Monday, 23 April 2018

From Self-Improvement to Optimisation

Dom Mazetti has a good line about “The day you want to get big is the day you will be forever small”. Because no matter how big you get, something will always need working on, some bro will always have a bigger set of that muscle than you do.

I wonder. Is the day we go into self-improvement the day we will be forever unworthy? That we will have the nagging sense that we need to improve something else about us that is simply not good enough. Since we cannot be perfect, we can always improve. So how much improvement is enough?

Self-improvement has two purposes: first, to get rid of damaging or grossly sub-optimal habits and replace them with good habits; second, to take on new habits that will make us more informed, interesting, resilient, employable, healthier, better company and so on and on.

‘Lift weights’ contains within in the injunction ‘stop being a lazy slouch’. ‘Quit eating junk’ forces us to look for better food to eat. ‘Read books’ tears us away from the TV and the Internet. And so on.

Self-improvement stops when we’ve dumped the bad habits and replaced them with better, though possibly not optimal, ones.

Keep that up, and it’s maintenance mode. After that, it’s about optimising.

Getting your body fat down from 30%+ to around 20% is self-improvement. Getting down to 15% is optimising, and for looks at that. (Google it: Special ops have around 18% because any lower and you don’t have the reserves to wait for the submarine to come back the next night after the first pick-up has to be abandoned.)

Trying out for the local soccer or basketball team is more than exercising, it’s an interest. The work you will have to do to be good enough for a reasonable team will require some performance improvements and specific skills: this sounds like optimisation.

Reading some books on the history of food is maintenance. Reading a book on knife skills and using them is optimisation.

Throwing out garish branded clothes and getting some low-key trousers and shirts where the brand is tucked away inside, this is self-improvement. Custom suits are optimisation.

I suspect I’ve been in maintenance mode for a while now, and need to get a little optimisation going on somewhere. I’ll tell you this: it’s not going to involve the gym. As I’ve said before and will say again, call my nephew when you’re doing what I’m doing at my age. I feel the need for some optimisation in some new direction and that may feel gratuitous.

Thursday, 19 April 2018

The Three Modes of Men

At any given time a man is a Monk, a Married or an Outcast. I started as a dysfunctional Outcast - ACoA and alcoholic - and over the last few years have learned to be functional Outcast. Those can look a lot like Monks, so let’s start with Monks.

(Secular) Monks live for a purpose, or pursue a set of personal goals, that benefits them, contributes to the economy (pay your damn taxes!), and allows them to be considerate to those deserving consideration, and co-operative to those deserving co-operation. A Monk pursues his goals as the primary activity and focus in his life, and his sense of value and identity comes from the pursuit of those goals rather than from recognition by others. None of those goals involve domestic relationships or raising children they have fathered. To put it another way, a monk is someone doing something constructive with their lives rather than raising two bratty kids and putting up with a metric tonne of nonsense from their soon-to-be ex-wife. If you were in any doubt. Secular monks can have affairs, one-night stands, the occasional weekend lost to EDM and sunshine, eat in nice restaurants, wear good clothes and enjoy the fine things in life, or, of course, they can live in a white man-cave in the suburbs with their extensive collection of J S Bach CD’s (nobody I know). A Monk feels good about himself when he gets one of his goals moved forward, not because some Six was kind enough to spend the night with him.

What kind of goals count as Monkly? It’s tempting to go full retard on the Protestant Work Ethic: the only allowable goals are Building a Business, Praising the Lord by Humble Labour (the original monkly lifestyle) and Searching For Truth. These are worthy goals, but don’t quite capture the whole idea. The goal has to be abstract, its attainment can’t depend on other people’s approval of us as people. (Building a succesful business depends on customer approval, but of the product or service, not of the people providing it.)

Moving on to Outcasts. Outcasts are not cast out by society, but by themselves. No purpose in life, or a drain on the economy, or being inconsiderate to decent people, or minimally and selfishly co-operative, suckered by every con-man and woman who comes along, or desperate for validation from someone, anyone, outside themselves. Outcasts can be married and have fathered children, but they are making a terrible job of it. All bad parents are outcasts. Addicts, drunks, neckbeards, assholes, Borderlines, Psychopaths, bullies, and other generalised losers, frak-ups and undesirables, are all Outcasts. Each Outcast is an Outcast in his own special way. Feeling like you don’t belong does not an Outcast make, that just suggests you’re surrounded by people whom you don’t click with. Nor does having a social crowd: a bunch of Outcasts who have known each other for years and are having fun is still a bunch of Outcasts. What Outcasts have the feeling that they need to belong, or that they don’t need to belong to no damn stupid group, hell no. Healthy adults belonged when they were children, and can now go through adult life as independent people.

Which leaves the Marrieds. These are reasonably functional men who are in, were in and want to be back in, or haven’t been in but want to be in, some kind of domestic relationship with a woman because they think their lives will be better for it, or because they think that marriage and children are an essential part of being a man. A Married man's primary aim is to make his marriage work. His job, pastimes and entertainment are subordinate to that. Not all married men are Marrieds. Some are Outcasts - loser-ness trumps wedding bands - and others are Monks, as what else would you call Andrew Wiles for the years he was proving Fermat’s Last Theorem? What makes Married is not marriage, but the idea that domestic relationships is somehow fundamental to a man’s identity and worth. (Warning: a lot of prominent men say that their wives and children are the most important things in their life, as well they should, but what they mean is ‘actually my career as a solo concert pianist / oil rig worker / CEO / novelist / whatever is the most important thing in my wife and children’s life because without it they would be poor and anonymous middle-class nobodies and they understand that and don’t sabotage me or themselves’.)

It’s possible to switch between any of these modes, and a man might be all three during his life. Monks, however, tend to stay Monks. Domestic relationships mean the man has to be house-trained, and Monks missed that while they were working on their projects.

I was a Functioning Outcast: I held down a job, I had what appeared to be a social life, and I even had what might be considered a sex life. I left home when I got a job. In my mid-thirties it started to fall apart as I lived with raging insomnia and discreet alcoholism. Never in the depths of self-pity and confusion that I sunk to did I think that being in a domestic relationship would be the answer to my problems. Not. Once. Alcoholics make bad boyfriends and should never be husbands and fathers. Though I didn’t know it I was being sensible by staying single.

I’m still a Functioning Outcast. Why? Well, I don’t want any part of a domestic relationship, so I can’t be a Married. But other than staying sober and getting by one day at a time, I don’t have a purpose or goal. I have a day job and some interests, but those are not a purpose, rather simply highbrow entertainment.

Monday, 16 April 2018

Love-Bots and Trolling Blackdragons

Blackdragon recently trolled his readers with a post about Love-Bots. There’s a bunch of people, call them the Love-Bot Revenge Fanatics (LBRF’s), who think that
Once female sex robots become A) visually viable to the point where the typical, average man would have sex with one and enjoy it and B) inexpensive enough to be purchased by the typical, middle-class guy (which means lower-class or poor men could rent and/or borrow them), everything will change. It will be the greatest shift in sexual power since the Sexual Revolution of the 1960’s, perhaps even more so.

All of a sudden, all of the things men now have to do in order to have sex with a woman will no longer be required. Looking good, making lots of money, going out on dates, screwing around at bars and clubs and on dating sites, listening to women talk for hours on end, paying for expensive dates, hookers, or sugar babies, surrendering to traditional monogamous marriage or monogamous boyfriend status (in the case of beta males at least), learning game, putting up with women’s constant demands… all of that will be… gone…

The pool of men available for women to marry or date in a serious relationship is going to fall by at least 75%, perhaps even more. It’s going to be a dating bloodbath for women. Women will be horrified, shocked, angry, and confused. They’re going to try to get a boyfriend or husband, and the dating sites will be barren wastelands. The typical over age 33 woman is going to make demands of a man on or before the first or second date, and even if he’s a total beta he’ll just laugh at her, leave, and go fuck his Margot Robbie robot at home, who is far hotter than her and never makes demands of him.

Women are going to be screwed. For the first time in all of human history, they will be placed in direct competition with a new breed of woman that loves to f..k all day long, doesn’t require any money, kindness, or obedience, is far better looking than the average, never ages, and never gains weight.
This is a serious revenge fantasy. It’s nonsense for reasons we will see in a moment. (And you can see why I think Blackie was trolling!)

There’s a company in the USA called Real Dolls that got itself some publicity recently. Its dolls are upwards of $7,000 a pop and that’s for Asa Akira (you can look her up). The process of designing an Asa Akira Doll involved Ms Akira being laser scanned, and not for thirty seconds either. This is not reconstructing a doll from a few photographs. An Emily Ratajkowski doll is going to need Ms R to turn up for a laser scan, and sign an agreement for the use of her image as a Lover-Bot.

(Not to going to be a Love Bot Model anytime soon)

I can see that happening - not. So the buyer is getting something generic, or a porn star. A lot of men don’t want either. Pornography exploits men’s visual responsiveness and imagination, and one of the prompts is the expression on the actress / model’s face. That’s where the fantasy takes place. A Love-Bot with changeable facial expressions is not going to be cheap.

At £7,000 a doll, this is a niche market. It strikes me as like audiophile hi-fi kit: it’s for people who have a lot of spare money to spend, and selling to them will be profitable. Selling to a mass-market will mean much lower prices (£700 a doll) and mass distribution. Mass distribution means mass marketing and that means mass acceptance. That bet isn’t going to get many takers.

Or maybe it might. Suppose the majority of single and divorced men - which is almost a majority of men at many ages - could bring themselves to use a Lover-Bot, found they liked it, and could afford one. Would that change everything? Here’s where a lot of the LBRF's miss the point: women don’t want attention from low SMV men. They will love, love, love that low-SMV men get Bots and stop pestering the Real WomenTM. That sounds like a win for the girls. As for most women never being able to get what the LBRF’s call “men’s resources”? That’s what taxation and BS jobs are for. Lover Bots aren’t going to change that. In fact, I smell money from import duties, excises and annual licenses. Maybe the only women who would object are the Usual Suspects: misandrists, fund-raisers, and their faithful White Knights.

Here’s the part I do like: women who complain they can’t get attention or find good men come across as losers already. If they try that line when the competition is a piece of silicon? Double loser with an extra shot of how-bad-can-she-be? No woman could ever complain about there being no men again, since it would imply that she can’t even compete with a lump of silicone made to look like a generic California Girl blonde. (As opposed to back in the day, when she was complaining that Playmates of the Month gave men a false idea of what a Real WomanTM looked like, which was a good point, though unflattering to the women who made it.)

How many men, assuming there is an affordable £700 Bot, are going to stop themselves just before purchase with “What am I doing? Really? Five months’ savings because I’m too damn inept to approach girls?” Some will. But when I put it like that, here’s something else they might say: “At last. This town is full of over-weight heifers with attitude and I never have to get nauseous even thinking about having sex with them again.” Human connection? Sure. But the other person has to be a human you want to connect with. Who wants to connect with an overweight heifer with attitude?

What the LBRFs and the no-cause-is-too-stupid-for-publicity misandrists both don’t know is just how overwhelmingly vanilla the sexual tastes of most men and women are. That’s not a bad thing, by the way. Vanilla sex makes for a good night’s sleep, and an un-distracted Good Worker And Consumer the next day. Vanilla sex is good for Capitalism. Love-Bots are going to be for rejects and outcasts with money, sexually experimental men with money, and addicts and frak-ups with money. Mr Vanilla Majority isn’t going to see what the fuss is about: he wants a Real WomanTM because that’s how he’s wired.

What the PUAs and the Red Pill guys don’t get, is that the majority of men and almost all women don’t get into domestic relationships for sex. They get into domestic relationships for the misunderstandings, arguments, shit-tests, moods, honey-do’s, silences, sexless nights and all that other good stuff. Red Pill guys see all that as friction, but it is actually the real reason most people have domestic relationships. I’ll say that again, in case you missed it: domestic relationships are not about harmonious co-operation but about conflict, interference and mutual frustration of each other’s goals. This fake drama makes people think they are living real, ‘engaged’, lives.

And a Love-Bot is never going to provide that.

Thursday, 12 April 2018

I Have A Cold...

... but not one that involves runny noses. I can get up and go to work, but by the time I get home, I'm just waiting for sunset so I can go to bed. Plus it's messing up my tummy so if I do too much diary I get reflux. Also I over-did my hamstrings and had that lower back stiffness which turns me into an old man who can't get up once he's sat down. I went to my sports masseuse for that today. I just want to sleep. Or rather, not to be terribly active.

Pathetic excuses, but what can I tell you?

Thursday, 5 April 2018

March 2018 Review

God that was a long month. On the first Thursday I must have absorbed something alcoholic around lunchtime, because I went slightly wobbly for twenty-four hours. I didn’t do anything stupid and even made it to the gym, but accidental alcohol makes me feel shaken. At the end of the month I took the four days before Easter off, and naturally, the weather was cold, wet and not worth getting out of bed for. Equally naturally, I slept badly and kept waking up early. That may have had something to do with the clocks going forward and me only finding out when I looked at my watch on leaving the house Sunday morning - Wait 06:25? What? My phone said it was 06:25 an hour ago, oh, that must have happened.

I continued the Food Experiment. One week I tried salads and other potato-based lunches from Masters on Throgmorton Street: result were satiety, no sharp appetite in the evening, and an extra pound of weight that fell off by Saturday morning because I work from home then. The next week I tried bagels from Bagel Mania on London Wall: results, less dozy in the afternoon, no extra weight, but a tendency to light-headedness by the end of the afternoon. I lost three kilos but no more. This will continue for a while.

I re-gained some of my Python chops, using PyCharm, writing a file-copying utility with a simple UI. Hence the post about the rotten documentation of os.walk(). Python is a nice language to use, but I sometimes wonder if some of the people who write documentation and help posts actually follow their own advice. I may write a post on how to write instructions as well. It’s nowhere near as easy as you think.

I read Ben Yandell’s Honors Class, a series of biographies of the mathematicians who solved Hilbert’s Problems; Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the British Isles, which got me interested in Anglo-Saxon England, about which I now have a book to read; Nicolas Naseem Taleb’s Skin In The Game, which makes a lot of good points and is prime NNT; and started on Per Olov Enquist’s The Wandering Pine.

I succumbed to Calibre. For those who don’t know, as I didn’t, this is to e-books what the iTunes is to music. It’s a terrific program and I had my small e-book collection consolidated, organised and with updated metadata after a couple of hours. I will probably write a post about using it in the future.

I finished S3 of House. Five more to go. I had a break and started watching S2 of Follow The Money. I saw some movies in my holiday week: You Were Never Really Here and Isle of Dogs at the Curzon Bloomsbury; Red Sparrow and Unsane at the Cineworld Leicester Square; and The Square at the Curzon Soho.

I had supper with Sis for her birthday at Picture on Great Portland St, and with my mate at the Argentine Steak House in Richmond.

I had a lot of early nights. If I’m tired, I’m in bed at 20:30 and if I’m not, at 21:15 at the latest.

Monday, 2 April 2018

Upgrading the Windows Computer

Every now and then I think about upgrading my Windows laptop. At the moment I have a Samsung that may be seven or eight years old. It has a 17.5 inch screen, a 2GHz Pentium, a 500GB HDD, 4GB of RAM and a basic video card. The body is plastic and the keyboard is only for light use, and I mean maybe ten minutes at a time. It does the job I want it to do, and I suspect the video card is a part of that.

So I’ve been looking at laptops and mini-PC’s.

At the bottom end of the price range, say about £300 or so, are Celerons and Pentium with 2GB of RAM. At the other end are 4k video editing machines for photographers. These have GeForce 1040 or above video cards, 8GB+ of RAM, an i7 HQ, some SSD and a 1TB drive or a lot more SSD, and USB 3. / 3.1 to connect external HDD’s with decent transfer rates. MacBook Pros and Dell XPS 15’s are get a lot of mentions. (High-end gaming laptops are way over what I need.) These machines have good keyboards and aluminium unibodies (the Dell is almost an aluminium unibody).

In between is a mass of i5 / i7 U-series machines, with or without graphics cards, random amounts of SSD, rarely an HDD, random combinations of USB / HDMI / VGA ports and build quality that ranges from awful to okay-I-guess. These can vary in price between about £600 - £1,000. The only way to make sense of these component salads is to assume that Wintel manufacturers design a high-end model, a low-end model and a mid-range model, and all the others are put together from excess parts and left-overs.

The decisions are much simpler than all those fancy specs and combinations make it look.

Want to browse the net, do text-based work, basic photographic editing and adjustment, and send e-mails? But don’t do 1080p and upwards video-editing or scientific computing? Take a serious look at an iPad and an external keyboard.

Get a Macbook Pro if you want to do iOS, Mac or UNIX / Linux development.

Get the high-end £1,100+ video-editing capable machines if you want: the aluminium body, high-quality keyboard and sharp screen; a large HDD; to use Adobe Creative Cloud or the equivalents on 1080p and 4k movies.

Want to do lots of calculations but not much graphics? (Very rare). Then you can get one of the component-salads with an i7-HQ, 256GB of SSD and integrated graphics.

Sustained daily typing and use - because you’re an author, or journalist or other content-producer? Consider a Mac Air or one of the top-end machines. (The price difference is not that large, especially if it’s how you make your money.)

Anything else? Get the mid-range Wintel.

It’s the build quality. Once you’ve had Mac, you can’t go back. At work, they hand out POS HP’s with Win 7, VGA adapters, and a keyboard with the Page Up / Down / End / Home keys in the wrong place. But that’s institutional companies for you. Cheap. The Adobe Creative Cloud Suite user in the family does so on an MSI gaming machine with an i7 HQ and 16GB of RAM with a 17-inch screen. It’s wicked fast but it’s got that corporate cheap build feel. And he doesn’t work for a big company.

I don’t want to come home and use something similar to the junk they give us at work. It’s my home, not an office. Computers are one of the things I’m willing to Pay Good Money for. (Not Silly Money, but Good Money.) As a tool to do a job. And the video-editing performance laptop is a tool for a job I’m not going to do.

The outsider for my needs is an Asus mini-PC, which has the 1TB drive, an i5-7U series, a mid-range graphics card, some SSD, Wireless-AC, and ports out the wazoo. It can drive two external screens, which is a nice-to-have I’ve wanted for a while. It will be an ace media centre, but would need hi-fi to make nice sound, but then, so does a laptop. It costs £650 and already I have an external screen (the TV), a mouse and keyboard. At a pinch I could get a 21-inch monitor for about £150 and work on a table if I wanted to use it as a computer. Back to the future.

PS: I didn’t do any of this. I did something else instead that didn’t involve spending money. I’ll talk about that later.

Monday, 26 March 2018

How Strong Do You Really Want To Have To Be?

The title is a line in an episode from S3 of House. He’s trying to persuade the dwarf mother of a normal girl they had all thought had dwarfism to take the growth hormone that will let her grow into a normal girl. At first the mother is against it. Then House lets loose.

“You and I know that being Normal sucks, because we’re freaks, and the good thing about being a freak is that it makes you strong. Now how strong do you really want her to have to be?”

The mother thinks for a moment, then approves the treatment.

Was that moment was some moment of writer’s luck, when the words seem to produce themselves? Or was it from someone’s experience? It was from mine.

Being strong in the manner House means is a non-stop effort. Not exhausting, but tiring. Giving up for a moment means sinking into debilitating self-pity, and the only person who can pull yourself back up by your own hair is you. Nobody else can help you with it, because it’s like holding your stomach in all the time: the only person who can do it is you.

People only live like that because they have to, and they know there’s nothing noble or dignified about it. Being strong-like-a-freak isn’t a virtue, it’s tiring, a continual drain of energy, leaving less for relationships or interests. Nobody who had experienced it would want that for someone they loved. Which is why the mother relents.

The best thing about being a Normie, it seems to me, is that they don’t have any reason to try. Take one look at them. The people staying in shape in the gym, the people doing professional qualifications to get ahead, the competitors, the people with absorbing interests, the Suffering and Recovering Anonymouses, let alone the people with non-standard desires... none of these are Normies. Every now and then a Normie will suprise me by having done something I thought was a Non-Normie Thing, but then I can tell the Normie Didn’t Connect with whatever it was.

When I was a suffering drunk I wanted to be a Normie: smug, self-satisfied, lacking any self-consciousness and doubt. Now I’m a recovering alcoholic and much older, I am so glad I’m not a Normie. Because if I had been a Normie, I would have got married, and then maybe divorced, or would now be living with an old woman. Eeeuugh.

I’ll take the continual drain of being strong if that’s the alternative. The occasional dip into self-pity isn’t pleasant, but it doesn’t last long. Do I think you should do it? If you don’t have a reason, no, you should not. It’s so much easier being a Normie.