Becoming an Outdoors Person Again

by James Wallace Harris, Wednesday, February 22, 2017

When I was a kid living in New Jersey, Florida, Mississippi, and South Carolina, I loved playing outside. My friends and I could spend whole days in the woods. I even liked camping out. As I got older the comforts of indoors ruined me for the outdoors, especially after I discovered computers in the 1970s. I just got too prissy to shit where my wild friends go. At 65, I do get outside some, going for walks and bike rides, but not as much as I should. A couple years ago I became a member at a botanic gardens near my house. Even though it’s the middle of February, it feels like Spring, and I’ve gone several times this week to take photographs. I thought I might chronicle the changes of seasons this year in my blog, and try to become a bit of an outdoors person again.

My inspiration for this transformation came from listening to One Wild Bird at a Time by Bernd Heinrich. Heinrich is a retired professor from the University of Vermont. He has cabins in Vermont and Maine where he observes birdlife in great detail. We often want to be the kind of people we are not. I’ve always wanted to be a naturist like Heinrich or Rachel Carson, unfortunately that lifestyle doesn’t fit my computer nerd nature. Heinrich has written other books I want to read, One Man’s Owl and Mind of the Raven, and maybe they will inspire me to visit the outside more often. One Wild Bird at a Time was an extremely pleasant book to listen to. Made me even want to take up birding.

Crane-on-the-Hill

I don’t have a cabin in the woods, but the botanic gardens is less than a mile from my house. I’ll make do with it. Real naturalists spend days outside observing, no matter the weather. I can only handle 30-60 minutes, even on the most beautiful days. Heinrich’s book is full of details, including proper names for all the living things that grow, creep, run, crawl, fly, hop, slither, flutter. I took the above picture. I can’t name any living thing in the picture. I think the bird is some kind of crane. I believe these guys are geese, but I’m clueless as to what kind. They honk.

Geese

Not only do I not know the proper names of the plants and animals, I’m not a very good photographer. So I’m trying to learn several things by visiting this park. First, to just enjoy being outside. Second, and this might never happen, but I’d like to learn the names of beings I see in nature. Third, I want to teach myself how to be a better photographer. Fourth, I want to become better at seeing.

I should keep a journal like Heinrich. For now, I’m just going to occasionally post something here. I went to the gardens on Saturday with my wife Susan. I wanted to test a cheap close-up lens I got for my Canon Rebel Xsi, attaching it to my zoom lens. Here’s one of my first shots:

Alien-face

I have no idea what kind of flower this is. It looks like a face of a science fiction alien.

Most of my shots came out poorly. I left the close-up lens on, but took a bunch of medium distant shots. The field-of-focus was painfully narrow. I returned the next day, Sunday, with just my 18-55mm zoom lens. I was again disappointed with the field-of-focus. I found this wonderful cheat sheet on field of focus. I went back to the park today, Wednesday, with just my 55mm fixed-focus lens, set to aperture override at f8. I discovered that setting the camera to manual aperture control automatically puts it in RAW mode. That has forced me to start learning new ways to process my photos in Photoshop Elements.

Crane

Here’s a tightly cropped photo of the crane from Saturday, when I still had the close-up lens attached to my 18-55 zoom. The crane wouldn’t let me get that close to him, so I have to blow up the picture. He’s not in focused. Now here’s a photo I took today trying hard to get a larger field of focus.

Crane---Wed

I do believe the crane is much better focused, with details sharper both in front and behind him, but it’s still far from perfect. It’s hard to tell because the photo is so cropped and it’s been converted to jpeg. Here’s a screenshot from within the camera raw editor. It’s still been saved as a jpeg, but it appears sharper, showing more detail – although it might just be more magnification. (Does anyone know what kind of bird this is?)

Crane Screenshot from Camera Raw editor

All of this experimentation takes time. But I am learning. I want to get into photography, but I don’t want to get bogged down with equipment. I like detail, sharpness, and large depth-of-field. That means I can’t get too close to my subject. I believe what I need is a very good wide-angle lens with large image sensor that captures a lot of megapixels. I can then just crop out what I need.

I did a search on “minimalist photography” hoping to find advice on equipment, but it turns out there’s an art form with that label. For now I’m going to use my old Canon and see how far I can push it to get what I want. But ultimately, I’d like to buy a camera that meets my minimalist definition. Something that’s easy to carry and use, and helps me record what I see with the maximum of sharpness and detail. It occurs to me that this pursuit will force me into finding a system for managing my photographs. I’ve already learn to quickly delete what I don’t like, but photos pile up quickly. That’s not being minimalistic. I wonder if there’s software that works a diary for photos?

Another software invention I’d like to see, and it might exist already, is a way to organize my photos so they map out the park. Wouldn’t it be cool if photos saved precise GPS info, and you could drop them into a folder, and a program would automatically create a virtual view?

Of course this gives me yet another hobby to pursue. One which will slice up my time into even smaller segments. On the other hand, it does get me out of the house. It’s a seeing hobby. I’m trying to get away from so many hobbies that involve computer screens and book pages. It’s somewhat artistic, which compensates for my overly analytical nature.

Statue-of-girl-in-fountain

Here’s one last picture (and I took 175 these three days). I’m including it to see what a larger version will look like on my blog page. My layout limits me to showing photos at less than 600 pixels width. I’m hoping double clicking will show this photo in a larger view.

JWH

More Sense of Wonder Than Science Fiction

by James Wallace Harris, Monday, February 20, 2017

Origami-NOVA-3

For the first two-thirds of my life sense of wonder mostly came from science fiction, but in the last third science is supplying more wonder. I have theories as to why. First, aging is making me more fascinated with reality. Second, I’ve lived long enough to feel the real world is science fictional. For example, my science fiction book club is reading Little Fuzzy by H. Beam Piper, a 1962 novel about the discovery of cute creatures on a distant planet that might be sapient. As a kid in the 1960s, that was an exciting idea. But in 2017 we know animals are far more intelligent than we thought and in ways far more exciting than an old science fiction novel. Learning how and why has a great sense of wonder.

The dimensions of sapient behavior have become far more fantastic than fiction, including old stories about robots. For example, The Door Into Summer by Robert A. Heinlein, published in 1957, and first read by me in 1964. Heinlein’s character Dan Davis built household robots – which dazzled me back then. But today I could build my own robot with a Raspberry Pi kit, producing a completely different kind of sense of wonder. I could also download open source machine learning toolkits. This era of Makers and DIY produces a different kind of wonder. Science fiction is great, but I believe I would now give a kid a subscription to Make Magazine before telling her to read science fiction.

More and more when I watch a great documentary I want to know the details about how things are actually done. I don’t want to just be an observer. Last night I watched a wonderful episode of NOVA on PBS that has more sense of wonder than any science fiction novel I can remember reading in a very long time.

It was about origami.

Origami?

Yes, origami. You know, paper cranes…

It was titled “The Origami Revolution” – about how the art of folding paper has inspired scientists, mathematicians, and engineers. The producers completely blew me away. Origami is a fascinating craft, even an art form, but not one I ever paid much attention to. The program began by reporting the latest developments in the art, which go way beyond making simple paper cranes. Using a single sheet of paper, it’s possible to make very elaborate 3D shapes by just folding paper (and without cutting).

Origami-NOVA-2

Cranes are simple, requiring about thirty folds. Modern advanced origami art like above requires hundreds of folds involving very complex geometry. This is where the excitement started for me – because they brought in mathematics. The program introduced Erik Demaine, showing him working on a 60-page mathematical algorithm with Tomohiro Tachi for computerized origami folding. Can you imagine the mathematics of creating the above work of origami? I can’t, but I wish I could. Tachi has developed a software program Origamizer that the two of them hope will eventually be able to create any 3D figure from a 2D piece of paper. Their theorem should prove it’s possible.

Origami-NOVA-5

“The Origami Revolution” then goes on to survey wide-ranging work in biology, genetics, chemistry, physics, astronomy that have been influenced by what we’re learning from folding. This has been happening for decades, so I feel a little left behind. The program generated a tremendous sense of wonder in me, probably because this new research offers so much far-out potential, including building robots and spacecraft, and even claiming that dark matter theoretically reveals folded shapes in the structure of the universe.

Here’s a 2008 TED Talks by Robert Lang which give more details than the episode of NOVA, including some examples that are more impressive than shown in the TV show. Follow the link in his name to his website for even more information.

Understanding how modeling 3D structures from a 2D source teaches us about nature, because once the mathematics of folding were revealed scientists began seeing folding in nature, including plants, insects, and even the cosmos. From there it goes into applied engineered structures.

(This isn’t folding per se, but I think it’s related. See SmartFlower Solar.)

If you watch “The Origami Revolution” count all the far out bits of technology. You’ll realize that many of them were never discussed in science fiction. When I was young, I thought science fiction explored ahead of science, but after all these decades I’ve learned something different. Science fiction trails science. This show could inspire countless science fiction stories. Even while watching the TV show I imagined other folks seeing it and thinking up science fiction stories as they watched. They will magnify the demonstrated concepts, extrapolate, speculate, imagine, and come up with possible future scenarios to dramatize. I’m sure they will create far-out tales.

But I think getting older is making me both more patient and less patient. I’m becoming impatient with fiction. It’s easier to skim over the drama, and just zero in on the current science. Now that I’m retired, I have more time to fool around with tech toys. I spend less time reading about imaginary futures, and more time trying to figure the details of now.

You can also watch the full episode of “The Origami Revolution” on YouTube.

JWH

Catching Words With Crosswords

by James Wallace Harris, Friday, February 17, 2017

I like to imagine my conscious mind as a small boat floating on a sea of memories. Words I readily use swim in schools near the surface. I can  grab them quickly. Other words swim deeper, take longer to catch. Some words dwell in the darkest deeps of my memory sea, taking hours to reel in. Doing crossword puzzles helps me catch words I haven held in my mind for a long time. After I release them, they swim close to the boat for a while, making them easier to catch again.

crossword_puzzle

For most of my life crossword puzzles had little appeal for me. I’ve never been good at games. But last year I started doing the mini-puzzles in the New York Times. I liked them because I could actually finish the grid, which I couldn’t with the full-size puzzles. The mini-puzzles provided positive reinforcement, and only took a few minutes. Which is the limit of my gaming patience. As my confidence grew I looked forward to doing the mini-puzzle each day. My wife Susan, who works out of town, does them too. We do them before our last phone call at night, and compare our completion times. I’ve only beaten her once.

Recently the New York Times sent me an sales pitch – get a year of the full-size puzzles for just $19.95. My new sense of crossword ability con my ego into pressing the buy button. As soon as I started the first full-size puzzle I had buyer’s remorse. They were way too hard for me. They were over my head. I did find it satisfying that I could answer many clues, more than ever before, but felt bad about leaving most boxes empty.

I’m not giving up. I just figured I needed more practice. Then my friend Linda told me about the Dell Crosswords puzzle books. I bought one called Easy Crosswords. And they are easy! Maybe too easy. But it’s very encouraging to complete whole puzzles, and they’re more practice than the mini-puzzles. I’ll get to the big puzzles someday.

I noticed something else. Doing the crosswords made me think of words I seldom used. Ones that swam deep in my sea of memories. This must be why the social security set love doing crosswords. I’ve already started my battle of recalling words (which I know I’ll ultimately lose but will fight the good fight anyway). Every year more nouns and names hang out on the tip of my tongue. Which reminds me of a poem by Bill Collins my friend Connell sent me, called, “Forgetfulness.”

The poem begins:

The name of the author is the first to go

followed obediently by the title, the plot,

the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel

which suddenly becomes one you have never read, never even heard of,

as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor

decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,

to a little fishing village where there are no phones.

In my struggle to recall words, I’m not sure if they completely disappear, or merely sink too deep to be captured. I’m always surprised by forgotten vocabulary suddenly returning. Doing crossword puzzles churn the words in my sea, keeping them near the surface. One scientific study found that doing crosswords could delay the onset of memory loss by 2.54 years. Other studies show elderly minds can retain elasticity and even grow new brain cells and connections, although those studies focus on aerobic activity, and not games.

Then there is the issue of speed. I feel my mind goes slower than other minds. My wife Susan and my friend Linda can do the mini-puzzles 2-5 times faster than I can. That might explain why I’ve never liked games. It makes me wonder if people who think faster are attracted to games. When I first started doing the NYT’s mini-puzzles they took me 5-12 minutes to complete. I now do the easy ones in 2-4 minutes. Susan and Linda often finish in 1-2 minutes, with occasional times below a minute. I think Susan’s best is 43 seconds.

I’m wondering if I think slower than other people. My wife used to get very impatient with me, finishing my sentences before I could. I complained and she’s been more patient. Which is nice of her, but I can tell I’m slowing her down. Maybe that’s why I like writing better than talking. I can say what I want at my own chosen speed.

Anyway, the point of this story is to express my thanks for crossword puzzles. Hope I didn’t take too long in doing it.

JWH

Spotify vs. Amazon Music

by James Wallace Harris, Sunday, February 12, 2017

I love music. I love technology. And I love music technology.

Decades ago I daydreamed the perfect music delivery technology would be one where I could say out loud the name of the song I wanted to hear and it would instantly play. I even pictured myself taking walks with a cloud of music following me like the dirt cloud following Pigpen, the Peanuts character. The iPhone and ear buds almost creates such magic. Now that I have an Amazon Echo, I feel like a Jetson when I declare to the air I want to hear a song and Alexa plays it. However, I’ve since revised my dream music delivery system. I no longer can remember all my favorite songs or their titles, so the “open sesame” bit isn’t as fantastic as I once imagined. Now I dream about having instant access to all music using a savvy streaming music database that knows everything about the history of music.

I’ve subscribed to many subscription music services over the years, starting with Rhapsody. I’ve hopped from one to the next trying to find the perfect blend of technology, user interface, and music catalog. Spotify is my current favorite. It has 98% of the music I want. It’s very close to a perfect streaming music service. However, in recent months it crashes on my Roku 3, my primary device for listening to music through big speakers. Before Spotify I used Rdio and loved it. But then I tried Spotify on the Roku and it’s user interface blew away Rdio’s. Plus, Spotify would play songs nearly instantaneously, which wasn’t true of Rdio. So I switched. I’ve been mostly content with Spotify, until it started loading slower on the Roku, even freezing up quite often. Spotify is still instant on my computer, tablet and phone, so I assume the problem is with the Roku.

I love my Roku 3, and thought maybe buying the latest Roku model could fix this problem. But what if it didn’t? Since I’m an Amazon Prime customer, I thought of giving the Fire TV a try. But spending $89 to fix the problem via hardware might not be the only solution. I wondered if subscribing to Amazon Music would allow me to keep my Roku 3. So I signed up.

In every way I prefer Spotify except one – but that one feature might make me switch. However, Amazon’s user interface is so clunky that I don’t know if I can. Oh, that one feature? Well it’s going to be hard to explain if you don’t use streaming music. But I will try.

Streaming music services have vast catalogs of music – not everything ever recorded, but it almost feels that way. Once you start using streaming music it’s just too inconvenient playing LPs, CDs or MP3s. They’ve become a damn bother. I stopped listening to The Beatles for years even though I bought their remastered CDs. I was just too lazy to play them. Spotify is that convenient. (The Beatles are now on Spotify.) But every once in a while I really want to hear songs not on Spotify. I have to get out my CDs or play the MP3 from my Amazon cloud player. Not a lot of work, but not my idea of my perfect music system.

For background listening I use playlists, especially one playlist, the “Top 1000” list I’m building. I HATE that I own songs I can’t put on Spotify playlists. Well, that’s the great feature of Amazon. It allows Amazon Music subscribers to play songs from their personal cloud collection. I have 1700 ripped CDs, and some LPs converted to MP3 on my Amazon cloud storage. Making playlists using songs from both pools of music is a snap.

Once in a very blue moon - Nanci GriffithThis means I can create playlists that contain 100% of the songs I want to hear. 98% from streaming and 2% from my personal collection. Now, that’s an over-the-top feature! Maybe it’s a time to switch feature. Of course I’ll have to recreate my Spotify playlists on Amazon. That’s will take some work. Mainly because looking up songs on Amazon Music isn’t as quick and easy as Spotify. Not that Amazon doesn’t have some nifty UI tricks that Spotify doesn’t, but Spotify is what I know, and it’s much more refined.

I could switch to Amazon Music with the hopes that Amazon will perfect its user interface over time. I’ve written a number of essays begging music services for features I want. Being able to upload my music was the major wish. There are many features I want that could get me to switch services again, though. The next biggest feature I want, is for streaming music to incorporate more song/album metadata information. That way I could search for “Jazz albums of the 1950s” or play songs that came out in July, 1965. I want streaming music to have the kind of information that record collectors use. There’s no reason why streaming music couldn’t catalog every album/single ever recorded. But that’s for the far future, maybe 2019 or 2021. Here’s some of the sites I use for music information:

GypsyThere are many different companies offering streaming music. Competition isn’t about price, since $9.99/month is standard, so user features will be everything. For years I’ve been jumping from service to service looking for my music streaming utopia. But as I build longer playlists switching services is getting harder. I thought I was committed to Spotify, but Amazon’s feature of mixing their collection with mine is tempting. However, if a streaming service offered the data services from the above sites, it would make me want to switch again.

To be honest, since streaming music is about convenience, Spotify is more convenient than Amazon Music right now, so I’m sticking with Spotify. What I might use is Amazon Music’s $3.99 a month subscription for Echo owners, and create playlists for Alexa to play me when I want to hear missing music from my collection. However, if Amazon improves their software I would switch. If you’re an Amazon Prime user and are a casual music listener, it’s $7.99 Unlimited plan might be the best deal.

Another feature that would be handy, is a universal file standard for playlists, so we could easily import and export them.

Update: I’ve since discovered that the Amazon Music app on the Roku does not play or show music from Amazon Music – just my music in the cloud. I hope they fix this. I can play music from the blended libraries on my iPhone and send it to my receiver via AirPlay, and that works much better than the Roku App.

[By the way, the album covers I’ve added here are albums not available on streaming.]

JWH

Running Away to Mars

by James Wallace Harris, Wednesday, February 8, 2017

While reading The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr, a handbook for processing memories, it triggered several vivid revelations about my childhood. Especially the time when I ran away to Mars in 1963. That flashback revealed why I first dropped science fiction. I wanted an antidepressant. Science fiction has proven quite effective at masking reality, because I can’t even remember being depressed. How PKDickian!

Two Mars

A lifetime of contemplating the future has been an excellent mantra for ignoring the present. I am rather disappointed that running away never got me anywhere. I’ve been to Mars many times, but never to the one that exists in reality.

Today I’m plotting my own alternate history timeline. What if I had not run away to Mars back in 1963 and stayed on Earth instead? Wow, that’s more mind-twisting than The Man in the High Castle.

Maybe it wasn’t the Mary Karr book that jarred these insights. Could it have been the election? Have we all run away to imagined worlds? Reality seems so deserted these days.

JWH

5 Goals vs. 25 Goals

by James Wallace Harris, Monday, February 6, 2017

Grit-by-Angela-DuckworthI’m reading a wonderfully inspiring book, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth. Duckworth won a MacArthur “genius” grant, pursued several interesting careers, and is currently a teacher focused on helping students find their true passions, showing how grit will get them what they want. The book was often praised in 2016 book reviews, getting on several best-of-year lists, and was featured on PBS’s NOVA program “School of the Future” (also at YouTube). Grit is Duckworth’s first book, and continues to blaze the trail set by other books I’ve admired on the same topic: The Outliers, Talent is Overrated, The Talent Code. They all preach effort counts more than natural abilities. Duckworth observes people who apply themselves persistently getting ahead, a quality we know as grit. Since I’ve never been a particularly gritty person, I love reading this book.

Duckworth profiles many successful people, and I was particularly taken by a story she heard about Warren Buffett, the billionaire investor. Buffett’s advice was to write down 25 career goals. Then do some soul searching and select the five that matter the most. Finally, look at the leftover twenty, and accept they must be ignored at all costs. This bit of ambition triage is a common advice among productivity gurus. It’s old wisdom about focusing. However, I was intrigued by applying this advice to my general goals. Could I boil them down to just 5?

We all want too much, own too much, do too much, befriend too many people, consume too much. It’s much easier to narrow our desires down to a manageable number. But is 5 the right number? If we list everything we want out of life, it will tally more than 25. Now Buffett was specifically referring to career goals, but I want to use his advice for general ambitions. To apply his wisdom holistically.

Rationalizing Buffet’s Advice – Approach #1

I’m also going to do a bit of cheating. I could say my goal is to finish reading Grit. That’s something I can accomplish. But is it what Buffett meant? He meant something bigger. I could say I want to read 52 books a year and I want to get good at math. That would be two goals. Is it cheating to say I have a goal of being well educated and combine my reading and math goals into it? Reducing two to one?

Let’s say we have sixteen hours a day to divvy up between our goals. That’s a little more than three hours for each if we have five goals. But if you have to work, that has to count as one of the goals, and it takes up over half of the day, leaving little for the other four.

Now that I’m retired, I won’t have to waste one of my goals on working. Because of aging, my biggest goal is health. Staying healthy means I can pursue my other goals. Should it count it as a goal? Shouldn’t it just be part of living? I say yes it does count as a goal, because pursuing my health is hard. I show the most grit in life when it comes to staying healthy. I have to, because it’s so easy to careen into unhealthiness.

If I listed every last thing I want to do each day, it would run more than 25 items. But, if I list goals by their intent, I can get them down to 5 items:

  1. Constantly work at improving my health
  2. Constantly work at improving my writing
  3. Constantly work at improving my relationships
  4. Constantly work at learning more about reality 
  5. Constantly work at making the world a better place

Notice that all my goals will never be accomplished? And to be honest, I do very little towards number five. And because I’m getting older, and my mental and physical abilities are in decline, means my ability to work harder is declining. All my goals are losing battles. I can’t stop and cross off any as finished.

Below are many goal categories that could cover countless specific goals, but in general, they are goals that do have finishes. For example owning a new car or learning statistics with R.

  1. Possessions
  2. Careers
  3. Pleasures
  4. Hobbies
  5. Entertainments
  6. Skills
  7. Games
  8. Accomplishments

Improving my health does require many sub-goals like eating better, exercise, taking medicine, going to the doctor, learning to cook healthy meals, shopping for natural foods, etc. I no longer eat for pleasure, entertainment or even socializing. If I was a gourmet, I’d have to list it as one of my main goals. If I loved cooking or growing food, they would have to be a separate goal too. If I loved playing golf or cross-country biking, I couldn’t count them under health as exercise, I’d have to count them as sports goals. If I pursued both passionately, they would count as two.

I don’t know if this is cheating on Buffet’s advice or not. I think of a goal as a specific quest, but all the things I’ve defined as goals can’t be finished. Buffet might have been thinking of something that could be accomplished, and scratched off a list – like making a million dollars. My goals are states of being I constantly strive to attain and never abandon.

With all my present goals I could show more grit. I would be much healthier if I could lose weight, and that would take some severe persistence I haven’t shown in a long time.

My shifting away from specific goals is due to aging. Take for example games. I’ve never really cared much for winning games, and generally when I played them it was to be social. When video games first appeared in arcades I felt challenged to get high scores, but tired of that after turning over Space Invaders. Now I play games like crosswords to improve my memory and focus. Pleasures like eating, drinking, drugs, travel, are becoming pointless because my body can’t handle them. My plant based diet isn’t miserable, but it’s certainly not something I desire. Eating for fun only hurts now. My only indulgence is dark chocolate covered almonds. It meets the requirement of the diet – barely, and I enjoy them, but it’s hardly a goal of eating gourmet food.

My main goal after health is writing. I could call that goal seeking identity. We all need a goal that defines us, where we find a sense of identity by pursuing. I think of myself as a blogger. When I worked, I thought of myself as a programmer. I can say that blogging also applies to my goal of health. Regular writing exercises my brain. Writing also gives me to look forward to and to get up and do each day.

I put friendships and socializing as my third goal, even though being social is also part of staying healthy. I’m mostly a hermit, but I do feel a certain need to socialize. At one time I would have put movies and television as two of my major goals because I loved them so much, and spent so much time with them, but I use both now as methods of socializing. I’m slowly fading away from enjoying fiction as a solitary pursuit.

Number four is about education. My reading is veering towards learning, and not pleasure. Nonfiction might be my new entertainment. Learning has become my new fun, maybe even my escapism. And in this crazy world of Donald Trump, learning to tell shit from Shinola is more vital than ever.

My last goal, and one I spend almost zero time on, is helping the world. I suppose if I wrote something useful, that could count, but if I’m totally honest, writing is for me. I work a recycling, conserving energy, consuming less. I try to be ethical in my behavior. I donate a little money here and there. At minimum I try to do no harm and maintain a small footprint on the environment. I’m 99% selfish though, and I think most of us are. I think all the problems in the world are due to selfishness. We all should give more time to altruism. I admire people who spend a great deal of their time being selfless. This is where I show the least grit.

Following Buffet’s Advice Without Rationalization – Approach #2

  1. Get a book of nonfiction published
  2. Get a novel published
  3. Get an essay published in a print magazine
  4. Get a short story published in a print magazine
  5. Learn to draw simple scenes of nature
  6. Learn to program digital music
  7. Digitize all my photographs and store them in three cloud locations
  8. Relearn math through calculus, linear algebra and statistics
  9. Write a blog about the best albums that came each year since the invention of the LP
  10. Become a really good minimalist
  11. Live in New York City for a year
  12. Build a parallel processing super-computer out of Raspberry Pi modules
  13. Write a program to produce meta-lists from multiple lists
  14. Sell the house and get a perfect apartment in a high-rise in a 55+ community
  15. Learn to travel cross country and not be afraid to travel alone
  16. Create a blog post that outlines the history of impressionistic art
  17. Learn to grow plants indoors for healthy air, herbs and maybe fruits and veggies
  18. Write an essay about the best jazz albums of the 1950s
  19. Learn Python and get into machine learning and text processing
  20. Learn R and statistics
  21. Decorate the house so it reflects my personality
  22. Move to a city where I can live without a car
  23. Build a robot that does something interesting
  24. Move to a foreign city for a year – London, Paris or Tokyo
  25. Take up bird watching

These are 25 things that popped into my head that I want to do. I could list a lot more. If I opened my folders of unfinished essays, novels and nonfiction books, I’d have hundreds of items to add to the list. What Buffett really meant was to pick 5, and to stop thinking about all the rest. What Duckworth’s book is all about is finding the few goals that align with our passions and persist at working towards those goals hour after hour until they are finished.

What I need to do is figure out which kind of goal oriented person I want to be. My first approach works well with my retired lifestyle, and my actual personality. The second approach is about succeeding at specific accomplishments. I’ve never been that kind of person, probably because of a lack of grit. But I’ve always wanted to be.

When I woke up I had the single goal of writing “7 Generations of Science Fiction.” I thought the many ways I could write it before I got up. I still plan to write that essay, but for some reason this essay grabbed me in the shower and wouldn’t let go. Every morning I get up and something grabs my attention, and it becomes my goal of the day.

Ultimately, it comes down to one goal, the one you work on.

JWH

7 Scary Traits of Climate Change Deniers

by James Wallace Harris, Monday, January 30, 2017

We’ve been hearing about climate change for decades. We’re bombarded with scary documentaries, long range forecasts, books, essays, news reports, science fiction on what global warming will do to Earth.

What I find even scarier are the psychological traits of climate change deniers.

climate-change-NASA

The power of denial might be eviler than actual climate change. Those traits reveal the limitation of the human mind. Our species, even with the best brains on the planet, might not be smart enough to save ourselves from self-destruction. Here are some psychological traits that could be more dangerous than increase CO2.

Egotism

Climate change deniers reveal their massive egos by their righteousness. The world has spent trillions of dollars on supercomputers, satellites, monitoring stations, laboratories while hiring vast armies of scientists with Ph.D.s to use that equipment.  97% of scientists analyzing the results show climate change is real. As long as we have a significant percentage of human population thinking they are smarter than all the scientists, computers, and science, we’re in big trouble.

Anti-Science

Science is our only tool for consistently understanding reality. Science is based the statistical consensus of evidence. Its methodology is designed to be immune to nationality, race, ethnicity, gender, class, sexual orientation, religion, philosophy or other biases. To reject science is to reject any hope of objectively understanding reality. People who trust science by flying on an airplane or having brain surgery but deny other scientific results indicate that humans might not be rational enough to survive as a species.

Greed

Greed is the main reason people believe they’re right and climate scientists are wrong. Solving climate change requires global cooperation, powerful governments, and taxes, three concepts hated by fundamental conservatives because it undermines their essential gospel of no taxes. In other words, they’d rather get rich than save the world.

Rationalization

The percentage of people who can brainwash themselves into denying climate change is terrifying. Their egos can embrace poorly educated talk show hosts over legions of highly trained scientists reveals a limited grasp of reality. Part of this comes from our ability to believe. The same trait allows humans to accept Jesus and positively know they’ve gained immortality. We can rationalize anything, and that’s dangerous.

Religion

Religion isn’t inherently anti-science. In fact, some churches are embracing global warming as a moral issue. However, hatred of science is a trait of many religious believers. They see science in opposition to religion, and since climate change is on the side of science, they have to choose the other side. To them, the choice is everlasting life and science.

Anti-Fate

Many people deny climate change because they hate fate. Climate change feels too much like fate, even though it isn’t. We can avoid global warming if we choose. Ironically, by denying a possible future they are creating it. They feel climate change represents an inevitable future, and they reject that.

Anti-Responsibility

Another trait of deniers is they deny responsibility to their descendants even when they’re family oriented. Instead of wanting to protect future generations, they shove their heads into the sand. They are denying an obligation to their children, grandchildren, and future generations. Climate change deniers deny the sins of the fathers.

JWH