Friday, December 12, 2008

Needs, wants, culture

After a talk w/ some guys from work this evening, I've kind of puked up my short term memory along w/ the response of my frontal cortex to the interference between the short term memory w/ my subconscious and long term memory. Eh, something like that. Here it is, unedited and unabridged:

I talked for a while tonight w/ two of my counterparts at work from the Russian campus. We are all in Santa Clara for training. We contrasted cultural norms and understandings, as much as we could in the short time. Much of it, I captured in abstraction, but I think I can generalize a bit to describe a bit about all of us, independent of our cultures or locale.

We accept what we have as the norm. If we have less, we are content with it because it is the best we can have. If we have more, we become complacent and will come to have less. One of my coworkers talked about a story his grandfather told him:

A man came from Russia to the united states. He was so unsettled by the condition of things that he, to summarize, moved to a yellow house and hid away. In Russia, for years, generations, they had little. There were two types of bread, one type of cheese, every couple months, if they were lucky, they could buy sausage. At the new year, they could buy bananas and oranges. When the man came to the US, he saw the supermarkets where all kinds of things were available. This man had grown up in a world where they believed that what they had was the best. That they were in the best place in the world. Then to come here was dumbfounding.

Here, I have grown up in a world where we live in excess. We are only satisfied by fulfilling our wants. We accumulate things, only to create new wants. We are without need. If we need, we often only have to to stop buying fast food, DVD movies, alcohol, and cable tv, and we no longer need. It is true that there are people trying to survive in our country, but so many of my class are indebted and struggling, only because we serve our wants.

Perhaps I'm ranting a bit. I really believe that we need to loose some of what we have to truly appreciate our position. We could have more, but we need not what we have, and most of us really do not know what we have or how easy we have it. To have less, to learn to live with less, would be a blessing. At the same time, there are things of real value which we must preserve. There are things which are of true value to us, power, which we must maintain. Freedom of information. Our real power, to understand ourselves, our world, our relationship with the world.

I feel as though I am on a gentle downhill slope. It would be so easy to burn my extra momentum because I can regain it so quickly right now, but I need to store it. There will be uphill ahead of me. I need to turn uphill, another direction, and store my energy.

What I said above, about having less, there are two ways to understand, at least that I can see. To have less is not necessarily to throw what we have away and just live with less. It can also be to turn and face the uphill once again and begin marching up it. Right now, we are freewheeling, riding on the momentum of our fathers journeys in life. If we try to pedal the bicycle of life we ride now, our feet can not turn the pedals fast enough to speed us up, because we are rolling steeply downhill. We must either turn back uphill so that our energy is not wasted, or we must build a bigger cog for our bicycles so that our turning feet propel us faster, across the bottom of the hill, and up the far side, giving us momentum to drive our next ascent.

To propel ourselves past the bottom feels reckless to me. The faster a bicycle goes, the more unstable it becomes, like going very slowly, too easy it becomes to fall. If we choose momentum in our current direction, alternatively to turning back up hill and progressing up slowly, we will only find ourselves so-high on the other side of the valley. There is only so fast we can go and maintain stability, so we can only reach so far up the other side with the energy we have now. How far we make it up the other side depends on how far we are from the bottom of the valley. If we turn up hill now, never reaching the bottom of the valley, we are likely to maintain a much higher position on the hill. This would only be inverse if we were already right at the bottom of the valley, where the amount of momentum we would loose turning back now would put us at a lower spot on the hill than if we charged through the bottom. I don't think this is the case.

To turn back up the hill is akin to a paradigm shift. It is is a change in the way we live, but it is change under our control, by our initiative. To charge across the bottom of the valley is to give control over to the world around us. It is to hold steadfast to our ways and only change only as we are forced to by the up heaving slope ahead of us. At the point of turning up hill, changing direction by our own initiative, we loose most of our momentum; our energy has gone into changing our direction; and we must decide to ourselves how we will climb back up.

I just took a shower and am about ready for bed. I've been thinking a bit more about this. We spend a lot of energy in pursuit of leisure. One way we do this is with technological toys. We buy computers, video games, cell phones, etc that we we do not necessarily need. At the same time, our next generation, come time for them to be the ones designing the technology that will further our civilization, our tools for advancement and greater efficiency, will have an understanding of those tools and a direction in their designs because of their experience with them. The question may not be whether it is right for us to consume so much of these sorts of products, as we are creating the technological infrastructure of our future, but whether we ought to exercise more discretion in our use of these tools.

There is no clear black or white to any issue, the use of our technological toys or experiments included. Like most questions, we must depend on our sense of ethical discipline to judge what is right for us. It is good to use these tools as they are made available to use, but we must measure our need and not delve into excess. For all issues which concern us, we are most benefited by learning to exercise our sense of ethics, morality, whatever. We must recognize that each of us plays a part in the creation of our world and that we are responsible for it's upkeep. A sense of pride is important in making decisions about or needs and the way things ought to be. Our sense of pride can, and ought to, be a result of hard work in creating the world as we see it, and arising from hard work, that sense of pride is balanced by humility or humbleness because we know that where we are is a result of hard work and not a god-given right. To not take it for granted.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Samwel Cave

Last week, my dad reserved a day for us and some friends to climb around in Samwel Cave, out the McCloud arm of Lake Shasta. You have to pick up a key from the Forest Service Office just off the Wonderland Blvd. exit, north of Shasta Lake City, on I5. It's no hassle, just a $10 deposit.

The cave is about 60 minutes outside of Redding, and really cool to look around in. Check it out:

















This is right by where we parked. The water in the lake's pretty low right now, but the view's good. From the road, you have to walk down a hill to get to the cave...


















And then you enter the dark chasm in the hillside...


















Where there's a hole you have to climb through... This is where it gets serious. Not like the subway caves where you walk down the stairs ;-)


















Everyone snakes along a ledge at the top of the first room to get inside.

It's really a good idea to wear a hardhat in there. The ceiling is low. Next time I'll definitely wear some kneepads too. It's pretty warm inside though, so jeans and a long sleeve shirt are great.


















I love these pictures. Being in a cave gives you fantastic red-eye.

There were, it felt like, five main rooms, pretty closely connected to each other. There two to the sides of the main room, by the entrance. Another is below, connected by a 15', narrow vertical tunnel, which was very pretty. The last is down an 80 or 100' pit in one of the side rooms. This one is probably the most pristine of them all, as I don't think it gets much traffic, but we'll have to make another trip to descend into it.























Some of the rock formations in there are huge.


















The room w/ the pit in it is large. The pit is in the back corner. There are formations around some of the edges.


















Those are several feet tall. Should have gotten a face in the photos for perspective.


















That's Lara looking into the pit on the right. Maxx is holding on pretty solidly. You can't really see the bottom looking over the edge there. The hole's about 6 foot across, w/ a ledge around half of it. Most of the rock around it is slick. The graffiti's appropriate.


















The pictures don't really show how dark it s in the cave. It's very dark with the lights off. After a wall, if you're wandering around with the lights off, you might start to think you can see a little bit, but it's just a hallucination.

Anywho, we decided to head out, so we pulled out the maps. It took us three days to make our way out of the cave. The batteries in all of our lights died and we spent some time wandering aimlessly. We were fortunate enough to come across a number of crystal pools in the dark. Had we not been able to replenish our thirst, our situation may have been dire. In the end, we discovered that our noses were our guides. They lead us by the dry, cool, scent of the outside air nearest the entrance to the cave.


















The way out was actually in the corner of the room. We shimmied through the corner w/ a rope.


















As we were making out way back to the entrance of the cave, Maxx and Lara found another room. I mentioned it above. You climb down a narrow tube and, sort of, end up in the basement. It was nice down there. The air wasn't as humid as above, probably because only a couple of us climbed down.

The photo on the left is looking up the tube you climb through to get to the basement.


















The ceiling in the basement was way cool. Little crystals. All over.


















It was relaxing just kicking back in the basement. Everyone else had already exited the cave. We turned off the flashlights for a couple minutes and listened to the silence. Then it was time to go.


















Good times.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

On Dreaming:

For the first two or three weeks after I moved into my apartment, I had vivid dreams every night for almost three weeks. I would wake up and remember all kinds of things, as though my dream had just been my experiences the day before, only more random. One of my dreams, I wrote about last week, it was kind of the culmination of the previous couple weeks dreams, I think, because of how intense it was and because my dreams have been pretty much back to normal since them. The actual dreams aside, I have been more aware of entering into the dream state since then.

I usually fall asleep quickly. There are nights when I've got something on my mind, but I'm aware than I'm getting myself off on a tangent when I let my brain spin it's cogs working on whatever. There is a point, kind of a cusp, where I become aware of the dream mind. I can really only describe it as a feeling I have. For a moment, or a minute, I'll loose myself along a strand of thought that feels like a dream, and then I become aware of that feeling. Perhaps it's when the theta waves in the first stage of dreaming are kicking in.

The feeling is like pure thought, only abstraction, without words... thoughts that are like words, to me, are those that are very familiar to me. They are like the language I use to think about things. When I'm working on an abstract idea in my head, that idea is something I can only describe as a form that I'm molding. It hasn't yet become a part of the tool-set, or vocabulary, which I use to build the forms.

When I become aware of the feeling, it is like trying to remember something complicated that I had just thought about. Like looking at a cloud, then looking away, and not being able to see the cloud any more. What's left is an abstraction which isn't as detailed as, for example, the experience of actually looking at the cloud. Thinking about that abstraction, I can say to myself, "it was that thought." Then if I focus on it, I become aware of that thought's details, and if I look back at the cloud I can see that it is the same cloud. There don't have to be details though. I can simply think of it as that thought, without giving it any meaning, and it's there, only a feeling.

I'm reaching a bit, but hopefully painting an okay picture. When I realize that I'm in the dream state, I am aware of the feeling of that state. I can think about other things and begin to wake back up, or I can immerse myself in the feeling and I'll be asleep in moments.

I had an experience a year or two ago that was interesting. For a couple nights in a row, I became aware of myself entering the dream state, but my awareness didn't fade as I began to dream. I was able to watch as I began to dream. One of those nights, I remember, I decided to prove that I was dreaming. I was in a living room and, random as it is and as random is appropriate for a dream, I decided that I would play a Simpsons episode backwards on the television front of me. In what seems like a couple moments, and entire episode appeared to flash across the screen in reverse, from the closing scene to the intro to the show. In retrospect, I doubt it was really a complete show in reverse, but only a representation of what I thought it might be like to watch a show in reverse in a dream. :-)

I've read about Yogis who, through years of intense practice of meditation, were able to maintain conscious awareness all night long as their body and brain slept. Very interesting. At this point, I only wish to be able to remember more of my dreams when I wake. Really, if I can remember my dreams, it means that I was consciously aware of them. Each day, I know that I was consciously aware during the day because I can remember what happened. To often have recollections of one's dreams probably means that one is maintaining conscious awareness through them. How interesting, to heighten that awareness.

I should try to differentiate between awareness and conscious awareness. The meanings of the words are fuzzy to begin with; there is no clear definition of awareness and consciousness is often synonymous with awareness. Even when I wake and can't clearly remember my dreams, I still have a recollection of having experienced dreams during the night. I believe I am always aware at some level. When I am consciously aware, I probably use more of my normal language for thought, and my experience of the dream is recorded in my long term memory in a way that I can recall it. When I remember it after waking, I can understand it on some level.

When I remember a dream, the dream experiences resonate with waking life experiences, and in the contrast between those I find meaning. It is akin to riding a bicycle for the first time in a few years, and then remembering all the times you rode one growing up, all the places you went, the feeling of the wind against your skin. One might only be riding in a circle in a parking lot now, a pointless thing to do, but meaning arises between the present experience and the past memories. So when I am able to remember and make sense of a dream it is because I can contrast that dream experience with those of waking life. The same tool-set I use for consciously thinking about my waking life experiences can be used to understand those dream experiences.

Purpose in meditation or even just focused, collected, thought... When meditating, I pay attention to nuance in thought. I don't just bounce from thought-word to thought-word. I notice the abstraction that makes up the words. With practice, I learn new thought-words to describe those abstractions, and the process continues. I wonder if that practice develops the language I would need to remember and understand more of my dreams. Those abstractions which I try to understand feel like the abstract thought of the dream mind. When I'm falling asleep and feel myself drifting into the dream mind, that feeling I experience is like that abstract thought that I don't yet have words for.

Blar, time for bed, for dreams.

Just now, I am so focused. I miss this feeling. When I was in High School, I would stay up all night working on stuff on the computer. I would get in the zone, so to speak, where all of my awareness would be consumed by my interactions with the computer. The only sensory input I am aware of I that of the text on the screen, the feeling of the keyboard under my fingers. I can see other stuff in the background, but I think nothing about it, beyond acknowledging it's presence in order to make note of it now. I don't have a spatial awareness of my body. Normally, I have a sense of place in my environment; where I am in the room, where my arms and legs are relative to the rest of me. Now, I lack a sense of spatial proportion. It can feel like floating, or as though my head is just above the floor where I'm sitting. It is of no consequence. If I stop my eye-twitch, everything in my field of view fades to gray, to black. ... Deep breath, stretching now, and all is as normal as I want it to be, once again.

I really need to take a shower and go to bed now. I hate getting up in the morning when I've stayed up too late.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Wild Dreams Last Night

I love dreaming. The dream mind is an incredible canvas. Some of the crap that happens in dreams just blows me away.

I've had vivid dreams every night for the last three weeks since I moved into the new apartment here in Folsom. Last night was no exception. Yesterday evening, I was feeling particularly thoughtful. I started reading the book Siddhartha again (I read it once a year or two ago). I also spent a bit of time reading about and sending an email to some friends about about next weekend's trip down to SF to go to the California Academy of Sciences to see, primarily, the planetarium. I read an article about it a while back talking about how state of the art it is, and the incredible voyage through the universe they take you on. I finished up the evening by taking some time, the first in a long while, really, to meditate and try to clear my brain, and then taking a shower.

So the first thing I remember from my dream was an astronomical tidal and weather simulation, literally. I had no awareness of having a body, the only thing in my awareness was this simulation going on in my brain. The simulation, I believe, was an analysis of the effects different, sometimes radical, orbits of the moon around the earth on tidal and weather patterns. It was complete with vector field maps of wind speeds and directions across the curved surface of the earth, as well as the tsunami wave patterns around the globe associated w/ the different lunar orbits. It seems as though there was a lot more stuff going on in the dream that I can't recall now, nor can I begin to portray how incredible it was to experience this stuff in a couple paragraphs. I can't say that there was a rhyme or rhythm to the order or importance in how I approached each part of the simulation; it was probably more like playing in the sandbox doing random stuff than anything, and just as unscientific, as well ;-P.

The next thing I remember after the simulation is being on a floating platform in the middle of the ocean. There was a building in the center of eastern styled architecture. There was a desk around part of it right down on the water. There were a few people in the building, a couple that I knew. I and a girl snuck past the others out onto the deck where we lay on our backs looking up at the stars. The sky was crystal clear, the stars were incredibly bright and I was a little mesmerized. It is interesting that I don't know any constellations or were any stars are in the sky, really, and in the dream I couldn't pick out any either.

At some point, I began to see divisions in the sky; perhaps I was looking for symmetries in the stars. I found a line through the sky where each side was a reflection of the other. Soon, I could see them everywhere, and the first that I saw now extended all the way down into the ocean next to me. It was sort of an unreal shimmering, rippling, mirror surface that extended all the way up into the stars. I reached out and touched it. Anywho, this scene did follow a weather and tsunami simulation, and by now the weather was picking up and waves were beginning to thrash against the side of the building. The last thing I remember in this scene is making my way around the deck toward the sliding glass door into the building.

Next, I am in an apartment, presumably my apartment, and there is a really old bum sleeping on the couch. I think I awoke (in my dream) and was thinking about how I was going to get rid of the bum on the couch and how I didn't want to leave him alone in the apartment when I went to work the next day. While I'm thinking this, he begins to talk in his sleep. It sounds like he's praying and thanking god for the nice place to stay and how he's not alone outside any more, pretty much, and then says something about going shopping at Target w/ my room mate the day before. This is about when I actually woke up.

Coincidentally, it was now just turning 3:00AM and as I was taking a leak in the bathroom, my room mate B was just walking in the front door to our apartment after running to the office late night to work on a computer system that he forgot to look at that evening. We sat out on the porch for a bit, drank a beer, and BSed about Linux network monitoring software and my dream.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Where I'm at

Well, it's bee a couple weeks since I posted on here. I was really in the groove for a while. Well, I've got a few new things going on now:

I got a new computer this week. I haven't had a working PC at home for a while, so this is a nice change. It's a small form factor system w/ an Intel Atom processor, 945G/GS graphics, and room in the case for just one HDD and CD-Rom. Although the Atom isn't very fast, everything on the system board is passively cooled; there is only a single small fan to pull air through the case. This is very nice as my old Dell P4 system was very loud and could be heard through my bedroom walls.

From the 6th to the 14th, I have some time scheduled off work. I've been thinking about what I want to do w/ the time. I'm craving adventure! I want to take off first thing after work on Friday the 5th and head for the coast. I'll take a few days and follow Hwy 1 and Hwy 101 up across the Oregon border. I won't really be on a strict schedule, so I'm going to stay flexible. I figure I'll cross into Oregon on Sunday the 7th and ride a few hours up before either heading inland or setting up camp for the night. From there I'm not sure. I need to do a bit of research on where the best roads are and what's good to see up that way. I plan to be in Redding around Wednesday, the 10th. A hiking trip somewhere around there is in order, as is some sailing and hanging out w/ friends and family.

Today's comic on XKCD, here, got my brain off on a tangent. I'm sure I've heard of Gödel before, but whatever I heard, his "incompleteness theorems" seem more significant to me now. There's a write up on Wikipedia here. I don't understand it well enough to explain it yet. Wikipedia paraphrases the first and second theorems as follows:
We can never find an all-encompassing axiomatic system which is able to prove all mathematical truths, but no falsehoods. If an axiomatic system can be proven to be consistent and complete from within itself, then it is inconsistent.
Ah... I just stumbled upon the book, Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid. I have to read this now.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Cycle of Want

I'm feeling irrational right now. In all of my irrational wisdom, I have decided that there is no reason why I shouldn't be riding a motorcycle that makes 100+ HP. Seriously. I could keep riding this 250 with it's measly 25 HP and pansy suspension or I could have a 1000cc monster with all it's rashed up fairings stripped from the frame, sticky radial tires, ultra bad-ass USD cartridge forks...


I'd have to get some leathers though. Leathers are expensive. I like getting 60mpg too. But... the love... please, think of the children. And the wheelies! Oh the humanity.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Diving at La Jolla Cove, again.

We went back out to the cove this morning. The tide was pretty high and still coming in, so the water wasn't as calm as it was yesterday. Jess and Jesse went out for 30 minutes first thing, but came in pretty quickly. It sounds like they got worn out swimming against all the movement of the water. They did see a couple guitar fish and some lobsters while they were out, though.

There was still 1800 psi in the tank Jess was using when they got back in, so I went back out for a few. There was only about a 4' visibility today, yesterday was closer to 20', and the currents seemed to be spinning me in circles. What an experience. I had to check the compass every few seconds to make sure I kept moving the same direction. I went out NW from the beach in the middle of the cove, toward open water, and tried to start moving W around the shoreline. There are a bunch of rock formations around the coastline to the W of the beach. Anywho, only being able to see a feet in front of me and with the water moving around so much, I couldn't really get to where I was going.

I didn't see a whole lot of fish this time out, but there was a seal out a ways that I must have swam around with for twenty minutes. This totally made the dive worth while. The whole experience was kind of a trip, trying to keep my bearings, being isolated by the lack of visibility, and having the seal bump into my legs over and over, coming in and out of the murkiness in the water around me. There were a few times I was peering at the compass and kicking away feeling something bumping my feet and looking back to see his dark shape there by my fins. He came up under me a few times and I felt daring enough to touch him with my hand a couple times.

I surfaced three or four times during the thirty or so minutes I was out to get my bearings straight. I was pretty far out when the tank pressure was getting down toward 500 psi. Since I was getting tired of trying to get anywhere by looking at the compass down in the murk I just came up and swam on the surface back toward the shore. I was actually a little worried, as it seemed like I was getting carried further out while I had been trying to move W toward the shore earlier. It's not possible to immediately see how far one's moving along the shoreline when not right up against it. Anywho, I didn't see any more of the seal once I came up to to the top and started swimming back.

No new pictures of this time out.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Diving at La Jolla Cove

We drove a couple miles over to La Jolla Cove today for some diving. Jesse's dad bought an extra set of gear last week and we get to use it this weekend until he picks it up on Monday, so we had two BCs and regulators to use today.

There's a little beach in the middle of the cove w/ a lot of people swimming and snorkeling. The water's a little murky right up by the beach, but clears up a ways out. There are kelp forests and some really cool rock formations to explore.

















I'm not sure what kind of fish the yellow one is. There are a bunch of them and they'll swim up and look at you. Jesse spotted a seal at some point so we chased him around a bit.

















Jesse got one close picture of him, right up face to face, and then we went off to look at other stuff. I spotted Mr. Seal following us around a couple minutes later :-).

















There were a few guitar fish. I brushed the sand once while I was swimming and startled one that swam away quickly. We found a couple others between some rocks. One was hiding with the lobsters! There were tons of lobsters hiding in the rocks.

















We had a lot of fun. There is so much life out there in the water. With the waves coming in, everything is moving. The plants, kelp and seaweed, move in and out over holes between rocks on the ocean floor. There are patches of shells where the remains of different creatures have fallen for years. Even moldy looking patches on rocks turn out to be big slugs and stuff. I'm sure there are countless living creatures we swam right by because they are so adept at blending in.

















The sunset was really nice. Jess took this picture at a different beach this evening when we were driving around looking for somewhere to get some food. Anywho, we're going back out tomorrow morning. It's getting late so we have to get some sleep. Peace.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Wooo! I got a shiny new bike!


It's been way too long, over a year, since I sold my SV. I finally bought a new Kawasaki Ninja 250 from a friend last weekend.

Really, the only way I could justify getting another bike is if it would pay for itself in a couple years in saved gas costs. That's what I tell people. But really really, they're just a lot of fun. The 250 has plenty of pep for zipping around town and running up and down the freeway.

I haven't decided if I want to do a bunch of stuff to the suspension on this thing. It's really soft. I think it would be worth installing a zx600 shock on the back as well as respringing the front and installing cartridge emulators. Those shocks are pretty cheap, and the emulators are pretty much the only thing to do with the forks on these bikes.

These bikes run really well when they're in a good state of tune. The carbs are set pretty lean from the factory and the valve need to be adjusted pretty early on as all the parts in the top end settle in. So, I decided to adjust the valves and set the idle mixture screws (as per the ninja250.net forums) today. The valves were all on the tight end of the allowable range, some a litte too tight, so I set them all at the looser end. My seat of the pants dyno says I got a little extra power from these adjustments, but I need to do a better job sycing the carbs pretty soon.

Woo Hoo.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Minimalism really makes sense...

EDIT: I feel like this was a crash course for me in thinking about minimalism. It's gets my interpretation of the idea down, but it's not very clean. Too much attention to detail and not enough about the philosophy of minimalism. I feel like there's probably a set of rules or something by which any part of life can be evaluated to gauge it's necessity. Also, in establishing this, I may be able to understand my attraction to minimalism.

I'll have to put some thought into this, and hopefully simplify my life a bit in the process.

------------------------------------------------------------
Minimalism
really makes sense. To the extreme, it's not necessarily acceptable within our society, but with some consideration a balance can be found between the excessiveness of our culture and simple necessity.

What is necessary for daily life? I have a few needs that need to be considered for day to day operations: clothing, hygiene, eating, home comforts, computing, transportation, and tools for upkeep of transportation and everything else. This article takes into consideration my specific needs, but another person may be able to simplify some areas and add more detail to others. There may be quite a few people who fit into my mold pretty well though. Each of the above categories are explained in detail below:

Clothing is really only important because I have to be presentable at work and because societies rules will make it difficult to spend time around my friends if I look like shit. There are three categories of clothing that I need for survival. There is clothing for looking for work or for going to special events, clothing for working and daily life, and clothing for riding motorcycle. Pretty simple.

The clothing for daily life is easy. I need some nice shirts and pants and clean underwear and socks. When it gets really cold in the winter, I need to have a sweater or jacket to wear.

When I'm looking for work, I need to have not quite casual pressed dress shirts and pants with a tie. This works for weddings too. So, maybe two dress shirts, two ties, two pair of dress pants, and a pair of dress shoes. These are all in similar color and stored in a dark corner of my closet.

I haven't put a lot of thought into eating, but most of my meals can be made with the following: A large and small pot, pan, sharp knife, cutting board, plate, glass, coffee cup, fork, spoon, and plastic containers for storing extra prepared food. The minimalist would probably purchase mostly fresh fruits and vegetables when possible, and buy other foods that can be stored dry in bulk, like dried fruit, nuts, rice, pasta.

From my perspective, the minimalist only needs a couple things at home outside of the kitchen. A couple of pads are nice for sitting on, a desk, maybe a book shelf, and sleeping materials.

It's pretty much the norm now to sleep on a bed. Whether the minimalist has a bed or not, the following are still needed: pillow and cover, sheets, and both a light and a heavy blanket.

Hygiene is simple. The minimalist needs the following: Toothbrush, toothpaste, and floss; razors and shaving cream; soap and shampoo; and deodorant.

If hygiene in the home are considered, not much more than a broom, rags, and vinegar are needed.

Computing is an important part of life now. Even the minimalist can benefit from a computer. For the average person who doesn't do a lot of heavy design or programming on their system, a simple laptop is all that is needed. It is low power, has enough screen real estate for looking at pictures and watching videos, and is functional on the web.

All I need (that should probably read "want") for transportation is a motorcycle. I've learned through experience that the right gear will get me anywhere, any time of the year and in any weather. I have a truck now too, and I am reluctant to let go of it. I'll just leave it parked for a while and see what happens.

Assuming the minimalist is motorcycling for transportation, some consideration must be made for motorcycle gear. Motorcycle gear is as follows: Helmet, gloves, jacket, pants and boots. The helmet gloves and boots are pretty simple. I'll explain them first and then get into the jacket/pants stuff.

The full face helmet is universal, good in any weather, and is only replaced every few years or if it (your head) hits something in a crash. Two pairs of gloves are required: There is a set of leather gloves for dry moderate to hot weather and there is a waterproof synthetic pair for cold and/or wet weather. And, a pair of waterproof boots w/ good ankle protection can be worn year-round.

There are a crap load of different types of synthetic and leather motorcycle jacket/pants/suit options for riding in all different types of weather and climates. From a minimalist's perspective, all that is necessary is a mesh jacket with a removable liner for moderate weather and a good one piece synthetic riding suit for extremely cold and wet weather. I don't mention a good set of leathers because a dedicated minimalist is not going to be out corner carving on the weekends; that isn't a minimalist activity ;-), it's an activity requiring extreme specialization of skills and gear. It is arguable (and justly so) that leathers, as opposed to synthetic textile gear, should be worn for commuting on the freeway, but that's a topic for another article.

It is important to consider, at least from the minimalist's perspective, that motorcycling is only cost-justified if a low power, low maintenance, bike is ridden. Motorcycles and scooters can achieve much better gas mileage than most cars, but many larger (600cc +) sport bikes can drop below 30mpg when ridden with gusto. Smaller bikes only sip the gas and also do not eat up costly tires and chains as quickly.

Upkeep of transportation is pretty much just a good set of tools. There are very few things, at least considering regular maintenance, that the minimalist can't do to his/her vehicles without simple tools and maybe a set of jack stands. Beyond the jack stands for a car, a set of rafters in a garage or a more complicated lift might be needed to do some stuff to a bike like working on suspension or pulling a motor, but the minimalist probably knows enough people w/ a garage to not have to worry about that. Everything else, tune ups, valve adjustments, carb work, can be done with a good set of tools, cans of carb and brake cleaner, and a clean work environment.

Other things in the minimalist's home can be mended with a needle and thread, JB weld, bailing wire, and duct tape.

So on that note, we are left with my ideas on what is needed, but not necessarily what is not. I'm going to go find a bunch of stuff from my room that I can throw away.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Left Behind


Two weeks back, I panicked for a few minutes thinking I had left my laptop 150 miles up the freeway North of me at my parent's house. I pulled off at a truck stop to go through the crap in my truck to find it. Not until I had already called my friends to search their living room for it did I find it buried on the passenger floorboard, and breathed a sigh of relief. At one in the morning on a Sunday night on the freeway, a forgotten laptop means a bunch more gas burned and probably a missed day of work going to retrieve it.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

TSU

No idea is my own, I only pick and choose ideas from the world around and shuffle them around in my head as I see fit. Here's one such idea:

"A human being is part of the whole, called by us 'Universe'; a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest--a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to achieve this completely but striving for such achievement is, in itself, a part of the liberation and a foundation for inner security."

-Albert Einstein


"What is Awareness?" is a sort of koan I've taken upon myself. I like this question because it gives rise to so many other questions, and because in trying to answer it, I also answer many other questions. It is a path which leads me in many directions and to many places. I hope to find an understanding of myself among those places.

So, for kicks, I've decided to compile a number of anecdotes in order to paint a picture of some of the places I've been to so far. Some famous guy said a while back something along the lines of, what good are ideas if you cannot communicate them... So this is an exercise; more of a rough sketch than a painted picture. I hope to paint shiny pictures some day.

In consideration of the notions of:

Many worlds, many universes, or many parts: As far as I can reason, no part (world-system) can exist independently of another. I figure that there is (1) either some level of isolation (but not complete) between each part or that (2) each part effects everything within each other part so uniformly that changes in one part do not significantly change the relationships between things in other parts. I believe that the above ideas 1 and 2 may be fundamentally the same.

For two things to exist independently, they must exist independently within something, or else to each the other does not exist. To exist together in something means that they have a medium for interaction. Consider a glass of water. Does a bubble on the surface of the water exist separately from that rest of the water or from another bubble somewhere else on the surface of the water? Neither bubble exists separately from the water because it is the water. The bubbles do not exist separately from each other either; they exist relatively to one another within that medium. For example, if a chemical like alcohol is added to the water and the surface tension is reduced so that one bubble must pop, so will the other. The same conditions that make one bubble possible also make the other possible, and to take those conditions away from one bubble is to take them away from every bubble.

Causality: One's understanding of causality has enormous bearing on one's approach to the problem of free will and fate. Classic western philosophy teaches of a causal chain in which each part of the chain is affected by the part before it, and affects the part after it.

I don't think I can approach this without an understanding of dualism and monism. Are the two bubbles above two separate things because they are two, or are they one thing because they are the same water? The causal chain idea seems to depend ont a dualistic view, in that each part exists independently of the other parts despite their having an effect on each other. How can each part be causally connected, a part of the same causal chain, but exist separately?

Suppose each part exists as relationship between other parts, and those other parts exist as relationship between even more distant parts. To affect one part is to affect the relationship between (all) the other parts. That (the last two sentences) sounds like an oxymoron to me because I am using the idea of parts to argue against the existence of parts. What I'm getting at is that there exists only relationship.

Fate and Free Will: The answer to the question of free will is Mu. The problem of free will is contingent upon our existing separately from our environment, a mind-body separateness, and perhaps dualism. I need to get into this more later, but the above glass of water metaphor still applies. The mind and body arise from the same glass of water.

From another point of view, there is no one thing which captures or defines the human experience. It is everything in the world around us which makes us what we are. A body floating through the vastness of an empty universe is a meat popsicle. And, it is our experience of the world around us which gives it the meaning we ascribe to it. We are completely intertwined with this world, so why must we be able to act independently of it to have free will? We affect the world as it affects us. We move together and we are both free.

On second thought, I could stand by a mind body separation and look for further separation between my body and the world. If the world is my extended body, must I act independently from it to poses free will?

But seriously though, I wouldn't know free will if it were a brick knocking me in the head. What basis do I have for making decisions but in response to my desires? My desires are always changing. It is not as though I have some ultimate goal that I, in everything I do, am working toward, or do I...

Big and Small: Simply, those things which adapt and repeat themselves continue to exist. Nothing stays the same, but patterns which are flexible and can repeat themselves in varying environments persist in time. Size and complexity are only a matter of our perspective, and patterns repeat themselves everywhere in and around us, without regard to apparent division by scale.

Change and Awareness: Awareness and change go hand in hand. Without awareness, nothing could exist. Without change, awareness couldn't exist. If nothing changed, then there would be no interaction and therefore nothing to be aware of.

Randomness: Perhaps the universe is akin to a random number generator; always changing in order to perpetuate it's own existence. If the same thing happened, exactly, over and over, then nothing is changing and there is no awareness. But, is anything truly random? Is that even possible? Perhaps things appear random because we do not understand them or the environment we share.

Time and Space: It does not seem logical to me for spacial dimensions or time to exist as we perceive them. For there to be such a thing as distance, that distance must exist in something, but what does that something exist in? Time is much the same. Lengths of distance and time are only such relative to other lengths of distance and time. They have a relationship to each other, but they do not exist independently or absolutely. I expect that this idea can be extended to information in general.

Information and Relationship: When I say information, I mean literally everything. Information is a very abstract idea. For example, every atom contains much information. It has an associated spin, mass, charge, etc. Except, it's not so much that it contains those, but rather that it is those. It is the information made up of the patterns of energy which we describe as spin, mass, charge, etc. Perhaps Information and Relationship are analogous.

Imagine a cup sitting in the center of a table. If I push the cup to the edge of the table, It is not so much that I have moved the cup but that I have changed the relationship between the cup and it's environment. I have also changed my relationship with my environment. Well, it's not really my environment any more than it is the cup's environment.

Thought: Becoming more familiar with my own thoughts, I have recognized a couple things about them. A thought perpetuates itself only for a short while in my awareness; it has an inherent instability. It also describes itself, however abstractly. Each thought is also akin to a key which makes available related information, but that is probably just a nifty feature of it's self descriptive nature. I would argue that all thoughts are abstract. That alone, they have absolutely no meaning. It is only in context that they are given meaning.

Consider the idea of a cup. Without the idea of thirst or the idea of grasping things with one's hands, the cup is only shape or a container. Without those ideas, the cup is even more abstract. How about the idea of math? Although many mathematical forms are beautiful, they are meaningless without describing the world or describing other mathematical ideas which describe the world.

The Worlds Inside and Outside: I look in to see out and I look out to see in. Thought is not so different from things we experience in the physical world.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Spacetime and Spin

Here's a really cool article up at stanford.edu's spacetime collection.
Many of nature's deepest mysteries come in threes. Why does space have three spatial dimensions (ones that we can see, anyway)? Why are there three fundamental dimensions in physics (mass M, length L and time T)? Why three fundamental constants in nature (Newton's gravitational constant G, the speed of light c and Planck's constant h)? Why three generations of fundamental particles in the standard model (e.g. the up/down, charm/strange and top/bottom quarks)? Why do black holes have only three properties—mass, charge and spin? Nobody knows the answers to these questions, nor how or whether they may be connected. But some have sought for clues in the last-named of these properties: spin.
It's pretty heavy reading after the first paragraph but covers some amazing territory, relating gravity and electromagnetism, and explaining frame dragging. Here's something interesting to consider: If you look up at the sky and spin around, you'll see the stars trace circles around your field of vision, and your arms will swing out away from your sides. Are you spinning around in the universe or is it spinning around you? According to relativity, it doesn't make any difference. Either way, there's still a frame-dragging effect between your frame of reference and that of the universe, warping space between your body and the cosmos, so that your arms fall away from your body.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Changing

I haven't decided how to finish this yet. I'll update this post when I write the rest of it.

Not as solid as we seem
Birds and rocks and trees
Ripples moving in the world
rippled world, indeed.

Always changing, even
standing waves are moving
our planet keeps on spinning
stars flicker, some day die

like the tides, the moon around
so we rise pulled by the sun
each day the rise and fall
each year the dawn of seasons

...

from light the dark, shadows cast
few the great are to the small
as greater yet are to the great
so on the shadow falls the light

...

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Thoughts Give Rise to Thoughts

What does it mean to think? How much of the thinking process are we aware of? It is fairly clear to me that my awareness is not the same as the thoughts in my brain, my brain, nor my body. Although that ought to be the topic of debate some other time, these are my experiences; I doubt they are unique to me.

I am sitting, clearing my mind. Like a balance, my mind wants to sway one way or another into thought. Thoughts rise from my mind to my awareness. Some are rejected and more rise. Occasionally, my mind relaxes and holds onto one of the thoughts; I am aware of only that thought as it begins to change, and I am aware of my mind following each change, down the rabbit trail, so to speak. Eventually, a thought rises reminding my mind that I am trying to clear my mind and I release my thoughts. To think and to remember, in short term at least, feels very much like I am holding onto the thought which is dictating the thinking or which is resonating the pattern describing whatever I am trying to remember, so that is how I describe it. It is as though the thought describes itself and perpetuates it's existence in my mind in the same motion.

The way in which my thoughts rise to my awareness is what interests me now. With a clear mind, my only thoughts are those which rise to my awareness. It is almost as if this clear-mind-thing is more like a thought which serves to preserve itself in my awareness. It is a thought which perpetuates itself without describing anything, rather than the absence of thought.

Monday, March 10, 2008

What does it mean to be aware?

What is it to be aware? To experience awareness? To experience? What is it to be conscious? In the dictionary, these words define one another, but none are explained. Perhaps awareness is a fundamental part of everything.

In what ways are we different from the world around us? We are made of matter, energy, as is our environment. Protons, neutrons, and electrons are assembled into atoms, which are assembled into larger structures to make our bodies and our brains. These fundamental pieces also make up the rivers, mountains, and the air we breath. Also, any part of this system we exist in can be smashed up and broken into building blocks smaller than the atoms. When we smash the atoms, we get the protons, neutrons, etc. When we smash those, we get quarks, neutrons, and a plethora of other particles. Some of these particles are without mass, but are responsible for the binding forces which hold together atoms and other aspects of our world. We are made of the same stuff that makes up the world we live in. All that is different between us physically is how we are put together.

We are made of the same things, but we are put together differently. Is this enough to say that we are not the same as our environment? That we do not share aspects of what we experience with our environment? To say this gives rise to problems which are difficult to approach if we are trying to support the idea that we are special. - Before I go further with that idea, I must explain. I can't begin to say that we, or what we experience, is not special. But, perhaps our experience of this is not unique to us alone. - What does it mean if we, through the advancement of what we call technology, create artificial life? And this is not as far fetched as it once was; we are already successfully simulating functional pieces of rat brains on small supercomputers. Our simulations act as do their biological counterparts. If, over the next few decades, we are able to simulate an entire brain and hook it up to a body so that it can interact with the world, can it be conscious?

This is a fairly macroscopic approach to the problem of consciousness and one which we can relate to. It can be difficult to think objectively when our object of consideration is closely related to how we define ourselves. (Yes, I am saying that if you don't agree with me, you're doing so out of some emotional bias! Please humor me and disregard that :-) Here is another approach to the problem of awareness:

If I walk quietly into a room where you are sitting while the lights are off so that you do not hear me enter, are you aware of me? I expect not. What is different when the lights are on or if I thump my feet as I walk? If the lights are on when I enter, the light will reflect off of my skin and into your eyes and you will become aware that I have entered the room. If I stomp my feet as I enter, sound waves will ripple out through the air and cause your eardrums to vibrate making you aware of me. It is through the effect I have on you that you become aware of me. Cause and effect. What other sorts of things are subject to cause and effect? What things are not? I can't conceive any that aren't. If two molecules of air travel coincidental paths and bump each other, their paths and energies are affected. During the moments in which they are close enough to have an effect on each other, are they not aware of one another? Perhaps not conceptually, but maybe through experience. We humans experience and are affected by many things that we have no conceptual knowledge of. We do not need to understand to experience and be aware of the things that affect us.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Burning Gas and Spinning My Weels

I had a few things on my mind driving back to Sac from Redding Sunday night. My truck get much better gas mileage without the camper shell on it. I'm pretty sure I was pushing 35mpg driving back. I did 55mph the whole way though. I'll see where I'm at later this week after I empty the tank and will post up my city driving/ fwy avg. I've been at around 26mpg with the shell but saw 28 a couple times before I put it on. I've gotten quite a bit better at coasting, slowing down overall, and conserving gas since I put the shell on.

I'm excited about a couple things right now. First thing is motorcycling. I'm dieing to ride a bike again. Aria let me make a run over to the dam on his two fifty last weekend and it was wonderful. It was... just like riding a bike... go figure. It's still pretty second nature. The suzuki shop in Redding has a couple used KTM LC4s in stock. One of them, a 2001, only has 1k miles on it. They're asking $3k for it, but it's been wrecked. There may be better deals to be had. The Suzuki DRZ 400 may still be the way to go. It's a really low maintenance bike. The LC4 needs to have the valves checked with every oil change, whereas the DRZ can go 10k to 15k miles between checks once it's broken in. I do like that the LC4 has the tappet style valves, as they're super easy to adjust compared to the shims on the DRZ. There are a couple quirks with the LC4 motors to be dealt with, as well, but they make 50HP stock, compared to 35 for the DRZ. :-) Ultimately, the DRZ is cheaper, more bullet proof, lighter, almost as powerful w/ a couple mods, and probably the way to go.

Back to gas mileage... After I finish the yurt, I want to buy either one of the three cylinder geo metros or an old vw rabbit (diesel) with not too many miles. I'll weld up a light tube frame for it and make a custom fiberglass body for it. It'll be super ultra aero dynamic and get me 100mpg+. The best car ever. It'll prolly even have a radio.

It'll look kinda like the solar car in the picture above, except not quite as flat and it'll fit two. Think half a slightly smooshed ice cream cone with a perfectly smooth shell and undercarriage and fairings over the wheels with a small luggage compartment in the back. It'llbe round at the front and pointy at the back. I've already got all the construction details worked out for the shell. :-) Fsck paying for gas.

Check out this ghetto honda civic, here. This one doesn't look super nice, but it's a proof of concept. This could be imporved upon, alot.

I've been driving 500+ miles per week for the last month and a half. At this rate, I buy about 19 gallons of gas per week. That's $55 per week, at $3 per gallon. That's over $200 per month. If I got 100mpg, I could cut this down to 5 gallons of gas per week, for a grand total of $60 per month on gas. This is realistic. lol.

I'll post an update after I've read a ton of books on aerodynamics.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

In Response...

Some one told me not long ago about something they regretted. I don't know whether they intended to say what they did or if they were intending to show humility. Anyway, after spending a little while last week considering what I might regret, I came up with the following:

Regarding what you said to me the other day, do not dwell on the past. We all have regrets, but no regret, regardless of the words it inspires, can describe or capture the entirety of our past. Life is a many headed beast/wonder. Any idea we have about it is but a glimpse of the shadow of one of it's heads.

Because of the nature of our minds, it can be difficult to realize the good when thinking of the bad, but fortunately, this also goes the other way. In times of good, the bad is but a distant cloud; out of sight and mind unless we look for it.

Is the now not good? As is everything, the now is dependent arising. If the past were different, things would not be the way they are; they could be better or worse. It is impossible to know which, though.

There is no sense in yearning for what might/could have been as that will only result in dissatisfaction and unhappiness. If, instead, we (1) focus on all that is good and that we have to be thankful for and we (2) live by our own moral/ethical code and act as we believe we ought to, then life is good.