Getting Back Into A Routine

Over the past year and a half I have fallen off the wagon (for lack of a better phrase) with regards to fitness, meditation, discipline and general self-improvement.

I track workouts and meditation on a spreadsheet that I started back in September of 2009. Throughout 2017 there are a lot of red boxes in the column for exercise. For some reason I cut back, but not intentionally. Around late October 2017 I also cut back on meditation. I was working through Claudia’s book on becoming an idea machine, and I stopped that too.

I don’t know why I started exercising less, but for meditation I tried using sound as an anchor. It went okay, but for some reason I stopped.

I did not get much done in December because I moved to another apartment in the complex. There was a leaky pipe they could not fix in my old apartment; other than that I was happy with things, so I asked them if there were any alternatives. Now I am on the second floor.

I started to get back into working out by doing squat thrusts on my balcony. I could not do as many, and I think my balcony is crooked. I do not have the luxury of doing it late at night on my balcony. I had toyed with the idea of finding an unused section of the parking lot early in the morning and working out there. But that would involve waking up a lot earlier, so that is not practical for me. Plus it would probably be really hard on my joints. There is a small gym here; frankly it’s not very good, but there is enough room to do some squat thrusts. I used it a couple of times.

The final time I tried it, I go in and turn on the lights. I heard music, which is odd because there is no sound system in there. I walk towards one of the cardio machines, and I see a small radio. Then I turned around, and there was a guy who was sitting next to the door. He asked me if I needed the lights on. I said I did if he was going to be in there. I tried a couple of times to ask him how long he was going to be (thinking I could just come back when he was done). I rephrased it, but I could not get a straight answer either time. I decided it was time to look into a gym.

I liked Lifetime Fitness, and I really liked the saleswoman from Sweden. She did not have much of an accent at all, but she pronounced the “R” sound in “Saturday” oddly, so I asked her where she was from. That club was $90/month. Planet Fitness did not have much to offer. 24 Hour Fitness was a decent price. The one closest to me has a pool, and when you walk in you get hit with a nasty chlorine smell. Other than that it is not too bad.

I got a free session with a trainer. At first I was not intending to buy the package, but towards the end he had me do some HIIT/functional fitness stuff. I thought to myself, “Why not see what he has to offer?” I can get myself back into a routine if I am not interested in what he shows me, and maybe he will show me something that I want to continue.

Well, it turns out, the only thing that interested me really is HIIT. Lifting is a bit boring to me (which I know sounds odd since I think nothing of doing sets of squat thrusts for 30 minutes). For a lot of the lifts, he wanted me to do a fast concentric contraction and a slow eccentric contraction.

Looking into HIIT brought me to the Jump Rope Dudes. My favorite video is the one with the woman from Australia, yeah. Frankly I wish all women spoke with Australian accents. In all seriousness, if a genie gave me three wishes, that would be one of them. It is taking longer than I thought for my body to adjust. I have found I can actually last longer when I count jumps than when I just try to last a set amount of time (generally 30 seconds; usually me feet need a rest at 20 when I go for time). I am also looking at squat jumps, or jump squats. I did some jumping lunges. They seems to exacerbate my inner thigh issues.

I have also used some kettlebells. Tim Ferriss put the kettlebell swing on the map  According to this page, “most women should start with a 35lb (16kg) or 44lb (20kg) kettlebell and most men should start with 44lb (20kg) or 53lb (24kg) kettlebell.” The gym I go to has some with standard freedom measurements, and some with communist metric measurements. Make up your mind kettlebell makers! Are you with us, or against us?

The gym closest to me has a track. I was thinking of trying sprinting. My last six months in Chicago, I lived in a house with a driveway out back. I did some sets of shuttle sprints up and down the driveway, and I liked how it affected me. I did not like doing it. Getting up to my top speed was harder than I thought. I have done shuttle runs a few times in the studio at the gym. I was hoping to do some sprinting on the indoor track, but just jogging on the track is hard on my knees. I thought the cushioning would help, but it does not. The odd thing is that shuttle runs in the studio are not a problem. Someone at work suggested I try Dr. Scholl’s inserts. He said they helped him.

Anyway, I have gotten pretty fat. Hopefully I will be able to do longer, more intense sets on the jump rope and become a stud that women desire. I will be in Florida in a few weeks for my nephew’s birthday, so unfortunately the next round of family pictures will feture me as a landwhale.

Why I stopped with the Idea Machine I am not too clear. Claudia Azula (James’ second ex-wife) did not handle their divorce as well as he did. She blogged that she was diagnosed as bi-polar and at least once thought of killing herself. Can a stressful life event like divorce trigger an underlying problem? Or is it all genetic? Anyway, lately she has been tweeting about ping-pong in New York City. What could be a clearer sign of contentment than making jokes about smacking people’s balls? I can laugh about it now, but at the time it was terrible.

I cannot articulate exactly why, but for some reason the fact that she had a hard time getting on with her life makes me doubt James’ methods. She followed the advice in his article. And he seems to have a lot of wack jobs on his podcast, like Dr Oz and Jordan Peterson, and he sends a lot of shady emails about getting rich trading penny stocks and Bitcoin. Now it seems like he is on a cannabis kick.

Still, I think there is something to the idea machine. In my other idea machine posts I linked to testimonials. I keep reading that mindset is more important than technical skills. Some people even push learning the humanities and Great Books to stay ahead of the curve. I like the idea of my mind being more agile. Plus, I realized I do not have to agree with everything he says or does. I don’t agree with my own family all the time. Take what you want and leave the rest.

If I try, I might start with making lists of 5 ideas. I know James says to go for ten, but since this is a new habit I would be trying to do two things at once. Developing consistency is important.

Back in January, I was a new meetup group, and the whole time was brainstorming about topics. I realized it might be a good idea to due “field reports” on idea lists in the wild. I could make idea lists about problems or issues, either in my life or in society in general. For the general problems, I could make two lists: Things I can do (if any), and things society can do. I think James sent an idea list to Amazon, and they flew him out there to speak. I could make lists about my ideal job, ideal house, ideal mate. Perhaps the ideal lists could be periodically repeated to see if there are any changes.

At one point, James suggested that you could list chapters in a potential book, or lists of things about or that have happened to a character in a possible novel. I have thought about a potential “Star Trek” show (not that I think it would ever get made). That could give some ideas.

Getting back into meditation has been a bit more difficult.

I started using sound as an anchor by listening to some videos on YouTube on a channel called Meditative Mind and a few other channels. Some worked out better than others, but the general result is that for some reason things got derailed. I kept having trouble staying awake and then my frequency dropped.

I started getting back into it after I was done moving. I tried going back to sitting on the floor, but I think it hurt my knees. At first I thought that increasing my exercise frequency was hurting my knees, so I rotating different exercises out, but nothing seemed to help. Then I realized that it might be my meditation posture, so I went back to the chair. Since then, my knees have been fine. I am still stretching so hopefully one day I can go back to sitting on the floor again.

One issue is that I kept trying to control my breathing. I think that I might have this preconception that I should do “Taoist” breathing while meditating (in through the nose, expanding the abdomen, long deep breaths, ideally 15 seconds or more). Now I do some deep, qigong breaths for a few minutes before I start and it seems to be helping.

Big Jim still likes the Swedish ladies.

 “Mount Sinai” by El Greco (1541 – 7 April 1614), housed at The Historical Museum of Crete, assumed allowed under Fair Use.

Buddhist Valentines

Some Buddhist valentines:

  • Your absence is the cause of my suffering
  • Let’s be impermanent together
  • You turn the wheel of my heart
  • I’d like to enter your stream sometime
  • You make cessation less appealing
  • Let’s add “Right Lovin'” to the Noble Path

On a side note, it seems like a LOT of the women in Buddhist groups have (or have had) some serious addiction problems. Kind of like women in general.


Standing Buddha, ca. 3rd–4th century Pakistan (ancient region of Gandhara) at the Metropolitan Museum, assumed allowed under Fair Use.

Notes On Options

I used to know someone who traded on the floor of the NYSE. Here is something they told me about options. I wrote it on a piece of paper years ago that I just found recently.

call (right to buy) – in the money when market above strike price

put (right to sell) – in the money when market below strike price

Type Buy (long underlying) Sell (short underlying)
Call limited risk, unlimited gain limited gain, unlimited risk
Put limited risk, unlimited gain limited gain, unlimited risk


If selling has limited gain and unlimited risk, why do it? From what I wrote: “Premium upfront ( most options expire worthless); Higher chance of making money; may sell near maturity”.

From another sheet:

Options – downside – limited to price

short option – limited gain, unlimited loss. Cash upfront. Margin required.

Covered call – write call/put -> selling that option

Self portrait of  Zinaida Serebriakova (1884-1967), assumed allowed under Fair Use.

More Thoughts On Idea Machines

I have started making daily lists of ten ideas a day per James Altucher‘s suggestion. I got Claudia’s book and I am reading it using the online Kindle reader. Hopefully it will lead to something better. (Claudia is James’ ex-wife.)

It sounds almost too good to be true. Just

  1. write down ten ideas,
  2. *** magic happens ***,
  3. profit.

I listed a few people who wrote about it in a previous post, and I have found a few more since then. Many people report the same effect. I think that perhaps helping develop and/or reinforce consistency might also be a factor.

A couple of things made me stop in the past. One is that I kept coming with idea lists about idea lists. It was getting too meta for me. I don’t want to make idea lists about making idea lists (process, results, lists of ideas for future lists), but it might not be a bad thing to do every once in a while to have a backlog of possible topics, like agile teams keeping a backlog.

Another is that since then I have gotten more serious about meditation. Wouldn’t quieting the mind and accelerating it be at odds with each other? Meditation seems to stop unnecessary thought. Becoming an idea machine seems to be about spawning thoughts. Is it possible to do this and meditation? According to Claudia, it is. Plus, some advanced meditators say that with meditation you can change the speed/volume of your thoughts. Granted, it takes a while to get to that point.

There were a few other reasons I kind of hesitated attempting the idea list practice and were arguments against. One is: Wouldn’t freelance writers be more successful than they are, or at least more quickly? Don’t they deal in ideas all the time?

Another is that James wrote his daily practice helped him turn his life around. But now he is divorced from Claudia. I guess I assumed he would stay together with her. It seemed like a sign of his success after a divorce and multiple bankruptcies. Making the same mistake AFTER you are doing the right thing is kind of an argument against what you are doing. But according to his blog, he seems to be bouncing back. (I still have not gotten to his podcasts; it’s on my to-do list.) It looks like Claudia is taking longer to bounce back. Or she just might be keeping a low profile. She want about a year without any blog posts or tweets, but it looks like she is starting to post more consistently.

One inspiration for starting is that James wrote a post in July about how he has lived off of his ideas for 20 years. He mentions that he might give an online/email course about becoming an idea machine. The outline looks pretty interesting. The response was overwhelmingly positive, but so far I do not think there are any updates. His big thing now is doing standup. He hints that one thing he would cover in this course is how he got started writing down 10 ideas a day. On one of his pages he implies he got it from somewhere else. In another post he implies he did it to get interviews.

Another inspiration to get started again is a story that I saw on Hacker News in August linking to a site called “Random Ideas“:  “The point is to get the brain thinking, to exercise the brain muscle.”  That sounds like James Altucher. A few commenters also said they had started doing the same thing, or that the site inspired them. One commenter pointed out that coming up with 3650 ideas in a year would “be an amazing accomplischment [sic] of endurance”, although the guy stopped after a month. Random Ideas are usually lists with items that are not related, generally ten business ideas. I know Altucher says you should do ten ideas on a topic, and there is something to be said for being creative within contraints, but I had a hard time coming up with topics. To follow Altucher’s method, you really need eleven ideas: the first being the topic, then ten more for your list. Perhaps it might be okay to just make random lists to keep the momentum. (See Note 1 below.)

Another inspiration is that the project I am on at work is reducing staff in a couple of months. I work for a big, multinational consulting firm. I am on a team that makes an app for a state government, and while they are happy with us, the department is having to cut their budget. So I kind of need something that will make me a wild success. I asked about some training, but I was told that company policy states that the project would have to pay for it. The problem is that they are rolling a bunch of us off because they have no money. So there goes that idea. On the other hand, my manager is an Indian guy who not only has a thick accent, but also mumbles. It’s possible I completely misunderstood what he said.

I have no desire to be a manager. Right now I have to put up with decisions I do not like. If I were a manager, I would have to justify other peoples’ bad decisions to still more people. I have no desire to do that at all. So I need to change how I think and I need to change my life. For reasons I will not go into, getting on a project in Austin is highly unlikely.

So I am working through Claudia’s book. I started on October 1. So far it is okay. I might have stopped at nine once or twice, and sometimes my understanding of the question changed while I was coming up with my ten answers but I just kept going. One guy wrote somewhere that he did not like some of Claudia’s topics. One of them is to come up with ten yoga poses. It is a bit hard when you know nothing about yoga.

One thing I have found is there are more people than I thought who are doing this, in addition to the people I found online the last time I posted about this.

One is a site called that sent out idea list topics for about a year. They recently stopped. I subscribed, so I have a backlog to use if I need it. They have a facebook group. I am not into facebook, but I might log on to see if there are any success stories.

Another site is 10 Ideas A Day which will give you themes, lets you submit themes, and has a few links to other sites. Some of the links are out of date. Here is one of Claudia on a podcast talking about becoming an idea machine, one of someone on Claudia’s podcast, and someone sharing their lists as they go through Claudia’s book.

A guy named D.R. Fideler who moved to Sarejevo got the idea bug from James. He has a post and a PDF about it. It sounds like this guy goes into some detail with his lists. Some are “complete business plans”. Maybe I am not putting enough into my answers. Or maybe the magic will just take longer. Looking at James’ post “How To Have GREAT Ideas” my one-sentence ideas might be too short. Maybe each of the ideas should be lists themselves, like SMART goals.

Chris Remus wrote about it here,  which I think is a copy of this article. He gives you a list of ideas.

Let’s not forget this one and this one and this one.

I plan on emailing some of these people to get a bit more info on their daily idea list practice.

  • How long have you been doing this?
  • Do you still do it?
  • Was there a gap?
  • When did you start seeing results?
  • What results have you seen?
  • How long does it take to come up with ten ideas?
  • How long/many sentences is each idea?
  • Where do you get your topics from?
  • Do you ever share your ideas? If so, how?


Note 1: He spelled dubious as “dubias” in a post bad-mouthing educators. The one time in life you want to have perfect spelling is when you are saying you are smarter than someone else. (“Dubias” is a species of cockroach; I am assuming he misspelled “dubious”.)

In all seriousness, I would love to know if this guy has read James’ blog and/or Claudia’s book. I looked up his domain on whois, but after a few steps his registrar uses a registrar that uses itself as its own registrar. Using the “Yo Dawg” trick to hide in plain sight.

Here are a couple of more posts from James Altucher’s website:


Fragment of a manuscript by Wang Zhideng (1535–1612) available at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, assumed allowed under Fair Use.

Thoughts On Tom Petty

There was an article on Bloomberg the day he died (but presumably before he actually did) that reports of his death were false. (I cannot find the article on the Bloomberg site.) Like Jackie Chan. Then a week later, I saw a cartoon about it on which inspired me to do some more searching.

So it was more Abe Vigoda than Jackie Chan.

I was a fan back in high school and into college. I had all the Heartbreakers records up through “Let Me Up (I’ve Had Enough)”, and his first solo record. But eventually I got out of the loop. When I was younger, I did not want to become one of those older people who just listened to the same stuff from their youth. But that is kind what happened to me.

I used to listen to WXRT a lot in my car. But then I moved closer to the lake, and I took the CTA to work, so I spent a LOT less time driving. In addition, at some point I lost the antenna on my car. I think a car wash tore it off. I tried a few times to use a radio in my apartment to get WXRT, but for some reason the reception was terrible. I have fallen behind on Pearl Jam and Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan as well. And I have no idea who the new bands are in rock and roll. I will try to pick some of it up again. I was so out the loop on Tom Petty that I did not find out about the death of Howie Epstein and the departure of Stan Lynch until several years after both events happened.

One thing I did find odd about Tom Petty is: Why did he do solo records? He was the leader of the Heartbreakers, he sang, he wrote the songs. I don’t see what he was not getting from that arrangement. On the other hand, you could argue he never really did a solo record. Mike Campbell was on all his records (except the Traveling Wilburys, which obviously is not a solo project). I always felt that unless Petty worked on his own without Campbell, he wasn’t really going solo. Granted, Mike Campbell is an amazing guitar player, so I can see why Petty wanted him around. I guess I am using a pretty strict definition of “solo” here.

I know there is a documentary out about him, and an authorized biography of him by Warren Zanes. Apparently Petty felt he made some mistakes in his life there were not in the film, but were discussed in the book.

I did see them live with Bob Dylan on their “True Confessions” tour (June 29, 1986, to be precise).

I also had their live album “Pack Up The Plantation” and the concert film of the same name for their “Southern Accents” tour. I think I taped off of MTV. I think I watched that at least two dozen times. A couple of things that I remember from that is being impressed by both Mike Campbell and the drummer Stan Lynch. I was surprised to later learn that Stan Lynch was not confident in his drumming, but this may have been earlier than the “Southern Accents” tour. But on “Pack Up The Plantation”, he was pretty awesome. And the coolest Heartbreaker ever.

So in addition to looking into what Springsteen and Pearl Jam have been up to, and finding some bands that are more contemporary, I have to catch up on what Tom Petty with and without the Heartbreakers had been up to for more than a decade. Going forward, there may not be any more Tom Petty music that will be new to the world, but there is still some out there that will be new to me.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers on their final tour (but NOT the final show), available at Wikipedia, assumed allowed under Fair Use.

Meditation Update 2017-05

It is time for another meditation update.

For a while I kind of fell off the wagon.

I was counting my breaths, but I realized my mind was wandering in between counts. My attention would go back to my breath at the end of the exhale, and I would count the next number, but sometimes in the middle my mind would wander off. Then I would end the exhale and tick off the next number. My mind was kind of in a sine wave pattern. Sometimes I did get really distracted and forget where I was. Maybe I never paid close enough attention to the instructions.

So I tried meditating without counting, and I did not last too long. But I am getting better.

Sometimes I meditate in a chair. I like that since my leg does not fall asleep. My leg falling asleep while meditating has been an issue for a long time. I think it is the rotation that causes it. I also sit on some cushions, and I arrange a few so my hips are higher than my shins, sort of like stadium seating.

One issue is that I do a lot of my meditating late at night. Sometimes I have to cut it short because I start falling asleep. I think I would make more progress if I did it earlier, or maybe when I wake up. And I should probably start waking up earlier. I am also starting to transition to a low-carb diet, and I plan on cutting out soda as soon as I get through the cases I have left.

I do mostly insight meditation and mantra meditation. I tried metta, and it was okay. I tried Mahasi-style noting, and it was exhausting. I might try that again later. I also do some Taoist meditation where I control the breath. A lot of people try to control the breath when they meditate, so why not just go with it?

Glenn Morris mentions Taoist meditation in “Path Notes of an American Ninja Master”. He wrote he attended an event with a bunch of Chinese people who practiced qigong. He said many of them were in their 60s and 70s, but none of the men looked older than 50 and none of the women looked older than 40. Women who never look older than 40 is very appealing. I first read that book in my 20s, and the point about eternally-40 Chinese women did not really register. I re-read the book a year ago, and it stuck.

I also started attending weekly sittings with Mariposa Sangha here in Austin. They meet in Trinity United Methodist Church, like CFI. They/we meet every Thursday at 7. There is 30 minutes of sitting meditation, 15 minutes of walking meditation, then 15 minutes of sitting. The walking is optional, which I like. I stay sitting the whole time.

When I was living in Chicago, I would sometimes attend the Chicago Weekly Sitting Meditation Group which usually met every Monday at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church on Addison; sometimes they meet at Montrose Beach. They did 30 minutes of sitting, and then 10 minutes of walking. Everybody sat in a circle on the floor (there are chairs at Trinity), and the walking was around the circle. It would have been kind of awkward to not engage in walking meditation. Every time I do walking meditation, I either want to say something in a low, slooooow voice, act like a Tai Chi mime behind an invisble wall, or I hear the theme from “Chariots of Fire” in my head.

I have never liked walking meditation, and never really saw the point. If I am not developing concentration doing sitting meditation, what will walking meditation do for me? Besides, I walk around all the time anyway. If that was the path to enlightenment, why would anyone need a sangha?

At Mariposa, there is a “dharma talk” after the meditation for about 15 minutes, then 15 minutes of discussion. Sometimes the speaker will mention the Pali suttas, which I like. One thing that always seemed strange about Zen is that they claimed to be Buddhists, yet mostly ignored the Buddha. The Austin Zen Center had a guy giving lectures on the Pali suttas for a while. But most Zen groups talk about the Chinese and Japanese roots of Zen and ignore the Indian.

One change at Mariposa that I think I helped bring about is they ring a bell at the beginning of the meditation period. When I first went, at some undefined point people would start meditating on their own. At the Chicago Weekly Sitting Meditation Group, the organizer would formally start the group, and give basic instructions at the beginning. The first time I went to Mariposa, I started talking to the guy next to me, and after a few minutes I noticed everybody else had stopped talking and had started meditating.

Someone told me they did it that way because in monasteries the monks would go in and out of the meditation hall when they wanted. Which is fine because they live there. Plus, at the end of the dharma talk at Mariposa, everybody bows to the group. If you end the meeting, why not start it?

Also: I just realized that while  they use the word “sutta” and not “sutra” at Mariposa, they say “dharma” and not “dhamma”.

The Butterfly” by Childe Hassam (1859-1935), assumed allowed under Fair Use.

I May Get A New Car

I may have to buy a new car. At least, new for me.

My “Check Engine” light came on. I got it fixed about a month ago. I had to wait around three hours for it to get done, since I do not have a Hot Asian Wife to cart me around.

Then it came back on again a day later. The next weekend, I took it in, waited, they fixed it. The guy said the wire connecting a part to the sensor came out.

Then a few days later it came on again. Same thing. This time he used a twist tie to keep in it.

A few days later, it came on again. Same code. Yesterday I made an appointment, and I waited two hours just to be told they would not be able to get to it that day. I really do not like my free time being eaten up waiting for my car to get fixed. Or not get fixed.

I would hate to get a new car just because of a small part, but maybe it is time. It is a 1997 Nissan Sentra with around 175K miles on it.

The issue has to do with the exhaust. I think I can get by for a few more weeks. The nice thing is that I got my state inspection done right before this all started.

My mom get her latest car at CarMax, and just raved about them. For the first time in 25 years, she is not driving a Honda. (If you felt a disturbance in the force recently, this might be why.)

When I was in Boise, I rented Prii (the official plural form of Prius) and I liked them. I might get one now.

I am not too happy about blowing a big hole in my savings. I think one of the reasons I have been able to save is because I have not had to make any car payments. Granted, I could pay it off at once. But still, that is a lot of money out of pocket. Enough to live off of for six months.

I really hate spending a lot of money.

Image from Bing Search, assumed allowed under Fair Use.

More Meditation

I am starting to get back into meditation. I used to meditate somewhat consistently, until about ten years ago. Recently I decided to restart.

My income has been pretty static for the past decade. Maybe it’s a coincidence, maybe there is a connection. I know a lot of people say you shouldn’t meditate for some material goal, but I am tired of feeling like I have hit a ceiling. I am a software developer, and over the past decade I have been at a few jobs, and each time I reach a point where I think there has got to be a better way to do things. I am told by the higher-ups to just keep doing things the same old way. A lot of times I am told I have great ideas, right before I am told why they cannot be implemented.

I know that is a bit of a word-salad. I want more control over my life. I felt more in control when I meditated regularly a long time ago.

I look at the Meditation subreddit on a regular basis. There is some good stuff there. The Zen subreddit is a waste of time. I know the original point of koans a thousand years ago was to get people to think about things in a different way. A lot of people in the Zen subreddit seem to think that non-sequiturs make them sound enlightened. Usually, it just makes you sound like a jerk.

I have been meditating almost every day for about a month. Honestly, not a lot of progress so far. I tried doing qigong while watching educational videos on YouTube or listening to a podcast, but I have had to face the fact that doing so is not conducive to positive change in my life.

I might look for a meditation teacher. I have heard good things about Ron Crouch, but on his site he says he is not taking on any new students at this time. I have heard good things about The Mind Illuminated by Culadasa (also see Dharma Treasure site). I will also get to some Buddhist podcasts in the near future.

I tried the whole “idea machine” idea, but I was not too consistent with it. I was coming up with a lot of lists about making idea lists. I might try again, but I have been interested in meditation a lot longer, so I think this might work out better. Hopefully it will improve all aspects of my life. Perhaps I will find a Zen woman. A Theravada mama. Frankly, it seems like most women have two stages in their life: Drinking and shopping; and having babies. At least, that is what I have inferred. It’s hard to know something about a group of people when they don’t want you to know anything about them. Anyway, I would like to meet someone with whom I can do some buddha-buddha and bunga-bunga. I getting to an age where a lot of the single women frankly don’t look too good. They say at 20 you have the face you are born with, and at 50 you have the face you deserve. One way to not looking like ten miles of bad road: Do not drink alcohol. (Notice I did not write “drink less.”) But nobody ever likes that answer. Perhaps crediting not looking like a hobo to meditation will shut people up.

One thing I have realized is I need to lose weight. I have gone to a few Zen places in Chicago and here in Austin, and the basic instructions are to follow the breath by focusing on the hara, or dantian in Chinese. It is a couple of inches below your navel, and is close to most peoples’ center of gravity. Perhaps my dantian has just gotten bigger in the past decade. Yeah, that’s it.

Image from Wikipedia, assumed allowed under Fair Use.  It is the Flag of the Kingdom of Sikkim, which was annexed by India in 1975. The circle in the middle is the dhammacakka, the Wheel Of Dharma that Gautama set into motion upon his enlightenment.

Much of this post was originally posted as a comment on the Meditation subreddit.

Rambling Thoughts About A Spanish Lady

I got an email recently from my Spanish non-girlfriend. I have not seen her since I left Chicago, but we have kept in touch via email. Now she is back in Spain. Her father is in the hospital. I got the impression from her last, brief email a month ago it’s serious. I have a feeling that soon, she will come back to Chicago one last time to wrap things up, and go back to Spain for good.

Romantic opportunities do not come often for me. Women who are not spiritual or religious are pretty rare. Women who do not smoke or drink alcohol are rare. Women who fit both categories are rarer still. She did. And she did not seem to hate me.

Unfortunately, she did not seem interested in any sort of serious relationship with me either. For a very brief period, I thought she might be interested. Either I missed the opportunity, or, more likely, I was just kidding myself. I have sometimes joked (mostly to myself) that my only hope of getting married is finding a woman who is willing to lay on her back to get a green card. And then a foreign woman who meets my three criteria (along with the unstated fourth of not being fat), and it’s hard to not let my imagination run away.

As a sidenote, I have noticed that women seem more likely than men to drink alcohol, at least in the atheist/skeptical community. It seems odd to pride yourself on your logic and critical thinking skills, and then turn around and knowingly ingest a toxic, addictive substance. And be proud of yourself for it to boot. I think it is really a dumb thing for women in particular. They are at a disadvantage in just about every way; two I am thinking of are finance and health care. So why spend money on something that destroys your health? When I was in Chicago, I noticed most of the men did not drink alcohol, while most of the women did. I not only joined the atheist/skeptical community to be part of a community, but also to find a woman. No such luck. I sometimes wish my libido had an “off” switch.

There was another women who did not drink alcohol, but she showed up once and never came back. I was unemployed at the time, and not feeling my sexiest.

The Spanish Lady did not seem interested in being in a relationship with anyone. I don’t know if that is a good thing, or not. She did not seem happy with her life, and seemed resigned to the idea of going back to Spain to take care of her family. I admit, I had an agenda/fantasy of my own. But what’s wrong with wanting to do something for her? Who will be there for her? Another woman in Chicago thought the Spanish Lady’s family (or at least some of them) wanted her to go back so they could live off her money. I don’t think she had a lot, but she works for the Spanish government, so she might have a pension. I just want to make her moan and scream during anal sex and not drink booze or go to church. I want her body and her mind, not her money. Maybe that is wanting to use her. But in the fantasy world in my head, she would love every minute of it.

I know one of her brothers is severely autistic, and lives in an institution in Spain. A couple of other siblings have some issues as well. But as I stated, I don’t think she is really choosing this. I have always felt that she felt pushed into that decision and seemed resigned to it. In my defense, I did not set out to save her. The complexity of her situation became apparent to me over time.

I know it’s kind of sad to be pining away for a woman I have not seen in a few years. But things aren’t going well in Austin. I spend a lot of time in my car going to and from work. I am trying to learn a new programming language so I can get a different job, and it is taking me a lot longer than I thought. And my current job is not going too well. I did not like my brief time in a startup, but big companies seem to have a lot of chaos as well. I need a job where I can work on only one thing at a time.

Plus no woman. There are not too many at the atheist/skeptical meetups that I go to. It is still pretty guy-heavy. There was one geared towards women, but I think the leader of that one broke up with the guy leading all the other ones. And I have started going to yoga, but sometimes that seems pretty heavy on the lez.

Other people seem to find new romantic sexual partners like putting on a new pair of shoes. I still cannot figure out how to get anywhere with women. For me, it is like women are from Mars and men are from Venus. Or whatever. Sometimes I am a bit envious of gay people. It seems like there is less misunderstanding. It seems like (in some contexts) it is okay for them to be more open about sexual interest. Aside from people trying to kill them and take away their civil rights, it seems like an okay life. (I am estranged from big chunks of my family, so that part I am used to.)

I always plan on getting stuff done every weekend (work on software, blog posts, meditate, work out), but I just surf the net and don’t get much done. On top of that, I am gaining weight. Working out is not a problem, but eating less is. The only part of my body that ever gains any muscle is the inside of my thighs. It can make life uncomfortable.

Then again, if the Spanish Lady comes back to Chicago, it’s not like she would want to be with me. And she might not want to stay anyway. Illinois has gone downhill with Rauner. Like Wisconsin with Walker. And Louisiana with Jindal. And Kansas with Brownback. Seriously, people: state elections matter.

Except here in Texas, where the Republicans just get crazier and crazier. When they are not denying climate change and talking about secession, they are asking for federal disaster relief.

Plus, if Trump is president, the Spanish Lady will almost certainly stay away. I think a lot of people in foreign countries will stay out of the US.

Image from Wikipedia, assumed allowed under Fair Use. A larger version is here; you can read some of the labels in the larger version. North is towards the upper left corner.

Idea Lists and Idea Machines

I have read James Altucher’s blog for a while. It is pretty interesting.

I have been trying to put his Daily Practice into place. I admit I am not always successful. One thing I am trying to do is building up my idea muscle by listing out ten ideas a day.

Some of his posts are pretty repetitive. He tells his life story over and over again. He had a few jobs, ran a few funds, and repeated the cycle of making and losing money a few times. He had a drinking problem. At one point his first wife called the police, and they convinced him to spend the night in a hotel. He says he hit rock bottom, and the Daily Practice saved him. He tries every day to do something for himself emotionally, spiritually, physically and mentally.

His main mental practice is to come up with ten ideas every day. They could be about anything. New businesses. Books he could write. Topics he would like to read books on. Features a web site should add. Reasons people should not own a home, or go to college. How to implement ideas from a previous day’s list.

The point is to work your idea muscle, and strain your brain. He says that sometimes he gets more than ten ideas, but he always tries to get at least ten. He says the first five or six are usually pretty easy. Then it gets pretty hard. Sometimes the ideas are pretty bad. Nobody could come up with 3,650 good ideas for a business in a year, and then do that again the next year. The point is to build your idea muscle.

He tries to make lists of ten, because the goal is to get himself to think about things, see things differently and make connections. Frequently he will find the first five ideas easy, and the next five difficult. This is what builds his “idea muscle”. And he does not say that all of these ideas are good or that they will go anywhere.

There have been a few other people who have posted about this (see this page,  this pagethis page and  this page). They say that it has changed how they think. They can react more quickly to situations. That sounds like a good thing to me.

So far I wind up skipping a day a lot, and sometimes have to do two lists a day. He says it takes six months to become an idea machine. He says when that happens, your life will change every six months. I would like to be rich. Who wouldn’t? I don’t expect to be a billionaire in six months. But I do not like my job, and I do not know enough about the technologies that interest me to get a job in them. Not yet. But maybe being an idea machine will help.

His wife wrote a book called How To Become An Idea Machine. I might buy it, since sometimes I don’t know what to use for a list topic.

Hopefully I will stay consistent, and have a better life in six months.

Some posts from James Altucher about different types of lists:


Note: I also discuss idea machines in a later post.

Image from Museu de Montserrat, assumed allowed under Fair Use.