Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Do as I say

I remember reading the Berenstain Bears books as a kid.  One of the standard plots was Papa Bear telling the kids to do something but not doing it himself.  A nice example of how it is hypocritical (and usually pointless) to tell people to do something while obviously not doing it yourself.

When I talk to Elli about games and winning I send the message that it is all about doing your best.  I want her to believe in working hard and giving her all, regardless of whether or not she wins or loses.  After all, there will always be somebody better than you at anything so there isn't any point in mourning your inability to beat someone with better luck, better genetics, or better circumstances than yourself.  You only have your own ability to work with, so best to maximize it.

Stoic philosophy agrees.  Heck, probably any reasonable philosophy that has anything to say on the subject agrees.  As far as I know the science also tells us that you can't do a ton to make your kids succeed, but convincing them to work hard is pretty much the best thing you can do, if you can manage it.

Everyone should focus on maximizing their potential, not on comparing themselves to others.

But when I compete... not so much.

I want to be number 1.  2nd place is the first loser, and I am not interested in being the first loser.

When I joined a new World of Warcraft guild recently they took me on a test run to see how I would do compared to everyone else in the guild.  My damage to the enemies was really good, and I logged #1 for the night.  People in the guild congratulated me, but I wasn't satisfied.  I was #1 on one section of the night by a huge margin and #4 on the rest.  In sum I was the top, but that wasn't enough to make me feel like I deserved it.  I played well, but some people beat me some of the time.  Everyone thought I was ridiculous for not accepting the 'title' for the night.

Not good enough!  It doesn't matter that I played well, or that I did as much as I could.  I must be first, always.

No matter how many times I tell Elli to focus on herself, to only worry about doing her best, I can't make myself believe it when I am playing games.

I am sure that working hard to do your best is the healthiest way to live for most people.  Makes me wonder though if that absurd drive to win is a necessary thing for those who are competing to be the best in the world.  If there isn't another player forcing you to push harder, if you only look at your own development, can you ever be the best there is?  I suspect not.

Being the best there is is a path to sadness, mostly, so I don't recommend it, but I think I might be programmed to do that anyway.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Arms made for licking

The other day I saw Wendy watching this video.

There are some very ripped men doing some challenging yoga poses and at the end they go upside down, their kilts fall down, and you get to see their butts.

Wendy was watching it with a look that clearly said "I really wish they would spill something on themselves so I could offer to lick it off of them."

I don't get it, not exactly.  I mean, I recognize that they have the kind of bodies that create that feeling in many people, but I don't get the feeling myself.

But I do want to get that reaction from people!

I don't want to do hours and hours of yoga each day though.  And I can't suddenly be 23 again, those 15 extra years are stacked on me and they aren't going away.  Also I don't have a video team sitting around trying to get the hottest possible shots of me.

What I can do is get bigger, so that is my goal.  As I have many times in my exercising kick I went online to see what the world could tell me.  Specifically I was trying to find out how far apart I should space my workouts.  I knew that the advice about how to work out was nearly worthless with advice being vague or contradictory or both.  Perhaps the advice on how often to work out would be better, I thought.

I was wrong.

The advice on how often to work out was 'as often as once a day or as seldom as once every four days, depending.'  Great, how useful.  When details were given they were couched in such uncertain language it was clear the author was desperately trying to avoid having actually recommended anything in particular.  However, every though each individual article was worthless, when I looked at all of them a trend emerged.  They were all referencing the fact that muscle growth occurs during rest and healing.  So I asked a friend of mine who is into weight lifting in a big way if the solution was to just wait until you stop hurting and then work out again.  He agreed, and said that you should work out again once your body has healed from the previous.

This is actionable advice!  Simple, yet flexible based on the individual situation.  Why weren't people telling me this, I wondered...

But a few seconds of reflection made it clear.  You could give really good lifting advice by telling people to find a weight that is challenging to lift, lift it until you can't anymore, take it slow and easy, and after lifting rest until you feel good again before the next workout.

No one is going to pay for that advice.  It is obvious, does not project any great expertise, and doesn't set you up to make money off of giving more advice.

I feel good again after a single sleep.  I don't need multiple days - the next day I am ready to go again.  This means that all I have to do is lift for an hour a day, every day, and then I will have arms that make people wish I spilled something on them.  I have a plan.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Universal Efficiency

I recently got to reading some articles about old economic predictions from economists in the 30s.

Stop laughing.

One of the most famous is Keynes' prediction that people would have dropped down to a 15 hour workweek by this point due to increases in efficiency.  We are way more efficient, as many people including Keynes predicted, but that efficiency hasn't lowered our workweek length.  There are lots of reasons, including that people like working hard and long at their jobs, and that our efficiency gains have gotten rid of jobs in factories but people simply expect even more services now than ever before.  Our watches are cheaper but we want more baristas, more therapists, and more entertainers, and their jobs aren't really improving in efficiency via technology.

We also adapt to new technology by simply having higher standards.  Better washing machines doesn't mean more free time, it just means we wash clothes more often than we used to.  Vaccuum cleaners have increased the standard of cleanliness of floors.  People change to demand more of everyone else rather than keeping the standards the same when new tools arise.

I think we should consider our way of distributing wealth as another major factor.  In the salary method we use now if I decide to work 4 hours a week I can't exist.  It doesn't matter that stuff is cheaper and that we are efficient, because a normal person working 40 hours a week has ten times as much money.  They have more computers and clothes and such, which isn't a big problem, but they also have 10 times as much money to spend on housing.  There aren't any places to live that are 1/10th as much as a normal apartment.  I don't just have less house - I am homeless.  That is going to be true no matter how much more efficient we get.  If I have 10% of the money of a normal person, my life is nonfunctional.  If I work 40 hours a week, a normal person can earn more than me by working longer, but they actually can't work that much longer, and they definitely can't work 10 times as long to price me out of the market completely.

That all changes under a Universal Income scheme.  Suddenly I am guaranteed enough money for a basic living.  My home won't be nice, but it won't be a box in an alley.  If I want to work 4 hours a week it will improve my situation, and I might do it, or I might not, but it is possible to live while doing so.  The pressure of competition is mightily reduced when my income is not proportional to the hours I work.

This is one of the arguments for a Universal Income policy.  Our lives have so much more than they used to but the benefits are deeply concentrated at the top.  Normal people can't actually make use of the gains in efficiency we are seeing because they have to compete so tirelessly against everyone else.

I don't think we actually want a situation where every year human society produces so much more stuff than the year before but everyone has to continue to work at pointless jobs to have enough to exist.  I think we want a society where increased robotics usage means people have more time to do what they want.  Maybe what they want is reading, painting, raising children, or writing cool code.  Maybe it is rock climbing or dating or learning a new language.

A world where people can pay their bills and still pursue these other things is a good world.  It is a world where we can honestly say that all the things our society is doing to make things more and bigger and faster is actually improving our lives.

Monday, February 20, 2017

The difficulty of understanding teapots

A few weeks ago I was having a conversation with Pinkie Pie about religion and belief in God.  We talked about some of the reasons for believing in God and Pinkie Pie brought up the Flying Spaghetti Monster, the One True God.  She found the idea of the FSM hilarious, needless to say.

I took the opportunity to talk about why the FSM exists as an idea.  I described how it was a response  to various specious 'proofs' of the existence of one god or another.  After all, there isn't anything to convince us that an omnipotent creator isn't a FSM instead of whatever other version of god people have cooked up.

I also talked some about Russell's teapot.  That is, I presume that there is a teapot floating out in space, perhaps full of warm tea with two lumps of sugar.  It is just far enough away from Earth that our telescopes cannot detect it.  Since you cannot disprove the existence of the teapot, I presume that it does exist.  Just like the FSM this is an argument that shows how silly the 'God exists because you can't prove he doesn't' line of reasoning is.  The burden of proof on someone making a specific claim that lies outside any observed phenomenon lies with the person making the claim, not those who would ignore it.

I thought I was so clever.  Teaching my child about reasoning and argument and debate.  Look at me imparting wisdom to a young mind and inoculating her against propaganda!

On Friday Pinkie Pie was watching Futurama with a friend of hers and the FSM came up in the episode they were soaking in.  Pinkie Pie then proceeded to explain the FSM and Russell's teapot to her friend.  What Pinkie Pie got across was that in space there is a giant spaghetti god and also a teacup full of tea with sugar.  The teacup is there, but also not there, and it is tremendously funny.

The part about the burden of proof didn't quite make it into her explanation.  Nothing about skepticism, science, or debate was covered.  Just hilarity and various foodstuffs in the cold dark of space.

There are days where I am convinced I am a good parent and teaching my child things is useful.  Then there are days full of giggles and space food and the crushing sense of impending doom that comes from knowing that these children are one day going to be running the world and the people trying to teach them about it are failing miserably.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Sex on the table in the restaurant, but only if necessary

I just saw this picture on Facebook, on a post about International Loneliness and Bitterness Day.

It made me want to call up my girlfriend and head off to a restaurant with her and my wife to get a free meal.  We would have a lovely time of it I am sure, as we all quite enjoy each other's company, and food just tastes so much better when you don't have to pay for it.

I can just imagine the manager trying to squirm out of giving a free meal.  I have solid proof of my marriage, but 'proving' that my girlfriend is such a thing is trickier.  We could have a good solid makeout session in the restaurant, but it isn't clear that this would completely convince them.  Obviously we could just have sex on the table after we were done eating, but that would definitely break some laws.

Wendy noticed me writing the first half of this post and commented that she really wanted to do this some day.  The free ride to the hospital is even useful because that could get her back to work without having to pay a transit fare.  Bonus!

In any case this sort of thing is the reason I yammer on so much about polyamory.  The assumption that if you have two romantic partners that someone must be getting injured is sad.  It isn't even reasonable in a monogamous situation as jealousy is not an excuse for violence.  Some day that assumption may wane, in which case the point of me bringing this up with vanish with it.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

A blade of pink

I have bought a fair variety of disposable razor blades over the years.  One odd thing I found was that the rate of replacement was independent of how regularly I shaved, and depended entirely on the passage of time.  If I shaved five times a week my razors lasted a week, if I shaved once a week I had to change the blade each shave.  Somehow my beard did a fixed amount of damage to the blade per unit time.

A few weeks ago I had run out of blades and had a fiercely itchy face so I decided to just use one of Wendy's razors.  I wasn't sure if there were actual differences between razors marketed to men and those marketed to women, but it certainly seemed like it would do the job.  I am not so picky.

Strangely it did a far better job than any razors I have previously used.  It was sharper, shaved more cleanly, and felt better than all previous versions.  Not only that, but I used it multiple times and it lasted a full month rather than a single week.

It isn't a savings in terms of waste because the new razor has a handle attached to it so I need to toss the entire thing instead of just the head attachment but it lasts four times as long so that seems worthwhile.  It is a savings in terms of money though because it is far cheaper to use pink razors marketed for women than the ones I have been using for years and years.

I wonder why this is.  Is it that pink razors also have stronger steel, better components, or some other feature?  Perhaps I just have a face uniquely suited to a razor mostly designed for legs and armpits rather than faces.  Is my face like a leg moreso than it is like other men's faces?

My impression is that many things marketed to women cost more than those marketed to men even when quality and design is the same.  There is a cost to having a pink box, as I understand it, purely for reasons of profit.

But my razor experience flies in the face of that.  Pink razors marketed to women are by far superior to all my previous options both in quality and value and I don't know why.  If anyone can enlighten me as to why this would be true, please do speak up.  Are men's razors a scam?  Is my face weird?  Why is this a thing?

Sunday, February 5, 2017

So much fire

I have been binge watching Game of Thrones this past week.  It is a hard show to watch, in that even when I know a favourite character is going to die it is difficult to watch the scenes leading up to the death, though the death itself is often easy enough.  Even when I know a high tension situation will result in the protagonist escaping I desperately worry about them dying nonetheless.

One thing I have noticed is that there is WAY too much fire in that show.

Everywhere anyone goes there are torches, candles, blazing braziers, and lanterns.  Somehow everyone has access to armies of people with nothing else to do but produce light for them.

Now I know that most of the characters are nobles who in fact do have armies of peasants producing things for them, but this is true even for those who are desperately poor and in dire circumstances.  Every library scene seems to have dozens of candles burning for no reason.  Every bedroom has lanterns going at all hours.  All kinds of nearly abandoned places have fires burning merrily at all times in every corner... who is chopping all that wood?!?

I know, I know.  It is for mood, for good shots, so we can actually see the characters.  With reasonable lighting in the scenes everything would be shadows, and we wouldn't be able to get the most out of gratuitous nudity if things weren't well lit.

But geez, do the writers have any idea how much effort it takes to get all the oil and wax and wood that the people in that world burn with no care whatever for how long it took to acquire it?  I know about chopping wood, and nobody would waste that much when they could get someone to do something else productive instead of flatten every forest in the nation.

I am fine with visions of the future, dragons, blood magic, and absurdly large ancient buildings.  But there is WAY too much fire in Game of Thrones.

Spend a few weekends chopping wood yourself and you won't be able to unsee it either, mark my words.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Evil hidden behind a mask

The Liberal party has officially given up on their campaign promise to implement electoral reform in Canada before the next election.  The Prime Minister has directed the Democratic Institutions Minister to not pursue electoral reform.

It is pretty obvious why.  The Liberals wanted a ranked ballot system because it would place them in an excellent position.  They are the centrist party so they would be ranked second on many ballots and likely end up in power a lot of the time.  However, people actually wanted a more proportional system instead and that would leave the Liberals as simply one party among many.  Under a ranked ballot they could assemble a majority government most of the time even with only 40% of the vote, but under a proportional system they would actually have to negotiate with other parties.

They don't want to negotiate, they want to be the natural, assumed leaders of the nation!

So they are going back on their promise.

I won't be voting for them again.  The campaign promise to end our First Past the Post system was a key part of my support and their obvious grasping for power being put above honouring promises and good governance is despicable.  I should note that I don't normally go so hard on a party for breaking promises because I honestly think they should reconsider their actions when new information comes in, but this was so transparently a power play that I have no tolerance whatsoever.  This isn't about doing the right thing under changing circumstances, it is simply placing the Liberal party above the will and well being of Canadians.

The Liberals may be making exactly the same mistake the Democrats did in the US so recently.  They are underestimating the public's desire for change and reform and are counting on fear of the extreme right to drive votes their way.  They hope that messages of tolerance and love will mask their political sins.

I don't want Canada to teach the Liberals the same lesson the Democrats just learned.  Electing our own version of Trump will be a wretched mess.  However, I will not be surprised if it happens.  They have lost my vote, and many others like me.

To the Liberal party, if you are listening:  Ask yourselves why you want to govern.  Is it to make Canada a better place, or just to fulfill your own desire for power?  If it is the first, then act like it, and you may earn my vote again.  If it is the second, then get ready to lose power again when a substantial chunk of the population notices the evil seeping out from behind the mask.