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Predictive Contenders: Allan Lichtman (ENTP) and Cenk Uygur (INTJ) on US Presidential Election Predictions

Thursday July 11, 2024

I wanted to share some quick personality analysis, after watching this interesting video by Allan Lichtman, author, researcher and professor behind the Keys to the White House theory.

In the video, Prof. Lichtman “schools” Cenk Uygur of the Young Turks, offering counter-critique to Uygur’s original call-out video.

Before I go further…a challenge…

If you have a prediction-oriented personality, please predict what I will say here, before you read the rest of the article! Make some simple notes, but add a reasonable amount of detail.

This can be an enlightening activity for predictive types to learn about their personality, their own predictive style, and potentially their gifts.

The personality breakdown, by those involved:

Quick Note: In case the following information does not seem obvious, it is based on my own experience in personality theory, in being extensively trained in the topic, in training and coaching hundreds of people, administering psychometric instruments, running a personality-theory blog for many years, etc.

Yes, you read that right, I am an EXPERIENCED BLOGGER…hear my voice! :-)

The Breakdown

Here is a basic breakdown of the personalities involved, by type.

This is my best estimation right now:

  • Professor Allan Lichtman: ENTP (Theorist – Inventor – Professor Type)
  • Cenk Uygur: INTJ (Theorist – Strategist – Critic Type)

Note that both are NT types, known as “Theorists” or “Rationals” in Temperament theory.

Initial Commentary

In Uygur’s original video, we can see the following:

First, Cenk says that Professor Lichtman is “entirely full of crap”. This is an emotionally-charged statement, and it’s also a considerable generalization.

Coming from an INTJ this kind of statement immediately causes some concern, as those are both common INTJ blind spots: 1) Overburdened emotional critique and 2) Lack of consideration for details. OK? Continuing…

Next, Cenk focuses on the professor’s statement: “Other people dont have any track record,” Cenk says. But then he jumps to his own track record.

Focusing on Cenk’s personality type, a Ni-dominant (a qualitative-prediction-oriented) type, this also causes some concern. In my experience, it leads me to wonder if Cenk sees himself as an up-and-comer, a contender, in the area where Professor Licthman has established himself: Prediction!

This takes us back into the theory. Let’s go:

Deeper Personality Breakdown

Let’s get deeper the personality theory a little bit:

First, these are both NT personality types (note the letters “NT” in both personality types).

NT personality types tend to think very fluidly with regard to time (notice how in these videos, both of them jump comfortably from past to future, making confident statements in both contexts), and prediction is a very common contested space for NT types.

Also, both of these personality types lead with intuition:

  • ENTP Egoic Foundation (Allan Lichtman)
    • Ne: Diffuse Extroverted Intuition (Exploring Ideas)
    • Ti: Qualitative Logic (Organizing Information)

Lichtman had a new idea (his model) and really ran with it! That’s common for Inventor types.

An ENTP like Lichtman is also probably more likely to critique someone else’s lack of due care in organizing information. You can clearly see this approach in his video response to Uygur.

Now for Uygur:

  • INTJ Egoic Foundation (Cenk Uygur)
    • Ni: Convergent Qualitative Intuition (Conceptualizing Outcomes)
    • Te: Quantitative Logic (Building on Standardized Knowledge)

An INTJ like Uygur gets a singular, strong, intuitive summary-impression, and runs with it (his video calling out Prof. Lichtman as being “entirely full of crap”)! This general wholistic-summary-first approach is common for intuitive Critic types, even if the details may differ considerably.

An INTJ like Uygur is probably more likely to critique knowledge that seems “un-standardized” or “made up”. In my experience, Uygur would definitely focus on theories like Lichtman’s, in this mode.

In fact, he makes fun of the idea of “picking factors” at about 4:45 in the video. While his critique may be relevant in some ways, this kind of focus can also can indicate an INTJ’s lack of experience in working with qualitative logic, as opposed to broad, shared-knowledge quantitative logic.

To me this adds some weight to the idea that Cenk is in a very passionate, ego-driven mindset.

Predictive Style

There is also a strong difference in predictive style.

  • Cenk Uygur’s Predictive Style
    • Wholistic – Gestalt Prediction: Cenk makes direct, assertive, general predictions with phrases like a “message that will catch on,” and so on. In this way, he claims to read the emotive pulse of the American people. That’s no small feat!
    • Information-Collecting to Information-Deriving: Cenk says, “You look at how a campaign is going. You look at the dynamics of the campaign.” But he has no logical model (that he has shared, anyway), and seems to base this sense of the whole from discussions with others, news-consumption, and so on.
      • My guess is that Cenk has a sort of imagined “team” or “personal collection” of favorite news writers and sources, the commentators he subscribes to and trusts to deliver the highest-quality information to his inbox. This is the usual method for an INTJ to build up a strong predictive direction.
      • It’s important to consider this: Even if you don’t have your own logical model, what if you build your gestalt perspectives on top of others’ analysis and models, at least in part? Aren’t many minds greater than one? (Or is this even an appropriate question to compare these two individual styles?)
    • Emotive Certainty: Cenk’s style is to be “struck by” an impression that builds into a strong feeling about an outcome. This is very common for Ni-dominant INTJ types, for whom the secondary qualitative information function is Fi, or Introverted Feeling.
      • Fi tends to strongly lock in the effect of the conclusion, putting a personal stamp of “I stake my reputation on this” on one’s work.
      • INTJs think a lot about these Fi-related character-quality issues, such as having a good reputation, being a good person, and so on. (The downside is, it can make your side of the discussion seem like it’s all about you, as you become more and more of a main character, so to speak.)
    • Arrival at Subjective Focus: “I knew it” is kind of the backstop-phrase for his commentary. “Knew it” is less strong (as Lichtman points out) than “I”, and I think this is important to know. This is not the same as saying that Cenk is a self-centered person, but in this context I think he may have become **too* self-centered. (Possibly after growing frustrated by Lichtman?)
      • Cenk therefore starts to turn this into a contest of character and personality, rather than a contest of ideas.
      • This is characteristic of the inferior function of the INTJ, the emotive block of functionality.
      • To me, this is not a good sign for Cenk at this early point. An INTJ should be supported by that functionality in the background, and should not have to attempt to live in that space at this point.

I predict (ha) that if this contest continues into a debate format, Cenk will attempt to turn it into a sort of betting format: “Let’s see who wins,” (makes a better prediction) or similar.

To me this would be very unwise, but I don’t believe Cenk is able to do much more than that, given his current approach.

In effect, Cenk may tend to focus on showing in a variety of ways that he is a more trustworthy person than Lichtman. INTJ types can be intensely focused on individual character, especially during or past their mid-life stage.

To me, that’s very interesting…

Still, Cenk claims that he went 12-0 in publicly predicting elections. They weren’t all presidential elections, but still…

OK, and for Professor Lichtman:

  • Allan Lichtman’s Predictive Style
    • Diffuse – Open: You may not have noticed that he seems slightly more “meh” about outcomes than Cenk Uygur. For one, Cenk is very concerned about character critique. But also, Lichtman’s basic position is that he does not decide the outcome, but the formal, logical model does (see below).
      • He mostly tries to leave his own character out of the commentary, except to comment on his track record. This can be both a blessing and a curse, in different ways.
    • Model-deferential & Model-based Prediction: Lichtman’s conclusions draw the audience back into his Keys to the White House model. In this way, he becomes the “key” to a model which analyzes the “keys to” the American system. This is someone who likes figuring out how to unlock difficult locks, metaphorically speaking! Again—no small feat! But different than Cenk’s natural style which seems based on inputs like American politicians, commentary on them, and their character. What Cenk offers is more like a “highest-probability perspective” than a system of keys.
    • Qualitative Logical Certainty: Lichtman has his own logical model. This is a foundational aspect of the inventor personality. You must have a formal, logical model in some way or another. He has also put his logical model through its paces. He clearly worked on it until it became reliable for his purposes, which is a basic scientific standard.
    • Detail-focus: Lichtman’s attention to detail is comparatively very impressive. I note that where he could hand-wave at people, he often refers right back to specific details of his model, and very specific definitions which form its foundation. I don’t think Cenk would like this very much in a debate setting, because I doubt he has familiarized himself with the model, and as Lichtman showed, Cenk also got some important details wrong.

Because I Have to Go Now…Advice for the Debaters!

OK, I just looked at the clock and I spent wayyyy too much time writing this. And before closing, I wanted to touch on the fact that NT personality perspectives basically invented debate as we know it, due to the preference for information exchange and resolution of perspectives based on the presentation of information.

This leads us to a situation where, of course, one or more of these NT types will tend to lean into the idea of having a debate! And Professor Lichtman threw down the gauntlet at the end of his video.

So, to wrap up the article in a kinda-fun way, here are my tips for both Cenk Uygur and Professor Lichtman, should they ever debate one another:

  • Do’s and Don’ts: Personality-centered Debate Tips for Cenk Uygur
    • DO… Be very upfront about your personal style. Admit that these big-picture conclusions just hit you sometimes, share your qualifications, and talk about the fact that you have honed a fine sense for an outcome!
    • DON’T… Get caught up in character critique during a debate. If you have to critique someone’s character, make sure it’s coming from “what people generally say / think” about a person, and not just your own impression of their character. Debates are different! Some of this stuff is OK, but becoming a populist roast-machine is probably not ideal in a debate setting, especially if that becomes your foundation.
    • DO… Share what you learned from some of your favorite sources! Talk about what they say. Don’t worry about giving out your best “secret” sources, they carry important logical value and weight that your breezy style doesn’t need to produce on its own. This will help you in a debate.
    • DON’T… Lose track of the details. Give the important details some time and reason about them logically. Write down your thoughts before any debates happen. Don’t feel pressured to rush into this situation!

For extra credit, Uygur should also study and carefully critique Professor Lichtman’s model. Lichtman will gain extra points every time Uygur shows that he doesn’t understand the basic functionality of the Keys model. Remember what George E.P. Box said—all models are broken, even if some are useful! (Paraphrased!) Build on any relevant weaknesses that you can, and will, find if you study out the logic.

  • Do’s and Don’ts: Personality-centered Debate Tips for Allan Lichtman
    • DO… Build a model for Uygur’s style. Use your formal logic to analyze and model Uygur’s approach. Then, leverage this in the debate to predict and talk about the flaws in his approach, if you want!
    • DON’T… Ignore Uygur’s populist-appeal style. The assumptions he makes about what everybody knows and feels! Focus in on the times when he lets himself get illogical, and point it out (as gently as you like!)
    • DO… Share new facets of your model, things that excite you about your work. This shows strong personal character! It will take some of the wind out of Uygur’s character-critique style, if you seem authentically and emotively excited about what you continue to invent, or plan, rather than just a “my existing model is all there is to it” guy. Uygur wants to believe in people who are pushing the power of ideas forward in our society, and you can help deflate his character critique by showing that you are continuing to give growth-oriented attention to your own system, as if taking your own little Pinocchio under your wing!
    • DON’T… Let yourself get worked up! If you can, use humor rather than intensity. The inventor is much more loved as a humorous archetype than as an intense one. Roast yourself, if you can, as well—this will also play against Uygur’s style.

For extra credit, Lichtman should also integrate a gestalt sub-model into his existing model! Directly integrate the big-picture, rather than generating it! This will seem more authentically interesting and trustworthy to people like Uygur, many of whom want a reason to trust your model.

One more prediction link

Peter Zeihan (who also rings my INTJ bell) is calling the 2024 election for Biden. You can compare his style to the personalities above.

Remember, a personality type is a group and not an individual. Individuals always vary in different ways, even though personality type tools can give us a powerful analytical perspective.

OK, that’s all for now everybody. Have a great day! —Marc

Filed in: Global Issues /3/ | ENTP /9/ | Intuition /62/ | INTJ /2/ | People /73/

How to Organize & Structure a New Binder or Notebook (Fractal Method)

Saturday May 11, 2024

Photo of a notebook page

Above: The author used this journaling page to do some mind-mapping, doodling, and To-Do listing. (In shorthand…sorry it’s not super readable). Some pages are structured…others more chaotic!

This is a favorite topic that I wrote about a tiny bit on Reddit recently. But I wanted to flesh the full thing out, so here we go.

This is how I organize or structure a new binder or notebook. I’ve been honing this practice for close to 10 years now, and this is the current version that works best for me.

The Four Important Notebook Sections

There are four main sections to the notebook.

1. The “Meta” Section

(Named after Mark Zuckerberg, who I believe invented this word…kidding!)

The Meta section is “about” the notebook. In this section the very front of the notebook, you can:

  • Add your name, contact info.
  • Write a bit about the notebook / what it’s for
  • Create a table of contents (you can fill it in later, and it can help to use a pencil),
  • Start a Master to-do list, or write down your goals in starting the notebook
  • Add some tips for use of the notebook. Things you learn from your own practice.
  • Keep a general notebook-usage & updates log (where you moved stuff, etc.).

You can do this all on one page, or spread it across a few pages.

You may also want to use or affix a simple way to keep needed tools or documents up in front. Like a stencil, ruler, random number picker, etc.

Sometimes I have my fold-out random number picker (printable PDF) in this section. I use it for games, simulations, creative journaling methods I’ve blogged about before.

2. The “Topics” Section

“Topics” sections are a mix of structured sections or single pages for specific topics, or other specific, structured uses.

For example:

  • A section for monthly planner pages
  • A section for budgeting layouts
  • A section for learning & interests like “My Framework for Getting Better at Chess” or “What to Do if There’s an Earthquake”.

You may wish to put tabs on the outside of these pages if you use them frequently.

Important: Each section / page in Topics copies the overall notebook organization style: 1. Meta / To-Do – 2. Topics – 3. Free Logging – 4. Extra Space. This is why I call this the Fractal Method. The organization of Topics pages, or even Free Logging pages, is a micro-copy of the organization of the whole notebook.

3. The “Free Journaling / Log-keeping Pages” Section

These are pages you can just date & write on. The newest entries go in the back of this section.

Journaling / Log-keeping Tip #1: For best results in learning and remembering things, some of the contents here can eventually be structured and moved into Topics pages above.

For example, if you went to a seminar about Earthquake Preparedness, and wrote about it in the Journaling section, you can later create a structured summary of those notes, and add it to your Topics section.

Ta-Da, now you have a super-helpful quick reference that’s not buried in your logging & journaling pages, all mixed in with hurried notes from a phone call with your plumber.

Journaling / Log-keeping Tip #2: You can also experiment with drawing lines that divide the page up quickly.

I like to create a thick right-margin by drawing a vertical line about an inch and a half from the right edge of the page.

In that margin space on the right side, I usually put the date at top of the column, an optional location like “At the Beach”, then a to-do list & schedule beneath it.

You can think of this right-side column as my “Meta” space for each page.

Journaling / Log-keeping Tip #3: To me, it’s important to follow these steps when Journaling for productivity:

  1. Free-write. Get out the main topics that you need to get on paper.
  2. Underline. Underline the main ideas that are shorter. Like I’d underline the words “Send the draft” in “Send the draft email I wrote this morning.”
  3. Migrate to To-Do list. I write the underlined words in the right margin, with a checkbox next to each. At the end of each item, I may also estimate the time each item takes, like “5m” for “5 Minutes”. This is a really helpful little way to keep from overwhelming yourself. And in case you really care, see my free productivity system or the Procrastination tag for more information on this.
  4. Schedule or Order the To-Do list. Once I have 4-5 to-do list items, I start to schedule them. I put a letter next to each, then a list below the checkboxes, like this:
  • 1 p.m.: A
  • 2 p.m.: D
  • 2:30 p.m.: B
  • 4 p.m.: C

Now, each of my To-Do list items is simplified, clarified (in terms of time / duration), and scheduled. This is super important for unlocking productivity!

So by this time, I’m usually very ready to get on with my day and the next steps!

Of course, this is still a Journaling section! You should feel free to journal in whatever way sounds best to you. Write poetry, draw pictures, complain, and so on. It’s all good.

To help with this, on the left side of the page, I often draw 2-3 horizontal divider lines, creating 3-4 rectangle-shaped areas running down the page.

I use these areas for different things like free writing, sketching little pictures or icons, developing or structuring new topics, and so on.

4. The “Extra Paper” Section

This section is pretty simple!

I like to have a mix of lined & gridded paper at least. Blank paper is OK, but I love to work with linear sections, so I do prefer some lines or dots on the paper.

Never underestimate the power of starting from a blank page though! You can use this section to reinvent your own method of journaling, if you’d like.

How About A Digital Version of All of This?

OK, that was the paper version. And yes, I do this in my digital notes, too:

Digital Meta Section

I have a sort of root-folder where I keep all my notes.

It has some general information about how I organize things.

(I kid you not, I even have a file full of instructions for myself in case I completely forget who I am! I admit I was a little bored and a little daydreamy when I created that)

Nerd Alert: I write my stuff in Emacs with Org Mode, because I am super-duper into tech. I like being able to write & run custom software directly inside my topics pages, for example.

To me, that’s really exciting. I mean imagine sketching out an app right inside your journal! An app that actually works! To you though, maybe that’s not interesting.

So, pick the system that seems a good fit for you, and count on changing it later! I started out with Windows Notepad, and have used over 50 different writing & journaling apps since that time. (Some of them were graceful, beautiful to look at, and terrible to print or export. Others were the opposite)

Digital Topics

I keep Topics in separate sub-folders.

These Include:

  • Work Topics
  • Computer Topics (Programming Languages, Home Wi-Fi details, etc.)
  • Psychology (from Personality Type to other topics)
  • Family and Personal topics (Health records, List of People I Wish I Had Been Born As, etc.)
  • …and a bunch more.

If I can, I try to keep info in sub-folders where appropriate, to avoid having too many folders in my face.

Digital Journaling

This section is for daily journaling. It contains:

  • A journaling folder with sub-folders, like 2023, 2024, and so on
  • A file like YYYY-MM-DD in each folder
  • Each file has some journaling structure

And yes, each one of these journaling templates has a ton of blank space for doodling in my text files!

Custom Tools

Just like I have some custom tools in my paper notebook, I’ve written some software to do specific searches, or to add specific things to my notebook files:

A Few Other Details & Wrap-Up

The paper version of this system kind of assumes you are using something like a binder, where you can move papers around. But if you use something like a composition notebook instead, it should be pretty simple to adapt things. It will be more important to leave a bit of extra space after each section, for example.

So, that’s the basic idea that has served me really well.

I find that these notebooks are useful for far longer this way, and the system is very easy to work with.

In the future, I hope to add some photos here, to make things clearer.

In the meantime though: I hope this method can be helpful to you!

Filed in:

Sharpening, Reading, Listening, Watching, Timing.

Tuesday April 2, 2024

A photo of a lap with an apple, a pocket knife, and a ham radio tuned to a local FM broadcast station

Above: It’s finally sunny here again. So, a snack, some radio time, some whittling (snack whittling!).

More stuff has been on my mind again, so I should let it out.

As usual, this post will be very theoretical (“I’m GROUNDED, in theory”), somewhat grandiose, awkwardly self-deprecating for vague reasons, detail-oriented over here, but concept-oriented over there, and other dumb things like that. You have been warned!

So, no particular order:

Tools, Knives, Pocketknives, Paracord

I’ve learned a lot about sharpening my various tools and knives. This kind of started after I realized I never really found a favorite method for sharpening and honing.

Just when I thought I was settled on “I kind of like dull knives?” (long story, but as a Scout I sure did a lot with nothing very sharp…), I get interested in the sharp ones!

I think this has also been an interesting topic to me lately in part because of the idea of making solid, direct judgement calls relating to “moving on” with different aspects of life. (You could call them severance-related, cutting-off related even? But those terms while helpful to communicate the concept, are also way too harsh in a big way) So, there’s certainly a sort of archetypal tie-in energy that seems to be behind the interest.

I settled on a pretty simple double-sided whetstone for now, and the results are good enough. I’ve been able to get some edges up to “crazy sharp”, but I’m sure I have a lot more to discover.

I’ve been using and abusing various tools and knives. I learned to braid and wrap paracord, and I’ve played a lot with different color combinations.

Tarot and the Occult

It’s been fun to use the tarot deck as a creativity tool. There are some books out there that cover this topic really well. And they’ve helped open my mind to angles and aspects I haven’t considered.

I have a little tarot-draw script in my text editor, which pulls the cards for me and it’s all pretty simple.

Emacs Progress

I continue to study Emacs. My latest changes are:

  • Randomized themes: Every time my init file is loaded, I get a random editor theme (background color, colors per level in org mode, and a random font), or I can use C-S-c to cycle through random themes. It’s pretty fun, the change is instantaneous, and I like this way more than actually creating and managing many different themes, which I’ve also done before.
  • Using TempEl like crazy. This snippets-like add-on is a must for me. I have so many shortcuts I use with it that help me do just about anything I do in an editor during the day.
  • Writing more of my own functions. I’m using elisp a lot more. This is causing me to want to use or learn more of other lisp or scheme dialects.

Ham Radio Hobby

I’m still quietly listening and learning, mostly. I do still use my radios a ton when I’m out hiking.

My latest interest here is the firmware-modified Quansheng UV-K6, which has kind of blown my mind! It’s really pretty amazing what that thing can do, and how many little checkboxes it can check! Just about every little portable / hiking annoyance I’ve ever had has now been solved by that radio and its custom firmware (I’m using EZGumer).

Hiking

My practices here have evolved a lot.

I do a lot more trail maintenance now.

I have lots of favorite tools, and I have cut and moved a LOT more wood than I thought I would, after storms rolled through.

I didn’t imagine I’d end up carrying a 10 inch folding saw up there, and wondering about even longer ones! These things are pretty amazing.

Sometimes I’ll leave the house and walk + hike for a couple hours to get to where up in the hills where there’s a fallen tree, then I’ll cut it up, move the pieces off the trail, and head home for another couple of hours. I really enjoy this.

I also love listening to movie podcasts and local radio stations while I’m hiking around. Just getting a nice mix of sounds going in the background is really pleasant (Se/Te in a Big Wey)

Movies

The Long Good Friday (1980) was excellent.

I feel very lucky to have seen a lot of really good movies lately.

I also feel lucky to have seen a lot of really bad movies that were a lot of fun.

Reading

I’m still reading books, and listening to them, a lot more than I had in previous years. This has been a fun change. Some recent fun ones:

  • War Stories of the Tankers by Michael Green
  • Nisei by J.J. White
  • The Drawing Ideas Book by Frances Stanfield
  • This Explains Everything by John Brockman
  • Star Trek Voyager: Battle Lines by Dave Galanter and Greg Brodeur
  • Healing in Hell by Ken Adams
  • Bird’s-Eye View by J.F. Freedman
  • NATO and Warsaw Pact Tanks of the Cold War also by Michael Green

Reading is kinda interesting in itself, now that I’m really into archetypes and symbolism. I try to see some aspect of myself in the cover art, in the topic, the title, or just the vibe.

War. Relations with friends, loved ones, family. Creativity. Ideas. Space. Battle. Hell. Birds. Viewing. Pacts, Commands, Wars. Hot and Cold.

Are these really my mental state? I find that war is an emotionally-expressive, boundary-reclaiming metaphor for me. I was raised by an army officer, so that’s a big part of my symbolic vocabulary.

See, sometimes as I wrap up in my nostalgic camouflage woobie and read a bit more about the T-80, or someone’s favorite theory, I just get a feeling of comfort from familiarity. I’m reading my own past, and I’m reviewing it, and I’m trying to bring a few more of those experiences and points of view and strengths forward.

This, to me, is a lot of what the midlife change really dwells on: Your past was a vocabulary, a language. You’re still fluent in it. So why are you trying so hard to move away from that fluency? You could get what you wanted, life wasn’t so bad, and hey, what about…(good points aplenty)

There are so many good points in even some of my dumbest past experiences. Ugh!

Art and Drawing

I’ve been doing a lot more drawing, with something of an energy-reset.

I’m rebuilding on past successes more than I did before. I feel like I have a pretty good assortment of media and methods to pick from, and so I’m more likely to use some of those.

So, I still draw with pencil on lined paper, in cheap spiral-bound school notebooks, a lot. I draw mechs, I draw mind maps, flow charts, and hundreds of checkboxes.

I’ve made some textile art, painting T-shirts and such. I’m going to continue that, because it’s been really enjoyable.

I also modded a backpack with some custom paracord decorations and patches, and had a lot of fun doing so.

Art is so restorative in its way. It brings back these expressive energies and says, “is it so purely emotional to simply create? Can’t creation be recognized as amazing on its own, even if backed by pure emotion, pure intuition, pure logic, and so on?”

This is another one of those “good points”. Not every hobby has to be integrative at any given point, even if it ends up taking that route.

Business Hours

I talked a bit about energy fluctuations last time.

I think of them as “Business Hours” now.

During parts of the day, your body and mind are open for business. During this time, you can do integrative work. New stuff meets your same-old me, and new activities meet your same-old ways, and it’s normal and fine.

And during other parts, you’re closed. No vacancy. During this time, you can do personal work. Stuff you WANNA do. None of that integrative BS! If you force it during these hours—forcing personal time to be business hours? Your body and mood chemistry will make you pay, sometimes dearly.

The weird thing is, the timing of all of this is utterly predictable, once you’ve given it some basic analysis.

If you can predict it, you’ll have better control over your life. You’ll probably wonder what happened, or why no one taught you this.

So, I think everyone should try learning their business hours. I find I get about three to four solid business-hours periods during normal workday hours. When they’re over though, they’re over!

Someday I’ll write up a formal method, maybe.

But for now, consider yourself aware! It may not just be your mood, or your attitude. It may not be your life choices.

It may just be what time it is right now.

As grandma would say: How about that?

Have a great week everybody!

Filed in: Movies & Films /4/ | Energy /120/ | Interests /111/

Keyback Cluster

Wednesday January 3, 2024

Find my way to keyback cluster
On my way to nearest home
Find my way to this, my universe
Toward my puddle in the stone
Find my face just blown away
Mouth agape, eyes blazing
The inferno looks right back at me
and points to keyback cluster
It shouts and screams and kicks and thrusts
Landed on a foreign, shore
Yet here we are, and here we’ll be
until I reorient my core—
So to speak—so to put it!
For surely some translation’s needed.
(There isn’t any way I’d risk another
little thing to block our lines.)
It’s getting late and while things are
starry, stories are told.
Men once me, no doubt
are sorry.
Staring.
Fire.
Sorry.
Plus there just aren’t many that I know
who must find their way back, and muster,
put due diligence into finding
their way to keyback cluster.

Filed in: Feeling /64/ | Ni /42/ | Fi /34/ | Intuition /62/

Things on my mind lately, 2023-12 yearly wrap-up edition

Monday December 4, 2023

A photo of a notebook with a drawing, a pocket knife, and a stick to whittle on

Above: Some weekend whittling and drawing.

Just a quick wrap-up post for the year, in which I’ll try to share what’s been on my mind lately, and some bits about how things have gone in 2023.

As usual, this post will be very theoretical (“I’m GROUNDED, in theory”), somewhat grandiose, awkwardly self-deprecating for vague reasons, detail-oriented over here, but concept-oriented over there, and other dumb things like that. You have been warned!

So, no particular order:

Physical Fitness Goals and Practice

Back around 2016 I was able to reach a number of huge physical fitness goals, due to my extreme weight loss experience. This was exciting stuff! Doing a bunch of pull-ups at any point after age 35 is probably always exciting, no matter who you are.

After that, I lost most of the range of motion (ROM) and use of my arm due to an injury (not workout related), and spent years recovering. In the beginning, I could barely even eat, write, or type with my bad arm, and moving my hand from keyboard to mouse was excruciating.

It was a scary and annoying setback. It wasn’t my fault. And to be fair, none less than the U.S. Government seemed ready to reimburse me for this injury, even though I didn’t pursue that path. Overall I can’t complain about the way things worked out in the end.

This year, I was finally able to make a sustainable return to a much wider range of fitness and workout activities. Though many of them need to be gentle to be effective, this has been a big point of learning for me.

I’m hoping that in 2024 I can continue to learn new things from this process.

Slope of curve as a tracking metric for life changes

A simple one, which might sound complex: I started tracking “slope” as I track my goals. That is, the slope of the improvement curve. The rate of change.

For an example of how this works:

  • I record my progress.
  • I write some software to calculate the slope of the progress.
  • I write some software to put that number in my daily journal file.
  • Every day I should see a number like: “+0.5” for example.

In some cases, I want to pay attention to broader timelines as well, so I will track: 3-day slope, 5-day, 10-day, 20-day, all in one list.

This helps me to build a sense of long-term goal alignment, building a bridge between “tracking too many details to be sustainable” and “going off track.” It helps me to build a sense of what’s working and what’s not.

And, I don’t have to stare at a long list of numbers and guess how I’m doing.

I don’t use a smart watch anymore, because my graphs and measuring practices are too different from what smart watch app designers think everybody wants to track. So I’d like to eventually find a smart watch platform that I can either completely customize (and I mean…completely) or build by myself.

Subjective Systems of Type

In 2023 I spent more time working on very subjective personality type systems. They are very subjective in that they only need to work for ME at first, and that’s fine.

Why do this? It’s effective. You can work with people in a completely different way. You can solve problems you couldn’t solve before, both in your own life and in the lives of others. You can work your way off your usual life script, and end up in a different kind of situation that’s new, or fun, or enlightening, or just weird and confusing, and you can see it even if others may not, and THAT is a pretty fascinating feeling.

(Would that be worth it to you?)

Over time, I may talk to people or ask them about different aspects of their experiences, and determine whether there might be some broader, objective overlap from mine to theirs—some kind of objective reliability.

In many cases there is some of that, but I don’t have the time to spare in writing up the theory for the greater public.

This makes me a bit frustrated for who we all are, and what we could become, if somehow this kind of propagation of experience or knowledge was easier, or easier to balance with higher priorities in our lives.

Productivity

I’ve used my productivity systems, Whole Productivity and Task BATL, all year long. They’ve been the backbone to every other activity you see here.

This year I used my productivity tools as more of a language or palette, to develop new, ad hoc productivity systems, in support of some very specific activities. For example, a new type of project engagement at work. Since Task BATL is a modular system, this worked pretty well.

Subjective Systems of Archetype

I’ve been continuing work on building my own symbol dictionary. Again, this is for me, it’s not something I’m writing to publish for others.

It’s somewhat similar to a dream dictionary, if you’re familiar with those, but it’s instead, it’s based on things like:

  • Hobbies: What does hobby X possibly “mean” or offer in my life, as a symbol? What strengths or perspectives does it suggest?
  • Favorite belongings: What is my symbolic relation with a favorite object? Some people even give their favorite objects names, denoting personalities. What can be done with that?
  • Interesting topics, thoughts, or ideas: Are they me, or some version of me, in some sense?
  • Favorite movies, books, music: Is it objectively great, and therefore worth watching, reading, and listening to…or is it subjectively impactful, and therefore worth thinking more about?
  • Imagined fears or concerns: Why are some of these things so deeply affecting? What if there is a healthy way to turn them around, these nightmare events that can even happen in our minds during the waking hours?
  • Goals: Did I really pick my goal, or did it pick me? Or something else?

Since these items are all “symbolically available” as tools to help me understand and solve problems better, this has been a very useful activity. I don’t think I could stop updating this dictionary if I wanted to!

Frontdooring

I continue to find my Frontdooring practice reliable as a healthy, meditative activity.

I haven’t expanded it as much this year, but it’s been a very helpful combination with my energy-periods studies, below.

Reading

I’ve focused a lot on reading imaginative, classic works this year: Jules Verne, H. Rider Haggard, and similar. One of my goals was to build better, more consistent access to fantasy worlds and mindsets.

I’ve also been working on a theory of books and reading, meant specifically to support a given type of energy level. For this reason I often make it a goal to skip directly to the climax of a book, or read the ending first, or things like that. This is about vitality, energy, and less about “what it literally means to read a book.”

And, it helps!

On the side, I developed a habit of rewarding myself with a review of the latest Project Gutenberg books, every time I complete a Wordle puzzle. It’s amazing how many new books are posted there. It’s probably at least four new books every day, on average.

Movies

I’ve been watching a lot more VHS rips this year. Previously I was much more of a quality hound, overlooking VHS and hoping for a BluRay edition, and so on.

But just to be really honest about how maybe-brainy this goes: I find that VHS titles offer a much different experience, one which is extremely useful in navigating certain metaphorical-psychological mindsets.

If you think of it as using a movie as a tool for self-support based on “who you used to be”, this might sound interesting—but I think most of us are used to using movies as “somethin’ to watch.” Which is fine and something I still do for sure.

Some of my favorite movies to watch or re-watch this year have been (ordered by release year):

  • South Pacific (1958)
  • Silver Streak (1976)
  • The Deep (1977)
  • The Ninth Configuration (1980)
  • The Fog (1980)
  • Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982) (As a Rockford Files fan, watching Tom Atkins in this role was VERY therapeutic!)
  • Never Cry Wolf (1983)
  • Little Nikita (1988)
  • The Exorcist III (1990)
  • Superman Returns (2006)
  • Bringing Godzilla Down To Size, (documentary, 2008)
  • Stuber (2019)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3 (2023)
  • Asteroid City (2023)
  • Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (2023)
  • Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning Part One (2023)

Some of these have simply been enjoyable experiences for me. Others have been more deeply examined, or maybe I listened to podcasts about them, or wrote about them in depth.

Have you ever listened to a really enjoyable podcast about one of your own favorite movies? This is a pretty underrated activity, I think…

Learning Emacs

I’ve enjoyed learning Emacs this year. This app is pretty amazing.

In order to learn and grow in a way that can also support my business goals (from web dev, to app consulting, to training and coaching), I’ve been spending a lot of time with my Emacs coach, Prot.

Prot is a deeply-qualified expert and has been very patient with me, thank god. I’ve enjoyed learning to use and customize Emacs.

One of my favorite things about Emacs is that I can experiment directly with the way the software itself works. I can change the core features just as easily as I can type in my journal! And it’s pretty easy to change things back if I accidentally destroyed something vital.

Radio: AM/FM/SW. Scanning, Amateur Radio, etc.

I decided to develop this hobby in a much more patient, quiet, solitary way this year.

To me, radio is “about” distant ranges of time, as a metaphorical perspective. It’s about tuning into distant perspectives that can be extremely helpful to us. The more distant the radio signal, the longer the timeline. I find that shortwave radio is more “about” 10-20+ years in my future. Portables / walkie-talkies are more about closer concerns in terms of time. Daily, or weekly.

I came up with some ideas about propagation that were pretty damn conceptual and grandiose, probably because I’m new to this kind of theory.

For example, I thought about the implications of gravitonic propagation. If you even mention this stuff in discussions WITH educated people, many will think you’re dumb, or crazy. How fortunate that I already know I’m both!

I enjoyed using the CountyComm GP-7 SSB, which was probably a favorite this year. It’s fun to set up on the beach or in the mountains while camping.

Even though much of the year’s radio use was pretty solitary on purpose, I did do some local volunteering as a radio operator.

In October, I took my son Ben along to volunteer during the Great Shakeout exercise. We manned the emergency ham radio at a rural medical clinic about a half hour drive from here, and the head doctor was with us the entire time, telling us all about what would probably happen to the poor building in an earthquake!

I left him a hand-drawn diagram showing how to operate the radio if he ever needed to. Hopefully it was a little reassuring.

I think Ben enjoyed this experience and I hope it helped him to see a bit outside of the usual “middle school student life” perspective.

Daily Energy Periods

I was in good health this year. Still, nothing is ever perfect. There’s always a bit of an up-and-down to life, isn’t there?

So maybe THAT’s interesting, I thought.

I started to dissect the times when I felt “less-well”, because of my concern than handling those times wrong could make it easier to become “unwell”, and possibly harder to recover back to “well”.

I discovered that every day has some “less-well” periods to it, especially if that’s the only lens we have on what’s happening.

And life frequently provides us with this choice: A) Well, that’s “just” how life goes, or B) Could be interesting, why not explore a bit, see if we can improve our outlook.

In general, if you are really interested in learning, you should “distrust the word ‘just’,” is my thinking.

So, I measured things for a while, and made a chart. Then I constructed some new lenses on these times of day, and discovered a lot of interesting things about my daily energy flow.

As a result, I found that I have more control over: Quality of work, quality of rest and sleep, managing goals, being effective with other people, and so on.

And by the way, I mapped this out over 24 hours, not just daytime hours. If you wake up during the night, I think it’s wise to consider that there are probably also some best-to-fall-asleep times that ebb and flow in your nighttime hours. So, just because you can’t immediately get back to sleep, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, or even a health thing at all.

In fact, it can really help to look at your watch and know, “my next, reliable fall-asleep point comes in about 45 minutes…it’s cool, I’ll read a book or something, maybe do some journaling.”

And, I’ve learned that it’s helpful to do this even at say 5:30 a.m., when I need to be up and awake at 7! I would not have understood that last year, and this year I’m somehow, strangely, better off for it. (Though, I should also mention that I am now a firm believer in napping at earlier daytime-times, like 9 a.m. if need be. This is less-rational to some, because it’s less-normal to them—but it’s not so much a “let’s be lazy” thing and more of a “logical” thing once you understand how your energy levels work.)

A lot of people in fields like engineering know that measurement generally gives you more control over things. If you want to control something, measure it!

But not many people appreciate the fact that discovering or creating new things to measure is a vastly underrated add-on to the same principle.

I would like to write more about this in the future, as it’s been a fun topic to explore.

KDE Connect

I use KDE on most of my computers right now (previously XFCE, Gnome, GNUStep, etc. etc., not counting Windows and Mac systems here), so I installed KDE Connect on my phone, and use it to help the systems work more closely together.

This has been a huge benefit in a lot of ways. Even just clipboard sharing is a big one. But other aspects (KDE Connect SMS app) are also really useful.

EDC / Everyday Carry

I still collect EDC gear and I think a lot about it. My theory and study of this has expanded quite a bit. I can see more of its metaphorical side now. As more of that side becomes clear, the hobby starts to change in curious ways.

To others, it seems like a “stuff” hobby, where one is merely satisfied by “having stuff” or “buying stuff”. But the metaphorical dimension immediately calls this limited perspective into question.

My EDC item picks of the year:

  • Tool: Victorinox Outrider which is quite handy but you should be aware that it’s not exactly light.
  • Pencil: General’s Cedar Pointe pencil.
  • Pen: Zebra’s V-301 fountain pen had me getting all into ink again. Tip: Hold it upside-down for a very fine line.
  • Notebook: Small hardback moleskine
  • Ham Radio: Radtel RT-780 which worked way better than I expected it to.
  • Candy: Sour Patch Kids. They are one of the best candies made available in recent decades, is my thinking as a summertime hiker.
  • Portable Radio: For portability, the HRD-747 was really good to me. It’s the size of a deck of cards and can pull in AM, FM, Shortwave, emergency services / VHF users, SSB, air band, CB, and weather??? Hello! It may not be ultra-professional, but it sure kept me entertained.
  • Book: Those thin ’60s and ’70s paperbacks
  • Holding it all together: Gotta give it to 550 paracord. I made & used a lot of lanyards, and later repurposed them for things like quick straps, hangers (see HRD-747 photo) and so on.

Picking one (knot) and using the heck out of it.

As an avid outdoorsy-person, hiker, camper, and so on: I kept forgetting the various knots I used to know. Why?

I got the idea it might have been related to depth of practice.

I decided to focus on one knot this year: The simple overhand knot.

So, I used the HELL out of THAT one knot this year. You can see it at least 3-4 places on my person if I’m out hiking. I try to do just about everything with this knot. Hold things together, pull them apart, and so on.

This is really the essence of a depth-first approach to anything. You take that ONE thing and really, really get to know it deeply.

I’ve applied this perspective to lots of other tools and methods as well, and it’s really versatile.

Though there are some issues (especially in theory—try telling a knot-obsessed debater that you use an overhand knot for everything you can!), they are pretty easy to work around, or address in a productive way.

So, maybe I’ll add another knot in the new year! If so, it’ll probably be some lame old underdog knot, similar to the overhand. Nothing fancy.

Hiking

I worked on a lot of new mindsets and personal systems related to hiking. Mostly around these questions:

  • Why am I going hiking?
  • What am I taking, and why?
  • What am I doing along the way?

It’s really helped to be more conscious about this, thinking about it and why it’s good, why it can even be bad, and so on.

I noticed that hiking 7-8 miles into the hills for a break is a lot of fun, but it’s also terrible for other types of fitness or cutting activities, depending on the circumstances. This really sucks, and I hope to reach a bit more of a “hiking as specific fitness / life component” theory in 2024.

Just as my wife Megan has shared that she discovered in her running (she’s almost TOO good at running!), I’m also finding that it’s nice to make some more frequent stops, to take some photos, to enjoy the journey WAY more than I let myself do in the past.

Here are some favorite new lightweight hiking bring-alongs:

  • Luggage strap. (A simple chair when wrapped around back & knees, try it sometime after a LONG hike if you haven’t already)
  • Fold-out foam pad to sit on. Weighs virtually nothing. Between this and the luggage strap, you will feel like the Flint Lockwood of chair people.
  • Wire. Some simple stiff metal wire can be used for all kinds of interesting things. In trail maintenance it can be really handy. But you can also move a whole tree with a bit of wire if you use it right (or so I heard!)

AI Psychology

So, AI’s pretty new. It’s a big deal.

Due to my professional experience, and the overlap with technology and psychology: I’ve been casually observing the psychological ecosystem within the AI community.

This is true both for interactions within the AI software development community and regarding its interactions with those outside the community.

What’s interesting here is that we are in a generally volatile period in history right now, with regard to ALL “psychological technology.” This includes AI, but it also includes social/relational “technologies” in which new soft-frameworks are replacing outdated ones.

For this reason, I think AI can seem like a massive, world-changing catalyst, but especially so to AI- and technology-minded people.

To others who are less AI-minded, I think it will be more obvious that the other technologies in which they find interest are also very cathartic and similarly world-changing. It becomes a bit of chicken-vs-egg problem, if you try to compare “what’s really changing us right now?”

Personally, my own ideas and experiences about AI have taken me back to the search engine revolution of the late ’90s. I think about what I would do differently if I could go back in time to that period. The answers aren’t as obvious as I first thought, but they’ve been interesting to consider.

Local AI tools have also been very interesting (AI running on local systems, that is) and I’d really like to see how these evolve over time.

One neat thing is: You can now take AI with you on an extended outdoors outing or hike or campout, with no internet connection, and rely on most of the same benefits. This has HUGE implications for in-situ development of off-grid methodologies, for one, which probably sounds way more dumb than it really is, so my apologies.

Based on previous technology-curve analyses, I’m guessing that we have reached or exceeded the point at which one could pick a single AI platform to use for the next 25 years, and that platform would probably work out OK overall for the duration.

I say that just in case it helps ease the minds of some of you FOMO people out there (I get in that mindset myself sometimes). :-)

Art and Photography

I’ve worked hard to hone my art and photography practices this year, with regard to:

  • Outdoor photography
  • Product / EDC photography
  • Smartphone photography
  • Fractal rendering
  • Drawing / illustrating
  • (Dip-) Pen and ink

I’ve learned a lot about these practices, but I still have lots of questions, even after decades of practice.

Some of my favorite discoveries in these areas this year include:

  • Outdoor photography: If you view it as a painting-style activity, it’s easier to get better at it. This is VERY true of allowing yourself the time to address aspects of the composition that your smartphone cannot really understand. And this gets really interesting if you consider that one paints with more of a certain type of intent than one generally brings to photography.
  • Product / EDC photography: You should always compensate for lens warp as early as possible in the process, starting with the initial shoot.
  • Smartphone photography: You should explore other photography apps if possible, and try to learn from not just their tools and effects, but also from their built-in workflows.
  • Fractal rendering: In many cases the quality of the render is the LAST thing you should worry about. There’s usually no need to max out your CPU for a good render.
  • Drawing / illustrating: A sketchy style can be vital to the artist’s own personality. Such a style can point at a lack of skill in being clear, but it can also point to a strong gift for conceptualization and intuition-informed art. Shaky, vague lines may need to be accepted for what they offer, before they are eliminated in favor of clear, direct lines.
  • Pen and ink: I bought a bunch of cheap nibs to try out as I’ve “dipped” into this hobby again. Ballpoint nibs are really cool. And I’m still blown away by how much ink some of those nibs with the brass cover can hold!

This has been really fun and I’m excited to continue learning in these areas in 2024.

Social Media

I spent more time on Instagram and Facebook in 2023. I developed a bit of an updated mental model for these platforms and wanted to test it out. You may notice that everything I post on those platforms is public, and this was deliberate.

I still catch myself feeling bad that I forget to reply to comments, or messages, or whatever it was. I barely have time to get around to my work emails.

Also, just to address this concern I sometimes hear about from readers: I am assuming that these platforms will use whatever I feed into them for evil purposes, if they really feel the need.

At least, that’s the baseline understanding I’m rolling with! So I’m aware of the “big picture downside character flaw” of social media, but I also feel there is a more mutual benefit now.

Home and Family

As usual, I keep trying to find ways to be less annoying at home, and with my family. :-)

My wife and kids still amaze me and it’s exciting to see them grow. I like to see them rest when they can, too! It’s been a lot of fun to see them enjoying new interests and developing old ones.

Conclusion

OK, phew, that should be enough of an update for now.

The post wasn’t meant to be so all-encompassing, but it helped me to reflect just a little bit on those various areas.

Overall, this year has been more focused on technology than last year. It’s also been more restful and healthy overall. This has been a really nice way to reset very specific goals in life, or re-calibrate toward outcomes I want to see.

I’m looking forward to 2024 and whatever it brings! Wishing all my readers the best new year possible—

Filed in: Energy /120/ | Therapeutic Practice /144/ | Interests /111/ | Movies & Films /4/ | Goals /52/

When My Words Meet Your Mental Stageplay

Wednesday July 5, 2023

In recent weeks, I found myself doing a little bit of work for one of America’s top automotive chains. I say this with some weird pride, because my dad, RIP, loved being a customer at that place.

Dad loved being prepared, and so do I, and so I really loved seeing how excited he’d get when winter storm season started. Car mods incoming—he was prepared!

I know he also loved the way they’d do something for you and give you a little report, and send you on your way.

But in reflecting on the topic, that stuff is more about who we were, Dad and I.

Alas, management of this place probably doesn’t give two f’s about being prepared, and for good reason. They are not us.

So, with that introduction to the topic, let’s get on with the story…

The Task

I was asked to analyze an individual’s communications, and develop an idea of their personality characteristics.

And with that kind of info in hand, maybe I could make some recommendations to management? Interventions, strategies, tips, things to do and not do?

People problems, you see.

“I got horns that hold my other horns, I always come prepared…”

For this kind of thing to go well, you’ve got to be trained in it (I’ve probably been over-trained at this point). You’ve got to be really attuned to various natural pitfalls, for sure.

Here are some examples of the basic pitfalls, or thought patterns, (or even “philosophies,” if you like) that can undermine this kind of work:

  • Everyone’s the same (nope)
  • Most people are the same (nah)
  • People usually think like me (not really)
  • People who don’t think like me are dumb (yikes, yeah no)
  • For people to get along, they should just be nice, or be good to each other, and do their best (good luck with that)
  • For people to work together well, they should agree to live by my own time-tested moral code, which I’ll sketch for you in brief… (good one, we got a comedian here)

In doing this kind of task, it helps if you can understand people through various types of personality models. And it really helps if you’ve been formally tested on that—ideally by a perfectionist who throws you a lot of red herrings!

An Example of a Test Scenario

At one point in a test, I remember asking myself “WHY would this kind of person work in IT?” when reading a short bio of a person I was being tested on. It was one of the last test items I was really stuck on.

Then I got this idea: “What if this question is less about the person I’m reading about here, and more about the test designer?”

So, I thought about what I knew of the test designer, particularly—how do they probably prefer to see themselves?

This was easy: Logical. Meticulous.

(It made me chuckle a bit to reach that conclusion so quickly, because the stuff you generally prefer to think about yourself is always kind of funny, embarrassing, awkward in how awesome it sounds to you, and yet how “huh???” it can sound to other people. It’s a topic that IMO has never been truly and deeply mined for its inherent comedic wealth.)

I re-read the bio, switching from my more normal state of “gestalt, intuitive, broad-minded, symbolic” and into something resemblilng a state of “picky, logical, focused only on what I can read, attempting to read NOTHING between the lines”.

Poof! The answer to the whole thing lay before me. The whole story practically came alive right off the page!

“It was just another goddamn puzzle…written by someone who’s getting off on how logical they are!” I deny ever thinking to myself.

This example highlights a very important string of factors that are super-relevant in this kind of work:

  • It’s not only about the person you’re trying to figure out
  • It’s about you
  • It’s about them
  • And it’s about the person assigning the task
  • BTW, poof, you are a team and you didn’t even know it

The Voice

Now, in case you’re reading this thinking “this is interesting, I’m not familiar,” there’s one big thing that you might have, that I don’t.

An internal monologue.

Internal monologues are a fascinating topic to me because I never had one of those. And in recent years, it’s been increasingly common to come across podcast episodes like “Interview with a person who has NO INTERNAL MONOLOGUE” or whatever. Like OK, I get it, you think this is weird for YOU, because that inner voice has been a huge feature of YOUR life.

I C U

I do have a kind-of equivalent. It’s what some call “inner sight,” and based on what I know of it, it definitely can be described as a foundational factor that drives my whole life and career.

The way it works is,

  • I see you reading this (a probabilistic, imagined-you, that is)
  • I see your reaction, as a video-like image, including color, sound, even some tactile sense, smells sometimes, and so on
  • I get a feel for the kind of person you might be
  • I go back and edit the story for you
  • I try to get an idea of how well that went, to hone that first item in the list for next time.

And…loop. Repeat. This is how my mind works during much of the day. Maybe it’s with writing, maybe with coding, or something else.

It guesses at outcomes, but it guesses based on a guess about what kind of guesses will probably be more reliable than others.

I know some others who do this too, and am not making the claim that it’s really super-unique. But I wanted to provide an example of an alternative to an “internal monologue” or “inner voice,” because people usually ask me what that might be, if they’re only used to the internal monologue.

Why Somebody’s Internal Voice is Worth Knowing

If you get to know somebody’s internal voice, you can build up a really quick set of insights as to the state of of their subjective world.

(A lot of people worry about this kind of exposure, and rightly so! Still: No shame, I think. Better to own the fear—“if you find yourself in hell, keep going,” etc.)

Sometimes, this is a really sad discovery, or chain of discoveries. You can discover that you are friends with somebody who, for example, has a BRUTAL and TERRIBLE inner voice.

That voice might be saying terrible things ABOUT you, for much of the time you spend together! It really could be.

It has probably, definitely said terrible things ABOUT them, which is also unfortunate.

And what interests me lately: THAT VOICE is often the one reading, interpreting, and commenting on YOUR messages to this friend of yours!

So there’s this strange and very interesting issue: You don’t get to deliver your own message on that other person’s inner stage.

However important the message, you just don’t get to do that.

Your Inner Stageplay

I like the metaphor of an “inner stageplay.” Thoughts are like actors. They present lines of thought. Opinions.

An individual tends to favor certain actors on their inner stageplay. They also tend to hate or dislike, or ignore other actors.

This, we can say, is what gives this individual a specific personality.

(“Phew, the logical person is back on the stage! Kick the clowns out with their physical humor and loud music!” is one possible representation of a mere moment’s mental activity on such a stage.)

But to me, the inner voice is an even more powerful actor than just “a perspective”. It’s practically in its own league. It’s a member of the troupe who can instantly change the play in various ways.

This is similar for my inner vision, by the way—it’s very active and persuasive. And it’s been wrong a LOT! But still, I can hardly turn it down a notch, let alone ignore it. It’s just in a different class, where the presentation of various perspectives on the internal stage is concerned.

Influencing the Voice

So, some interesting questions come to mind, in this line of work:

  • Could that inner voice be understood really accurately somehow, by others?
  • Could that voice be used or worked with more directly somehow, by others?
  • How would someone influence such an inner voice?
  • Let’s say I get some samples of your writing, as if written by your internal voice. If I write my messages to you in that same type of writing, will this be beneficial to our relationship?
  • When the inner voice is suspended, does the order of preference of various other perspectives change?
  • In what ways does one’s personality change at that point?
  • Is it worth pursuing a variety of opportunities and means of suspending or changing the inner voice?

(Personality-change is to me a bit less of an interesting topic these days, because I’ve heard so many perspectives on it. My experience is that: Yes it does, and no it doesn’t. So it’s much better to know the general details—how, when, why, etc.—than to cling to such a silly answer!)

Analysis & Strange Observations

Anyway, so I analyzed the f**k out of this individual. Naturally I took this process to 11, due to a variety of funny factors. Like the fact that this isn’t exactly RAND Corporation, but more like a place where you get car stuff done? That’s WEIRD and INTERESTING!

So I thought about the various factors for days and days.

At the end of that process, I had a very good idea of this person’s internal stageplay. For every complaint about them, I felt extreme empathy on their behalf. For every compliment, I was ready to wave their banner even higher!

One of the specific observations I knew I needed to include went something like this:

“You told individual X that they were not well suited as a leader. But you told them that because of the kind of leader you are. They are a very logical, hands-on person. Your leadership style is different from this.

It’s obvious in my analysis that they’ve had a logic-based, hands-on type of leadership experience. And I can see why you missed it, because you don’t think like they do. And so instead of teasing that out, you compared them to these other kinds of leaders over here.

So now, as a result, you may sound more like a liar and manipulator to them. This will undermine your position. And here’s what you should do about that.”

Here’s Your Report

There were so many points like that to cover. I definitely had the age-old consulting problem on my hand: How do you take a problem from the point of view of deep career-expertise and condense it, adapt it, teach it?

So then I had to analyze the person who requested that I do this work.

What kind of voice, on this topic, would sound like a voice of reason to them?

Where do the two voices intersect?

And how does my voice complicate this?

Phew!

Well, be it ever so complicated: We talked it over. And for anything I missed in person…it’s all there in the report.

Now they’re prepared!

Filed in: People /73/ | Relationships /78/ | Control /110/ | Intuition /62/ | Thinking /70/

A quick way to get more creative coding control with ChatGPT

Tuesday May 30, 2023

Want more control over the implementation of your code idea by ChatGPT? Want your time spent with ChatGPT to be a bit more interesting, or possibly inspiring?

If so, try using a more interactive, prospective design prompt which sources a variety of ideas, like this example (my emphasis in bold):

Write a bash script with three functions: Allow a user to select how many dice to roll, roll the dice, and announce the results graphically. For each function, allow me to pick from three different ways of creating the function.

The resulting code may then look something like this:

#!/bin/bash

# Function 1: Allowing the user to select how many dice to roll

# Option 1: Read input from user
select_dice_count_1() {
    read -p "Enter the number of dice to roll: " dice_count
    echo $dice_count
}

# Option 2: Using command-line arguments
select_dice_count_2() {
    dice_count=$1
    echo $dice_count
}

# Option 3: Using a default value
select_dice_count_3() {
    dice_count=1
    echo $dice_count
}

# Function 2: Rolling the dice

# Option 1: Using the $RANDOM variable
roll_dice_1() {
    echo $((RANDOM % 6 + 1))
}

# Option 2: Using the shuf command
roll_dice_2() {
    shuf -i 1-6 -n 1
}

# Option 3: Using an array to represent the dice faces
roll_dice_3() {
    dice_faces=("1" "2" "3" "4" "5" "6")
    index=$((RANDOM % 6))
    echo "${dice_faces[$index]}"
}

# Function 3: Announcing the results graphically

# Option 1: Using a for loop and printf
announce_results_1() {
    for ((i = 1; i <= $1; i++)); do
        printf "[Dice $i] - $2\n"
    done
}

# Option 2: Using echo and a separator line
announce_results_2() {
    for ((i = 1; i <= $1; i++)); do
        echo "Dice $i: $2"
    done
    echo "-----------------"
}

# Option 3: Using ASCII art for graphical representation
announce_results_3() {
    for ((i = 1; i <= $1; i++)); do
        echo "╔═══╗"
        echo "║ $2 ║"
        echo "╚═══╝"
    done
}

# Main script

# Selecting dice count
dice_count=$(select_dice_count_1)  # Change the function name to select_dice_count_2 or select_dice_count_3 for different options

# Rolling the dice
results=""
for ((i = 1; i <= dice_count; i++)); do
    result=$(roll_dice_1)  # Change the function name to roll_dice_2 or roll_dice_3 for different options
    results+=" $result"
done

# Announcing the results
announce_results_1 $dice_count "$results"  # Change the function name to announce_results_2 or announce_results_3 for different options

Then, simply alter the function names as needed (these places in the code were helpfully indicated by ChatGPT in comments).

Did you notice that these are now actually software-design questions you’re faced with, not simply “how to code that” questions?

This highlights the possibility of using ChatGPT for designing while coding, not just for simple coding.

Don’t stop there

With the creative juices starting to flow, you can, and should, also continue to ask for more creative, rare, funny, or obscure ideas. For example, this follow-up prompt:

Give 3 more creative options for the display of the result.

…produced the code to display 1) ASCII dice with pips instead of numbers, 2) ANSI-colored dice graphics, and 3) emoji dice.

And you can keep going further—I asked ChatGPT for three even more creative options, and it then offered a way to play a sound effect of dice rolling, and two ways of animating the resulting dice rolls.

I was surprised to see the sound effect option, and it got me thinking—does this need to be a boring script, or could some more creativity be really fun and interesting?

Adding flexibility to your design process is worth it

This simple hack gives you more direct, authorship-style control over the initial style, feel, and functionality of your script or program.

This is helpful because you can end up developing a superior outcome more quickly, by reviewing a variety of different design choices as soon as possible.

Also, down the road it will become harder (mostly in terms of your own working memory & patience, etc.) to change things, so a design process that is more interactive in this way will generally work in your favor.

Note that you’ll want to change the approach depending on the style of scripting or programming you’re using (if something else other than functional). Be sure to take advantage of the additional prompt length that ChatGPT can work with, to specify details about the type of code you want to see.

(Or possibly, to prompt ChatGPT to offer ideas as to different types of code you might want to see!)

Use it for non-code things as well

As a bonus, this tip also works when you are asking ChatGPT for non-code-related tips and other queries.

For example, if asking for tips on a given topic, you can add something like:

Present the tips in three different styles, only presenting the first tip of each style at first. Allow me to choose which style I like best before continuing with the rest of the tips.

The resulting output can prime your intuition to think more clearly about the way you may end up using the information. This means engaging your conceptualizing skills in co-design with ChatGPT, for a better result.

YOU will feel more creative as a result. You should end up feeling at least a bit less like a copy-paste author or coder, which can be a reassuring benefit for the newcomer.

Conclusion & some final thoughts on breadth

Not only can it be fun to see where things go with this kind of a prompt, but in my opinion this little hack can give you a better idea of the broad capabilities of ChatGPT, as opposed to its singular, deep capabilities.

Most people will err on the side of deep assistance when asking for coding help, aiming for one really good, single result. But getting your code some more breadth exposure throughout the process can be vital to getting an even better outcome.

Filed in: Ni /42/ | Ne /17/ | Productivity /119/ | Intuition /62/ | Technology /41/

Why it can be a good idea to say "Thank You" to ChatGPT

Tuesday May 23, 2023

Lately I’ve noticed that I get some unexpected benefits from being more human, and conversational, with ChatGPT.

Prior to this, I was kind of above that, in the sense that I didn’t want to act as if I thought ChatGPT was a real human. Pshah! Ignore all the fake-human stuff!

But isn’t that kind of the point, that it will at least try?

So today, I gave in. I wrote something like: “omg sorry, I forgot to enter parameters when testing this code. Of course I got a nasty error message. Can we make it fail more gracefully?”

I got this response:

No problem at all! I’m glad we got to the bottom of the issue. Yes, it’s a good idea to check for missing parameters and give a user-friendly error message.

This was at the end of a long day. I had to pause and reflect: This felt way better than “OK,” or “Yes” or “Understood”, for all the extra reading those would save.

It’s really pretty nice, in fact.

One thing this kind of pattern actually does is expose the conversation to more of YOUR psychology and perspectives. You expose it to more nerves to tickle, let’s say. Or in effect, you are giving the AI more of your brain’s surface area to work on.

(And isn’t this kind of like going to a masseuse and not complaining about the hard day at work a bit, since you are mainly focused on getting the foot massage you paid for? Isn’t that some extra value you’re leaving on the table, if you don’t let out that work stress a little bit?)

So, if you think of the ChatGPT experience as a basic kind of VR—let’s say a way more intuitive / mind-based VR than the usual sensory type of VR, but still VR—then one argument I’d make is that the VR experience will get way better for you, and more beneficial, the more you do this kind of thing.

Hmm! This is getting interesting to think about—how many surface areas could we prompt it to work on in a single sentence?
Some other benefits I’m noticing from various little add-ins:

  • “Thanks for your help”: This is a cue to yourself, not just to the AI—this was worth my time. OK, kinda simple here, but emotional reinforcement works. And let’s keep going…
  • “I’m sorry I wasted your time”: This can remind you that you should apply some lessons-learned for next time, or think about it. What caused the waste of time? (In my case: I kept testing our co-written code without entering real-world parameters. Duh! ChatGPT kinda hallucinated on its end, and never guessed that I was doing this, so it got in this weird fractal-rewrite loop.)
  • “I’m out of energy, let’s pick this up later”: This can help you understand that while the AI can keep going forever, maybe your process in working with the AI is helpful to contextualize as still being human-energy-bound. What are the implications for your project? (This kind of leverage point is part of the reason why I added the Anarchy module, which has nothing to do with traditional productivity, to my modular productivity system, Task BATL)
  • “Give me a memory trick to remember to come back to this topic later on”: (OK, what it said for this one kind of blew my mind, so give this a try for sure. And how did it know that I’m an Indiana Jones fan…? Well, maybe it was related to the fact that it was helping me code in the Crystal language…)

So, from here on out I’m planning to lean way more into the human aspects, and I’m interested to see what that means or implies for leveraging the tooling-experience further.

Filed in: Feeling /64/ | Fe /20/ | Technology /41/

Let's Talk Zuckerberg and BJJ, and What That Says

Wednesday May 10, 2023

Mark Zuckerberg’s cognition & personality dynamics have always been of interest to the author of this blog. These dynamics have a direct impact on his daily decision-making and broader life plans and strategy.

Recently, Zuckerberg threw another confirmation of his personality functionality onto the pile, by 1) being interested in Brazilian Jujitsu (BJJ) and 2) confirming his passion by winning at BJJ.

Based on my experiences in my own coaching & training practice, I personally find that an interest in BJJ is a pretty reliable tag by itself, often indicating things like:

  • The individual in question is tangling/wrestling/grappling with deep problems in life.
    • Their life problems have “gone to the ground,” so to speak
  • The problems indicating that the problems are life-and-death serious, endangering some aspect of survival
  • The individual takes the problems very seriously and is up to the challenge
  • The individual takes life seriously in general, likely much more seriously than average.

If you’re into Myers-Briggs or four-letter type, you will find no shortage of INTJ personalities online, telling you how great BJJ is. In fact, it is probably the #1 INTJ-recommended martial art. INTJs will generally recommend:

  • Lifting weights
  • BJJ practice
  • Becoming a fitness-stoic—don’t listen to emotion; lots of “just” phrases like “just do it”
  • Being a defense-realist (in the US it’s not uncommon to hear INTJs explaining this is why they carry a firearm)
  • Other realism-oriented things that seem, OK, kinda realistic I guess? But also kind of infatuated with some specific aspects of what “reality” is.

It’s my perception that Mark Zuckerberg has a lot in common with the perspectives and judgment style of this personality type. (Please note that this is a bit deeper than simply “I = The Quiet Introvert”, etc.—keeping in mind the underlying Jungian functional dynamics and various models based on those perspectives, we’re all a mixture of I and E, and so on)

This personality type is generally associated with:

  • Pursuing “realism-based” arts or skills in general
  • Perceiving a personal deficit of “power toward real effect” more instantly than other types
  • Looking deeply into the probability of future outcomes
  • Creating contingency plans for various outcomes
  • Turning all four of the points above this one into a kind of realism-porn-fantasy.
    • A fantasy of reality! This one’s interesting to me. This fantasy is often extremely subject-oriented and addresses the world and its happenings from the individual POV, almost never the group, friends, family, or community POV.

So, I would also not be surprised to find that Zuckerberg:

  • Is also pursuing other contingency-martial-arts, maybe muay thai or others recommended by his teachers (related, he also likely specializes in feints in BJJ)
  • Is probably bugging his teachers about what improvements he can make, or what alternate strategies he can pursue
  • Is extremely ??? about very BIG, disturbing problems at Meta
  • Is also, at the same time, very !!! (LFG) about wanting to take on those problems, and win.
  • Sees the desired outcomes mainly as a reflection of how great he can be and less about his team.
  • Is seeing at this point in his career, a need to support his teams and corporation, but mainly from a “what kind of guy am I” position, contrary to the style of many leaders.

Enter the Elon?

Elon Musk recently attempted to dunk on Zuckerberg with some negative commentary as well. Based on my analysis on his personality and general cognitive map, I think it is very likely that Elon is:

  • Feeling triggered by, and envious of, Mark Zuckerberg.
  • Despite his own messaging, still VERY open to “changing his mind” about Zuckerberg as a contingency-negotiation tactic (Zuckerberg is IMO extremely concerned about and protective of his personal reputation, and if Elon doesn’t already have a strong whiff of this, he’ll use it to his advantage when it arrives)
  • Hoping to look like an arbiter of the perception of Zuckerberg
  • Hoping to somehow address the “Zuckerberg” set of problems in his mind, by taking on Zuckerberg personally in some way.

Unfortunately I think it’s likely that—unless he sees this blog post—Zuckerberg will attempt to engage with Musk directly.

I say “unfortunately” because I think that Musk has some natural charismatic swaying power over someone with the personality / cognitive-function dynamics of a Mark Zuckerberg. I think they could become really good friends. And I don’t think Musk is demonstrating himself to be the kind of friend that would be legimitately helpful to Zuckerberg. Perhaps quite the contrary.

Any closeness in such a relationship could really easily work against Zuckerberg’s long-term strategy, and also I think Musk’s influence is unfortunately very short-sighted right now. IOW, Musk’s inner world is all about Musk personally these days, which is a terrible place for any leader to be.

Anyway, this is general commentary written from the POV of someone who has come to understand a lot of factors relating to Zuckerberg’s personality dynamics, not a superfan or anything like that.

Let’s see how things unfold from here!

Filed in: People /73/ | INTJ /2/

April '23: What's New Here? Books, Movies, Software, Art, EDC, Advanced Fitness, and Coconut Juice

Tuesday April 18, 2023

A grown man hustling across some sand before his camera timer goes off

Above: The author transits a bleak alien planet in search of a long-lost KDE configuration dialog!

Every single time I think about something to write here, it’s all of a sudden 100 things. So I feel like maybe a digest format will help to scratch that itch today.

Here’s some stuff that’s new for me in April ’23!

Books

I’ve been savoring every last metaphorical bite of Moscow Calling by Angus Roxburgh. The fluent narrative style and concise prose do me juuust fine for calm reading time.

Remembered Prisoners of a Forgotten War by Lewis H. Carlson is downright fascinating.

And wrapping up my cold war trilogy, RAF & East German Fast Jet Pilots of the Cold War by Nigel Walpole has been a terrific source for a lot of details I wanted to know about but wasn’t sure where to find.

Aside from that, I’ve dipped into a lot of classics and browse Project Gutenberg just about every day, so frequent are the interesting updates there.

I’ve also found myself dipping into a lot more fantasy books, like The Land That Time Forgot and others.

This “dipping into” thing is a lot more frequent now that I’m working on my Frontdooring practices, and I can honestly say that I’ve never been more proud of skipping to the end of more books in my life. For the Frontdooring-related benefits alone it’s been great.

Related, I’ve limited my book purchases mainly to books with covers I like. This has saved me quite a bit of agony in deciding what to buy.

Finally, I should mention that I’ve collected thousands of Internet Archive book cover thumbnails based on personal preference, and I have a script that runs every 45 minutes, picking 18 of them and presenting them to me in a separate folder for Frontdooring purposes. This has been really cool and I refer to it about 3-5 times a day.

Movies & TV

I finished 1975’s Wolf Guy with Sonny Chiba and enjoyed it. Really good atmosphere, nice job with the music, the dialogue was tight, plotting was solid.

It also had definite giveaway manga vibes in characterization and so on. Throwing coins like ninja stars was funny and obviously something imported from the manga story source. There wasn’t much context for it but I absolutely loved to see it.

2019’s Stuber made me laugh my arse off. I had so much fun watching that movie. Dave Bautista stumble-crushing a full row of brand new bicycles during a fight with somebody with about half his mass is not to be missed.

I also started watching the new Jury Duty series and it’s pretty funny. If you’ve ever been selected for a jury, there’s a lot of relatable stuff in there, but man, they even threw in a transhumanist, which of course has to be explained to the judge, and there’s just some really rational, solid comedy writing that flows well.

Since my psychology is so conflicted about attention given to the brand new stuff without getting somehow grumpy, I found myself watching 1988’s On The Silver Globe (seems available on Youtube) which was so experientially impactful that I’ve had to spread it across several viewing sessions.

I may have also enjoyed the feel of 1975’s Shock Waves, looking to expand the incredible vibing-experience from 1983’s The Keep.

EDC / Everyday Carry

EDC layout including radio, pens, dice, and pocketknife

You may have seen some of my EDC photos that I rotate in the sidebar here. I like EDC and really treasure this hobby for its symbolic role in my life experience. It’s just stuff. But it’s also somehow a reliable source of positive vibes for me.

The EDC hobby—sorting, selecting, buying, collecting, planning, fixing, all of it and carrying too—brings me down to earth and grounds me, helping me out of the idea space, so it’s very much a meditative activity in that way. But it also helps me get way back up there when I need to. My EDC gear is “just stuff,” but it’s also become a favorite portal-hobby which connects my sensory and intuitive worlds. I like to think my EDC photos sometimes capture a bit of that energy.

In EDC hobby-land, I’ve been focused on really small things lately:

  • Small dice like the Chessex 10mm mini sets have been an interesting find lately.
  • Small radios like the HRD-747, Raddy RF75A, and even the Countycomm GP-7 SSB have been calling for my attention. I took my HRD-737 on a campout once, and finding RNZ coming in great on shortwave was a terrific way to stave off the mid-afternoon boredom.
  • Small flashlights have been straight up useful, wish I could recommend one right now but I’m still testing a couple. One of them is great to have while walking at night because it’s got a red strobe built into it.
  • Small knives and tools like the Rough Ryder Mini Canoe, the Marbles Small Lockback in Desert Tan, and the Rough Rider Lockback Black Cherry Bone have been a lot of fun.

As the knives and tools interest has developed, I’ve somehow gained a taste for the vintage styles. So I have a small collection of camp/scout-pattern knives that I really enjoy attending to. One of my favorites in this area is the Rough Ryder Carbon Scout, which I’ve used for various home improvements & eatin’ steak like a scout. (Just wipe off that there drywall dust, and you won’t taste anything !)

I also had to pick up a barlow knife or four since I got thinking about my grandpa and his old barlow, and Tom Sawyer, and by gosh if I didn’t become a bit of a barlow knife geek! To include the beerlow pattern (I don’t have that one—just an example), which is a combination pocket knife and cap lifter.

The amount of money I’m spending on this stuff is intentionally kept low as well, as you can probably see by the prices for the items I mentioned in the list above. With hobbies I go right for variety, fun, and emotion, which makes sense to me in the cognitive-relief sense, since my day-to-day professional work is much more about focus, systems, and logic.

I’ve also been expanding my search to new portable ham radios for use while hiking. My criteria for these now include USB-C charging, which is pretty wild to think about compared to how even the portable ham radios are usually charged. I also like the radio to have a flashlight, which is a great safety tool, and a nice loud beep is really helpful in the woods.

One of my favorite portable ham radios makes a tremendous BEEP BEEP sound on startup that’s easily heard hundreds of yards away. This is great for alerting nearby animals and sometimes nearby humans, when I need them to know that I’m coming, for various reasons. (The sheer number of little helpful things I’ve learned while hiking over the past decade…not all of them always necessary, but when you need them, it’s definitely better to know & use them.)

Software Stuff

In text editor software, I’ve been studying Emacs, really digging in there to find some things I just love about the software.

So far, the thing I love most about it is that it is kind of its own mental domain, like a treehouse you can climb into with its own special vibe. For us low-dopamine-preferred folks, it’s great to know that these kinds of experiences exist.

I’ve been using ChatGPT as an Emacs consultant with fairly good success, but there’s always the usual ChatGPT suggestions-troubleshooting to do. “Sorry #4, that configuration directive ALSO does not work because of factor X, so please try this directive Y instead…”

I should also admit that I accidentally opened jEdit the other day and phewwww did I like how it looks, a huge nostalgia hit. I’ll probably make some time to upgrade & use that one for a while also.

In desktop environments, I’m rocking KDE harder than ever before, which is a pretty significant change away from XFCE for me. I had XFCE customized with hundreds of keyboard shortcuts, buttons, genmon scripts with various display features, and it fit me like a gosh darn glove.

There’s a lot I still love about XFCE, and I anticipate using it again, but for now it’s just been too long since I used KDE.

Distros I’m currently using include: Kubuntu, Manjaro, Q4OS, and PCLOS. These are all fantastic in various ways. I wouldn’t change a thing for now. Even though I’ve had to replace my handy XFCE panel dropdowns with some rather Windows 3.1-style solutions.

In utility software packages, I really like Eagle Mode for a lot of reasons. It has one of the best world-clock modalities I’ve ever used, for one.

I also like using OpenMPT lately and have enjoyed playing around with it. Bosca Coeil is new to me and very intuitive as well.

I bought a lifetime license for GoldWave and use it in Wine, where it works great and is perfect at not being Audacity, which is about where I need it to be right now.

For video editing I am really enjoying OpenShot and find that it does all my basics really well.

I also make use of a mostly-curated collection of .m3u playlists with QMMP and use these in conjunction with my other Frontdooring tools.

Geany is still my editor of choice, and I feel like I can pretty much fly with it. I am up to about 120 snippets for general journaling and productivity for work & play, most of which call my external scripts. One of those snippets is “help”, which prints a kind of a menu of my snippets, and it’s kind of nice to need something like that.

The most helpful snippets turn a blank space in the editor into a structured list or pre-formatted indented topical list. After that, the most helpful ones will insert the UTC time or make a header with the current date/time. After that, some snippets manage my journaling cues which are shuffled and presented for use in getting on track in various ways.

ChatGPT has been really fun to use for various purposes, in addition to other online tools like BanterAI which my kids thought was pretty hilarious.

My general thinking on LLMs and ChatGPT is that these tools are going to raise the bar, but I don’t really see anyone’s coding job being in jeopardy as a result. Quite the opposite in fact—conversing with, and prompting ChatGPT for effective coding is itself a very obvious form of coding, and I can think of many, many different kinds of people who will be happy to hire someone to do all of that for them.

I also find myself using ChatGPT to write way more software for personal entertainment than ever before, which has been super fun.

Art

I haven’t done as much sketching lately, but fractals and 3D renders have been a lot of fun. This includes The Reality Forges of Rabanth and a little photo from the inside of my MicroSD card slot.

I made a lot of use of Art of Illusion for home project visualization purposes, and just love that software for its simplicity and I am glad I still know it nearly inside and out. Nearly.

The Outdoors / Physical Activity

I’ve done a lot of thinking and meditating on the concept of advanced fitness. It kind of started with memories of my martial arts teacher, Sifu Richard Hone, bringing a clipboard to our classes. He’d refer to the clipboard and make little notes on it as our class time went by.

In effect, by making weekly and daily decisions about what topics or activities to write on the clipboard, he built a unique advanced fitness program that was really exceptional at keeping things interesting.

To me, this is a big part of advanced fitness: Capturing the interest in a way that’s a big improvement over the usual workout or fitness activity. Advanced fitness is not really about how many, how long, or how much. It can involve those things, but it should be more expansive, creative and I’m pretty sure that truly advanced fitness should make you laugh or say, “that was fun and it absolutely hit the right spot” without needing to involve a lot of expense or extra travel.

So, I wrote a snippet (see Geany, above) that creates a short, randomized collection from about 75 different fitness-related topics or activities. This has really helped me with my advanced fitness goals so far. And I really want to get the source list above 200 if I can, because I feel like it should be doable, and if it is doable, it’ll definitely be even more fun to use.

My most recent additions to that list involve inventing skill games. For example, inventing a skill game involving throwing or catching, or inventing a skill game based on balance. When my snippet provides a list, I try to view the whole list and synthesize, like:

  • Crunches
  • Inventing a skill game based on balance
  • Throwing badminton birdies into a jar from a given distance

…and that leads me to “balance a jar on your forehead while holding the crunch position for as long as you can, timed”, or “holding a badminton birdie between your knees while doing crunches” and so on.

I’ve also been doing some hiking and trail maintenance combined with photography and a bit of ham radio, which has been a good way to politely beg my ultra-runner wife for a little bit of rest time.

I’m that random guy who has actually used ham radios in emergencies, both real emergencies and officially-simulated ones with local health care organizations, so the practice in the outdoors also has this additional practical element. It is not a good feeling to watch a potential emergency unfold and realize you don’t know how or if your essential gear will even work out there.

Some related topics for future study include: Geology, entomology, tracking, and botany. These have been on my mind every time I’ve had a related ??? moment while hiking.

Food and Drink

I try to keep a log of interesting new foods and drinks that I try, and let me just say that if you see some Vita Coco Coconut Juice Drink with Mango, and you like Coconut drinks, you should get some of that. It has a great creamy aftertaste and I plan to source some more somehow.

Personal KB

The personal KB / bat cave / notes system continues to be very helpful here.

To catch up those who haven’t previously read about it, I decided many years ago to lean into how computers naturally work, and so after trying many notetaking systems—all of them great—including NoteCase Pro, Zim, DokuWiki, etc., my system is now based around a structured collection of folders containing Markdown files and other types of data as needed. I use fsearch, grep, find, and some other tools like Geany’s Commander plugin to manage the searching aspects, and use various syncing tools to get access to the files across systems.

A couple years ago I was really captured by the superhero archetype, and decided to make what I call the “Super System,” kind of a zoomed-out meta-system file to ensure that my life, tools, philosophies, etc. could be as superheroic and big-picture oriented as I really needed it to be.

This turned out to be a very helpful project. It reminds me of a film professor back in university, who used to say “everyone should write a manifesto.” This file contains in effect many different manifestos, in various structures, for various purposes. It even contains my own version of Heinlein’s “A Human Being Should” manifesto, adapted for current times:

A human being should be able to evaluate sources of advice for general credibility, evaluate their own government’s ongoing activities for laudability, make conscious health-minded diet choices, avoid road rage, design a life plan, write a journal entry for internal meditation & peace, manage and plan for long-term financial stability in the face of change, connect a device to the internet, evaluate another person’s general physical and emotional state, know some first aid, comfort the dying, contextualize and integrate feedback from others, offer and design feedback to others, cooperate with a team, act alone while understanding the risks of subjective mindsets, know where they can go to get help with math and other problems, list and organize the various aspects of a new problem they are facing, test a CO2 or smoke detector, sign up for texts from local authorities, protect themselves during the most likely natural disasters in their area, fight and argue creatively, and make plans to pass away with supportive friends around.

There’s also a list of what-not-to-do’s, most of which I at least needed to write down, just to acknowledge: that’s OK and you’re fine. Most of them I also haven’t seen anywhere else, really.

For example, “DON’T RESTRICT YOUR POWER AND RESOURCES TO SATISFY OTHERS” is a really solid one. Sometimes, people who are desperate for power will work hard to represent your own power or resources as THE problem, when in fact, even if that stuff is a problem, it’s still something you need to rely on for your own purposes. A good illustration of this that some are familiar with is Ozymandias’s tactic to reduce Doctor Manhattan’s effective power in the story Watchmen.

Right around the same time that I got to work on all of this, I also really started to see in my coaching sessions with various clients just how much the idealist in all of us needs direct and constant support. And superheroic tales and archetypes are so much about nurturing this idealist viewpoint.

This led me to look for a superheroic-attention pattern in my life. When does it come up? Why? What is that for?

I found myself gradually bringing some order to this kind of thought through a mandala-inspired concept of the flow of my life, and some related interests/archetypes, as they play out in my typical schedule or state of affairs at work or at home.

And, here it is—in all of its LibreOffice Draw, draft-mode glory!—in case anybody’s interested in working on something similar for themselves:

Image of mandala

I’m working on an accessible text version as well, and will post that here when it’s ready.

Wrap-up

OK, so like I said at the beginning, there’s a lot I could write about, there’s a TON more that I want to share, but that’s a pretty good set of things for now.

Hope this finds you all out there living life to its life-est as well.

Filed in: Interests /111/ | Therapeutic Practice /144/ | Rest /21/ | Randomness /26/ | Technology /41/ | Movies & Films /4/

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