Greetings!

And welcome to the website of Jimmy Chattin, senior software engineer, science fiction writer, orator, and just about a little of everything else.

Interested in a C# programmer who’s worked for the likes of Microsoft and Aristocrat (#1 video slot maker)? Checkout LinkedIn.

Want to read some original stories and fan fiction (for practice, of course!)? Those posts are coming to this website.

Need something written or a voice that’s been described as “butter”? Reach out on the Contact pageย or my podcasts (start with #1).

Old posts can also be found at Make Better Games, where there’s mainly talk about goals and a few games.

Explore. ย Take a look around. ย We’ll talk in a bit.

Pandemic America – Day in the Life

Life in the United States and the world has been shaken by the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus and the ignorant responses to it. Is still being shaken.

Yet change is on the horizon. I’ve received my vaccine, more folks have or are doing the same. Private and social and professional affairs are in the swing of a new paradigm. Soon there will be a new ‘normal’ with the events of 2020 and 2021 quick to fade away.

Let’s save a sense of what things were like during this (hopefully) once-in-a-century event. Here I share with you my schedule, because it is myself, as we’re both creatures of habit and defined by our actions.

Context

Before we dive, here’s an overview of my stances:

    • Upper-middle-class thought worker with decade career.
    • Ahead financially.
    • Familial support system across the country.
    • No role obligations as guardian or otherwise responsible to others.

2020

There is some discrepancy between the years (it was cushy to collect unemployment through the first year of pandemic).

    • 0700 AM – Wake now or earlier, usually with the sunrise despite an eye mask.
    • 0730 AM – Begin the day’s work. Depending on the month, this would be driving, hiking, writing, reading, studying, or designing.
    • 0100 PM – Possibly earlier, I’d either continue the day’s work or get to chores or working out. Chores tended to be a workout anyway, as I was chopping trees, landscaping, and assisting in construction. Got lean-buff with a push-up routine that broached many hundreds of push-ups in an hour!
    • 0330 PM – Lunch! My only meal of the day (more on this in another post). This one spent with the fam.
    • 0430 PM – Playing aย Halo 1:1 game with my dad for three rounds. Some of my most memorable times in 2020 as I was coming to grips with my workaholism and a depression brought on by the constant national news.
    • 0600 PM – Attempt to relax. Journal, respond to social media, etc. Often I’d take again to more work, but I tried to cap it.
    • 0800 PM – Gather up to head to bed by 9 at the latest. Read in bed until kaput.

Weekends and weekdays had no meaningful difference, except mail came some days and Tuesdays had the weekly 0600 AM grocery run to avoid pandemic exposure.

2021

Thus begins: The Day Job. My weekdays:

    • 0600 AM – Wake up, read social media and other channels in bed for about half-an-hour.
    • 0700 AM – Setup for the day. Respond to requests, journal, minor house chores, the works.
    • 0800 AM – Now I’m writing at this time, but for the first half of the year this could be anything ๐Ÿคทโ€โ™‚๏ธ Sometimes I’d start the day-job early because it was easy to give into the workaholism and I failed to give myself direction.
    • 0900 AM – Butt-in-chair for the work-from-home day-job. May also take this time for appointments because workplace culture didn’t need me to be at attention until 10 AM.
    • 0300 PM – Somewhere around here I’m working out, followed by my once-a-day meal. Often I’d be doing the job while eating, but sometimes I allow myself to relax with something simple, like Netflix or YouTube. Back to the job in one-to-two hours.
    • 0600 PM – If not out by 5, I’d be out about now, give-or-take (written on a day I was out at 0645 ๐Ÿ˜‚). Shower if I haven’t yet from my afternoon workout and manage a chore or two.
    • 0700 PM – Aim to relax! I had to schedule leisure in; it got bad. For much of the year I took this time to study code and design patterns.
    • 0900 PM – Bedtime / Writing time. Harder to do the latter when you’re very ready for the former! (Written at 0800 PM on a Thursday ๐Ÿ™ƒ)

My weekends consisted of the same wakeup times, though sometimes I’d read for an hour in bed. Weekends were largely unstructured. Possibly get out to a skate park if there weren’t people around, go hiking up a mountain in fair weather, have a run, do chores, etc. Weekends during the 2021 pandemic remain(ed) fairly unstructured, a happy change from years of work-work-work plan-plan-plan.

To you, reader, I trust this is lighter fare than my recent thoughts.

To my future self, I hope this brings back humble memories. You are likely farther than you were when writing this, but even if not, keep going ๐Ÿ˜‰

Yep. Definitely a chill post. No worries – we’ll be back to more substantial content in a bit! Cheers till then!

Truth: Top 10 Truisms

What is Truth? We might know it by how these top truisms are us and the universe.

1. Simplify

Less is truly more. Should you need more anyway, there is some written on this.

2. Suffering Exists

Exists and is inevitable, a persistent, constant force in the universe. I have taken a deeper dive into the topic.

3. Knowledge Is Terrible

What is known cannot be unknown along with all of its consequences. Care to know more?

4. Be Attractive

Attraction is a basic law of nature where to be attractive is the only thing to be. More material outlining attraction is available.

5. Don’t Settle, Suffice

In short, have higher standards, but keep those standards in line with what’s sufficient.

It is naรฏve to think things cannot be better regardless of situation. To seek to be better is one of the most noble activities to improve yourself and the world. However, an obsession without end will cause more suffering that it corrects.

Wisdom arrives when you know the world and yourself enough to understand what, subjectively, is “enough.”

Achieving this is a numbers game. Be it the theory of Pareto’s Principle, the Optimal Stopping Strategy for professionals and love-seekers, or Statistical Significance, the number of trials to find what’s sufficient correlates with both knowing and achieving that “enough.”

Truth requires continuous action until higher standards are met sufficiently. For you, that means being the harshest critic of your own monstrosity, leaving nothing for anyone else to critique.

6. Competition Is For Chumps

Competition spends immense amounts of energy. The more energy one has unspent for competition, the more likely that competition will be a success. And survivorship is Good!

But a strategy of expending too much energy against others goes by another term: War of Attrition. Attrition warfare can also cascade into a Pyrrhic (a.k.a. not-worth-it) Victory. By its very nature, competition tends towards less-than zero-sum outcomes, all competitors having spent their energies against each other, not their goals.

To come away from a singular competition with less or even no energy takes away that fund available for future competitions over food, space, and mates. Thereby, a competitor may have survived the competition, but their likelihood of surviving thereafter goes down (not Good).

Be it peacocks maintaining elaborate plumage to out-gaudy other mates, male lions killing each other for pride control, or humans laboring and becoming indebted to attain status symbols that are more form-than-function, competition takes a toll.

So what is the alternative? As renown military philosopher Sun Tzu would have it, “the best strategy is the one that delivers victory without fighting.”

In competition, little is gained. Effort is largely wasted and suffering gets accumulated by all parties in true competition (consider the benefits of play, the faux competition).

Energy spent in cooperation or subtle, low-energy, indirect competition (if competition must occur) is much more beneficial; all else is for chumps.

7. Know Better

Despite knowledge being a terrible thing, it is a requirement to know better, especially of oneself. The Good that knowledge can bring far outweighs the harm that may arise.

As put, knowledge is powerful. However, having the wrong knowledge can be worse than having pure ignorance – the road to Hell is paved with good [but ill-informed] intentions.

So figure yourself out, your duties, and the when and where you are. Be more selfish in coming to these terms. Until you have the language and patterns of understanding to ask and enact what’s required, you are no use to anyone except at best as a pawn (others may know how to use you better than you of yourself).

Better knowledge starts with asking better questions:

What does culture demand in status and contribution? How can one survive in the environment?

What do you like? What do you despise? What do you fear? How do you fail yourself and society?

Learn. Study everything. Find that gaps that need filling. Others have suffered in ways aplenty so that you do not have to. Yet some of these lessons are faulty, thus only by sheer numbers of examples can better knowledge be affirmed (like how the community process of Wikipedia allows correct information to form).

Competition is to be avoided because of the energy it spends; the same applies to gaining knowledge. Defer to the expertise and strength of those that have lived and done the things you seek to do – if they have proven Good (i.e. survived and reduced suffering), they are models to follow.

After the questions and the study, you will have the better knowledge needed to not only improve yourself, but better the world.

8. Escalate

More. Up or down depending on the context, always get to better faster.

Escalation of magnitudes is preferred – doubling, halving, or changing ten-fold is the broad stroke required to anchor what’s expected in any exchange. If the strength of X is insufficient to twist open a cap, at least 2X is required on the next attempt.

However, delicacy is sometimes required in a situation – perhaps the vessel to open is brittle or a negotiation comes to a close. In that case, less than a magnitude in change is required, but escalation plays a part here, too: to achieve less than 100% change, use 10% (.1X instead of X).

Yet, it may come to be resented if too much is asked for, or cause disgust to ask for too little. What would be acceptable between those extremes comes from better knowledge and caring for one’s own wellbeing. Trust that another will defend their own self interests as you ought to be an advocate of your own.

Therefore, escalation is a benefit to the universe: It saves time (the expense of energy), it wastes less by finding the sufficient amount to expense (magnitude of energy), and reduces mental suffering from an effort too generous or stingy (buyer’s remorse).

9. You Are Responsible

With existence comes responsibility. All incentives, all motives, all actions, and, ultimately, all outcomes are the responsibility of the perceiver. Whether through the tangible consequence or the mental perception, the individual has stake in anything that goes on.

Respect yourself and take caution. All that you do and perceive is at least a subjective reality. Merely by consciously perceiving the world, you create what’s real. In this way, you are partly-if-not-wholly responsible regardless of context.

So what will you do with that great power?

In existing and therefore creating reality, you have a part to play in the suffering in the world, both for yourself and others. A person cannot abstain from action and expect that abstention to not cause suffering.

The only way to have a say in survival and suffering is to act, which carries its own set of consequences. Despite that, failures in action are overcome faster by further action and personal change of perception. A failure to act passively discovers outcomes that – if the universe has any bias – tend towards entropy, the ultimate failure to survive (not Good!).

(This brings up that action appears to be Good, but that’s a separate discussion.)

Whatever comes, by existing, you are responsible for all action, inaction, and your perception of the outcomes. Only by taking action and curating your perceptions might you also be responsible for any Good.

10. Forgive Yourself

A stark follow-up to the “Responsibility” point above, you must also take responsibility for forgiving yourself.

The journey to be better and do Good is long, difficult, and continuous. People are similar and people fail – you are much more like them than you imagine.

Meanwhile, you have the morals you can afford, so be merciful to yourself when you fail, slip-up, or otherwise dwell on what must be temporary setbacks. Should failure prove to be a habit, be the harshest critic of your own monstrosity and be better immediately in the moment (you may always recess to being lackluster later).

There is the same self-forgiveness universally. No land dwells on the consequences of a volcano or earthquake. Instead, the land bears its scars and continues. Indistinguishable it is for wind and rain and galaxies that crash into each other, each holding no grudge but instead swirling away to continue their atomic existences changed, yet continuous from one form to the next. No mountain crumbles under its own self-doubt or loathing, but continues to push up through the clouds by its volition no matter the wear. As you must too.

That’s the reason you must own care for yourself – no one else will have your drive or context to be up to the task of forgiving your failures, nor ought they if you’ve not done so already. Thus, through forgiveness, resolve some of the greatest sources of suffering for you: your own doubt and guilt and regret. Thereby, to forgive yourself is a Good thing.

These ten truisms appear to be some of the most-true things for not only people, but all life and the universe, too. The sections above do not go into depth of any great description and proof-by-example, yet everywhere I look these things make themselves present.

As a character in a Zelda videogame once put, “it’s dangerous to go alone,” I only want you to take this so you can do Good and that Good may happen to you.

All something to live by. Cheers!

May June Goal Review

I kept some appointments and lost some last chances (not really, but still…).

In non-goal news, I’m exploring what life might be like as a digital nomad right now and through next month. May share with you some stats later! On to the reviews:

May Goal Review

    1. Appointments
      1. Won! As much as a person can win keeping up with their health and social engagements can ๐Ÿ˜… Will aim to not include mundane tasks here in the ol’ goal post in the future.
    2. Last Chances
      1. Failed. Not going to give this to myself in the least. Some “wouldn’t this be cool” things are still on the backburner (looking at you, Jiu Jitsu), while others got delayed (like skydiving) or are MIA. Say it with me: “we’ll be dead soon!” I have to show some eagerness about this ego’s existence!
    3. Half-Hour Happy Habit
      1. Won! This was certainly aided by spending quality time with family over shared passions like games. I also enjoyed time reading and am picking back up some new Netflix series seasons!
    4. 8 AM Half-Hour Writing Habit
      1. Won! I have discovered 8 AM isย good. I sometimes start at 7, losing time until it’s suddenly 8! I tend to write now at night too, like this here line ๐Ÿ˜‰ I’m too afraid I’ll lose this if I don’t include it as a goal next month, so…

June Goal Proposal

    1. Family
      1. Heading out (vaxxed) to see my immediate family (also vaxxed)! Travelling overland, socially distanced, and working out of an Air BnB because why not leverage the benefits of remote thought work? Achievement here is to say “yes” to family gatherings and to party a bit as well as a socially isolated, responsibility-minded small group can ๐Ÿ˜‰
    2. Playtest BITS
      1. Remember BITS? It had some troubles, which made it easy for me to put it down for half a year. Now I have inspiration to fix the problem left in the system. With my daily writing habit, it’s about time I gain the courage to give the system a quality roll.
    3. Write, Record, Publish Voice Reel
      1. I used to do these posts vocally. I had a voice-acting goal a long time ago too. Not a week (OK, 2-3 since I’m hardly out!) goes by where some stranger doesn’t comment on my vocals. And 2021 had something to look forward to with getting my abilities out there. Now is the time to fear less and do more. Where’s it going to go? IDK yet, but I aim to share with you a link to listen to in a month!
    4. 8 AM Half-Hour Writing Habit Again!
      1. So good, I propose it twice ๐Ÿ˜ I’ve written a bunch of blog posts with this and started on BITS again. Here’s to the second time bringing the same charm!

May was kinda lame getting to do what I felt ought to be done, so June aims to make up for the lapse. It’s going to be an aggressive next few weeks, so it’ll be up to me to stim and focus on the things that’ll make the biggest impacts!

Cheers, folks. Go conquer your intentions!

Post Vax Wishlist

After more than a year of global disaster, vaccines are finally being rolled-out en masse! And guess who’s just passed his second-shot two-week waiting period!? ๐Ÿ˜ƒ

I’ve compiled a quick list of the things I look forward to doing (safely) after becoming fully vaccinated and humanity maybe learning something from the wreck that has been the COVID response.

If you’ve plans for reintegrating into society, let me know! Always open to sincere suggestions for an experience ๐Ÿ˜‰

Jiu-Jitsu

Even as I write this, picking up one of the top martial arts may be a temporary thing. Despite it being a favorite of fighters such as former Navy SEAL Jocko Willink , it’s very high impact (duh). Later in 2021 I may be advised against more injury-prone training, so we’ll see if I can make and keep a commitment to get my skills honed ๐Ÿ˜Ž

Firearm Safety

Been ages since I’ve last shot a firearm, even longer since taking firearm safety training. How to properly handle and use weapons is knowledge I encourage anyone to respect – it’s about time I made sure I lived up to my own standards.

Fam

A fully-vaxxed family visit of all members! If a sense of mortality hasn’t struck you during the pandemic, seeing a psychologist is strongly recommended. Having a taste of my own death and the limited time left of others, this is quite an important task.

To make the trip, I’ll have a repeat of the drive in 2020, only without the two week quarantine after! Should be a good time ~

Friends

Like above, make time for some of the most quality individuals I’ve ever had the honor of meeting.

Whether the friends come to me, I to them, or new ones are made on the spot, why not spend more time with the best persons? Cali, Portland, Seattle, Utah, Vancouver, Europe, and elsewhere are on the shortlist ๐Ÿ˜

(Might finally get to use my cancelled Europe airline tickets from May 2020!)

Restaurants

Sometimes, it’s the little things. Sometimes, those little things need to be put away to safeguard the social contract. And sometimes, the return of those little things can be some of the most cherished opportunities.

I won’t take restaurants for granted anytime again soon, making special patronage to some of my favorite places. If locations have closed, I can finally visit those ‘someday’ eateries to make new favorites!

Celebrations

Dancing! Pool parties! Festivals! Concerts! Competitions! So many things that, once denied, are sorely missed.

Where will I go dancing? Who’s hosting the parties? When are the festivals and concerts? How will I find competitions?

I don’t know how I will celebrate after getting vaccinated and the herd-immunity threshold is hit, but dang it – I won’t be saying “no” to a good time ๐Ÿ”ฅ

Just a few things to aim for, a bit of hedonism when austerity was the rule of the year. Whether or not they make it onto goal lists is another story, but that’s for another month.

Stay safe, y’all! We’re almost there! Get your shots ๐Ÿ’‰ See you out-n-about in the world sometime soon! Cheers.

Truth: Attractiveness

Be attractive.

Truth itself is an enigma. Truth might be known through its many faces, though not all faces are equal in their value to Truth. But attractiveness? Attractiveness seems to be side-by-side with what Truth is.

Whether as a material law (magnetic/electric/gravitational), physical trait (symmetry/garb/health-signaling/etc.), or mental characteristic (charisma/stability/respect/etc.), being attractive secures the resources of survival. Attractiveness is an objective and severe determiner of the consequences a thing receives in its lifetime.

The benefits are plenty: Ability to convince a person to do another’s work; Gather mates for raising offspring or protection; Decrease the likelihood to be neglected or killed (a reason baby animals are “cute”); et al.

Being attractive gives the edge to survival – as has been proposed by others, that which is Good is that which survives.

This principle extends beyond biological evolution too. Non-organic nature seeks to persist in its states forever and ever, from thermodynamics to motion. What persists the longest are those things with strong bonds and mass; i.e., matter in the universe that is “attractive” survives.

Planets – the tiniest fraction of the mass of the stars they orbit – only exist that way if not subsumed as moons of even larger planets. Suns live only so long as there’s fuel to burn, the more fuel, the longer life a star has. Galaxies outmatch any planet or star for lifetime, attracting billions of stars, yet they cease to exist as a whole after cataclysmic interactions with something of approximately equal attractive potential (i.e. other galaxies).

Therefore, being attractive is a necessity of the universe, as plasma, rock, or mammal. Further, there are tiers of attractiveness, differentials of both magnitude of attractiveness and type.

Just discussed has been material attractiveness of the gravitational type, with examples of planets being in their own tier, suns another, and galaxies encompassing them all. The same applies to biological life.

An attractive baby is not the same type of attractiveness as that of a sexually attractive mate (ruin to any that foul-up this distinction). Two babies also cannot be deemed to be equally attractive (e.g. as soon as a child receives more ‘resource’ than another, that first child is by definition more attractive), a concept that also applies to shallow comparisons between two job candidates.

Anything that confuses the type or magnitude of attractiveness does not survive. Planets burn away in stars, social aberrant behavior is mocked and condemned, inconvenient (i.e. unattractive) infants killed once upon a time today. Diverging from attractiveness is punished, thereby adding to the net suffering in existence.

If doing what is unattractive generates suffering and ends its existence faster, the contrast that does not create suffering and survives must be called Good. Being attractive is Good.

Bringing it back, attractiveness reinforces itself as being adjacent to Truth: Attractiveness is a universal quality across matter and time, nature tends toward attractiveness, and the pursuit and state of attractiveness reduces suffering.

How to Be Attractive

First, there is great advantage for a person to be born attractive. Natural symmetry, familiarity, secondary sex characteristics, easy display of health through skin, nails, hair, and teeth, and other traits greatly increase the survivability of both the individual and their genes.

When in Rome, do as the Romans do.

Saint Ambrose

Regardless of birth, fit into physical and social environments. Being ‘average’ and ‘consistent’ for the surrounding context breeds familiarity which is attractive, as well as showing a healthy response to the external stimuli of a particular niche. Further, fitting in with others feeds into social affirmation, an attractive trait that signals others to act on and for one’s behalf.

Success in handling changes and challenges in the social intangibles and the physical resources for survival indicate two attractive qualities: Health in the now, and advantaged genes for later reproduction. Such accomplishment is part of seeming confident. Confidence itself is a sign of health, its natural assertiveness gaining resources for survival and protecting those resources.

There are other ways to express attractiveness; these assets are many and varied. Listening to the opinions of others and one’s self will determine what works best!

Attractiveness Elsewhere

Abraham Lincoln – “I have no other [ambition] so great as that of being truly esteemed of my fellow men, by rendering myself worthy of their esteem.”

Sun Tzu – Appear as is best for your intentions with others. (Fake it to make it.)

Beauty – Attractive things exist so long as not too much is known about them at the time. (See: Knowledge is terrible.)

First Impressions – “If their initial impressions of the candidates are positive, employers show a higher tendency to ‘sell’ the job by providing information to the candidates about the job rather than gathering information from them.”

Live an attractive life as best you can. Cheers.

Truth: Suffering

Suffering is inevitable.

Truth can be debated endlessly. Look no further than the blind men and the elephant. Simply put, a singular Truth cannot be known ๐Ÿคทโ€โ™‚๏ธ

What can be understood are the collection of truisms close to Truth. Things that are agnostic to time, space, culture, and context are more true than dichotomies or idioms. Something that, once known, is of terrible power for its ability to inflict or relieve suffering in one and another. Yet, not knowing can lead to a suffering through ignorance!

So what is truthful?

All life seems to agree on this: Suffering is the only guaranteed experience.

Before you go, hear me out. Suffering is a cornerstone of existence if not the foundation of what it means to be alive.

It all starts at where all things do: at the beginning. First there is the suffering caused to mothers during pregnancy and labor. Second, babes wail at the shockingly cold, shockingly bright loss of everything they have ever known. Communities then suffer the child’s cries and inadequacies while their parents sweat and toil to keep the new human alive – and often that is beyond their abilities!

The baby born, that child will become self conscious. With that knowledge, the young person begins to doubt their own value. Their body morphs through puberty in unknowable, painful ways. Their minds become aware of themselves and other people, namely the failures of themselves and their society. A child is considered ‘mature’ when they lose the shield that was naivetรฉ. In a complete upending of the child’s reality, they come to understand they are betrayed by family, friends, society, and their own body.

That babe-turned-adult suffers once again as the incessant march of time grinds down thought and bones alike. If not outright crippled in mind and body, the ‘edge’ of peak performance experienced in late adolescence is dulled. A second revelation comes where the elder recognizes how much of their short life has been spent with little return. Existential nihilism or a living lie of denial sets in, killing the elder long before they are dead and buried. This is the elder’s only inheritance left to their next of kin, who in turn do not understand the trauma they’ve received. Thus the cycle of suffering, from birth to death, continues on into the next generation.

Matter – atoms and the like – too suffers in its creation, as understood through an empathetic anthropomorphism. All particles exploded into an inferno during the universe’s birth. All suns only formed after eons of atoms floating alone before being crushed and incinerated under their own weight. The universe itself may be convulsing in a cyclic version of Western Hell and has so done since the beginning of time.

Suffering is inherent in creation. Yet does it last?

Absolutely.

We see in the life of a person or a galaxy, suffering is the ever-constant companion throughout a singular existence. From start to finish, suffering is present and repeats its pattern infinitely.

Suffering persists. But what of the Good?

While there are absolutely may be moments of pleasure in one’s life, no two persons can agree on the specifics of such pleasures, or if the pleasure itself is a Good thing! (What is Good has been mentioned before, but a further exploration is later in this post.)

What used to be the common ground of Good was religion. But which religion? Which denomination of that religion? Can a history of stoning neighbors, burning knowledge, and the excruciation of the masses, justified in the many names of God, be considered Good? (Rhetorical questions all.)

When consuming certain mushrooms across the world, shamans and laypersons alike gain the satisfaction of meeting their own God without the need of religion. Perhaps this is a contributor as to why claims to be religious are becoming a minority. Regardless, religion seems to be unable to define a Good in the universe.

Hedonism gives many moments of pleasure. Eating, drinking, sex, and drugs all stimulate dopamine and other feel-good chemicals, these chemicals the only objective cause of pleasure in a person’s body. If pure pleasure is what Good is, the only Good activity in life is the pursuit of opiates until death arrives, the dead no longer suffering.

Sensual pleasure works as well as it does because of the erasure of self it causes. There is no person, there is only bliss. Should a person retain any amount of self-conscious ego, this pleasure is often found to be meaningless. (Not to mention that the individual hardly survives for long, which is not Good.)

The idea of ‘the nation‘ aims to give meaning with shared common purpose, that which the nation claims to be Good. Further, nations promise to carry the ideas and works and wishes of the citizen into the future, a survival-by-proxy. So which nation is Good? When? For whom? What consistently has been considered Good? Perhaps during the disenfranchisement of its women? The crucifixion of its minorities? The genocide of its enemies? The enslavement of the destitute?

The nation has many ideas of what Good is. No idea remains consistent, thereby a changing definition of what is Good. In the book The Rape of Nanking, it is come to be understood that nations will justify its actions without remorse, even glee, passing this ‘goodness’ into its citizens and collective actions. It is clear ‘the nation,’ despite giving meaning and surviving, cannot be Good.

If you want a vision of the future, Winston, imagine a boot stamping on a human face forever.

George Orwell, 1984

In these ways, the Good is entirely subjective. What is Good for one cannot be guaranteed for another. The Confucian Golden Rule of “do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself” usurps its Western opposite of “do unto others what you would have them do to you.”

But Good may yet have something true about it. If suffering is the omnipresent woe, minimizing suffering may be a common agreed-upon Good. But remember that many things done with ‘Good’ intention (Western Golden Rule) cause suffering. Therefore, Goodness with the intent to reduce suffering seemingly is to act less on perceived suffering (the context others appear to be in) and more on actual suffering (the context a person finds themselves in, the only guarantee suffering is indeed occurring).

As Goodness with the minimal definition is an eternal endeavor since suffering persists, Good would need to accommodate failure and continue (i.e. survive). That still does not negate this narrow definition of Good as being subjective, only one in a crowd of other definitions that claim to be correct.

Simply put, a definition of Good may be “reduce net suffering to survive and survive to reduce net suffering.” This does not violate the subjectivity of Good, merely prescribes what the abstract concept is.

Good is subjective. So what is objective?

If any claim to objectivity is made, it seems to be made of suffering and surviving. A person cannot do a guaranteed Good. By the act of existing only, a person can participate in suffering.

You and I will experience suffering, will cause it. Much of it will happen and we wonโ€™t be aware of it. In our darkest times, we will seek it out.

Therein lies an objective truth: Suffering is inevitable. With that knowledge, preparing to suffer can be committed to and actions readied to reduce it. How suffering is perceived is variable, but thoughts about suffering tend to trend in two ways: Those that have the means to hypothetically bear great suffering are better; those that endure actual suffering not of their choosing are considered lesser.

Whether suffering is accepted or railed against, if a person finds that they are suffering, it may be a comfort to know suffering is natural and it too can pass. How to address suffering is another topic entirely, an important one to have when suffering is known to exist, persist, and permeate throughout the universe.

In these ways suffering conforms to a universal truth, a first-tier fact that better reveals Truth and hones other truths in their meaning and purpose.

Of pain you could wish only one thing: that it should stop. Nothing in the world was so bad as physical pain. In the face of pain there are no heroes.

George Orwell, 1984

Something I’ve pondered on and worth continuing to ponder. Cheers.

April May Goal Review

It’s already May!?

April has been a doozy – certain finance projects have kicked off (lacking from last month’s proposal) and certain personal affairs have required my strictest attention. Needless to say, my time has been ravished.

The damages:

April Goal Review

    1. Summer Plans
      1. Won! I am now set for certain housing needs while on long trips. Meeting individuals and couples who will also be vaccinated are set. And in the face of new information, I’ll be “on my toes” for
    2. Ditch Property
      1. Failed. I donated loads of clothes and dishes and such, but really dropped the ball in pushing the commercial aspect of property dispersal. Hate to say it: I suck at spontaneous entrepreneurship ๐Ÿ’€
    3. 1 Hour Writing Habit
      1. Failed. Over 60% of this target was hit, but that’s still a lot of failure, so I did not remain consistent like I’d hoped. Wrote a lot of blogs at least, this included ๐Ÿ™ƒ
    4. 1 Hour Chill-out Habit
      1. Won! Playing games and watching shows – I found that this is a highly useful scheduling item. A ‘chill’ hour (which at times seemed a tad long) gives me something to look forward to at the end of the day, resetting me for writing! Will include ‘chill hour’ into the future ๐ŸŽฎ

May Goal Proposal

    1. Appointments
      1. There are dates to make and keep, both personal and social. I’ll be hanging out in temporary housing before my summer drive so I can celebrate the birthday of a very good friend. In addition, there’s some health stuff to knock off the TO-DO list, especially in time for me running around in the summer sun ~
    2. Last Chances
      1. OK, time to be vague: There are certain things that I very likely won’t be able to do later this year or, heck, for the rest of my life. This goal is to leave open to myself time for those experiences. (Don’t worry, I’m cool – just a new paradigm to look forward to.)
    3. Half-Hour Happy Habit
      1. Coming off of the “Hour Chill-out Habit” from April, I’ll force myself to spend at least half-an-hour a day doing games, shows, walks, and reading for nothing but the sake of the activity. I needed little prompt most times during April, but sometimes had to yell at myself to “play the dang game” ๐Ÿ˜…
    4. 8 AM Half-Hour Writing Habit
      1. Trying again, round two. Maybe if I can specify a time to start the habit, it’ll blossom into better consistency. I’ll be forced to keep the rest of my later afternoon and early evening on schedule. Small steps! (Hoping for big gains!)

The best news is that by the time you read this, I’ll have received shot #2!

Come mid-May, I’ll be fully vaccinated, having played my part since March 2020 and will continue until the United States has gotten something of an act together.

When are you getting your vax? What are your plans for rejoining society at large? Have a special place for your favorite mask?? Do tell! Hope to see you outside in a few more weeks ๐Ÿ˜ Cheers!

Truth: Knowledge

Knowledge is a terrible thing.

Truth is something we cannot know. However, Truth is a legion of many faces, each aspect of Truth being a testament to the universe. Through these aspects Truth may be known. Yet, the knowledge itself is a terrible thing.

Terrible, really?

Quite so. Once something is known, it cannot be unknown. The knowledge itself gains a consciousness in its perception. The knower gives the information their own life by spending time and calories thinking on the knowledge.

A terrible part of knowledge is when it allows the knower to become self-conscious. A belief held in ignorance contradictory to newfound information provides a stark contrast to what may have been a life in the ‘wrong’ or ‘false.’ Not many are ready to recognize their failings in this way, that their reality was a lie up to the knowledge gain. Thereby it is born a perfect situation to allow a knowledgeable person to suffer not only the pain of finding in themselves a false-self, but doubly the suffering of perpetuating the now insincere lie of their false belief.

But to live in the dark? To forego the possible suffering of exploring the unknown? Enjoying the bliss of ignorance makes sense if the benefit of knowledge could not outweigh its horrors.

Common nay-sayers to the progress of knowledge cite many of the troublesome topics of modern times:

Gunpowder, biological weapons, social stigmas, dogma, racism, factory farming, sweat shops, nuclear arms, weaponized pathogens, fuel waste, more addictive substances, inhumane architecture, spam email.

Yet, humans continue to push the boundaries of knowledge, to explore, to discover. Ill-content with the state of things, people have gained knowledge of, well, everything a mind can perceive and more.

Language, sparking fire, paper, printing, the raising of crops and livestock, penicillin, engines, mathematics, rocketry, clothing, environment control, the internet, vaccines, subatomic physics.

All-in-all, knowledge has proven terrible in its power for the Good reduction of suffering, and the contrary application of incredible suffering for meager gain. “Terribleness” cannot be said to be in-and-of itself a ‘bad’ thing. By any objective measure – poverty, life expectancy, opportunity, access to resource – knowledge has on the balance been a Good thing, making now the best time to be alive ever.

If the concept of knowledge were visual, knowing would be feeling around into the darkness of the world’s unknown. Some finds would be sweet and soft, treasures to make the journey worth the while; others sharp and deadly, tragedies there in the dark. Sometimes a truly terrible tool is found, a thing with the capacity for great reductions and increases in suffering, depending on its use.

Taking the ‘darkness’ example further, sharing knowledge might be visualized as a light cast on a place – a piece of knowledge. However, that light comes from one direction – the sharer of the knowledge. What may appear true and whole on one side may seem completely false on the other – a shadow cast. Therefore, partial light may play tricks and deceive for a time. Until further insights and investigations cast more light on the subject, knowledge and its sharing suffers from the parable of The Blind Men and the Elephant.

Light too, when shown to unprepared eyes, can be blinding. In this way, the illumination and knowledge can send a person reeling from the moment’s bright suffering.

So the distribution of knowledge may cause suffering, at least for a time. To pursue knowledge is one choice; to reveal information is another. Sometimes it’s best to not reveal true knowledge, as in the case of white lies, especially to the unexpecting. Sometimes knowledge will be shared with the express intent to cause suffering, e.g. black truths.

A truth that’s told with bad intent
Beats all the lies you can invent.

William Blake

Therein lies the terrible essence of knowledge. It gives and takes suffering from the world when gained by a person.

This has always been the case. Two-and-a-half millennia ago in East Asia, renown warrior-philosopher Sun Tzu based much of his The Art of War on knowing and keeping others from knowing. Niccolo Machiavelli wrote a half-millennia ago in the heart of Europe that success in life lay in knowing what to do with the power one had. Shortly after, Sir Francis Bacon put it bluntly: “knowledge itself is power.” Or as Susan Orlean puts it for today, “Knowledge is a beautiful thing, but there are a few things I wish I didn’t know.”

So pay respect to knowledge and its lack alike. Context plays a part in guessing whether knowledge gives or takes suffering away, but across time and culture, this remains true: Knowledge is a terrible tool to have and to wield.

What lights do you live your life by?

Cheers.

Truth: Simplify

Simplify.

Truth is an enigma, but there are scatterings of Truth in universal truisms. These truisms are plentiful, none are equal. The further from Truth they go, the more truisms there are, but the less true they are in turn. There, they become a ‘noise’ while fewer and truer the truths become. In that way, the closer to Truth one goes, the simpler the space is as are the truisms found.

Truth tends towards simplicity.

A diamond cannot be uncovered while there’s rough. Gold cannot be picked unless the silt is panned out. Grain does not grow if choked by weeds. A body cannot breath if drowned. About seven things is what a human mind can hold. About 150 persons is what a single individual can keep track of.

To simplify is a cornerstone of existence. We see this exampled in everything from the composition of cellular life to the decomposing of atoms into baser parts to the simplicity of the equations that describe the fundaments of reality.

It is a challenge to think of what, when added, makes things simpler. The act of taking away brings things into focus. Take myself:

I trimmed my professional "expertise" from game design, production, illustration, programming, and mathematics into tools engineering, serving me with above-par pay and sharp skills.
From aiming to please any-and-everyone, relationships of all sorts have become straightforward - my experience knows "why what works with who," making any decision involving others near immediate versus requiring deliberation over months and years.
My time, previously split between an immense variety of activities and active interests,  boils down to creation (writing, game design, sketching), being of use to others (tools engineering, exploring problems) and myself (working out, learning), and achieving a sense of order (planning, chore completion).
Even this blog used to be many goals spread over a quarter and two posts, now regulated to four goals in a single month in a single post.

Yet, simplicity’s opposite – complexity – pervades. This, too, appears to be natural. Planets gather moons to add the complexity of tides. The simplest atom hydrogen is incredible unstable, binding itself with other atoms to form more complex molecules. Organisms evolve to add necessary features, even if that’s combining symbiotically with other creatures.

Life itself could be described as a pattern within the universe that attempts to stall its own entropy. That pattern does whatever it can to survive, which through evolution, has brought forward more complex forms.

Humans too generate a ‘gravity’ to add things to their orbit of concern. Another task makes it onto the ‘to-do’ list. Another acquaintance boosts the follower count. Another car needs payment. Another interest of the moment divides attention. Another another another.

Though how often has “another” brought suffering to life? The pain of indecision contrasts with the toil for more, a common masochism a sleepless person who takes on another responsibility shares with the pet that gorges itself into ache and vomiting.

We cannot help adding complexity to our lives. But as another card is added to the house or another plate is brought to spin, our lives become more perilous.

Our wants are simple: Comfortable environment, quality sleep, satiation in emotion and nourishment, a feeling of worth, and energy to pursue the things we intend and find interesting and survive without cars from what we don’t. Our ways and whys are many more than these.

This complexity resembles what it is: a construction. How well it is built is directly linked to the foundation of planning and intention that goes into our lives.

Complexity can serve a purpose. As mentioned, life will become more complex to survive, with a caveat: The nature of the universe abhors doing anything that is not needed at the precise place and time. When complexity arises, it must be judged, especially in ourselves, since humans are awfully good at justifying what exists, regardless of correctness.

Is this object or situation or action as simple as it can be? Does it serve a necessary outcome here and now? How can it do the easiest thing possible?

A medicine is highly complex but any more or less than necessary ruins its purpose. A wall with its many parts crumbles with any more or less than the required stones. A body – a miracle of moving parts – with any more or less than a very small range of temperature, water, or calories destroys itself.

It’s simple: The farther from the simple a thing strays, the more the thing destroys what it is. Such change is a guarantee. Whether the consequence of the change is intended is up to how simple the origin remains.

Managing change is incredibly useful. For a person, if a situation is unacceptable, that person can add to their life in some ways, subtract in others. Once a person finds a place where they are contented, no more gets added, no more gets removed. They have simplified to a level of stable complexity so they may begin to survive. And to survive, to live, that is a Good thing to do.

In that way, to simplify conforms to a universal truth, reduces suffering, better reveals Truth in its many effects, and is one of the few truths that best represents the Truth.

Simplicity Elsewhere

Occam’s Razor – No more, no less. That which is less indivisible is preferred.

Newton’s Rule 1 – It is vain and unnatural to do more than what’s required.

Tao’s Greatest Treasures – “Simple in actions and in thoughts, you return to the source of being.”

GI Bill of Rights – Four pages with simple language lasts 77 years and still serves tens-of-millions.

Abrahamic Religions – There is only one cause to the universe and it requires respect for being unknowable.

Theory of Evolution – That which exists came from before and changes over time in the most efficient way possible.

Greek Creation Myth – Out of immense complexity comes a simple few things which then gather to themselves immense complexity and suffering thereby.

Prime Numbers – A value so simplified, it cannot be divided any further without ending what it fundamentally is.

Feel-Good Chemicals – The sensation of pleasure is triggered by only four hormones.

Entropy – The ultimate simplification, the universe flattens all complexity into nothingness over time.

Something to live by. Cheers.

The Value of Being a Professional

Hey there! Before going on, know that I’m hardly a professional. Knowing what a professional’s value is, however, is invaluable.

This post is for you that need to double-check if you are being valued; for you looking for work so you know what’s acceptable to ask for and what an employer ought to be offering. For simplicity, I’ll be using my own profession of software development as the example to be used.

I’ve participated in the #PaidMe movement and laid out the tools I use to put together what my work is worth before. Now, to help you not devalue yourself or others, here are those tools applied!

Note: Having a pen-and-paper handy along with a calculator to figure out the value of your own work while you read may save your time.

Inflation

From 2019 to 2021 (now), inflation has been 2.88%. (This will be important as we’ll be getting some salaries from 2019.)

Because some of the following numbers will be multiplied by hundredths-of-a-percent, there is going to be some inevitable rounding. If the values are off by a few dollars, no sweat – you should be rounding up anyway ๐Ÿ˜‰

Bureau of Labor Statistics

In the Spring of 2021, BLS has data from 2019 for the United States as it comes to compensation. In 2019, software folks (QA and dev) were most often paid $107,510 a year.

With a trusty map of 2019 pay for techies, we can take the national value and inflate it, leaving us an estimated $110,606.29 per year median.

The hypothetical $111K is contradicted by Salary.com’s reported $115,430 per year average. Since this is private company is only a statistically insignificant ~4% different, we’ll ignore Salary.com for now in favor of the official numbers (inflation and BLS).

Cost of Living

How much money one needs in different parts of the country changes drastically, even from suburb to suburb. Where your zip code is has a heavy factor in what you should be earning.

A few example metros / locales follow. I received two different CoL calculations in my recent research – Best Places in general had higher values while PayScale was more conservative. Naturally, I went with the former ~

WhereCoL vs NationalEst. Min. SalaryEst. +10% Salary
Las Vegas111.6%$123,436.62$135,780.28
Redmond185.1%$204,732.24$225,205.46
Seattle172.3%$190,574.63$209,632.10
Austin119.3%$131,953.30$145,148.63
Washington152.1%$168,232.16$185,055.38
Boston162.4%$179,624.61$197,587.07
New York City187.2%$207,054.97$227,760.47
San Francisco269.3%$297,862.73$327,649.01
San Jose214.5%$237,250.49$260,975.54
CoL Applied to BLS Median Pay

You, sharp reader, will have noticed that the numbers estimated above do not match up quite with the BLS values previously. That is because BLS does not always include bonuses, stock options, the size of the company a person is employed at, or what has been the best few years for software companies ever.

More on that in the next section.

Remember: Always round up to at least the nearest thousand thereabouts. Exact numbers shown here to allow you to make your own decisions on how comfortable you are with rounding.

Also remember that odd numbers (123.45 vs 120) psychologically seem “more official” and “legitimate.” If you can round up while keeping some of this oddness when you go into negotiating your value, it’ll help you greatly!

Expected Salary Range

Not every company has or likes to have the cash on hand to pay huge base salaries. Though cold, hard cash is almost always preferred, you can leave it up to a company to make up the difference in your value.

Base salary is usually less than the CoL and BLS calculations above, yet this does not take away from your value. You can accept this lower pay by expecting the company to exchange cash bonuses, equity, PTO, or other subjective boons.

A cash bonus usually is a lump-sum payment delivered every six-months or a year. Usually about 10% of your base salary, you can negotiate this percentage higher to make up the total value difference. If the bonus is variable, say, based on performance, only calculate for the “you did no more and no less than your job” value.

Equity is some investment in the company. My personal rule aside is to only accept equity at a 2:3 rate, where for every $2 of base pay being forgone, $3 comes in equity. Why? Equity is variable with the market and often delayed in being granted to you. There is no timely guarantee for your work to be properly compensated, so as equity literally costs the company nothing to give you, asking for more is always a safe bet.

PTO (paid time off) is a common benefit working at most companies. PTO comes as paid vacation, sick time (if separate from vacation), and holidays. Each PTO day is 8 hours but the value of the whole day is your daily salary rate, i.e. base salary divided by 250 days. Daily rate multiplied by the number of days is PTO’s value.

Finally, there are other boons that the company can give. Maybe it’s better healthcare, a shorter commute, a better title, work-life separation, etc. Tangible (physical, material) or intangible (time, feeling), only you know what’s more important than cash-in-the-bank. Always keep in mind that any boon you accept in replacement of direct pay is doing the other party a favor.

Glassdoor Et Al

Every company changes in what they may offer potential new-hires. Glassdoor, Levels.fyi, and other websites have oodles of employee-reported data on pay, among other things.

If you are looking at a company that has a presence on one of these sites, use the site. Compare the ranges of base salary and other payment options to your BLS and CoL numbers. This gives you not only an idea of what other compensation to negotiate for with the company, but also a second set of values that may be higher than BLS + CoL (needless to say, increase any site-found value by at least 10% since site values do not account for CoL increases or inflation).

Tip: I always salary search using a Google Chrome Incognito window to do my browsing. Sites like Glassdoor track your usage, preventing further use if you navigate to a different page. Incognito gets around this:

      1. Arrive at a blocked page.
      2. Copy the website URL.
      3. Close all of the Incognito tabs / windows.
      4. Open a new Incognito window.
      5. Paste the copied URL.
      6. Tada! Continue researching your value.

Putting It All Together

You now know what you should be compensated based off of your research into the company, role, BLS, and CoL.

When the talk of money comes up, here is the handy equation to keep on hand:

Total Compensation = Base + Bonus + Equity + PTO

If you have other boons you are looking for, convey to the other party that you are taking these for granted, increasing your base or bonus or equity if the other party wants to take these boons away. Never Split the Difference is an astounding book (read it at least four-to-six times so far) that goes into more depth in how to handle leveraging boons that may not have an impressive dollar value.

Now, that total compensation ought to be a range, something like the fair value you found through research of median or average pay (whichever is higher), and at least 10% more than that. Propose the larger numbers and have the other party justify why they ought to be offering you less, giving a sense of disbelief the entire time (much more in Never Split the Difference).

Baring the most dire circumstances of survival, never, ever accept below the median or average pay for the role in the place you are bidding for. It is anti-social and masochistic and despicably weak. Don’t do it.

On the plus-side, if the other party counters above your expected compensation range, smile! Then let them know that’s a good base-pay starting point. “Now let’s talk about bonuses and equity.” Using the simple trick of adding 10% more to acceptable figures, you enable yourself maximize your worth to the other party and to yourself.

Having gotten through this article, how are you doing? Are you making out like Robin Hood, maximizing your value above par? Are you being taken for granted, paid pennies on the dollar?

If you need to be valued more, talk with those that pay you about increasing your compensation 10% if you are being underpaid by 10% or less. However, should the compensation be undervalued by more than 10%, you can still have a conversation with the payor, but it is also time to look at other companies since you have been clearly disrespected and taken for a ride ๐Ÿ˜

Enough talk! Check your numbers, go get your value, and be confident that you are in the right (heck, you at least have the United States government backing you up). All the best to your endeavors going forward – cheers!