On Improvement

One of my favorite authors is Nobuyuki Fukumoto. One of these themes he touches on frequently is the road to personal growth and the many obstacles in the way of self improvement. This comes up over and over again in one of his most popular works – Kaiji.

The concept behind Kaiji is simple – some random deadbeat who’s never accomplished anything in his life finds himself in life or death gambles for a chance to win millions. The story beats are pretty similar from arc to arc: Kaiji is introduced to a new gamble. He finds himself overmatched and loses. Kaiji then reflects on his losses, figures out how his opponent managed to stack the deck in their favor, and builds a plan to counter them.

People who watch this and expect it to be about gambling are going to be disappointed. It’s not gambling in the sense that the results are random. In fact, it’s the opposite. Both Kaiji and his opponent never win by chance. They cheat to the best of their abilities in order to guarantee their outcome. The show in general is more of a guide for people to avoid stagnation. In order to succeed, you need to have a mindset that allows for improvement. Failure can come in two forms: one, from actions cause by one’s self. The other is outside causes. While we might not be able to affect all outside causes, we can fix the problems with ourselves. However, one of the obstacles in the way of self improvement is the excuses we make up to console our failures.

On Transportation

This post is expanding on an earlier post I wrote. I went to a gas station to pick up some water after hitting the gym. I spent a good five minutes trying to figure out which bottle of water to get. Normally, I would focus on value – most amount of water for cheapest price. However, the best value products were the gallon jugs, which I didn’t want to get, because I would have to carry it the entire trip back home. Most of it would be on the bus, but roughly fifteen minutes of that would be walking or standing. So instead, I got the 1.5 liter bottle. On the way home, I stopped by Costco to grab random crap. I also ran into the same problem here – I have a limited amount of things I can carry. The weight of the items wasn’t a huge issue, as the bus stop was right outside the store, and it would also drop me off in front of my home, but my actual carrying capacity would be limited to whatever I could fit in a box. Being a bulk retailer, Costco is actually centered around people who have access to a car.

I realized that these types of problems have become marginalized as access to more forms of transportation becomes ubiquitous. I’d say most middle class Americans drive, which causes the issue of carrying capacity to go away. Most people probably have more than enough room to fit all of their groceries in their car. This is something that we take for granted now, but this is actually a major boon to modern society, on a greater scale and on the individual level. I was going to follow this up with examples of how it changed society on a micro and macro level, but I kind of ran out of steam. The end.

Lucid Dreaming

A while ago I was interested in learning to lucid dream. The motivation petered out, but I still think lucid dreaming has a lot of potential as side interest. One area that would be worth exploring is using lucid dreaming as a staging ground for therapeutic purposes – essentially a safe environment to overcome trauma or work on social cues.

Lucid dreaming is the concept of controlling your dreams, or becoming self aware when you’re dreaming and being an active participant in your dream. Basically knowing that you’re dreaming while you’re dreaming. Imagine if you had full control over your dream, as if you were in a VR simulation. The practical applications would be immense.

Imagine you had a relationship that ended on bad terms. Let’s say, a parent. But then they died, so you never got a chance for closure. Now, getting closure in a failed relationship through a final meeting is a bit of a myth that people chase after, but in this situation, you can still get emotional closure through lucid dreaming. Imagine if you could say what you wanted to say to them and have the other person respond how you’d always imagined they would. You might know intellectually that nothing has changed, but on an emotional level you’re going feel differently about the relationship. Especially if you can repeat this process over a period of weeks or months, your feelings on the situation can change for the long run. Even though dreams don’t exist physically, they do exist in the capacity to affect our emotions and gut feelings.

There’ve been plenty of times where I’d wake up with tears streaming down my face or fright from falling off a mountain or something. Nothing  actually happened, but my body was stimulated in response to my dreams. I’d be sweaty and my heart would be racing or I’d feel a genuine sense of mourning for something that I wouldn’t even remember after lunch. Dreams have the ability to affect you on a level more basic than the intellectual level. If you can control your dreams, you can potentially control your emotional regulation. Powerful stuff.

On Advertising, V2

Speaking of advertising, I think the FarmersOnly advertising campaign would make a pretty good case study. I don’t know how effective it’s been, but if my gut is correct, their numbers are probably doing like gangbusters. Here’s the ad I’ve been seeing recently.

What’s so great about it? First, I think it does a fantastic job at qualifying its target demographic. I’d imagine the first thought in a person’s mind when they hear of the website farmers only, is ridicule. A dating site for farmers is a pretty risible concept in the face of modern urban society. But watching the commercial, the ad makers turn this narrative on its head. It instead attacks the stereotypes of modern living, with an effeminate, health conscious guy who’s focused on materialism. What’s their message? You city slickers need to git on outta here. This site’s not for you.  They’ve taken what would ordinarily be a mocked subgroup, ie Rednecks/Country folk, and turned it into an exclusive club. Pretty damn effective messaging.

Second, I think the precision of their targeting is spot on. The common theme in FarmerOnly’s commercials is a rejection of modern living. Even the production values reflect this sentiment. Besides the smartphone in their ads, their commercials could be something produced in the nineties. The commercials are pretty rough around the edges, just like their customer. These aren’t going to be people who care about the slickness of the messaging, it’s the message itself that’s important to them. Making it lower budget makes it appeal more to its target audience, because it’s doing a better job of speaking to their values.

Plus, their jingle is catchy as hell. You don’t have to be lonely, at farmers only dawt cahhhm~~~

 

On Ads

Advertising to minors should be illegal. It’s crazy to look back and see what corporations have been able to get away with. If you think about it, advertising is essentially a low level form of mind control, in which a company will attempt to insert itself or its product into your mind space or get you to associate pleasant connotations with it. Advertising to the young can be a way to lock in a long term consumer while their minds are more impressionable. It’s not about “Protecting the kids” from bad influences like sex and drugs and rock and roll, it’s about having stricter limits on unabashed capitalism. There’s no benefit to society to having forcing ads down kids’ throats.

It’s not about parental responsibility either. To say it’s about having parents take more responsibility for their children is beside the point, which is you are still allowing people to exploit children. Putting the onus on the parent is little more than victim blaming. Anyways, the reason why I thought of this was due to me eating off brand cereal and I immediately thought, “This generic Cap’n Crunch tastes identical to the real thing.” I haven’t seen a cereal commercial in months to years and I could still rattle off all the cereal brands in my local supermarket.

On The Wheel

Man, the wheel was such a great invention. I walked to the grocery store today – about one and a half miles. I think I bought somewhere in the range of 30-40 pounds of groceries, which would’ve made for a pretty shitty walk back. Fortunately, there’s a bus line from the grocery store in the direction of my house which dropped me off about half a mile away. I walked the rest of way, but I had to stop to take a break multiple times. Carrying those groceries really made me think of the advancements in transportation that we take for granted on a daily basis. Even a bag is a huge step up compared to directly carrying whatever goods you need to lug around. Without a bag, you’re limited to whatever you can hold in your hands. With a bag, you’re limited by the size of the bag and your endurance. Which brings me to my original point – the wheel.

Carrying groceries made me think of those old Chinese ladies who use those stroller/carts to carry groceries. Having a wheeled cart like that expands your range of travel by an insane margin. Carrying fifty pounds of groceries, I’m guessing the maximum amount of travel would be tiny. You’d have to take constant breaks to rest your hands, which would get tired really fast. If you had a backpack or messenger bag that could support the weight at your hips, your distance would be extended probably double if not more, since it’s a lot easier to carry weight from your base. But pushing around a cart takes a fraction of the effort that carrying the weight would bring. The only real limit is your time and patience. I think my original insight had some more substance behind it, but I put off writing this post for the whole day and I’ve kinda forgotten what it was about. It’s like waking up after a dream – if you don’t document it immediately after waking, you’re going to forget it.

Blog idea: Urban exploration

Sometimes I like to spitball ideas for things I’d like to see out in the wild. Bear in mind, I’ve done absolutely no prior research on this topic, so for all I know, this niche has already been fulfilled. The concept is google earth lite: the blog, or google maps street view with a more human touch.

The gist of the blog is to document the walk between two random destinations – say, from work to home. At roughly fifteen miles, the estimate for this walk is about five hours to six hours. I’d map out the route I’d be taking and take pictures of interesting locations along the way. I could write about any notable sites I came across, or any insight that would come to mind. What I like about this concept is that it gives context to the areas that you see on google map. While it’s possible view the same areas using street view, sharing my personal experiences about the same area makes it much more engaging, I think – attaching experiences to locations embeds the geography better in the mind. This isn’t a very practical skill nowadays, since we’ll always be able look up directions on our phones, but the idea’s still fun.

It actually seems kind of beside the point to brand it as teaching a practical application of geography, since I’d be doing it for fun, not to try to make money or fame or whatever. Actually, side projects like these that are almost better being divorced from those kind of issues, because if money or fame is a major factor for running the side project, then if you fail to grow either or these over time, it’ll serve to discourage you from working on it. If it’s done as a passion project, then your enjoyment of the activity will work to sustain it. In my case, I might run into problems because I’d be more interested in actually reading this type of blog than actually maintaining one, which is a ton of work.

On sleep

Sleep is great – I never regret the extra time I spend sleeping. On the other side of the coin, I often regret not going to sleep earlier. I always function at a lesser capacity when I don’t get enough sleep. It’s unfortunate that I do stay up past my bed time, because it’s usually the case that whatever I’m doing isn’t as important as getting enough rest, and I can almost always put off the task for later. However, even though I mentally recognize the importance of a good night’s rest, I don’t actually priortize it in my daily life. A good sleep schedule is the most noticeable improvement I’ve seen in my life – having said that, it’s tough to stay disciplined.

The matter of delaying sleep is actually a symptom of a larger issue: delaying gratification. Delaying gratification is usually done to put off short term gains in order to reap greater long term benefits. However, short term gains pay off immediately, which can also be more useful than waiting. In the case of sleep, the issue lies in the fact that the short term gain produces instant results – more time to browse reddit/etc, whereas the negative effects aren’t felt until the next day. The short term gains are so intoxicating, especially with the quick hits of dopamine I get from the internet. Just one more click, one more thread to read. In the long run, I’m not going to gain anything from those Askreddit threads I stayed up reading, but my body will certainly feel the long term effects of cutting out an hour of sleep every day. I’ve done a cost/benefit analysis and have decided that I shouldn’t be doing it. However, actually following through with my intentions is a completely different story. The biggest takeaway here is that I should instead focus on building up my discipline, since that’s the element that is lacking here.

On Hobbies and Finding Your Passion

I like the idea of being passionate about something. Having said that, I don’t really have a passion. I do have hobbies, though. For me, hobbies are something that improve the quality of my life in some way – something I can derive satisfaction from, or gain physical or mental benefits. However, they’re optional. I can do without them pretty easily, but they’re nice to have. Is it good to hit the gym? Sure, but I don’t mind skipping a day. I could sit at home and veg out or reddit all day and I would be fine. Not thrilled or anything, but my life would be adequate. Which is why I think the idea of finding my passion is so intoxicating.

When I think of passion, I think of people who are completely encompassed in their hobby to the point that it’s one of if not the main driver in their life. It’s something they actively look forward to or focus on when they wake up in the morning. For me, hobbies are something to break up the filler space while I wait to die. I don’t mean that in the sense that I’m sitting around depressed and waiting for the sweet relief of death. I’d say I’m just being pragmatic about my life in terms of time usage. After all, everyone dies one day. It’s something that you have to consider – best case scenario, you live to somewhere in the range of 70-100 and have a pretty fulfilling life. But in the present day, there are still a bunch of obligations that you have to deal with – money for rent, food, bills, that force you to get a job. You spend a large portion of the day doing something that you probably don’t (actively) enjoy to subsidize the other portions of your life. I think, if I were to die relatively soon, I wouldn’t regret the the time I allocated for my hobbies. It’s a minor pleasantry that improved my life by a marginal uptick. The alternative would’ve probably been reddit, anyways. Or sleep. Actually, I don’t allocate enough time for sleep. I wish I spent less time on reddit/other bullshit on the internet and slept more. Now I want to do a write up on sleep.

Rubber Duck Blogging

I have many inspirations for blogging, but I think the biggest impetus for me was this post by Steve Yegge:

https://sites.google.com/site/steveyegge2/you-should-write-blogs

The post goes on to state the various benefits of blogging, but the one I want to focus on is the concept of rubber duck blogging. For those unfamiliar with the concept, rubber duck programming is something done when a programmer is stuck on their project and unsure of how to move forward. They talk to an inanimate object, in this case, a rubber duck. They explain their process, their reasoning for their design choices, and in doing so they crystallize the concepts in their own minds and possibly see the problem from a different perspective, and in doing so gaining insight on how to solve the original problem. Rubber duck blogging follows the same methodolgy and applies those same principles to your life.

Ideally, while blogging about random facets of my life, I will notice things from a different perspective, by translating them to an outside audience. By writing about these details, I’m also hoping to understand my thoughts on a deeper level. There’s a common saying that the best way to learn is to teach. I’m following the same idea here -in trying to convey my thoughts to others in written form, I will hopefully pick up on my internal thought processes and also reevulate my reasoning for doing the things I do. Being on autopilot can be great for mundane tasks, but it might not necessarily serve me well in the long run to react to things in the same way forever. In conclusion, Steve Yegge writes cool blogs and I want to read more.