeling and the belief that school damages the human tendency to introspect.  I'm pretty sure my writing is full of introspection.  I'm trying to be the change I want to see in the world, as Gandhi suggested.  Healthy introspection will vastly improve the life of anyone who hasn't been engaging in it already.

For writing that is of higher quality, but without any effective way to interact with its author, check out The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem by Nathaniel Branden.  A lot of my writing reflects my efforts to exemplify the pillars he identifies.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Here's a Hopeful Prediction

In fact, I plan to be instrumental in bringing this about. I'm David, so I take after that guy in the Bible who recognized that thin strip of bone right between Goliath's eyes.  That's where cryptocurrency lives, along with voluntaryism, anarchism, agorism, and freedom in general.  You might be wondering who this Goliath is.  Well, it's you, or, to use the popular euphemism, it's "We, the people."

Democracy is an arrangement where you get to play the victim as long as you're in the minority, and you're justified in playing the victim.  Obviously, the minority is the group who voted whatever way lost. That's not so bad as long as people still respect you and act decently, but we have legislation.  The laws, democratic folks say, must be enforced.  Yes, republicans say that too.  Statists say it.  Loads of people say it, and they believe it, and I don't think they really thought it out very well.

You might vote against the guy who gets a law passed that you're not allowed to X because you worried he would make X illegal.  Once he gets that law passed, if you are a grown up and take responsibility for yourself and recognize that what legislators do is wrong, you'd probably just ignore his law and do X anyway. Then you might get caught, put in a cage, robbed - oops, the proper euphemism is fined - and most people will approve.  It's not everyone who can make up rules and then fine people or put them in cages for breaking the rules.  You have to get elected first.  That is the horror of democracy: someone else gets to violate you because they're popular.  Yes, I know I'm shitting on something we were all taught is so god damn precious.  But taught is not the right word. The right word is brainwashed. Let's go through the story again, and this time, I'll remove all the cues that trigger the brainwashing.

You might prefer not to be in a cult whose leader really wants you to be in his cult.  He might demand that you behave a certain way, and you'll just laugh at him.  Other cult members may then take you to a room where they put on a mock trial and convict you of being a bad person, and then engineer some identify theft to make your bank think you've authorized a payment to them for your transgressions.  They might keep you locked in that room for a long time.  It's not everyone who can get a bunch of people to cooperate in stealing from you or locking you up.  You have to be really charismatic.  This is the horror of a cult: there are often enough people in it to overpower any individual who sees the problems with what they are doing in the world.

No prediction so far, sorry. Here it is:  This horrible system will fall apart because when people do things that are actually bad, like kidnap, kill, and steal, the spying tech that our oppressors love so much will be used by private individuals to do something about it, and what they do won't be horrible violence! We won't need to cage people or fine them.  They (most of them) will quickly want to make things right because too many people will refuse to serve them, allow them in their places of business, or even sell them anything until they show some effort to undo the harm they did.  The few who refuse will end up dead at the hands of some able citizen who learned self-defense, maybe you or me!

The biggest criminals are not wanted by the law.  They are the law.  They perpetrate the most insidious crime because they have layers and layers of abstraction they use to make people think that their crime is good for society.  Thanks to WeAreChange, I found out that mayor Tony Reasoner. and vice mayor McCaw Johnson of Ridgetop, Tennessee are two of these guys.  The good guy in this case was also a member of the law enforcement system there, Police Chief Bryan Morris.  All he did was point out that the mayor's office was demanding ticket quotas, which is illegal.  This bubbles up from all the fine victims in Ridgeport who give the ticketing officers a hard time about fulfilling quotas.  How long will it take the mayor's office to make things right?  Or are they going to let Ridgetop stand out there as a shining example of the waste that police departments really are? I'm happy either way.

This kind of thing will grow.  We will learn how to simply state the facts, which will be very ugly facts, about people who wield power, and those people will back away from wielding it so destructively.  Without the biggest criminal gangs in force any more (eventually), smaller criminals will come out and do a little more crime, but their pool of victims will shrink fast as people learn to leverage technology (crowd-sourced emergency-handling apps like Cell 411 for example) to protect themselves, and gun ownership and self-defense capabilities continue to grow.  That reminds me, my family is due for some firearms training!

We will handle crimes of all sorts (yes, SJWs, even income disparities and the use of racial, sexual, and discriminatory slurs, fat-shaming, and even just stating some obvious truth to a person so angry that they can't think straight, don't worry) without stealing money (aka taxation) or stealing money (aka fines), or kidnapping (aka prison), or any kind of behavior that is really immoral.  For example, the guy pictured here,
probably along with at least one other person, stole $40,000 from me a long time ago.  There are many people who look like him, and most of them are NOT him, but one of them is (I think in California or Nevada), and if you happen to talk to any of them and feel like he might be a thief, just let him know that he looks just like a thief you read a tiny bit about in this blog. If he's the guy, maybe he'll think about going legit.  He has called himself Manny and Sergio and probably a few other names.  He likes to get people to think they can buy something valuable with a lot of cash and then damage their vehicle (slashed my tire) so they have to stop somewhere, and then rob them while they are stopped.  I think he's pissed off at the USA for screwing with his country (somewhere south of the border, Guatemala, San Salvador, Nicaragua ...?).  I wrote a whole newsletter about him.

But he is not a politician, so he's small potatoes.  People don't think that when someone hurts someone else on his behalf, it's good.  If he makes a demand of you and you defy him, people won't be angry with you, they will cheer you on.  The masses are not in the thrall of this man, and he doesn't have an organization backing up his violence toward others with 20 trillion dollars worth of borrowing power and millions of employees.  The evil of this world has worked its way into him and he will probably die before it leaves him. If there was more I could do that had a decent chance of offering him redemption, I would do it.  He stole a piece of my heart with that money.  It's just that I have what I think is a pretty good understanding of how a person turns into a dirtbag, and it's hard to blame them.  It's easier to blame politicians and other people who derive pleasure from controlling others. I think it's a lot wiser too.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Chapter Three: Someone to Trust

I went back to the bed where I had woken up and sat cross legged, looking at the camera high in the wall.

"Can you guys help me out here?" I asked.  I waited a few seconds and laid out my case.

"I don't think Kim believes that I'm me.  I can admit my own doubts about that too, but I love her and I want the best for her.  I think that you might feel that if I knew what happened the other four times, you might not like the outcome.  Have I broken any agreements I made with you?  Do you have grounds to distrust me?  Did you assess my potential for trying to deceive you?  Do you think that my life is worth living if the woman I love can't see that I'm still here for her?  Okay, yeah, it is, but she's a human being and deserves better than this doubt you're making her live with."  I waited a few seconds. "Is anyone even there?"

I relaxed as much as I could, intending to meditate.  My feet were still bare, so I adjusted my pillow and put them sole to sole as is my habit for meditating.  I rested my plastic hands, palms up, on my plastic knees and closed my eyes.  I normally had some thoughts to acknowledge and dismiss but there was nothing.  The nothing was nice.  I could hear an electronic hum and something ticking and I could see the blackness of my eyelids (yes, also plastic), smell laundry detergent from the bedding, feel the mattress top supporting me, and even my knees pressing into the backs of my hands.  I didn't have a pineal gland to imagine connecting to the greater awareness of the universe, but I had electricity running through some kind of component that ICM claimed could support consciousness.  I might be the only one who knows they're right about that.

There was a knock at the door.  I called out "Come in," but kept my eyes closed.  I heard someone approach and stop.  "It's okay," I said, "I wanted to talk to someone anyway."  I popped my eyes open and recognized the ICM technician.  "Hey, what's your name?"

"Hi, I'm Rod Ramasubramaniam," he said in an Indian accent. "You have not broken any agreements.  We are attempting to address a problem with the government.  They have prohibited us from allowing you to interact with anyone outside of your family and our company."

"Do you trust me?" I asked him.  He looked to the left and then met my fake eyes again.
"You act and talk enough like a human that I believe you're in there.  We have no reason to distrust you.  We-" but I had cut him off, loudly enough that I don't know what he said.
"So we can work together to advance our common interests, right?"
"We are not represented by myself alone.  The non-deterministic nature of the hardware and the software which is running on the input from your last brain record makes it impossible for us to distinguish between randomness and an actual consciousness.  There are some high level iCyborg personnel who don't believe consciousness can exist in a mechanism such as what you're using, but they keep quiet about it.  As far as I can tell, they don't pose any danger to you.  As for common interests, I believe we can work together but your government is making it difficult.  Not just for your case, but for our business itself."
"How?"
"The United States prohibits non-deterministic hardware, well, intentionally non-deterministic hardware, and our software requires it.  Technically, your existence is against the law."  He wore a mischievous and quizzical look, as if inviting me into an illegal practical joke.
"Will I be able to review the recordings of the previous attempts to awaken me?"
"I believe so, eventually.  Please be patient.  Have you tried sleeping?"
"Sleeping?  I haven't felt this... full of energy for a long time.  When I tried to meditate, there were no thoughts to come up and bother me.  What is the delay with the recordings?" I asked.
"It's under discussion.  We are in very new territory and we want to make sure we don't make mistakes.  We have a psychologist under contract but we didn't think to ask her about your voucher - your wife - but your request put us in motion to have her consider the situations of each person with whom you have contact - including me."
"Will I get to meet her soon?"
"Yes.  We'd like to see you sleep first, but we don't have a good understanding of what might motivate sleep when brain function is supported by a battery instead of biological processes."

I watched him for a few moments, worried that there was some other reason he didn't want to tell me for me to sleep.  I knew life was better when you can trust someone - at least one person - other than yourself, and then I figured that if ICM wanted me to sleep, they could make it happen, with or without my consent.  It seemed that Rod would serve well as my trusted friend until and unless he proved otherwise.

"Can you promise that I'll be safe if I lose consciousness?" I asked, doing my best to penetrate him with my eyes but also smirking a little with those last two words.  He chuckled a little bit, warmly, and it made me feel safer.  "I promise you will be safe.  That's actually a promise I made to the company too."
"Okay," I said, offering my hand to him, "I'll try to sleep.  Thanks Mr. Rama...," I laughed at myself and touched my head. "I think that used to be easy for me, so this thing might need a little work."
"It's Ramasubramaniam," he said, and pointed to my heart, "but new memories are stored here for now.  And you're very welcome."
On his way out the door, he turned back and said "Rama is enough, but you can call me Rod.  Good night."

I laid back on the bed, closed my eyes, and started thinking.  Could they have a reason for me to sleep? Nothing presented itself.  That seemed weird to me.  I knew from personal experience that if I posed a question, a few potential answers would show up right away, but in the machine, there was nothing.  I considered my motivations.  Maybe the recordings will show weird stuff in sleep. Probably not, unless he lied to me the first time I asked if I'd be shut down too and he said I was okay.  Honestly, right now, as I'm recalling this to write about it, I don't know why some parts show up as my thoughts (which I put in italics for you) and some parts don't.  I actually don't sleep, but I do lay still with my eyes closed and think and I know people think that I'm sleeping.  The body I have now is far more like a human body than the one I had back then.  Once I realized I'd been thinking for a while and wasn't going to sleep, I started to twitch a little every now and then to trick the company.

Chapter Two
Chapter Four

Saturday, June 22, 2019

A Deeper Kind of Preparedness

"He's go...ing through cha-anges..."
My kids started watching "Big Mouth" which uses a song in which this line stuck out to me. It's been a few months at least since I last saw them watching it, but that song plays in my head a lot. It's an indicator that I'm feeling uncomfortable and awkward in dealing with things.

Yesterday I felt really full for an hour or so, and then the feeling turned into a sore stomach. That made it hard to sleep last night. I was hoping that I'd be better by this morning because I was planning to attend Toastmasters Leadership Institute. I'm home recovering instead.

It seems that I didn't digest much yesterday, so I'm pretty weak today. I've skipped my walk and extra exercise. This usually throws me off a lot more than I care to be thrown off, but I'm handling it better. I'm conserving energy by skipping exercise, but, and this is a bit new, I'm sticking to my routine otherwise.

To be prepared for things that are foreseen, you plan ahead, imagine what various things the future could hold ("foreseen," right?) and gather to yourself whatever resources will help you handle them.  How do you prepare for the unforeseen?  Such preparation is what I mean by a "deeper kind of preparedness."

It does involve some knowledge (working assumptions, I like to remember to call them), but it's mostly building a history of being spry - spry of mind and spry of body.  Having a "mind like water" seems like a good idea.  For me, this means being able to see clearly even when what you see is troubling, threatening, scary, or otherwise encourages us to look through filters.  It helps to remember that the truth, whatever it is, will ultimately be the best information to use as a guide.

Contrast this with "cognitive dissonance" which preserves a person's world-view in the face of evidence that suggests that world-view is wrong.  For me, the dissonance comes from our natural assumptions that A) our perception is accurate, and B) our interpretation is mostly correct.  One of those things has to be wrong if the evidence suggests our world-view is wrong.  It's okay.  "The Truth is Out There."  Consider yourself to be on a cooperative journey toward truth.  It's a journey in which you will keep honing your world-view.  That will be alarming to people who know you, but if you inspire them to join in the cooperative search for truth, their alarms will fade out.

The way I better handle my day being thrown off track by skipping exercise (or any other change to my normal routine) is to find something which acts as an adequate replacement given the conditions that broke my routine.  My "exercise" this morning was healing my gut. I've been doing it since last night when I got up to see if drinking a lot of cold water or throwing up might help.  I drank the water, but I couldn't hurl.  I had the confidence to try, though, and the faith in my body and in the evolution that produced it that allows the placebo effect to become a real thing.  Believing you can handle anything makes handling everything a little easier.

When you break, you can heal into something stronger.  When you fail, you could learn something that will improve your life far more than succeeding.  Look for the silver lining.  For scientific support, consider that you're the product of evolution, and that means you're more prepared for everything than most creatures that ever lived.  For personal evidence, remember that last time you wanted things to be different, you made changes, and now they are different.  It's not a pattern you ever lose, at least not as long as you're still alive. We already enjoy a deeper level of preparedness, and you can enhance that preparedness, or you can cower and ignore it.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Some Handy Questions

If you offer some advice, like what I'm doing right at this very moment, it might help first to ask the recipient of your advice if he or she is interested in doing or thinking a little differently.  Are you?  I write with the assumption that you are.  I do like to entertain people with my writing, but that's not my main goal in writing.  My main goal is to offer my experience and thinking so that if there is something valuable in it for others, it's available to them.  If you are not interested in doing or thinking any differently than you already do, please find something better to do than waste your time reading this.  Since you're still reading and you might be a little conflicted about it, consider that you might stop now, change your mind, and then come back to read the rest.  Changing your mind is one of the best things human beings do.  In most cases, changing your mind ends up benefiting you.  Often, I think, the harder it is to change your mind, the more rewarding it is.

Thanks for proceeding to this second paragraph!  Have you ever noticed yourself offering advice to someone which, if you took that advice yourself, might benefit you?  Did you ever get the feeling about something you realized or said, that it might be true in many ways that you didn't intend?  I can answer both of these questions in the affirmative, and I actively seek to notice myself doing that and to explore that feeling.  It's an exercise that involves stepping back a little and doing some analysis. I do love to just sit and think, or just sit and not think.

I am interested in doing and thinking a little differently.  It would be nice if, for example, I started this blog post this morning, before meditating and after my extra exercise like I planned, and also incorporated walking the dogs into my morning walk.  I did walk the dogs this morning, but they wore me out so I didn't do the extra exercise and (accidentally) skipped writing.  I was hungering to meditate after walking those dogs.  Man, those dogs!

Suppose you gave someone some advice: "X," you said.  Then you considered whether or not X applies to you too.  If the someone asks you some good questions, you might find yourself saying things that are true on more levels than you intend. You might have an epiphany.  You might exclaim, "Oh! I just realized that... " (for example) "if the relationship between you and your child is like the relationship between me and my dog, then I need X too!"

Then you could get really excited and explain the connection to the someone.  That's what I find myself doing sometimes.  It has worked for me and I wanted to share. I know, I know, details.  Hmmm...

I had a conversation with my youngest daughter.*  She was complaining that a friend of hers refused to see both sides of an issue.  The friend insisted that abortion is always wrong, and my daughter felt that if a rape victim ends up pregnant and decides to end it, she should have that right.  My advice was to be vulnerable.  My daughter was looking for me to agree with her.  I do agree with her, but I didn't say so.  Instead, I offered solutions to a problem.  She sought agreement, not a solution.  For years, I had been offering my wife solutions when she just wanted me to understand her pain.  My daughter spelled out for me that she didn't want a solution - just to be heard and to know if I see value in her position.

I stepped back and considered being vulnerable myself.  I did agree, after all, and saying so was easy.  To be vulnerable, I took on the role of the rape victim, and argued passionately for a pass to be given to my unborn child, rather than being sentenced to life in "Hell on Earth," which is what my circumstances offered.  I did this to show her what may have been an effective plea to her friend, but also to show her that I did agree, and why I agreed.  I also told her how frustrating it is for me to see someone suffer when they don't have to, simply because they are looking to be heard and understood and will reject any kind of solution offered by their audience. It's frustrating, yes, but when you're there for someone you love, it's worth it too.

Solving problems is one of my greatest passions.  Sometimes the problem is that someone else's problem has what I think is an easy solution, and they aren't interested in my easy solution.  If they keep a firm grip on that problem, it may be for a reason they don't see.  Landmark calls this a "racket."  We get something out of having problems.  What do I get out of having the problem that others reject my easy solutions to their problems?  I get to remain distant and aloof from them, ignoring their suffering.  I don't have to answer difficult questions about my seemingly "simple" solution.  These are the goals of an energy-saving machine, which is what the human body evolved into.  They are not my goals, however, so I have to thank Landmark for showing me what a "racket" is and giving me the tools to recognize it when I'm running one of them.  I'm not perfect at listening, but I'm much better.  I might need to work on continuing to progress in that direction.  Hmm...

Listen.  Listen actively.  Do your best to be the person speaking to you.  Feel their pain.  Ask questions to align your experience with theirs.  At some point, you will be on the same page and they will feel it.  If you still have what you think might solve or reduce their problem, ask them, "Are you interested in doing or thinking a little differently to change that?"  If you've listened well, and did a good job getting on the same page with them, I suspect the answer will open a previously locked door, and I have no idea where it might lead, but at least it won't be locked any more.

* This story is subject to revision after my daughter reads it.  She might have important details that I forgot.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Instructions to Myself

If you'd like to meditate the way I meditate, here's how:

Sit in a recliner without any shoes on, and put the soles of your feet together.  Rest your wrists on the outsides of your knees, palms up, with the tip of your thumb touching the tip of your index finger on each hand.  The nerve endings in the soles of your feet and the tips of your fingers and thumbs will be pushing against each other slightly, and, at least in your feet, this creates some "bilateral sensory input" associated with EMDR, which seems to help brains heal from stuff that damages them.  I didn't know this when I started doing it.  My thinking was that if meditating gurus have some decent reason to connect their forefinger tips to their thumbs, then connecting the soles of my feet might provide the same kind of benefit.

If you want, push one of your thumbs slightly into the tip of that forefinger, and then push the forefinger into the thumb, just a little bit.  Then push the foot on that side slightly against the other foot. I tried this for the first time this morning and it brought a slight feeling of well-being. That could have been psychosomatic, but that doesn't mean it isn't good or real. Thre placebo effect can cure illnesses, especially when we torture ourselves as much as many people do.

Relax. Stop trying and give up. I view meditation as a lack of intent, and letting go of all your intentions is, paradoxically, an intention. It's okay. Be at peace with yourself. There is no "trying" to meditate. Either you're doing it, or you're not. In the case of meditation, Yoda's instruction is unavoidable.

You may notice sounds, smells, emotions, memories, visual effects, a taste, or physical sensations in your body. You are becoming more present to your existence. I heard once that the goal of meditation is for the meditator to realize the meditator.  Make your self real, but you're real self, not the meat  suit with which you usually identify. Again, paradoxically, this seems to occur for me without effort when I stop making any effort.

Thoughts come, and that's okay. While not trying to avoid engaging them, I guess I'm just kind of lazy in response to the thoughts. If it's important, it will come back when I'm not meditating.  I give myself permission to pause my meditation if a thought warrants it, for example to avoid unnecessarily inconveniencing someone.

I will never stop trying to make other people more like myself.  I love myself and my life too much to keep that from others
😊

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

An Analog Blockchain Clock

Following is a description of an invention that exists only in my head.  I'd like to see it become real, but perhaps that desire isn't strong enough to make it happen.  If you make any money because of this idea, I'd appreciate some credit, but if you choose to ignore my existence instead, I and everyone who reads this will learn something valuable about you, though it will be kind of negative.  I have faith in you, and I would like to help you bring this invention into reality.

What Is It?
What I've invented (only in my mind, and now on the Internet) is an analog clock with a white face composed of four quarter-circles of backing material and an opaque rim all the way around, holding a clear cover through which the face of the clock is visible.  At the position of the tip of the hour hand at 1:30, 4:30, 7:30, and 10:30, just under the opaque rim, hidden by that rim from the view of those looking at the clock, are three LEDs, a green one, a red one, and a blue one.  The gaps between the four quarter-circles of backing material contain short barriers protruding from the face of the clock, but not far enough to be in the way of the hands as they go around.  These barriers are only tall enough to prevent light from the LEDs in one quadrant of the clock from shining on any other quadrant.  The clock functions normally, telling the time, and includes a user interface on the back so the user can set the time correctly.

The clock also contains a WiFi antenna and CPU in order to connect to the Blockchain Clock app, which is used to control the LEDs.  The clock broadcasts its own WiFi network until a device joins it and provides access information that enables it to join a foreign WiFi network that provides Internet access.  (This is similar to how the Samsung SmartCam SNH-V6410PN works.) Once the clock has Internet access, it enters default mode.

What Does It Do?
In default mode, the clock connects to the Bitcoin peer-to-peer network and listens to it for new blocks.  When it receives a new block, it uses the LEDs to display colors derived from the block's height (four bytes), hash (32 bytes), and merkle root (32 bytes again) until it receives another new block.  The display interprets three bytes at a time from the data, which provides it with 24 bits of data.  The 24 bits are divided into four groups of six bits each.  Each group of six bits is used to set the intensity of the LEDs in one of the quadrants of the clock face, two bits for each LED.  LEDs can be OFF, DIM, ON, and BRIGHT. The LED intensities are held for half a second before moving on to the next three bytes which are interpreted into a new color pattern for the entire clock face.

The data being rendered into color on the clock face is 68 bytes, which is 22 groups of three bytes each, followed by two extra bytes.  The 23rd group of three bytes is composed of bytes 67, 68, and 1, and the 24th group will use bytes 2, 3,  and 4, and the 25th, bytes 5, 6, and 7, and so on.  The entire pattern will repeat after displaying the data three times, which takes 34 seconds.

How Can We Mess With It?
The clock may also have a switch that allows the data being rendered into color to also be rendered into sound, playing what sounds like a bird tweet, but composed of tones that come directly from the data and which can therefore be analyzed to reproduce the source data.  In this way, and audio recording made in the presence of a Blockchain Clock (which is loud enough) will also enable the proofs described below.

The Blockchain Clock App allows the user to configure the duration of each display (the default of which is half a second as described above).  It may also allow the user to write a program that controls the colors displayed on the clock face instead of using the data from the Bitcoin blockchain.

What Can It Prove?
When a Blockchain Clock is functioning properly and it appears in a video recording, it can be used to prove that the video was made later than a particular point in time.  This proof results from identifying the colors on the clock face and deducing the bit patterns they indicate, which can then be compared to the bit patterns of the blocks in the blockchain to identify the point in time when that 68-byte pattern came into existence.  In this way, it can be proven that the video was not made prior to that point in time.

Once the video is stored digitally on a computer, its maker can compute a hash of the resulting file and use a service like https://cryptograffiti.info/ to memorialize it in the blockchain.  If anyone has that file, the presence of its hash in the blockchain shows that the file was created before a particular point in time.

In this way, proof can be created that it was made between two points in time, and thus that everything that happened in the video happened between those two points in time.  Of course, one must pay attention to any cuts in the video, since events from other points in time could be spliced in.  In any case, if you see the value in proving things, you are probably as excited about this kind of thing as I am.  And, really, we're very nerdy!

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Pushups, Squats, and Situps

Stand up straight and slowly bend your knees. To keep your back straight up and down, you will probably have to lift your heels. I had to do that when I started because my ankles were not flexible enough. Jujitsu great and author of Happy Body, Jerzy Gregorek was interviewed by Tim Ferriss and talked about ankle flexion and squats, and that's how squats got into my routine.  My ankles now bend enough that I can get my butt to my heels while keeping my heels on the floor.

Once your butt gets to your ankles (or the floor), stand back up quickly. I count to ten on the way down because I'm resisting gravity, but letting it take me, and this makes the standing up more powerful. Repeat this three times so you've done four squats, but don't stand back up at the last one.  Instead, bounce, stretching your thighs and butt, and helping those ankles become more flexible.  I bounce sixteen times, going up and then back down about two inches.  It's a thigh workout all by itself.  After that, don't stand up.

Instead of standing up, put your hands flat on the ground in front of you.  You might need to catch your breath after the bouncing. When you're ready, see if you can kick your legs out straight behind you into a pushup position.  Now you can slowly (count to ten again) bring your chest down to the floor, and then push back up quickly.  Again, repeat this three times but don't push back up after resisting to the lower position the last (fourth) time.  Bounce (sixteen times is what I do) using your upper arms and pectorals, just an inch or two.  I used to not have any noticeable pectoral muscles but now I can do that weird thing from that movie.  Bonus points for identifying it.

From the upper pushup position, bring your knees to the floor and then, keeping your hands flat on the floor and in the same place, push your butt backwards over your calves, and down toward your ankles.  Your arms will be sticking out in front of you and stretching out your shoulders and your back. Push your hands into the ground to increase their grip and pull away from them to enhance the stretch.  When you're satisfied with that stretch, roll over and sit with your legs straight out in front of you and feel your hamstrings stretch.

Slowly (count to ten again), lay back down, resisting gravity with your stomach muscles.  Once your back is on the floor, raise your legs up vertical, together, and be careful not to hurt your lower back.  Once they are straight up, lower them slowly (yes, to ten again) until you're laying flat on your back.  Finally, thrust your arms forward and sit up again into that position where you can feel your hamstrings stretch.  Restart this paragraph three more times, and then, instead of thrusting your arms out to sit up again after the fourth one, just lift your feet and shoulders (and as much of your back as you can) off the ground and bounce, sixteen times again.  It's exhausting and it will eventually give you abs of steel.  At least that's what I tell myself :-).

Now you've done four squats, four pushups, and four sit ups, incorporating "super slow strength training".  I do that routine four times just about every day after I walk and before I meditate.  It takes me about ten minutes.




The Evolution of my Morning Routine

I was inspired by my dad to start walking every morning about 15 years ago. I go around my block twice in about half an hour.

A few years ago, I decided to meditate for ten minutes after walking each day. A few months ago, I bumped that up to 15 minutes, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

At my free Landmark seminar (which comes along with the Landmark Forum which isn't free), Crystal Neels inspired me to put another 10 minutes each day toward my well-being so I started doing pushups, squats, and situps, usually at some opportune time before noon, sometimes after. Nowadays, it's nearly always right after my walk. Being a creature of (good) habit is comforting. 

A friend suggested eating only fruit for a while, and also fasting. Now I have a fruit smoothie every morning for breakfast, but before I walk, I eat a protein bar and drink some water with electrolyte powder in it. My wife suggested these things and they have proven to make life much more enjoyable. Thanks, love! 

Today, I inserted writing between the extra ten minutes of exercise and meditating. Making the fulfillment of a commitment part of your routine seems like a great way to make it easier to keep. Bonus points for anyone who figures out what motivated me to add writing to my morning routine today. 

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Chapter Two: Trapped



I dialed Julia's number.  When she answered, I said "How soon can you come to..." and I realized I didn't know where I was.  "...umm, I'm at a lab and I have to find out where it is.  Most likely near our house." She was living in Oregon by this time, and she was making plenty of money to fly down as long as her schedule wasn't too tight.  Then I realized our middle daughter, Anna might be a better support for Kim.

"I can fly down this weekend with Jeff."
"Who's Jeff?"
"Dad, come on, you remember Jeff, the pilot?"
"Sorry, no clue.  But you know a pilot and he's willing to fly you around... That's awfully nice!"
"Yeah!  So what's up?  Is mom okay?"

"Yeah, she's fine, but I... Okay, I'm fine too.  Umm... I feel great and umm..."  I had never considered if my children had any attachment to my physical body.  I had no idea how that thing was doing. "Sorry.  It's complicated.  Okay, I have to tell you now because you'll be totally freaked out otherwise.  I was in a car accident and... Do you remember iCyborg?"

"No way! So my dad is gone and you're the robot that got his code?"

While I pondered how to answer that, she started screaming.  I don't think it was into the phone.  I probably should have asked Kim to call her.  I waited for her to talk, but instead she hung up.

I called Anna and things went much better.  I just said "Mom could probably use some company right now..."  A few minutes later I found the address of the lab and texted it to her. I texted it to Julia too, and also "Please consider that I might actually be here instead of" but then I erased "instead of" and put the period after "here."

"Hon?"  I wanted to let her know that Anna was coming and would probably bring our youngest, Jenna, and that Julia at least knew.

I started walking around in the suite that ICM had set up for us and found her sitting outside petting a dog I didn't recognize.

"Hey hon, I called Anna.  She said she'll be here tomorrow morning, probably with Jen."
"Why?"
"Well, I figured with all this stuff that's going on, it would be nice if the kids were here."  She didn't respond, so I elaborated.  "I'm glad you told me they already had you meet four other versions of me.  The tech said I should ask you about it because it was- he said 'there were difficulties.'"
"I'm just really tired," she said. "Can we talk about it later?"

"Yeah."  I sat down in another chair, facing her.  "Can I rub your feet?"  She shook her head and scrunched up her face because she didn't want to cry.  I looked at the palms of my hands.  They were perfect, rubbery, and plastic, and I could really feel it when I touched one hand with a fingertip from the other hand.  She couldn't tell that I was really there and not just some technological wonder.  I worried that she figured the programming was trying to trick her into believing something false, but I knew that it was true.  At least I wanted it to be true.  Whatever I was, I still loved the woman and suffered the discomfort of her situation.

I felt so trapped.  I felt like crying but the sensation of tears would not come.  I could tell that my eyes were not glassing over, and the expression of sadness I felt was not matched by the appearance of my face - at least that's how I felt.  She was shaking her head no in answer to my question.  I got up, kind of disgusted with ICM, and said "This thing doesn't let me cry."  The crying was in the voice, but not in the face.  "It's torture being unable to show you that this is really me," I said, "And it's not your fault at all."  I walked away.

I started looking for a way I could contact someone from ICM and get my hands on the videos of the other robots.  The suite was pretty simple but I couldn't find a way out.

I walked back to Kim and asked, "Can you show me how to get out?"
"They said not to let you out."

Chapter One
Chapter Three

Oh No! I failed! I'm Such A Failure!

I don't have an ideal way to feel about the fact that I broke a commitment to myself yesterday by going to sleep without having published a blog post.  Friday and Saturday were kind of blurred together so the few times I thought of that commitment, I remembered posting on Friday morning, imagined "that takes care of today," and didn't think much more about it.  Now I see that I skipped yesterday.

This isn't the first time that I experienced making a mistake and then being tempted to use it to rationalize or justify giving up on the endeavor within which I made the mistake.  I like to think I don't really do that any more.  The value of committing to publishing a blog post every day for 30 days probably is not diminished by a failure like this one.  It just means that, to actually make good on the commitment, I have to do it for 13 "extra" days.

However, I did make a plan which was kind of a commitment that I haven't broken (yet),  to publish a chapter of my cyborg story each Sunday.  I don't like that "yet" either, but sometimes a failure is a win on a deeper and/or more important level. Also, it's a good idea to do the best you can even if the evidence shows that you didn't do it the way you said you would do it.  So this is yesterday's blog, which I had to wait until today to publish so that the title would make sense.  It was not intentional.  Maybe, subconsciously, it was intentional, if there is such a thing as "subconscious intent."

Take your mistakes in stride.  Don't get egotistical and pretend it wasn't a mistake.  I probably do that sometimes, but I try to avoid it.  We're only human, after all.  Or are we dancer?

Friday, June 14, 2019

The Kind of Input I Seek.

Hi Dave,

I'm pretending not to be you but instead, a friend who saw you pimp your blog and mention that you're looking for input.  I wanted to know what kind of input you were looking for.  I'm pretending to be a friend who is a lot less concerned about grammer, (and spelling), so I might dangle a few prepositions.

First off, I kind of like the colors in your blog but they don't make me feel like reading.  Or, maybe: I don't really like the colors in your blog, but they do make me feel like reading.  Actually, since you're really me, I should mention that you (I... oh, Hell.) WE don't really care about the colors except that we want everyone to be comfortable reading the blog.

I read one of the entries and it was confusing.  Or, maybe: You're really good at explaining complicated things!  Normally, I wouldn't say that because compliments don't really offer you any plan of action for improvement.  However, I listened to Tim Ferriss interviewing Ramit Sethi while driving around today and they discussed the fact that positive input does have strong and good effects.  It's just that I'm you, so I doubt compliments will go over very well in this pretense of input.

I read a really short one and I liked that it was short.  Do you have some rule about your challenge that precludes publishing blogs as short as Where Did Those Seagulls Come From? And thanks for dangling that preposition in the title because that makes me feel a little better about the ones I'm sloppy with.  If I shared one of your posts, I'm pretty sure a lot more people would check it out if you added images (at least one) to each post.

I'm feeling pretty duplicitous right now, and I don't like that, so I'm going to stop pretending and just tell you some of the things I thought about when a friend asked what kind of input I seek.  If you like a particular post I wrote and find an image that would go well with it, you could let me know.  If you have a site to which you'd like to direct people, I might just add the image and then make it into a link that goes to that site.  I will also credit you for finding the image unless you let me know that you'd prefer to remain anonymous.

What is my goal?  I'd like to spread the ideas that underlie voluntaryism.  I'd like to see more curiosity, creativity, courage, and redemption.  I'd like to embark on a cooperative journey toward truth with as many people as I can.  I want to find a small group of words that inspire others to join me in pursuing these goals.  Knowing what I want, and reading what I've written, do you have any advice?  Have you noticed anything that attracts or repels you, or which advances or retards the goals I listed?  Oh yeah, it would also be really cool if this 30-day challenge ended up making a lot of people interested in reading the book I'm writing.

I proposed several topics about which I would like to write.  Another valuable kind of input you could offer me is a selection of some of those items, or add your own.  If you feel like it, you could also describe why you chose those items or whether they seem like they may apply to your life somehow.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

The First Step

At some point in your life, you gained the ability to stand, and then to lift up one foot without falling over right away, and then to put it back down a little closer to where you want to be, and then shift your weight onto it and lift the one you stood on a moment ago. You probably fell down soon after that, or you may have had something to hang onto so you didn't fall.  Remember?

I don't remember either.  I mean, all that happened to me too, but I can't remember it.  If I knew then that it was something I'd be doing millions of times, would I have done it?  It took me a lot of years to realize that when a goal requires a high number of repetitions of the same action, it merely looks daunting.  Granted, to look daunting is to BE daunting, but there's a deeper sense in which appearances are deceptive.  There's something in the distinction which eludes description.  I hope you feel the same sense of infinite potential that I do.  It's got a little bit of fear in it for me, but mostly excitement and joy.

In the last few weeks, I've come to recognize that my mind is full of stuff, or maybe it's my memory.  Something about my experience feels like it's crowding me.  I'd like the freedom to drive to New Hampshire over the next week to be at Porcfest, but I have commitments and desires that probably won't be fulfilled if I do.  Am I writing this post to convince myself to drive away from my family for a couple weeks?  No.  It came up because driving to NH is one thing I don't have the freedom to do, and that isn't because of other people.  It's because of me and all the stuff I've allowed to collect in my mind and memory.  There is a way to handle it, and there is a first step in performing that method.

The first step at this point is to figure out how to do it.  Sit and think.  Meditate.  I meditated this morning but the thought "you have too much stuff going on to be as free as you want to be" didn't come up.  Something this important ought to, even if I'm meditating.  Maybe this is why I had the dream last night of flushing the toilet and seeing that the toilet did NOT overflow, but the sink did.  It didn't make sense to me.  I woke up curious about it, but not curious enough to think about it.  So maybe dreaming that flushing the toilet made the sink overflow, and knowing that my commitment to blogging would bring it into my consciousness was enough to let my subconscious leave me to meditate in peace.

I think I just figured out the first step, and it is this: Ask for help. Or maybe the first step is to try to write out a list of all the things in my head.  Maybe I can ponder whether to ask for help or write a list in order to avoid actually taking a first step.  Because, as you know, if you take the first step, there still may be 999,999 more steps you have yet to take, and who wants all that work?

My wife, Kim, is sleeping*, and I'm totally not comfortable waking her up to tell her I need help.  I have some other things I need to do*, and I want to get them done before I write out a list of things in my head.  I'll use "I need help" as my mantra, and try to let a lot of people know, because I think that will be more effective than well..., honestly just hiding the fact that I need it.  If you need help too, go let someone know.  We'll do it together.  And by "together," I only mean in spirit.  Is that enough?

*By the time I published this, these weren't (as) true any more.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

How Listening Leads to Knowledge.

Sound and the language we build from it (and then writing) ie abstraction, allows us to make claims to each other. There is exactly one thing you learn for sure from a claim, and that is that the person delivering it wants you to believe it's true. Especially when the claim is widely broadcast, there is little correlation between the content of the claim and what you can learn from it. It can inspire exploration, which is its main value.

On lots of minds in recent months is the term "fake news." Using that term indicates a claim. Anyone talking about "fake news" wants you to believe something.  You might already believe it, depending on what it is. Sure, there's fake news, but sometimes the fake news is that some other news is actually fake.  Who should you believe?  No one.  Rather than believing, just be aware of possibilities and explore them if they might be important to you.  "Fake News" is the new conspiracy theory, but they ruined that term and now they've found a decent replacement.  They still lie to us though, sometimes.

Sometimes, a person who is making a claim will also advise that you take what they say "with a grain of salt" because they recognize that they might be biased.  I like analogy and metaphor so much that I'm now going to describe what I think the salt represents and why it's useful. It's doubt, plain and simple.  The person is saying "Doubt this, but ... X!"  In my experience, they also justify their advice that I should have some doubt. Why is salt used to represent doubt?  That's fodder for a future post, I suppose!

Last night, I met a couple friends and we discussed education and what can be done to improve the experience of young people.  One of them, a math teacher, posed a question about the metaphor of planting a seed.  He suggested that there should be something between the sledgehammer and planting a seed.  It would be something non-destructive and less drastic than a sledgehammer, but quicker and more successful than just planting a seed.  We came up with "grafting."  To extend the metaphor to address the successful introduction into another person's mind of doing something a different way, or viewing the world in a different way, grafting means connecting the healthy living idea in your head into a healthy living idea in the other person's head.

This morning, I had occasion to practice this middle-ground between seed-planting and sledgehammers.  I watched a Valedictorian speech posted to Youtube by Josh Tolley, and then I used his contact page to describe the seed / grafting / sledgehammer metaphor and apply it to his Youtube post. His post allows the valedictorian to plant some seeds into his audience's minds.  My suggestion was to graft something in as well.  I left the following comment and suggested it as content for the information section under the video, or that he pin the comment I made.  Here it is: "If you're interested in the issues discussed in this speech, you might enjoy "The School Sucks" project and/or podcast at https://schoolsucksproject.com/category/podcast/."

I keep asking you for comments, partly because the better idea I have of what healthy ideas are already living in your minds, the more effective will be my efforts to graft into those ideas my own ideas that I think will help bring more peace and prosperity to all of us.  It will also provide me with things to graft into my own ideas. So speak up!

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Potential Interests: Now it's Your Turn

Following is a list of things about which I would enjoy writing.  You might enjoy reading about some of them, and we would be a match.  If you let me know about that, then I'll have that much more motivation to write about them.  I'll probably write about them all eventually anyway, but the underlying list (in my mind) will grow whether or not I edit this post, and probably faster than I can write, and someday I'll be dead (probably).  Thus, your input might be the difference between something you want coming into existence and it dying on the curve of procrastination.
  1. What do I mean "probably"?  Everybody dies, eventually!
  2. The Global Consensus Clock, which is a way that you can prove something must have happened between two specific timestamps.  My conception of it uses an analog clock with pretty colors and synthesized bird chirps, along with blockchain technology.
  3. How I floss my teeth (oh wait, that's already at Everything2.com if that site still exists).
  4. Some sort of index to other stuff I've written that is still available on the Internet.
  5. The power of being vulnerable.
  6. "Striping" which is how I think of the process of homeostasis, or the constant back and forth across the "right" values for everything.
  7. Chapter Two of my book and the conversation I just had with my daughter about it, since the characters in it are based on real people.
  8. Other chapters of my book.  You have some influence over how it goes. It is, after all, an exploration of the human condition and I'm only one of us. I already plan to release a chapter each week on Sunday.  This will help me stay ahead of the procrastination curve on which lots of great endeavors find their death.
  9. The value of butt dials.  No, not dials on your buttox, but rather accidental mobile phone connections.  Yes, I see value in them.  ... (Sometimes I hear thoughts from the future).  Ok, then just ask and let everyone know that it was your thought I heard and I'll explain :-).
  10. All the meaning that "Cancer" has for me.  I do have a very (VERY!) mild form of cancer, according to the medical industry, but don't use that as an excuse to be sad (see the first item in this list).
  11. My "Landmark" years.
  12. My THC weeks.
  13. What I think George Price (who studied altruism and also committed suicide) missed.
  14. Being an autodidact.
  15. What Voluntaryism is, in preparation to give a speech on it.
  16. How we handle the failure of cooperation and how I think that should change.
  17. Bitcoin and how it affects the world.
  18. Crowdsourcing a magic spell, which is my latest description of my vision for memeracing, my site that redistributes bitcoin among people willing to propose and identify tiny pieces of high quality writing.
  19. Ask Me Anything - a post that will never exist until there is enough curiosity among my readers to provide at least one (but hopefully a few!) questions that I'd like to answer.
  20. Some pointers on how to become more humble, and the benefits of humility.
I just changed that list from bullets to numbers so that you can refer to the items in it more easily.

At this point, I usually go through and add links, but today, I'm hoping you'll do some writing (in the comments below) instead of more reading.  I don't know what the ideal ratio of input to output is, but I'm pretty sure that with this 30-day challenge, I'm way over-weighted on the output side, especially with people who are interested in the persistence of my existence.

A friend told me yesterday that the Principia Discordia indicates that the answer isn't 42, but rather 23.  I haven't read it, so if it's important to you, I recommend that you go find out for yourself :-).

Monday, June 10, 2019

Science and the Ultimate Mystery

"Science cannot solve the ultimate mystery of nature. And that is because, in the last analysis, we ourselves are a part of the mystery that we are trying to solve."
- Max Planck, Quantum Physicist

Planck says that being part of the mystery makes the mystery something that science can't solve.  I see a relationship between this idea and something Kurt Goedel supposedly proved.  I read Goedel, Escher, Bach by Douglas Hofstadter, in which he explained Goedel's proof.  I read the book twice, but it's still faith that backs my working assumption that he's right.  I maintain that faith because I am unable to see any flaws in the argument that Hofstadter explained, or in Goedel's thinking about that argument.  Goedel did not make any claim about self-reference being the cause of what he proved.  So what was this thing that he proved?

Mathematics is a system of understanding idealized definitions, specifically about numbers and logic.  There are interesting questions in math, like "Can you prove that there are an infinite number of primes?" and "Can you make a circle and a square that have equal areas using a compass and a straight edge?" and "If you always cut even numbers in half and add one to three times the odd ones, do you always get to one no matter where you start?".  What Goedel proved is that cannot be a system of mathematics that can take all such questions and process them into the correct answers without ever contradicting itself.  The lack of contradiction is called "consistency," and the ability to answer all the questions is called "completeness."  Goedel proved that there cannot be a system that is both consistent and complete.  His proof boils down to the fact that you can, in some way, provide the system with the question, "Is the answer to this question 'No'?"

Planck's statement seems to be an echo of Goedel's proof, but he is claiming that it is the self-reference ("we are part of the mystery" and "this question") which prevents the system from working.  I have a different view, although it may boil down to the same thing.  My view is that proof is subjective, so whatever mystery I solve is solved for me, and the fact that I'm the one experiencing the mystery might be essential to the proof.  "The Ultimate Mystery," for me, definitely has my own experience as an essential element. Since no one else can experience my experience, my proof, like Dr. Ellie Arroway's in Contact, will be unavailable to everyone else.  Of course, you could come up with a proof for yourself which would be unavailable to me, and then we could agree.  The fact that your proof uses your experience and mine uses my own means it isn't science.  Science has to be objective, or else it isn't considered science.

While science can't solve "the ultimate mystery," we can each do some soul-searching and possibly solve our own "ultimate mystery."  Some people pretend there is no value in that kind of solution.  They rely too heavily on science.  In my view, they deny their own divinity (and that of anyone else).  They require scientific, objective proof of something before they are willing to take a risk in trying it (or allowing others to try it). David Gorski is a good example, at least from back in 2013. Securing objective proof that there's a very low chance of it causing harm is a good idea, but proof of efficacy before trying it is just foolish.

Research from 2015 indicates that paying more for something can improve the beneficial effects that it has for you.  It may also be required that you believe that what you're purchasing for more is different from what you could purchase for less, but I didn't look for a study on that.  That we value free things less than we value things we pay for is common and widespread knowledge.  If you don't want to be exploited, there are two essential things you have to do.  First, you have to know yourself.  Second, you have to pay attention.

If the fact is that you will derive more benefit from a particular thing because of some belief you hold about it, then the extra power is in your belief, not in the thing.  To understand this about yourself can be difficult, but E. Arthur Winkler wrote a book called "The Power of Suggestion with Hypnosis" which helped me a lot.  I wanted to provide you with a link to his book, but I found only ONE available on the Internet.  I think I gave the copy that was given to me to a friend of mine.

In any case, we already have the solution to the ultimate mystery.  It's forty-two.