I am really proud of myself for becoming the strongest and most muscular of my life during this pandemic. For the few years leading up to the pandemic, I got into basic barbell strength training, then considered taking a more bodybuilding approach, and ultimately decided to focus on pure raw strength, specifically powerlifting. When the pandemic hit and I realized that it was going to be months, not weeks (little did I know it would be more than a year), I knew that I had to figure out how to continue my powerlifting at home. It was a new-ish hobby of mine, and if I just let it fall by the wayside, it would essentially mean that I was no longer doing something that was purely for myself. For my own self-worth, I needed to have that thing that I would do for myself.
The rest of the country decided to buy fitness equipment at about the same time, so it was a bit difficult to get the stuff, but with enough persistence I pieced together the equipment I needed. So this whole year I have pretty consistently been doing my lifting. I have gotten bigger, stronger, and I feel good about myself and what I have achieved. Last year, I even participated in a virtual powerlifting competition. I came in last (of three) in my age and sex category, but that’s OK.
Despite having adopted this healthy habit and achieved the improvements that came with it, I find myself wanting more. Yes, more progress on physical achievements, like a running habit and increased flexibility. But more than that, I want to grow my spirituality, emotional well-being, mindfulness, willpower, intellectual pursuits, and conscious leisure activities. I know each of these things will take a similar amount of commitment that my growth in physical strength has taken. So I have to keep reminding myself of that.
I am 37 years old. Just continuing to “think of” myself as a mindfulness-aligned, spiritual-seeking, intellectual person does not make it so. I have to actively pursue these goals and others. Aside from putting in the work, I need to make room for that. I need to slowly shed non-core responsibilities, so that I have more room (primarily time, but also mental context switching) for personal growth.
I have been “wanting” to cultivate a mindfulness practice for at least ten years now. And by “mindfulness practice,” I mean even just ten minutes of meditation per day. Of course, that would just be the start. But even that start, I have never begun for more than a few days. So how much do I “want” it? That is what I need to prove to myself by taking steps to make it possible.
I also find a certain amount of sadness in, for instance, finishing a day of work plus other responsibilities, to walk to get the mail and realize that I have hardly been outside all day on a beautiful day. It’s not that work alone prevents me from getting outside. More that a combination of other responsibilities after work as well as a lack of sufficient willpower to take advantage of little 10- or 15-minute blocks of time together prevents me from getting outside, or whatever my “conscious leisure” activity might be.
All of this is to say that I only live once, and simply floating from day to day, week to week, month to month, season to season, year to year, without putting in sufficient conscious effort in designing my life, cultivating my spirit, sculpting my body, caressing my relationships, appreciating my intellect, and fully experiencing life, will be a disappointment to say the least. We only live once, and we must grab life by the horns and ride it for all that it’s worth.
My resolution for 2021 is to get organized. There’s many things I hope to accomplish in life, and being organized isn’t one of them really. But being organized allows me to more easily accomplish my other goals, and brings peace and harmony to my life. Specifically, and most importantly, I am mostly referring to my house. I want my house to be mostly picked up and tidy the whole year.
I’m going to make a video tour of my house today, and at the beginning of every month, to mark the progress.
Wow. I haven’t felt this much anxiety for quite some time. Two people close to me are exhibiting mild symptoms that could be COVID-19. One of them is older, so that’s more dangerous. The other is much closer to me, so that’s much more worrying.
My kids’ school was just cancelled for a month straight. A month. I’ve never heard of anything like that in my life. It could be that two months from now we’ll mostly be back to normal. But more likely is we’ll be four months from now and two million Americans will have died from this shit and I’ll know several of them. There’s almost certainly going to be a recession as a result if not a depression. My feeling right now is to not go anywhere. Don’t go out to eat, don’t go to the gym. Maybe other people aren’t there yet with this same feeling but they will be within a few days probably. Lots of people aren’t going to be able to pay their bills, they’re not going to be able to be paid.
I can’t shake the feeling that this is going to be a life altering moment. Nothing will be as it was supposed to be after this. I can’t shake the feeling that this is just becoming a pattern of one fucked up thing after another. For years now here we’ve been dealing with nearby wildfire, our town covered in smoke for days at a time, whole towns in the region wiped off the map. Just a few months ago our power went out for days at a time. Living by candle light, working for a technology company by battery backup and Internet by cell phone hot spot. Whole refrigerators of food thrown away.
Now this COVID-19. And what’s after this? Probably the depression or recession that I mentioned. After that? I can foresee civil unrest, food shortages, more wildfire. I want to think that I am just worrying unnecessarily but I really don’t think I am.
One thing I need to take away from this assuming I get to the other side of this crisis as an unbroken man is to live up to the full potential of my intellect. I am disappointed in myself that it wasn’t until just about two days ago that I really understood the full gravity of this situation. I didn’t understand the severity of this disease as far as its fatality rate, the rapidity of its spreading, the effects of it on the economy, and its effect on everyday life. I could, if I chose, put a large amount of blame for this on the inadequacy of messaging on the subject. I saw a dearth of messaging answering the question of “why is this a big deal?” But the real blame should be on myself for not proactively researching this issue to really understand it. I won’t be so unprepared in the future. Yesterday I felt lucky that there was no shortage of rice and beans at the co-op. They had been stacking them by the front door for a week. And I didn’t wonder to think what would cause them to put such a display by the front door. It could have just as easily been empty by the time I looked, and my unpreparedness would have been the cause of that failure for my family.
The second takeaway from this is that life is short. I’m not going to waste my time on inconsequential shit. I’m going to accomplish important things in life, like making a real difference on issues of justice, and being an effective leader in these areas. I’m going to make real progress in becoming the man I want to be and treating myself and my family right. Because life is too short to do otherwise.
I’m trying to find the right medium to write on. First I started a blog that I thought was anonymous but it followed me around the web based on my email address.
Then I tried to write a career-related post on LinkedIn but it limited me to 700 characters. Screw that.
A recent interview of Matt Mullenweg (sp?) inspired me to write on this blog some more. I’ve had this blog for over ten years I believe. The nice thing about an anonymous blog is that I could write what’s on my mind without fearing hurting anyone’s feelings.
I think with this blog I’ll take a middle ground. First of all I’ll write less about personal things, but secondly I’ll allow myself to be a little more open about my personal things when I do write about them.
OK, now that that’s out of the way! What I really want to write about is my technology learning experience. I left the farmÂ a month and a half ago. (Has it really been that long? Wow!) Since then I have been spending my days learning. Surprisingly, I think I might have already found a job through an old college friend, but that hasn’t officially started yet. Until it does start, I am treating learning technology as my job. I’ve enjoyed learning python, R, machine learning, and now ASP.NET. When I do start my job, I will need to make sure I set aside dedicated time just for learning.
I want to have a full tool belt at my disposal. I want to be “beginner OReilly book” capable at dozens of technologies, and I want to be expert level at a few. I also want to get on the ground floor of a new technology. Something like Rust would be interesting to learn in this regard. And lastly, I want to contribute seriously to an open source project.
I am legitimately excited to be learning and using technology every day again!
I have noticed that over the past few years, perhaps since we moved to Nevada City, that I have had certain themes in my thought. I think that maybe having a stable place that we are living, in contrast to our vagabond lifestyle in 2012, allows me to be more introspective.
One of my favorite times of day is often laying in bed before I go to sleep. I am usually a belly sleeper, and I find that if I lay on my back at bed time that I do a lot more thinking for some reason. During these times I tend to think of whatever theme has been dominating my thoughts for the past few months.
My themes tend to last for months at a time.
For a while, after reading Kurzweil’s The Singularity Is Near, my thoughts have been on the radical artificial intelligence future. In my view (to steal a Bernie-ism), Kurzweil is far too optimistic. It may be that his Utopian future does come to pass. However, I am cautious about putting so much optimism in our AI overlords. We have very real problems to worry about before artificial super intelligence arrives to save us all. Relying so much on AI to save us seems to be a gamble. What if we screw ourselves over with climate change before AI has reached its full potential? This concern is completely separate from the existential threats that Nick Bostrom raises in his book, Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies. Bostrom’s example of a paperclip optimizing AI turning the entire Earth, all of its life, and beyond, into a massive amount of paperclips reads like something out ofÂ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, but in my mind it is an entirely plausible example.
Mostly as I lay in bed at night thinking about these things, I am thinking in the context of imagining what my own life will be like in certain scenarios. In the case of an intelligence explosion, it is hard to imagine what my life might be like in 50 years. In that time, we might have uploaded our brains onto a digital medium. In Kurzweil’s examples,Â the entire universe could be one big computer. How could I possibly conceive of what life might be like in this situation? Rather, I think more in the shorter term. I think about driverless cars and how that would affect daily life. But more importantly I think about how it would affect my profession of farmer. AI will probably take over the thousands-of-acres commodity farms first. The wheat and soybean farms will be largely automated. Eventually, however, AI will come for the small vegetable farms as well. What will it do to my sense of self when machines exist to the degree that I show up one day and find that all there is for me to do is sit in a lawn chair and drink a beer? An AI-powered machine will be planting, weeding, watering, harvesting, washing, packing, and delivering my produce all more efficiently than I could ever dream of doing myself. That first day of sitting in a lawn chair, drinking a beer, and watching the machines do all the work on the farm might indeed be glorious. But I doubt the 50th day will be glorious.
I do believe that humans have a need to feel needed in this world. If I feel that there is no work that I could do that is truly useful, that no one in my town is expecting anything of me, that no one will notice if I don’t show up for work, I can say personally that that will be a huge blow to my sense of self-worth. I imagine the same will be true for many other people, and I think that AI is coming for other people’s jobs a lot sooner than mine. What will happen to the tens of millions of truck drivers, accountants, lawyers, journalists, and others, who will be put out of work by AI? I think we could be facing a huge mental health crisis in this country.
I do think that will adequate planning we can mitigate the problems that might arise as AI gets more and more powerful. But given the current state of politics in this country, I don’t have high hopes that we will tackle this problem proactively.
Next time on my blog, we can talk about Buddhism!
It is time to start writing on this blog again. All of my blogging energy has gone into stuandmags.net, and now that Mags and I have decided to settle down in Nevada City, California, it is time to do more writing, which is more what this blog is about.
Lately, I have been thinking more and more about the coming advances in robot and artificial intelligence technologies, and how much change these advances will bring about in our economy, transportation systems, and personal lives. My thinking has been stimulated and prompted by a piece by 60 Minutes on robots in the workplace, and a series of articles in Forbes about the Google Driverless Cars.
I think it is most clear what the impacts of the Google Driverless Cars will be, and that is the subject of this first post. Very quickly, this new technology will turn every part of our transportation system on its head.
First and foremost, in most respects driverless cars will be a huge boon to street safety for all users. Collisions between two driverless cars will be virtually non-existent, as the cars will be in constant communication with each other. The algorithms and sensors controlling the cars will have much quicker reaction times and much lower error rate than any human driver.
These algorithms will be required to follow all traffic laws. This will be a huge plus for all sorts of streets, but especially in cities. As a cyclist, I look forward to the days when cars will properly yield and merge, and not double park.
Even for the clueless, iPhone-wielding pedestrian will driverless cars be a great advance in safety. Even the best algorithms and sensors can’t bring a car to a dead stop in no time, but a driverless car could begin perfect evasive and slowing maneuvers the second a pedestrian steps into the road. This extra half second and use of perfect technique will avoid many collisions with all road users, no matter who is at fault, and when collisions do occur they will be much less likely to be fatal.
Perhaps the greatest advance in street safety will be the elimination of drunk driving. There will still be plenty of dolts who decide to drive themselves home when they have a driverless car option, but most drunks will opt to let the car drive them home. Drunk driving is a huge problem, as we all know, and I think it is a problem that will eventually be close to eliminated.
The entire car ownership model will be turned on its head. Many people will choose out of habit or pride to still own their own car, driverless or not, but more and more people will realize the great economic benefit of simply renting a driverless car on demand, paid hourly and/or by the mile. If you live in a city or suburb, you will be able to request a car to pick you up, and a car without anyone in it will drive itself to your front door within minutes. Most people will opt for this option over owning their own car, especially young people and city dwellers.
With near perfect utilization of a fleet of driverless cars, many fewer cars will need to be produced. This will be a giant shock wave to the auto industry. The vehicle fleet will eventually fall to 10% of what it is today, since cars will rarely be vacant, save for the times like 3am when most people don’t want to go anywhere anyway. This change alone will be disruptive to many economies, especially the United States, Japan, and Germany. A smart auto maker will realize this change is inevitable and get out ahead of the change. Half or more of current auto makers will fold within the next few decades as demand vanishes.
With far fewer cars sitting idle, giant parking lots will become a thing of the past, as will many areas of street parking. This will be a great thing for bicycle infrastructure, sidewalk widening, and using old parking lots for things like parks and public gardens. This will also cause business real estate prices to drop, as many huge parking lots will now be open to development for business use. Indeed, even streets themselves will be able to be significantly narrowed as driverless cars will be able to follow each other with just inches to spare. This narrowing and removal of car travel lanes will present even more opportunities for more sidewalks and bicycle infrastructure.
Again, driving will be much more efficient, and I mean an improvement by leaps and bounds. Gone will be the days of constant traffic jams due to irrational driving behavior, collisions, and inefficient use of road surfaces. Because driverless cars will be in constant communication with each other, they can follow each other within inches, braking instantly as needed, and gaining a huge boost in wind drag efficiency due to drafting. This huge increase in efficiency will make our current freeways look downright silly as most of the road surface will be completely empty while other parts will be crammed with cars safely going 100 miles per hour. Rather than our current ridiculous trend of widening freeways, we’ll actually contract them and save bundles on maintenance costs.
As you will be able to instantly get a personal vehicle sent to your location at any time, equipped with a computerized chauffeur, public transit will go through a huge change. Many public bus lines will be eliminated, and where they are kept the drivers will be replaced by computers and sensors. Some people will have their driverless car memberships subsidized by local government so the costs to them will be comparable to their current subsidized transit passes.
Other types of transit will show resiliency as they offer speed advantages over cars with rubber tires on asphalt and cement. Airplanes and eventually high-speed rail will be used when you need to get somewhere more quickly or more comfortably than a driverless car can get you there. However, routes like San Francisco to Los Angeles will greatly shrink as people can do the route in 3.5 hours using a driverless car at 100 miles per hour, without having to deal with the indignities and delays of airports. Air travel and high-speed rail will mostly be used for trips of 500 miles and more, and of course trips across the oceans. I don’t see good local trains and subways going away any time soon, as in many cases they are already such a fast and efficient way to travel.
Even many of our errands will be turned on their heads. You’ll be able to place an order on the web to the grocery store, and a car with no one in it will arrive at your house at the appointed time with your order. Your package deliveries will also arrive in a driverless vehicle at appointed times. A driverless car will arrive to take kids to school.
Taxi drivers will of course resist this entire endeavor, and of course I feel for them. But, honestly, resistance is futile. It is not a matter of if the taxi driver profession will be almost entirely wiped out, but simply a question of when.
Unfortunately, with the increases in efficiency, cost, speed, and convenience, many people will actually increase the amount of time they spend in cars. People won’t mind living two hours away from their job as much when they can work, read, eat, and drink from their moving car. Unfortunately this all equates to more time people will spend sitting on their asses, increasing incidences of diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.
Driverless cars will be the push that electric cars needed. When it is a computer rather than a human worrying about how, when, and where to charge, many companies will make the switch. Gasoline combustion engines will still have a significant role for longer trips, but for shorter trips electric cars will rule the day. This will be a significant advance in air quality and engine noise.
However, another form of noise will surely increase: that of cars moving at 100 miles per hour regardless of any engine noise. This background “wooshing” noise can travel for many miles, and I think it will increase as there are more cars moving at a faster speed at any given time.
Google already has working prototypes of the driverless car, and I think within three to five years we will start seeing them on the roads. In that time frame they may still be out of reach for most private owners, but they will start to be used for car sharing, where people can share the costs of these expensive cars, currently estimated to cost $300,000. The car sharing model will be the one that eventually comes to dominate, anyway. Costs for these cars will rapidly fall until they start to approach the price of current human-operated cars, and as the prices fall these things will really start to take off. I feel that most people have no idea what huge changes in transportation are on the horizon but soon enough everyone will know about it.
Despite this lengthy blog post detailing the many changes I expect to see, I am not necessarily a full advocate of driverless cars; I just think that these changes are inevitable. Overall, I think the changes will be a net positive over our current transportation system, mostly due to the huge advances in street safety for all users. However, we need to be aware of the significant drawbacks, some of which I have addressed above.
The biggest downside I see to driverless cars is that it will make it much more tempting to not engage in active transportation. Cycling, walking, and combining these modes with public transportation are currently attractive to many people because of the cost and convenience compared to private automobile ownership, especially in cities. As using driverless cars becomes inexpensive enough, many people will start to use the service and miss out on the significant health benefits that active transportation provides. In fact, I think cyclists and walkers will increasingly be seen as quaint and behind the times. The social and economic pressures to travel by driverless car will be great.
People who choose to not own a cell phone will probably be left in the dust, as they will be needed to get picked up anywhere you don’t have access to a computer.
As people are no longer in control of their own motion, they will lose touch with their sense of direction, even more than they already have with smart phones and GPS. People will lose the sense of connectedness of places as they will pay less attention to the geography between points A and B.
As active transportation decreases and public transportation shrinks, we will become more atomized as individuals than we already are. When you get picked up and dropped off door-to-door in an encapsulated vehicle, you interact less with people. The driverless deliveries will have the same effect as you no longer interact with people at the grocery store. However, you may be able to easily choose to carpool in a driverless car which would increase your interaction with people.
As it stands now, the easiest way to limit the adverse effects of car culture for yourself is to simply not own a car. It is a big, expensive decision to own a car and therefore you can easily stick with your original decision to not do so. However, when a car lifestyle is a simple web form and $50 membership fee away, it will be much more difficult to remain true to your decision to not own a car.
There will be impediments to the widespread adoption of the driverless car. These impediments will come in the form of cultural resistance, mostly from conservatives, resistance from the auto industry, and from lawmakers scared of change. These impediments are real, but at most they will slow but not stop the driverless car. Resistance is futile, for better or for worse.
I just listened to a This American Life episode about the working conditions in which all of our electronic crap is made in China. It is really quite eye-opening, and it is amazing yet totally predictable that pieces like this are not more common.
Our economic model (capitalism) guarantees that these atrocious working conditions will exist. Capitalism turns everything, including people, into mere objects. When you have an iPhone, it is just an iPhone. It is not this particular unique piece that contains aluminum from a particular mine and made by a particular person with their own unique feelings, wants, needs, fears, and passions.
The person that made your iPhone in fact does not have time or space to express themselves as a unique human. During their 12 to 16-hour working day, they aren’t even allowed to talk to their coworkers while on the assembly line. They then go “home” to a 12′ x 12′ dormitory containing 15 beds. There are even cameras in their dormitories.
One FoxconnÂ (the actual manufacturer of Apple crap) worker died after working for 34 hours straight. Other workers are poisoned from hexane, losing use of their hands in their 20s, or even dying from it. If they complain to the official government agency about working conditions, they get put on an official government blacklist. With nowhere to turn, many workers choose to end their life.
And of course Apple and Foxconn did not want to talk to Ira Glass. They, like all of us, see what they want to see. Apple complains a certain amount about the working conditions, but clearly not enough to prevent all of the above from happening consistently year after year.
The New York Times “liberal” Paul Krugman and “conservative” Nicholas Kristof actually speak highly of the current economic phase that China is in. Kristof actually has an article titled Two Cheers for Sweatshops. Sure, there may be problems with sweatshops, they say, but the lives of the workers are better than they were when living in their hovels. At least Kristof is honest enough to call them sweatshops. Steve Jobs wouldn’t even admit that Foxconn was a sweatshop.
You’re officially allowed to stop celebrating the life of Steve Jobs. Certainly, we’re all guilty in this globalized system. It’s complex. But the level of guilt is on a continuum from “just trying to get by” to “massively profiting from the misery of others and the destruction of our planet.” Steve Jobs was on the latter end of this spectrum.
It always amazes me that these people, people like Jobs, Kristof, Krugman, and almost any economist, are actually taken seriously. How poor are our critical thinking skills that we accept their dichotomy of abject poverty on the one hand and sweatshops on the other? Why should the lives of people in third world countries be reduced to these two choices? And how little respect we must have for these people to never realize that it is not up to us to decide what is best for them? It is our responsibility, in fact, to instead model our world around giving people their due human rights and then letting them decide what is best for themselves.
Props to my friend Greg for linking to the This American Life episode that inspired this post. This post was tapped out on an Apple Macbook Pro 15″.
I have learned a lot over these past few years. And I have also changed. Some of the changes are typical. I got married, so one would expect that I am not as interested in partying or staying up late. This is true.
I want my future home to be located in an area with very low noise and light pollution. I want to live in a community with other responsible, loving adults. I have come to value responsible, trustworthy people more and more.
I want to be able to walk outside my door to nature and beauty, not a street with cars. I want to see more than civilization when I look from my window.
Basically, I want peace, health, love, and beauty to be in my life in abundance. I need an environment that supports my growth as a person. I have a wonderful partner who also greatly values these things. Together, we will find and create a home that allows us to prosper and be happy.
A while ago I tweeted that Mags and I would be quitting our jobs in October. Some people were confused as to what was going on, and I promised a full blog post. Here it is!
Our last day of work will be October 21. For about two months following that, we will focus on organizing our stuff and also relaxing in San Francisco. I’ve lived here for six years and haven’t had much non-job time to just experience the city. I’m very much looking forward to this 🙂
In late December, we will go by train to Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia to visit family for the holidays. Around New Years we will go by train and bus to Las Vegas. Mags will be teaching for about a week while I’ll be holed up a few hours away getting my exercise and meditation on for a few weeks. Mags will join me when she is done with her teaching gig.
After this is when the real adventure starts. What follows is not set in stone, but it is the general plan. It is inevitable that we will add some things, shift some things, and subtract some things.
After Vegas, we will go to Haiti to volunteer at a refugee camp for about a month. We’ll both use our professional skills and also probably do some grunt work. They’re still suffering a lot down there over a year after the earthquake.
From there we want to go to other parts of Latin America: Venezuela, Bolivia, Peru, Brazil. Probably not all of those. And we don’t really know yet what we’ll do in those places.
Then we will go to Taiwan to learn Mandarin from Mags’s aunt and visit family for two-three months, followed by a couple of weeks vacation in Japan.
In the fall we will go bike touring, with camping and couch surfing, in the Northeast US for about a month. At an undetermined time of the year, we will travel the US by train, bus, hitchhiking, etc, to explore where we want to set down roots.
There will also be a couple months of unplanned time to allow for some degree of spontaneity.
What comes next, you ask? Well, we want to have a baby or babies. We want to move somewhere that we can afford some land (read: not San Francisco proper). We want to live with others in some fashion. I want to work with my hands and not often in an office. That’ll probably take the form of farming or bicycle mechanics. We want to start a home business centered around healing and well-being – physical therapy, massage, exercise, etc.
So, lots of plans. We’ve been thinking about all of this for a long time and we’re excited to get started. The nice thing is that we’re close enough now that we can actually begin to make concrete plans, buy tickets, decide things, etc.
And, just another reminder, all of the above isn’t set in stone 🙂 For about 75% of it I wanted to preface it with probably or possibly. But I thought reading that over and over would get tiresome 🙂
Seemingly twice a week you’ll hear that someone got “posterized” by a slam dunk. Like the dunk by Taj Gibson on D Wade. “Posterized” means that someone dunked on you, and therefore you’ll be on their poster that will go on the walls of countless twelve-year-old boys across the country. However, a cursory search turns up no results. You can get posters of players dunking, solo, in Slam Dunk Contests, but none of them dunking making some other guy look foolish.
So, maybe we need to end the term “posterize,” unless someone actually starts printing the posters 🙂
Although, it looks like you can get this classic on eBay.