J.D. Moyer

beat maker, sci-fi writer, self-experimenter

Category: Metaprogramming (Page 1 of 19)

Five Things That Made My Life 10% Better (Each)

Our new puppy, a possible #6? We’ll see!

I used to make myself miserable in ways that turned out to be easily fixable. Sometimes it took ten, twenty years to see the obvious and do something about it. But that’s not even exceptionally slow. Many people go through their whole lives suffering huge amounts self-inflicted misery.

Here are the major quality-of-life improvements that have worked for me, so far:

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New 6-Week Experiment: Living With a Disability


On the evening of Dec. 9th I stepped off my skateboard the wrong way and broke my foot (three fractured metatarsals — see above). Thinking it was just a bad sprain, I took a Lyft home and rested on the couch, watching my foot swell up to alarming proportions. Come Monday: doctor’s office, x-ray, a compression splint, the threat of screws and surgery. But after many scans and tests, I managed to dodge a bullet. No surgery required, just six easy weeks in a cast.

So, it’s my turn to learn. What’s life like with reduced mobility?

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How To Be Less Racist


In the United States and Europe, racists are coming out of the woodwork, freely expressing views that were considered taboo only a year ago. Concerns about terrorism and economic security (some valid, some exaggerated) are amplified and directed broadly at people of color, most of whom have nothing to do with terrorism or the availability of jobs. This racism was always there, but it’s more dangerous now that it’s moving into the mainstream (including aspects of our federal government). Some of the dangers, specifically, are harassment and violence against non-whites (including police violence), voter disenfranchisement, and deportation of immigrants (some legal, some undocumented, many if not most vital to our national economy).

Other problems with open racism include social discord and a divisive sense of “us vs. them” pervading our national consciousness. More severe, dystopian outcomes of open racism might include internment camps for Muslims, reversals of civil rights protections, harassment or murder of civil rights activists (including journalists), use of lethal force against peaceful protestors, or even “ethnic cleansing” scenarios (genocide). Big problems, in other words.

I guess one potential benefit of racist attitudes being openly expressed is that it opens the door to conversation, debate, and the potential for attitudes to shift. That’s the purpose of this post: to influence those who might feel racist but are open to non-racist perspectives.

I’ve been reading some Alt-Right blogs and trying to better understand where this racism comes from (I won’t say which ones, because attention and web traffic fuels these hate blogs). From what I’ve read so far, the Alt-Right openly-racist/white-supremacist perspective looks something like this:

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How To Prevent Stress Spirals

Supercell by Kelly DeLay

Supercell by Kelly DeLay

Rough week, in a first-world-problems sort of way. Upgraded my Macbook Pro to a 1T internal SSD. Restoring from my SuperDuper backup didn’t work, so I had to install macOs Sierra and migrate. That meant no more support for my old M-Audio Firewire 1814 audio interface. No problem, I’ll order a Focusrite 18i20, a great piece of gear with great reviews, and documented to fully support Sierra. Got it Fedexed, unboxed the beautiful thing, spent half a day unplugging and replugging my rack (and lots of dusting). Seemed to work, except no audio AT ALL from Cubase. Okay, maybe it’s time to make the leap to Cubase 8.5. Paid for it, downloaded the 9GB installer, installed Steinberg’s latest. Tried to activate. ELicenser crashed. Tried the 35 troubleshooting steps I found on the Cubase forum. No go. I’m out about a grand so far on this “upgrade”, and no audio.

And those are just a few of my 99 problems.

Anxiety is the modern scourge. Humans in 2016 have complex lives: more information, more complex decisions, more decisions. We have it good, better than ever, global poverty plummeting, most of us with access to enough food, basic healthcare, shelter. One’s chance of dying a violent death is lower than ever. But we’re plagued with anxiety because our minds are racing, decisions are hard, and everything feels like it needs doing at once.

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How to Think About Your Career

It’s possible to have a career without really thinking about it. Nothing wrong with that. I’ve had at least three-and-a-half accidental careers so far.

  • I started doing computer support and database design right out of college, just a few hours a week, at my dad’s friend’s company, learning as I went. Ten years later I was the Senior Database Administrator for the San Francisco Symphony, and I still do freelance db work to this day as my main source of income. But none of my friends ever remember this, because it’s so boring that I never talk about it.
  • My record label business partner wanted to start a weekly happy hour at an art gallery. I thought it was a terrible idea. The ayahuasca-snorting gentleman he initially partnered with to throw the event got a little squirrelly and they parted ways. I reluctantly stepped in, and under our management we had a decade-plus run as one of the biggest dance music events in San Francisco, lines around the block, written up in international guide books, DJs from around the world eager to play to our crowd.
  • I had no interest in DJing. But we needed to promote our album. So I learned to DJ at my own party, trainwrecking mix after mix. Spesh put me through DJ bootcamp and I got a little better. Soon we were headlining the biggest dance clubs in San Francisco, voted among SF’s Top DJs in the Nitevibe poll, on the cover of The SF Weekly, and touring in Europe. But eventually I quit because I don’t like travelling, or listening to hundreds of promo tracks to find the few good ones.
  • I started a blog in 2009. I can’t remember why. Probably to practice writing, to express myself, to share my ideas. Eventually some of my health posts (about sleep and artificial light, about the paleo diet) got popular. The blog hit a million views. CNN interviewed me. A TV show The Doctors flew me to Hollywood to be a guest. I experimented with advertising. Then I wrote a post about how I regrew some of my hair by intensively massaging my head, and things went crazy. Views through the roof, readers begging me to make instructional videos, asking for personalized advice. Should I take up hair regrowth coaching? I thought about it. Maybe I could help Tim Ferriss regrow his hair, or Prince William. But I’m not patient enough to be a coach, and I didn’t want to be the hair guy. Or another paleo guy. So I made it clear to my readers that though while I would still write the occasional health post, the content of this blog was much broader (systems for living well, self-experimentation, the creative life).

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How To Reconcile Gratitude and Ambition (and a pitch for charity:water)

I focus a lot on gratitude. If I don’t, I’m a miserable ass. I’ve written before about how gratitude is my emotional force multiplier.

I have so much to be grateful for. Good health, family, friends, interesting things to do, various artistic and career successes. But if my life sucked (and it has sucked at times), I would try to be grateful, for anything I had. Each working limb and organ. Being a conscious-aware being. Our sun, Earth’s atmosphere.

There’s something exhilarating about extreme gratitude. It’s freeing. No matter how much life beats you down, there you are, feeling pretty good because you’re not six feet under. We all have the right to enjoy life regardless of our circumstances. Practicing gratitude is the means to that end.

It’s not that we can always choose to be happy (at least I can’t). Sometimes the cocktail of hormones, neurotransmitters, and brain architecture that influences consciousness leaves us feeling bleak. But the choice is always there to detach our feelings from our external circumstances, or to reframe our circumstances in such a way that we feel fortunate. That’s what detachment means, in the spiritual sense. Not that you don’t care, but that your internal state becomes independent of your external circumstances. Unhooked. Free-floating. Detached.

Ambition

I have a strong, well-developed ego. I want things. I have well-defined goals and I work towards them systematically. Why? Partly nature, partly nurture. Mostly, I think, I’ve chosen ambition as a life path. I like the dopamine rush. I like working towards things, the sensation of progress.

At times being ambitious has made me less happy, given me feelings of being less than. It’s an easy trap to fall into, basing your self-worth on what you’ve achieved. Regarding people who have achieved more than you as better, those who have achieved less as worse.

Is it possible to want more while still appreciating what you have, feeling that it’s enough? For me it is, as long as I remember that it’s the pursuit of my goals that makes me feel good, not achieving them (though of course that’s nice too).

I try to center my identity around my values and actions, things that are well within my control. No matter how many goals I achieve, those things won’t change. I am what I commit to, not what I accomplish.

Does being humble and grateful and satisfied with what you already have make you less effective at achieving your goals. Less hungry? I don’t think so. Gratitude and ambition can easily coexist. Listen to the words of Demian Maia before his fight with Carlos Condit. “I am already an accomplished fighter.” “I have plenty of wins.” Determined and confident, but also filled with humility and gratitude and a sense of enough, Maia proceeded to choke out one of the most dangerous men in the world in less than two minutes.

Of course real world achievement is important. It’s how we make positive changes in our lives, families, communities, and societies. But we shouldn’t hold our own happiness hostage to what we manage to get done. Be happy regardless, by appreciating what’s already there.

An Example

Scott Harrison does a good job of being grateful and ambitious at the same time. He’s grateful to all the donors who have supported his personal and organizational goal of bringing clean water to the world’s poorest communities. But he’s ambitious too — he wants to get more monthly donors, expand operations, help more people. I’ve supported charity:water on a monthly basis for years, and I’ll continue to do so. Not only do they dig new wells, but they monitor existing wells, involve the local community, and implement sustainable models. Access to clean water improves health, frees up time for education and earning money (especially for women and girls), and increases basic human dignity.

Please take a few minutes to watch the video below (warning: some of it is hard to watch). If the white savior narrative bothers you (or the clubbing is bad subtext), please ignore both. In real life, charity:water brings clean water to millions of people, in verifiable and sustainable ways. Charity Navigator gives them 4 stars, a 92.5/100 rating. It’s the real deal. Please join me in supporting their work on a monthly basis, at whatever rate you can afford.

And be limitlessly grateful for all the wonderful things in your life and the world, and terrifyingly ambitious about improving those aspects that are less than wonderful.

 

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