I only put in about 15 minutes of guitar practice tonight. I just did what the instructor from my Udemy curse calls chord pushups. You play the chord, take your fingers of the guitar, flex them out, then put them back on the guitar and play the chord again.

The idea, I think, is to develop the muscle memory so you can move between chords faster. It’s probably not bad for building strength in your fingers either.

I’m getting callouses on three of my fingers, which is helping.

The day I ordered pizza that ‘doesn’t exist’

“What do you mean, it doesn’t exist?” I reply, oblivious to her hostility, since she’s quite aggressive at the best of times. “I’d just like a marinara but with some mozzarella on top.” Unwittingly I make matters worse by miming her mozzarella-sprinkling action.

“La marinara is a pizza rossa,” she states frostily. “A pizza rossa is made with tomato and without mozzarella. So you can’t have a marinara with mozzarella because there’s no such thing.”

From: http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-33542392

Drinking Soylent With The Last Of The California War Boys

Seasteading’s been and gone for the second (third?) time, the secession and Six-State-California guys have been and gone.  It is that time in the cycle where the Libertarian App Future Brothers start living off the grid, buying guns and getting good and weird out there alone in the dark.  I wonder how we’ll look back at this whole period of the last five or ten years.  At how the digital gold rush and the strange pressures of a new, yet accelerated, period of cultural invention cooked a whole new set of mental wounds out of the people swept up in it.

From: http://morning.computer/2015/08/drinking-soylent-with-the-last-of-the-california-war-boys/

A chat with Black Hat’s unconventional keynote speaker

I’m talking about the internet revolution. We early adopters had, have, such hopes and dreams for technology — leveling the playing field, fostering new ideas and new political power, opening the world up to new communities of people, liberating ourselves from some of the dangers of bad government. Obviously, security is a building block for this future. But in so many ways we’re falling short of this vision: surveillance, spyware, censorship, increasingly catastrophic data breaches. This revolution is middle aged, and unless we do something, the next stage promises to be gray, grizzled and sad.

From: http://www.engadget.com/2015/08/04/a-chat-with-black-hats-unconventional-keynote-speaker/

The Point of No Return: Climate Change Nightmares Are Already Here

Hansen’s new study also shows how complicated and unpredictable climate change can be. Even as global ocean temperatures rise to their highest levels in recorded history, some parts of the ocean, near where ice is melting exceptionally fast, are actually cooling, slowing ocean circulation currents and sending weather patterns into a frenzy. Sure enough, a persistently cold patch of ocean is starting to show up just south of Greenland, exactly where previous experimental predictions of a sudden surge of freshwater from melting ice expected it to be. Michael Mann, another prominent climate scientist, recently said of the unexpectedly sudden Atlantic slowdown, “This is yet another example of where observations suggest that climate model predictions may be too conservative when it comes to the pace at which certain aspects of climate change are proceeding.”

From: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/the-point-of-no-return-climate-change-nightmares-are-already-here-20150805?page=7

Advice for People in Their Early 20s

The second thing I would say is this: No one has the answers. No one knows the best path you should take. No one has figured out the ultimate answer to your problem of fearing the future. The best of us just fake it and make it look like we know what we’re doing. We don’t. We’re still trying to figure it out too, and the honest truth is, most of us are either scared shitless or faking it, even to ourselves.

From http://zenhabits.net/scary-20s/

Greek the Salad

On the other hand, there is no such thing as authentic food. The concept requires that all cuisines from primarily non-immigrant countries be thought of as static and unchanging, which of course they are not. Dishes are created all the time, even in countries with much longer culinary histories than ours. Existing dishes are modified. New influences change the way people eat. Regional specialties overlap, mingle with each other.

From http://www.theawl.com/2015/08/greek-the-salad

Are plants intelligent? New book says yes

Many plants will even warn others of their species when danger is near. If attacked by an insect, a plant will send a chemical signal to their fellows as if to say, “hey, I’m being eaten – so prepare your defences.” Researchers have even discovered that plants recognize their close kin, reacting differently to plants from the same parent as those from a different parent.

From http://www.theguardian.com/environment/radical-conservation/2015/aug/04/plants-intelligent-sentient-book-brilliant-green-internet

Vacation Happened

I spent the first half of last week home alone. I worked from the couch, generally with the air conditioner on. I practiced my guitar a bit every day. Status on that: I know where my fingers are supposed to be for 5 chords. It’s probably not yet accurate to say that I can play them (at least not without stopping to look at where my fingers are, and adjusting them a bit). I definitely need to practice moving from one chord from another, because I can’t do that well at all. So, probably not bad for a week of learning.

I also figured I should get around to learning how to program. I mean, I’ve done a bit of Javascript, but not a lot, and none recently. So I’m going through a Udemy course to learn python. (I probably should’ve mentioned that I’m doing a Udemy course for the guitar practice in the first paragraph.) I find the Udemy app a bit buggy (especially when played over my Chromecast), but not badly enough that I can’t focus on what I’m supposed to be learning. I mean, I’m pretty bad at focusing on what I’m supposed to be learning in general, but the app isn’t making that worse.

I’m about halfway through both of those courses. I haven’t touched either since Wednesday though, so I expect I’ll need to go back over some of what I’ve already covered before I get back into either. I’m also leaning a bit on Kelly-Jo, who has played guitar (among other instruments) for years, to tell me basic stuff, like when my guitar is out of tune. I don’t really have an ear for that yet.

Other learning stuff: I’ve been at Duolingo for French practice for something like 135 days in a row. Kelly-Jo and I will occasionally switch a conversation over to French, which is also helping. Mostly we do it when we want to talk in front of Cohen without him knowing what we’re saying (which isn’t something we’ll be able to do for long, as we’re teaching him a bit of it, and we’ll enrol him in French immersion when he’s old enough). Sometimes we’ll switch for fun. I’ve also started occasionally writing to people in French if I know they speak the language and I still have my phone’s keyboard toggled to French after I’m done my practice.

I’ve been using a meditation & mindfulness app daily for about three weeks, which is helping me to calm down and relax a bit. Some days are better than others as far as focusing on it. On a somewhat related note, I read Buddha is as Buddha Does by Lama Surya Das while I was on vacation, which mostly confirmed that I’m not a Buddhist. I mean, really interesting stuff, and I can get behind some of it (I would like to be more generous, and patient, etc.), but the book went off the rails for me when the author started uncritically praising a psychic healer. I mean, that alone doesn’t turn me off of Buddhism (especially since that guy was a Christian), but it was what I felt to be the most egregious example of the author accepting something supernatural at face value. And I’m not really down with that, or the idea of reincarnation, or enlightenment being some attainable state of being. At best I might find a washed down, secularised Western Buddhism more to my liking, but really I’m not looking for a religion so much as I’m interested in being a better person.

Well, this derailed quite a bit from the title.

I spent my actual vacation days in Sussex. I took the bus down Wednesday night, and got back at supper time today. It was reasonably relaxing. One night while Kelly-Jo and I were relaxing in her folks’ hot tub, we decided that we were going to try to restrict out shopping for a bit, to help get our budget a little more in order. So, the deal is that we’re not allowed to do any shopping between the end of vacation (now) and Hal-Con (30 October through 1 November). There are a couple of exceptions (essential items, and on-going subscriptions). If one of us breaks the restriction, they have to buy the other a nice meal while we’re in Halifax for Hal-Con.

My hope is that not only will we get our spending under control, and start to clear out some debt, but also that we won’t turn around one day and discover that we’ve let another 40 tonnes of shit we don’t need into our house.

There are probably some unspoken exceptions that we’ll need to work out (gifts, does whisky count or can I call that a grocery item, etc.).

I also want to increase my charitable contributions. I’m using the idea of a tithe as my goal. I want to take 10% of my income (after taxes, etc.) and donate it. I need to get my budget in order before I can do that regularly, although I’m sure I can do better than I currently do (my only regular donation is about 0.5% of my monthly net income, and my irregular donations are no where near where I want them to be).

This is, by the way, the wrong time to suggest where my hypothetical donations could or should go.

Anyway, there’s a few goals for me to focus on here. I mean here as in this site, not in a more general sense. Well, I mean it in the more general sense too, but let’s ignore that for a minute.

You’ve probably noticed, if you’ve been a regular reader for a while, that I’ve lost focus of what I’m doing in this site. I started off the year posting at least 5 times a week, and that steadily trickled down to twice a week, and nothing the past two. And that’s boring. So I’m aiming for daily again, even if it’s just a paragraph. I’m going to turn off autosharing of posts, and maybe even turn comments back on for posts (for a few days, anyway). But I also want to turn this into something of a lifelog, so I’ll also be posting articles that I’ve read (with an excerpt), noting which days I’ve exercised, when I’ve started or finished reading a book, what I’ve been eating, what I’ve been listening to, keeping rough track of my progress with things that I’ve been learning, etc. Some of that will be boring to you, reader. I mean, all of this might be, but thanks for toughing it out, eh?

Weekly wrap-up, 19 July

Today was date night. Well, date afternoon, really. Afternoons are easier to come by some times. Anyway, KJ and I went to Chess Piece, our favourite pâtisserie (OK, basically the only pâtisserie in town, but it’s seriously good).

We followed that up with a trip to Strange Adventures (our local comic shop), running errands and watching Adventure Time, because we’re good at dates. I’m not actually being facetious there, it was a nice afternoon.

One of our errands was buying a bike for Cohen. He doesn’t know yet, because why give a kid a new bike on a rainy day? We’ll let him know about it on Tuesday or so. Whenever it’s nice out next.

Let’s circle back to Adventure Time for a second. I read the Banana Guard Academy trade a couple of days ago. It was a decent enough story, with just enough weirdness thrown in to make it work as an Adventure Time story. That was after I finished reading the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, which was well done. I’ll definitely read the next book in the series, and probably soon. Before that though, Moonshot: The Indigenous Comics Collection.

I’m most of the way through Jared Diamond’s The World Until Yesterday too. There’s a lot of interesting bits to chew on in there, as he’s telling about different approaches to warfare, childcare, care of the elderly, etc in what he calls traditional societies, and some contrasting of that with modern industrial societies. He’s not really drawing any conclusions (at least not yet), but I think that’s the point. He wants to get his reader to think about different approaches, not to give them the answer.

Hey, have you noticed that it’s getting boring around here? (I checked Facebook mid-sentence, so clearly I have.) Just alternating between the two basic post types? Yeah, I need to do something about that.

I bought a guitar last week (but I don’t have it yet, and also don’t know how to play it). I also started meditating regularly, and doing yoga semi-regularly. I stopped using Snapchat, which I had only started using a couple of weeks ago anyway, because it just wasn’t doing much for me. I’ll miss Felicia Day singing to her coffee, because that’s essentially how I define my sexuality now. I mostly posted photos with terrible puns, which I can do just as well on Tumblr. I posted something on ello, because I remembered that it existed for a few minutes. I’ve got a website to build, and a D&D adventure to write. There’s that comic that KJ and I are working on. So, you know, I’ve been doing stuff, or will be doing stuff, some of which is creative and worth writing about here.

For now though, it’s a cool evening, The air is fresh. I can hear birds through our open windows. I’m going to read comics and generally have a nice night.