I can feel how (i think) tiredness affects my brain. (Day 76)

Not just the fog, a perfectly apt analogy, but also the lack of connections.

I can see all the things my brain touches when I’m well slept, and when @34 hours like i am now, feel standing the same place the same way, the same calm opened stance, and it’s standing all alone, nothing coming.

It’s tremendously frustrating when i let it be frustrating, or want to think too much when i can’t. It’s not awful when I’m in a okay place, because i know it sucks, but there’s nothing short term i can do about it (especially when i can’t fall asleep, despite being in this state)

I’m sure there’s a lot of more crystallized lessons and connections and thoughts here I Would love to note and share. But I’m empty, watching with wonder at how the autopilot works when all the normal connections are off.

Self-medicating with Coffee and Alcohol (Day 75)

I want us as a society to have a more consistent and healthy relationship with how we handle and address self-medication. Some serious “possibly addiction, certainly not taking seriously one’s reliance on a psychoactive chemical” level commentary and jokes happen daily about coffee.

Think about all the “I’ll literally murder you if you get between me and my coffee in the morning” jokes that people laugh at cause they can relate to. People doing literally that for drugs is what motivated the Controlled Substances Act and the “war on drugs”.

Overuse of alcohol is a weird swirl of “this is awful and causes people to act badly”, “being a lightweight is status-destroying weakness”, “just be responsible obviously”, and “today sucked so drinking a whole bottle of wine is fine”.

I don’t have any simple or clean solutions: brain-chemistry is a hell of a drug, and social norms are not easy to break.

However, I think a lot more consistency about how we medicate, both in perspective and dialogue, would help us live more healthy lives, as well as better understand the struggles and reasons of people fighting with drug addiction. Fewer bright lines between franzia, prescription pharmaseuticals, and starbucks, and more balanced behavior when it comes to mind-altering substances.

Plus, you’re more likely to honesty deal with and understand your relation to coffee or wine if you honestly look at it as if you’re self medicating, instead of ignoring the behavior entirely.

Write it down. Yes, even that. (Day 74)

That thing you’re totally going to remember to do later?  The 5th thing you just noticed you need from the grocery store?  Brilliant idea in the shower, or right before you go to sleep?  The information/concern you feel accountable to provide to your boss?  The verbal agreement involving exchanging money/doing work for someone?

Write it down.  If it involves someone else, send it in an email.  With everyone having the entire internet in their pocket, “lack of paper/media” is a worse excuse than ever before: pens and paper are cheap and everywhere if you don’t want to write it on your phone, and you’re not near a keyboard.

Most importantly: you have a *record* of what was said or agreed upon.  When its a grocery list, the cost is low: you don’t have butter to make cookies, and have to make them with vegetable oil or drive back to the grocery store.

But when its a concern about work you’re doing, or an agreement about what will happen when, having a record that you said what you said when you said it makes a huge difference.  So many disagreements, fights, people getting fired, mistakes getting made all come down to people having different perspectives of reality.  And human memory is *fickle*.  Yes, even yours. (Mine’s perfect, of course…if I remember right.  Its been a while since I checked).

The most important aspect of this is a very self-interested covering your ass.  Covering your ass has a bit of a negative stigma, but that’s generally because its done post-hoc, after someone tripped spilled a barrel of waste into the largest fan in the building.  If you’re not doing anything wrong, being very clear and deliberate and having clean records of what happened and what was agreed upon is the best possible thing you can have.

And being self-interested is a *good* thing.  Because when you get hurt, when you don’t take care of yourself, it impacts everyone around you.  Plus, it means you can spend your time not fighting stupid fights about whether you said ‘that thing’ 3 months ago or not.  From having your concerns about a project documented to your boss, to whether or not your wife asked you to get butter from the store, fighting about whether you said something is frustrating and nearly impossible to win.

Reasonable people doing not-shady things won’t mind there being a record.  This is useful in itself: if someone starts getting all fidgety or concerned about things being in writing, that’s a pretty big red flag that there’s more going on.

More positively: there’s a record!  That way when you forget what you were supposed to get at the store, you can just look at the list, or the text.  And when one needs to remember that sweet idea they wanted to write about for some eccentric project they put together, they just go check the scuba-diver’s slate board hanging in their shower, instead of sitting there being frustrated their memory is more like a pyramid of colanders instead of a rack of filing cabinets.

So send the e-mail, send the text, write the list, scribble the idea on a Shenanigans napkin, buy a slateboard to write ideas in the shower (cause the bathtub crayons don’t work very well.)  If you’re ever having that feeling of apprehension, the “I don’t wanna” or “its a loooot of work” or “I don’t want to come off like a jerk” feelings in tension with the “I’m worried I might forget this” or “it is important my boss/friend/whomever knows this”, don’t waver, just do it.

I’ve yet to regret the effort into writing any of these things down (N>200), and I’ve been somewhere between mildly pleased to “I just dodged several bullets” insanely happy.

 

Stealing from the Future (Day 73)

Borrowing money.  Staying up too late.  Not maintaining your car.  Procrastinating. Industrial pollution.  Lack of preparation.

All examples of doing something now that will [usually] cause and require a larger expenditure of resources later.  Its really easy to do; the future is uncertain, and I’m not there yet, and now is *right now* and I’d rather do something else.

It can be a good thing.  Mortgages are *awesome* conceptually; I want to get people in a home before they’ve added enough value to society to earn one (read: saved enough money to purchase it outright).  Staying out late with an out-of-town friend because they’re leaving in the morning is almost certainly worth the minor misery and loss of functionality the next day or two.  And it is an amazing relief when you put off that $500 dollar repair and your car gets totaled, or you put off doing some work until the last minute and the project gets cancelled.

However, it sucks really bad when you didn’t put that $500 into your car, and you end up on the side of a road late for an interview.  Or you put off the work till the last minute, and you find out your best friend is in town for that weekend.  Or you get too big of a house, ’cause the bank would love to loan you more money, and you end up underwater on your mortgage, torn between an eternity of too big of payments that won’t pay themselves back and the cost and misery of moving again as well as locking in your loss.

Stealing is a strong word, but its perfectly accurate: future you, future society doesn’t ever get a say in what you take.  Future you just has to work with whatever you left for them, future society left to figure out how to pay off a 20 trillion dollar debt.  Just like with Hollowing out the Past, I wanted a term that really emotionally communicates the *cost* of these actions, as they are so often performed without consideration of their benefits.

The balance between investing in now and investing in later, between planting and  feasting, could describe the summary of civilization.  There’s no single answer to any question of “how should I spend my time/money/effort”, but there is better and worse answers depending on how much future you will benefit and suffer from your decisions.

And as you’ll be future you in a moment, properly caring for future you is worth your consideration.

Hollowing out the Past (Day 72)

Pumping oil out of the ground and burning it.  Living off of savings.  Pushing the limits of a friend’s hospitality or generosity.  Eating seeds needed for planting.

All of these are examples of a resource that won’t exist for future you, or future humanity, due to their use.  It can be a good thing, a one time boost or expenditure of resources to get through a hard time or jump ahead.  However, there seems to be a lack of awareness about when, where, and how people and societies choose to make those expenditures.

Hollowing out the Past is the phrase that’s stuck with me to describe this phenomenon. It feels like it emotionally communicates the cost of the behavior as well as labels and describes the issue broadly enough to not constrain it to only apply to a specific field, such as renewable energy or building relationships.

One of the most poignant examples for me is the semi-retired guys that work at home depot.  Getting paid 10-12 bucks an hour, but have 30+ years of knowledge and experience to share and assist with helping people find what they need (and don’t need), how to accomplish projects a bit over customer’s heads, and a variety of other information.  Home depot didn’t invest all of the time and resources for that employee to have that expertise, and the compensation isn’t anywhere close to the benefit provided by that expertise.

The most important part of this whole issue is awareness, so proper planning for the future can be done.  We’ve been doing forest management for thousands of years, with the lots of experience both with successful sustainable forests, and the horrendous costs and long build-up periods after chopping it all down for some extra wood now.

I’m not a Peak Oil doomsayer in the conventional sense, and I’m confident their crying wolf greatly harmed the effective planning and use of fuels that required millions of years to produce.  I also know that physics means easily accessible concentrated fuel *will* run out someday, and that the total replacement time for the US energy infrastructure is roughly 100 years.  I’m sure we can do it significantly faster if necessity requires, but its not something that I’d want to leave up to an economy that frequently has trouble looking past the last quarter’s profits.

It applies to relationships as well. Very long time to build up, and can provide huge and wonderful life improvements for years to come. Also easy to take advantage of in a way that you get more *right now,* but at a significant cost to the future.

This isn’t to say don’t hollow out the past; like I said, it can be a good thing; with fuels specifically its certainly the reason for our civilizations’ insane rate of progress. But it should be *intentional*; disregarding the costs means something taken for granted might be expensive or completely unavailable in the future, from cheap experts to work your retail store to friends who will bail you out of a jam to enough cheap energy to build the next generation energy production.

I love solvents (Day 71)

This really powerful feeling hits me about once a year or so: I *really* love solvents.

Water is obviously awesome, and does almost everything. But stuff like windex, alcohols, MEK, WD-40, soaps and emulisifiers, a variety of acids…its just crazy what they can do.

Not even talking about the crazy movie stuff of dissolving a body in a bathtub, or eating through 15 floors of spaceship. Just things like removing stains, cleaning countertops, dissolving solidified food residue, removing paint or corrosion.

They’re awesome, but that I viscerally appreciate them with a frequency I don’t randomly appreciate other, roughly equally awesome things doesn’t really make sense to me. Perhaps its just how they touch my life, or the combination of senses they touch.

Direction Meta-Thoughts (Day 70)

I’ve been struggling with how to manage the cross posting.  This started as a facebook project to get me writing (which has been successful), but I feel awkward posting some of the less polished or more introspective and weird posts here as well.  I think my main issue is I want the “real” blog/website/whatever to be a bit more content-dense and polished.

Even as I write this, some of my anxiety about the ‘quality’ of the content I post here has lessened, which is good.  My self-expectations being too high have been a big issue, and if the weird posts actually become a problem down the line, negatively impacting the “big, high quality, content rich writing” I want to do, I’ll address that then.  But its very possible its not even a problem.

So this is a bit of a “break/recovery” day, which I think I need to do a bit more often.  I had the right idea with “doesn’t matter what I write” when I started the project, as writing every day is a pretty big burden in itself.  But I let those initial expectations slip, and they’ve added a bit too much pressure: combining every day with high expectations for content.

Instead, I think its best to positively channel the want for “better content” into motivation to write ahead, have high quality posts pre-written for when I want to take a day off.   Both motivation to write more, and a far less destructive pressure when I don’t have the time or motivation to put together content I consider “worthy” and top-notch.

I’m terrified of the future (Day 69)

This isn’t just your standard “how the hell am I going to pay for my rent, healthcare, AND food in July” kind of terrified. Not to undermine those feelings: certainly have those too, and the units of measurement for that kind of terror is measured in barrels of Ben and Jerry’s (1 barrel = 168 quarts, or 19 cubic milifurlongs, for those that usually work with the metric versions of Terror)

Someday we’re going to understand exactly how brains, sleep, visual artifacts, and all that jazz works, just like we understand basic chemistry. The answer to “why do I see strange translucent colors when I close my eyes when I’ve been awake Too Long™” will be as mundane and widely known as why water is mostly incompressible and expands when it freezes.

And that rabbit hole is weird…cause when you *understand* things like that, its really easy to play with them, and use that knowledge to do all sorts of things. The military, and adventurous individuals, are already experimenting with effective ways of learning faster by running low level electrical current through the brain. And the equipment they’re using is only a few small steps away from a 9volt battery and some wet sponges strapped to your head at various places.

Hopefully this doesn’t come off too tin-foil hat-ty. But I would not bet against being able to wirelessly change a person’s thoughts 100 years from now.

CureViolence.org (Day 68)

Plugging this amazing organization.

They treat violence problems like public health issues, get communities involved, and give them the tools to effectively reduce violence.

They’re the “diet you can actually follow and moderate exercise you’ll actually do” of violence reduction programs: nothing particularly flashy, a fair amount of stuff people already sort of know, but all put together in an effective program.

Amazing efficacy stats and results, working on expanding.

(Yesterday didn’t post everything and I lost the rest of the content, and we’ve entered into the worst part of my sleep rotation, so will get that fixed sometime tonight hopefully)

Everyone knows what something means until there’s a problem (day 67)

This is a quote i found from a wonderful website about self defense. They’re amazing, but forewarning: it’s really easy to get lost there for hours, “just one more site” wikipedia-style.  Its by a lawyer, of course: not just because it sounds lawyer-ly, but because fighting over definitions is a *lot* of what lawyers do.

It comes up in my thoughts a lot.  So many things are brushed off with “you know what I mean” or “we don’t need to worry about that.”  And much of the time, those brush-offs are accurate.

But when there is a disagreement, there is a problem, those things matter.

Usually, there *was* a misunderstanding, which meant that people did things in ways that one party didn’t want.  The classic computer programmer joke comes to mind: “Husband is going to store, wife asks husband to get a loaf of bread while there…and if the store has eggs, get a dozen.  Husband returns home with a dozen loafs of bread.”  Context matters, but people frequently have different context.

The other problem is malice, which is less frequent but far more problematic.  This is the realm of “loopholes” and people exploiting systems and misinterpretations and vagaries for their own benefit.  Some people will take advantage of misunderstandings for their own benefit.

And that’s why its important to be okay with people wanting more clarity and definition, and to be wary of people brushing things off when you ask for more information, or you ask for things to be in writing.  Paperwork and defining and outlining things is a pain in the butt, but [if done correctly] means there’s less room for future problems, either willful or unintentional.