dreaming and belief

hypothesis: it's possible to get the mind to enter an awake-like state while dreaming (lucid dreaming), and possible to get the mind to enter a dream-like state while awake (hypnosis, meditation, lsd).

hypothesis: two techniques to help train the mind to enter both of these states, are:
  • practice really doubting whether "reality" is real
  • practice really believing a non "real" thing (faith)

anecdote: I had a dream last night. Inside the dream there was some point where I was doing something precarious — I forget what — and later, still inside the dream, I thought "man, it's good I didn't doubt whether I was dreaming at that precarious point, because I might have fallen.. but wait, maybe I was dreaming at that point.."


hypocrisy ok

I feel like our culture values consistency. So if I say something about myself, like "I'm not embarrassed about using two forks" -- which I've said -- then I feel some compulsion to not be embarrassed about it. But the fact is, I am embarrassed about it sometimes. And it seems good to recognize that.

I suppose that given that realization, it makes sense not to tell people in the future that I'm not embarrassed about using two forks. But since I don't know myself perfectly well, it seems like I'll say lots of wrong things going forward, and I don't want that to stop me from discovering I'm wrong, even if it means people will think I'm a hypocrite, or inconsistent, which is something I've worried about and let stand in my way before, it seems.

believing things because they are said

Couple thoughts:

It occurs to me that I have felt like I'm doing something wrong whenever I feel stressed or depressed.. But I don't feel like I'm doing something wrong when I'm hungry, even if I decide not to eat.. I think stress and depression may be normal human processes, and as unpleasant and potentially destructive to the body they may be, I think they're not evil. I've just been told that, and believed it.

It occurs to me that I worry about hypnosis because it allows someone to control my mind. Yet, I have been controlled already, I think. For instance, I might fear that a hypnotist would make me sing and dance in front of people. But really, I've already been mind controlled to *not* be able to do that, even if I feel the desire to, by society telling me "it is bad to make a fool of yourself", and I've believed it, and internalized it deep in my subconscious, and now I'm effectively hypnotized in a trance where I can't perform that behavior.


being happy

thought 1: maybe it's better not to have a life goal, but rather to focus on being happy day to day.

thought 2: I'm interested in knowing what things and situations make me happy.

thought 3: it turns out that working on visually stimulating things brings me some happiness. I was working on this today (see below), which is going to be a JavaScript version of this.


I just saw this on my screen, and thought it was funny:

It's like the guy is all upset that Acorn's trial period is up, and is trying to shout through a blurred window. But actually the blurring is from a bad camera shot, not Acorn.


just a thought: I worry sometimes that by becoming more aware and detached from my emotions, I won't be able to feel them as much, which might suck, since sometimes it can be fun to feel emotions strongly, but I think that an aware and detached person could still allow themselves to sink into an emotion, perhaps even further than they could go if they weren't aware and detached..

..I was thinking about fear in particular, which I've generally thought of as just bad, but now that I'm getting a better handle on it, it occurred to me that maybe I would want to feel fear sometimes, for fun, the way people get a kick out of watching a scary movie.

lucid dream

I had a few lucid dreams recently. The first was more-or-less normal, and the most recent two were very strange and short. One involved a bunch of balloons, and the other involved sortof seeing something different from each eye, and trying to "focus" onto the dream scene, but not succeeding.

I recall that the first time I had a lucid dream was the first time I read about lucid dreaming, and it was very much on my mind. And I failed a bunch after that, but the next time I had a lucid dream was when I read something new about lucid dreaming.. now of course I have had many instances of reading about lucid dreaming and failing to have a lucid dream, but I do think that there's a high correlation with thinking about lucid dreaming itself, as opposed to concentrating on some technique, and definitely as opposed to just hoping I'll have a lucid dream but secretly being tired and just wanting to sleep..

Anyway, I still can't do it on demand, and I still don't have a reliable technique, but I do seem to be having lucid dreams more frequently, so that's great! I'm now marking lucid dreams with a star in my star chart app thing:


I tried the Oculus Rift again, and this time I am really impressed and excited. I had tried it before, and the demo I saw wasn't very immersive, which is understandable, since the person was working on a prototype that wasn't meant to be immersive yet, but I figured the problem had to do with low resolution..

..but the demo I saw this time still had low resolution, but it was really nice. Things seemed 3d, and felt like they were really "there".



dropbox datastore

I kinda love Dropbox's datestore..

..I was using a regular file for pima, since I wanted it to be encrypted, and also replicated on my disk, and I think the datastores are only in the cloud.. not sure..

..anyway, for my progress helper thing, currently called "progressing with the stars", I used the datastore, and it was awesome. It was just so easy: I draw everything based on what's in the datastore, and when it changes, it automatically redraws everything, whether that change happened locally or remotely.

Unfortunately nobody else can use it yet, because the dropbox "app" is in developer mode, and to make it "public", it needs to be approved.. which I suppose is good, but it would be nice if there was an option for people with a big warning button saying "don't do this unless you're absolutely sure what you're doing!!!", which is what people have to click on anyway to get to the https version of github.io.

anyway, I put this together just so I could get a star for doing 10 minutes of dual spritzing, trying to read two things at once.. I lowered the wpm to 50, and it's wicked hard. I feel my brain straining, which I suppose is good? anyway, we'll see what happens..


dual spritz

You can try to read Alice in Wonderland and Pride and Prejudice AT THE SAME TIME!

Why.. WHY!!! Because maybe learning to read two things simultaneously makes the brain smarter, which is a half-baked idea I got from not fully understanding an experiment I read about.

Anyway, I'm going to try it, and we'll see what happens. So far what happens is that I can pay attention to one or the other, but not both.


so I'm probably the last to hear of spritz, but I love the idea, and I wanted an interface that let me paste text into it and spritz it, which is what I have above (based on the code for OpenSpritz, though I ended up rewriting it to suit my simplistic needs).

Anyway, the real reason I did this is that I read something in a book about the brain. It said someone ran a study on "brain exercising" games and found that they didn't seem to help people do anything other than play those specific games better, BUT it mentioned some other study where people were given a task of "keeping in mind two different streams of information simultaneously", and that that increased people's IQ. The book didn't say what these streams were, but I want to try reading two spritz streams simultaneously, so now that I've got one set up, I'm going to try and set up another right above it..
I often do this wrong: I want a number to bottom out at 0 — so that zero is the minimum value the number can be — so I do this:

number = Math.min(0, number)

Which is wrong. It should be:

number = Math.max(0, number)

But how to remember this?


sayings about suffering

"Remove desires." — I read Siddhartha in high school, and I recall a character saying that the root of suffering is desire. If we didn't have desires, we wouldn't suffer. Removing desires seemed like a good idea at first, but I tried it, and I found that I couldn't do it, and it seemed like if I did, then I wouldn't do anything at all.. I'd just lie there and die.. which seemed bad.

"Accept everything." — Another character in the book suggested this, and I tried it, and it has actually served me well for a long time. However, more recently, I've been troubled by what it means to "accept" something. For instance, there's that time someone backed into my car and sued me for it and won, and I was angry at them, and also at myself for failing to defend myself against them.. should I have not been angry? Maybe. Maybe "accept" means accept being angry? Not sure.

"Acknowledge everything." — Acknowledge as in look at everything and admit that it's there, as opposed to being unwilling to look at some things. Applied to the car situation above, I take this to mean: be aware of what actually happened, what I did, what they did, how I felt, etc. And that's it. I figure accurate information is good for the brain, giving it the best chance of accomplishing its goals.

"Accept what I cannot change, and change what I can." — Again, I'm not sure what it means to "accept" something, and although the original saying involves asking a higher power to grant me "the wisdom to know the difference", I don't think I've been granted such wisdom, so it doesn't seem good to be too confident about bucketing anything into the "accept" or "change" camps. Also, if something is in the "change" camp, am I meant to be "unaccepting" of it all the time? If it takes a long time to change, this seems like it might be very unpleasant.


I think sayings are programs that my mind runs, and I think it's useful to analyze them carefully and make sure they're good programs.

Sayings about Fear

"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." — I assume this is intended to mean "we shouldn't be afraid of anything", but it's being cute. Being cute does not seem good for programs in the brain. I want my programs to be obvious and straightforward.

"Do not be afraid." — In general, I think I am too fearful, but it doesn't seem possible or reasonable to never be afraid.

"Face your fears." — This seems like a good strategy for training the brain to be comfortable with phobias, like walking in the rain on a stormy night to overcome a phobia of lightning, but it doesn't seem like a good strategy for all fears. I'm afraid that if I drive with my eyes closed, I'll hit something, but I think I'm right, so I'll die before overcoming the fear. Now some might say "you're not afraid of hitting something, you have good reason to believe you'll hit something, which is not the same as fear", to which I say "if I think about closing my eyes while driving, I tense up and feel anxious.. I'm pretty sure that's fear."

"Analyze your fears and make sure they're reasonable." — This seems good.

"Knock on wood." — I thought I didn't take this seriously, but I do, a little bit. I'm a little afraid to write "There is totally no chance there's going to be an earthquake tonight." First, it's not true. There is a small chance of that happening. But my fear is not of writing a falsehood, my fear is of the universe proving me wrong, and everyone else saying "you're getting what you deserve for saying that". But even if there is an earthquake tonight, I don't think I caused it by writing that.

By knocking on wood, I essentially tell the universe "I'm still afraid!" And sometimes it does make sense to keep being afraid. If I'm going hiking, and I say "I probably won't twist my ankle on this trip", that's true, but only if I pay constant attention to where I'm stepping — it would be bad to realize that I probably won't twist my ankle and use that as a reason not to worry about twisting my ankle, since without that worry keeping me paying attention, I probably will twist my ankle.

But since I have no ability to make earthquakes happen or not, it does not make sense to keep being afraid after I say "There is totally no chance there's going to be an earthquake tonight." Though it does make sense to revise it, for accuracy's sake, to "there probably won't be an earthquake tonight", which I believe is true, but I do have a little unreasonable fear now about it happening, which will hopefully be reduced tomorrow.. assuming no earthquake happens.

"I couldn't stand it if such and such happened." — I've felt this way. At one point, I worried about getting a girl pregnant. I feared that if it happened, my dad would be upset, and the world would end. But, I think the world would not end. I feel like I need to remove this "world ending" notion from my mind, since it doesn't seem possible. I mean, the world might actually end, but by "world ending" I'm referring to a sort of mystical incomprehensible badness, whereas I think all badnesses are ultimately comprehensible and non-mystical.


in a sense

[ :) ]---
[ :( ]---


two types of meditation

I was talking with a couple people about meditation, and how there are sortof two branches of meditation, where one is about relaxing, and one is about self examination,

and a couple people came up with these names which I thought were clever: mellow-tation and meta-tation


so, when I was in Maui, I tried surfing, and..

..I was just not strong enough to do it. I felt like a dinosaur with ridiculously small arms trying to paddle the board out to sea, and by the time I got there, I could barely do anything, much less paddle at the speed of a wave and lift my body out of the water onto the board and balance on the board..

..but I could tell it would be fun! and I think it would motivate me to exercise if I spent a month there trying to surf every day.

The Embassy

for the past month, I stayed with a group of people in a big house in Hawaii, and it was awesome, and I want to live that way all the time, so now that I'm back in the bay I asked a friend if they knew of such a place here, and they asked a friend who knew of a place and put me in touch with The Embassy..

..I woke up this morning in my bunk bed at the embassy, and the house cat Pixel had camped out behind my legs.

Incidentally, the embassy is part of the embassy network, and the last few days I was in Hawaii I spent at Garrett Lisi's place in Maui which he has turned into a community space for sciency people, which it turns out is part of the embassy network — which is a bit remarkable considering that there are only about eight communities in the network at all..

..anyway, so I'm excited. I want this idea to grow and succeed.

I wanna see where my money goes, especially since starting my sabbatical thing.
Downloaded all my transactions from Mint.com.
Processing with javascript-eval..

function chop(x) {
    return x.slice(1, x.length - 1).split(/","/)
var lines = _.lines(input)
var keys = chop(lines[0])
var ts = _.map(lines.slice(1), function (line) {
    return _.object(keys, chop(line))    
_.each(ts, function (t) {
    t.Date = new Date(t.Date).getTime()
    t.Amount *= 1

that's gives us things like:

        "Date": 1394006400000,
        "Description": "Starbucks",
        "Original Description": "AuthorizationTo Starbucks OGGKahului MauiHI",
        "Amount": 8.54,
        "Transaction Type": "debit",
        "Category": "Coffee Shops",
        "Account Name": "PayPal Account",
        "Labels": "",
        "Notes": ""

(man, $8.54 at Starbucks? what did I buy?)
Anyway, now let's get just the ones since October 2013..

var ts = eval(input)
var cutoff = new Date('10/01/2013').getTime()
ts = _.filter(ts, function (t) { return t.Date > cutoff })

..good.. now.. hm.. there are 465 transactions in that time.. how can we make some sense of them?
first, maybe group by description, and see if some descriptions are very common..

var ts = eval(input)
var bag = {}
_.each(ts, function (t) {
    _.bagAdd(bag, t.Description)
_.sort(_.pairs(bag), function (x) { return -x[1] })

hm.. the most common thing is "PayPal", which is not quite descriptive enough. Hm.. I do see quite a few transfers from my bank to PayPal, which can probably be removed, but I also want to remove the corresponding gain in money in PayPal.. maybe I can just remove all "income" anyway, since I want to know where I'm spending money, not earning it..

ok, so 446 after removing transfers to PayPal,
and 306 after removing income (so much income! sortof.. not sure what all those are.. for some reason Mint.com shows a credit associated with most of my PayPal transactions for the same amount as the transaction — I don't know why.. it's not because they gave me the money back, that's for sure)

what next.. ok, I see some investments, which I shouldn't count as "spending money", since I still own the investment (even though, in point of fact, the value of the investment has already gone down, as my investments typically do)..

hm.. I see that I'm paying for Netflix twice.. I am paying for my mom's account, as a gift, which I want to continue, but I think Netflix may allow families to share accounts, so I should look into that.. probably they mean for the people to be in the same physical house, not sure..

ok, let's pull out Netflix expenses into an aggregating spreadsheet..
pull out phone bills..
pull out Spotify..
pull out virtual mail thing..
more stuff..


some takeaways..

first, I'm spending $100 a day, which happens to be the budget I was allowing myself, but I thought I was well under it, especially considering that I didn't pay for lodging at all for two whole months while I was staying at my dad's house..

second, I'm spending a lot on car rental. Somehow I thought that was cheaper. I spent more on car rental than on lodging..

here's the breakdown, more-or-less:
22% on car rental
17% on lodging
15% on stuff (whatever that is.. groceries, and paying apple for a developers license, etc..)
13% on food
11% on air travel
7% on health care
7% on services (including phone)
6% on cash.. who knows what I did with that..
2% rounding error

so.. don't rent cars so much! and maybe eat less?


I summoned an uber car, but didn't notice that the pin was not quite where I was. I ran toward the pickup location, but I could see they were beating me, so I called the driver. A woman picked up and I told her where I was, and she said she'd come there.

A moment later, I see a guy wave to me from his car, right where uber says his car should be.

I get to the car and he tells me he is deaf, and hands me a bluetooth Mac keyboard. I type where I want to go and see it appear on his phone attached to the windshield, and he starts driving.

A bit later, I see on his phone "how are you doing?", and he hands me the keyboard. I type "great, by the way, were you on the phone with me earlier?" He nods. "how does that work?" And he launches an app on his phone and calls my number. My phone rings, and I can see on his screen a split view showing him, and a guy sitting in a room somewhere. He signs to the guy, and I hear him speak on my phone. I talk, and he signs to my driver.

Very cool.