Benny's Adventures

In Memoriam

I’m a wee bit late but Monday, May 28 was Memorial Day. My feelings on it are a bit mixed but one thing is for sure:

To those men and women who risk their lives made the ultimate sacrifice as part of an organization existing to protect my rights and liberty: THANK YOU!

 

(Edit: I was reminded that the context of Memorial Day is to honor those who have died in service while Veteran’s day is directed at those currently serving and those who have retired.)

Advertisements

28 May 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

Loneliness, Fire in Movies, and Knights

It’s Tough to Meet People

While I’ve met some pretty nice people but it’s difficult to create a circumstance where it’s easy to find people to hang out with on any given day. I think it’s taking its toll but fortunately I keep myself occupied by engineering.

Why is fire in movies so dim?

I’ve seen a single candle light up a large room yet a torch in movies seems to be nothing more than a small little circle of light in darkness. I guess it’s possible that it’s done for dramatic effect. But so many mistakes and/or scary moments could have been averted if things just worked the way they should have. Oh well.

Knights! They’re so cool!

There’s just something awesome about the idea of a knight. Obviously it’s not a perfect ideal because in fact chivalry is very unfair and chauvinistic. That being said, if we ignore the flaws it’s a pretty cool life style. I suppose that’s the same with anything though, isn’t it? If you ignore the flaws, things are pretty cool.

26 February 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

Estimation, Burnout, and Villanelles

Estimation is Hard

glass_half_full1

Is the glass half full? Or half empty? Well, it doesn’t matter because when you go to drink it you’ll find there’s too much or too little. I’ve come to find in my experience so far as an engineer that anything that requires some level of estimation, be it estimating time in scheduling or estimating how much resin and hardener is left for an epoxy, is nearly impossible to get right. For the moment it’s just likely that I don’t have the proper experience doing these things with the precision I require so maybe in time I will get better at it. I’ll keep you posted.

Burnout is Actually Rarer Than It Seems

For a long time I complained of being burnt out. I think that there was some truth to it but personally life improved quite a bit when I could rest my fears and figure out exactly what I wanted to do. I suspect that while there are legitimate cases where people are experiencing “physical or mental collapse caused by overwork or stress” but there are catalysts for this reaction. Fear, uncertainty, and other related gremlins of the mind do their utmost to reduce the point where work becomes overwork and stress becomes too much.

If you are feeling burnt out, try some introspection to figure out why you are doing what your doing on top of easing the work load and stress levels to facilitate healing and avoid reentering the same state of burnout.

Villanelles are Magical

I don’t know what it is about the villanelle specifically that attracts me to it but of all the poetic forms out there the villanelle continues to hold my attention even now, a full 4 years after I first learned of the form and saw some exemplary examples. Here is my favorite villanelle:

DO NOT GO GENTLE INTOTHAT GOOD NIGHT – Dylan Thomas

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rage at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

23 February 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The World is Ending, We are All Dying

This is the inevitable truth.

The caveat to such a bold statement is that there is still time. The world’s ultimate deadline is billions, perhaps even trillions of years away depending on when our home star, Sol (a.k.a. the sun in Latin, the root of “solar” and other related words). Each of our own deadlines varies but for most of us our brief flirtation with existence still has many years left.

The Light from the Grim

Few care to accept this reality. Religion offers an afterlife (that I don’t believe exists). Apathy and lack of focus simply points our attention elsewhere. But I think everyone can benefit from facing mortality of not only human life but the reality we exist in. This idea is at the core of the following ad:

When I first encountered this commercial I sat in silence contemplating its message.

One Great Thing

Every person on the planet can achieve this. This is a relative goal. Whether you hail from the slums of a third world country or from pristine mansions in the prosperous parts of the world you can achieve something great in your life.

There is darkness in such a potential, however. “Great” is a term that has no morality to it. As such there are people who achieve greatness through “bad” things.

But isn’t it beautiful! Call me crazy but I find the idea that every individual, every human being, is trying to achieve something that is their very own individual greatness is amazing! These are the people who are truly living life, and anybody who has given up on what they can do is no better than a corpse.

The Takeaway

So I tend to get lost in the grandeur of ideas. Let me bring it back down to Earth.

By living deliberately, continue to achieve and move forward in life.

“Forward” for you may be different from “forward” for me, but if you are moving in the direction you want to be or fighting to get there in some way I have great respect for that. You may be defeated but I find value in the drive and the journey. Whether your idea of moving forward is making a million dollars or putting your child through school or anything at all, if you are furiously fighting for who you are then you are soaring at the height of your potential.

 

Now if you’ll allow me to slip back into my perception…

What a sad, brilliant world it is! Humans are cursed with the ability to desire ideals but with an inability to reach them in any form. What torment must we all endure because of the reality of having a relative concept of happiness and sadness! Too few transcend these inherent qualities of mankind and achieve greatness in a way that’s more than personal, but global. Too few drive humans in a beneficial direction, too few exist to counter the degradation inherent to the dynamical system that our past, present, and future is.

How cruel that our existence as individuals is insignificant enough to never really be able to grasp the absolute, wrestling always in a shallow tide pool beside the ocean of time and space.

And yet, we persist, we thrive, we rejoice!

21 January 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Best Practices for Naming Downloaded Files

For most people out there this may not be an issue but for someone such as myself where disorganized files on a hard drive is tantamount to having a messy home it is vital that files tend to naturally fall into some semblance of organization.

I’ve had the fortune of having to reinstall Windows 7 recently (not because of a problem, mind you! but because of a licensing change that had me switch from Enterprise to Ultimate) and I intend to avoid what happened in my last incarnation of my computer where everything became immensely disorganized.

The downloads folder is the easiest place to start I think because the naming can be entirely under your control. To begin with, first make sure you’re able to rename files as they are downloaded. See the following example for the setting in Google Chrome [highlighted by the green box]:

2012 21 01 Chrome download setting

With that complete, here’s the good stuff (a.k.a. the naming format I prefer):

“YYYY DD MM [descriptive file name] (default file name from download link)”

Start with the year, day, and month, then add a descriptive name so you can remember what it is and finally put the file name hitting the download link gave you in parentheses. This does several things:

1) Automatically sort files from oldest to newest under the default sorting of Windows Explorer and also provides a date of download for reference.

2) The descriptive file name helps you remember what the heck you downloaded.

3) Having the default download file name allows you to search for it if for some reason you remember the combination of letters and numbers for some reason but you don’t remember what it was.

Here’s a sample of my Downloads folder (don’t judge! I’ve only had this fresh install for two days now!):

2012 21 01 my downloads sample

See! Everything is organized!

In any case, I’m sure that I could have realized this sooner but for whatever reason I just now struck upon this idea and it’s definitely helped me out. Hopefully you get some benefit from it as well! If you have any ideas, let me know, and look forward to other ways of keeping your computer organized from me because it’s something I (probably disproportionately) care about.

21 January 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Racking Disciprin

Sometimes the strangest things catalyze epiphanies about life. Take the following example I stumbled across on Reddit:

racking disciprin

Obviously (I hope it’s obvious!) the picture is meant to be a joke. However, through the laughter a revelation struck me as if David (of David v. Goliath fame) had targeted me for his divine justice.

Silly Benny, what could you possibly learn from such a funny image?

Why, this I can tell you! In short discipline lets me handle more in my life. The latest example would be how I can fit in a 5 day workout schedule while still practicing my saxophone for 3 or 4 days a week, tutoring a high school student in Geo/Trig, and playing video games. (Of course, going to work and such as well)

It works because I am wasting 0 time. That’s not to say every instant is scheduled out down to the last second. In fact, that would be lame. What it means is at any given instant, if I can take a little bit more thought, effort, and perhaps time to do something that pays off ten fold later… I should do it.

The best example I have is putting things back where they belong when I’m done using things. For a lot of people this is common sense but for those of us out there who continue to find themselves in situations where they’re facing a Herculean cleaning effort it’s a very important lesson to learn. It stands as a fine example of how expending more effort than you’d like now will pay off in the future.

Every time I decide in favor of instantaneous comfort I am adding twice the discomfort later when I have to actually take care of it. So every pair of socks that get thrown aside, every winter coat that gets tossed to the ground, every dish that is not put up properly after use… they will cost me in the long run and while the short term benefit makes sense to my mind, applying some mathematical intuition will reveal that in the long term, the average value of the comfort/happiness function will be higher if I put in due effort now.

The human brain’s reward centers are not so keen on that but if you apply discipline to your life, you will develop a habit of increasing your quality of life.

The Ultimate Conclusion: Success is a Habit

Success is a habit and you can build this habit through discipline. When I decrease overall wasted time by making sure I take care of pressing but little things immediately I open up more opportunities myself. On top of that, I will gain time when I can relax without having to either ignore or suppress any task I need to accomplish, and that’s the best kind of relaxation: guilt-free.

Other benefits include all my bills being paid on time, being able to create time to play video games, having time to hang out with friends stress-free, getting more done at work and saving the company money, getting time to read peacefully, and more.

So really, if you think about it, by being disciplined you can get MORE time to relax! Combine this with a much improved perception of your available time (a topic which I cover some in my previous entry) and how you want to spend it and your satisfaction with life will go up dramatically!

I leave you with this related bonus picture (also found on Reddit):

disciprin 2

6 December 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

All About Words (And a Related Rant About Video Games)

Previously I mentioned a little bit about words and their use and perception. In particular I talked a about “beautiful” and “interesting.” I tried to explain a little bit about why word choice can play an active role last time but it was relegated primarily to the last section because I was discussing another topic. Well, in this post I can finally delve into it.

And So The Rant Begins

The title indicated a rant about video games and it’s because of the connotation that the term “video game” carries with it. Just the idea that this art form is a “game” takes away from the beauty of the craft.

I’ll be the first to admit that for every good game there are 10 “shovel-ware” games that are cranked out simply to make a profit. Furthermore, as budgets continue to grow publishers need to reduce risk so more sequels and spin-offs are allowed instead of new and original ideas.

This is not unheard of in consumable art. Movies are an easy example. For example, the success of the Twilight Saga versus Serenity by Joss Whedon. Which provides a good segue into TV. The Firefly series versus… well most anything that’s running still. In video games an equivalent example would be Psychonauts versus the Madden series.

The difference arises when you add in the games you find on say, the iPhone. This is where “casual” games and “core” games have come from. The differentiation is a sensitive spot for somebody who considers themselves a “hardcore” gamer. For most people, though, they’re all just “video games.” This is where the main difference comes from where there’s a clear difference between YouTube, TV, and the movies in the video world there is no clarity in video games.

It’s likely something that will come with time. After all, TV has been around for decades and it took that time to develop into the popular perception. People have an intuition for what types of shows and movies are supposed to be good and what types are more poignant/thoughtful/interesting. Same with music. This same intuition has not yet developed for video games and for those of us who are aware of it, life is difficult. Our passion is misunderstood.

Though in truth all art faces similar hurdles. Popularity does not imply quality and this holds very true for much on TV, much in theaters, much on the radio, or anything else you can think of. And this touches on another rant altogether – people are idiots. But it’s not their fault! I promise! (This will be explained another time, of course)

Making it Useful

Video games have the unfortunate circumstances of not having another way of referring to them. What else would you call them?

Exactly.

That being said there are a lot of other things in life that DO have multiple ways of looking at them, multiple words that can define them. An example would be “beauty” and “interest”, the subtleties of which I have taken advantage of to provide a framework for understanding the world positively.

One way this can affect your life is the perception of free time. Most people look at free time as time when they are not obligated to do anything. Work, for example. School would be another.

However, I recommend the following perception: ALL time is free. Well, let me clarify: if you are in an exceptional situation, such as if you are a modern human slave or if you are fighting cancer, you probably do not have this luxury. But if you’re reading this blog post I’m quite certain you are not in any such exceptional circumstances. If you REALLY feel like you are… you’re not. (Unless you actually are!)

With that subtlety stated I will now use generalizations that will apply to the target audience.

Every man and woman is freely given all the time they will get in their life. For the first part of your life you do not get much control over how you spend that time. However by the time you hit high school your brain should be at a level where you can understand the path you are following.

School for example. Don’t treat school as something you are forced to do and everything else about your life happens outside of school. That is to say, your free time does not include school. Rather, treat school as something you choose to do with the time you have. There’s a reason why I mentioned high school as the threshold where you can start thinking like this. It’s at this point that you could potentially have the maturity to understand the role that people play in a society with specialized labor and how education plays into it.

I’m not saying you have to enjoy school, but if you give it the proper respect in your life you’ll find that suddenly you have the ability to do more. What I mean is that if you procrastinate less you will end up with more time you can utilize that is not wasted in the elaborate theater of pretending to do something useful instead of doing homework. The other thing is that almost universally if you want to have the ability to enjoy yourself (or at the very least feed yourself) you need a job, which an education comes in handy for. (It’s not the only way, obviously, but it’s so much easier when you have that accomplishment, and even if you think it’s all arbitrary you should be able to acknowledge that)

Another example is a job. Not many people have the luxury of having a job they enjoy and love. Even among the fortunate, I doubt every moment is enjoyable. Treating it as time you have chosen to allocate that way means you are doing your job and not feeling like it’s entirely out of your control. The choice might be from a necessity to procure money for a family, for example, but that is still a choice you’ve made. Making that choice gives you a lot more power over your life than treating it as a burden you are chained to. If you ever decide to quit and find another job, then do it because you’ve considered it seriously and given it the consideration it is due. How will it affect your ability to maintain your quality of life? How will it affect your family? How will it affect your short term and long term goals and dreams?

School and work might be bad examples so let me generalize and see if it works better.

LIVE DELIBERATELY. 

Does that make sense?

Every instant you have choices. Make those choices with all your heart, mind and soul. It sounds tiring at first but pretty soon this will become habit and suddenly you are living the ideal of, “Carpe diem!” If you want to live a leisurely life, live that life because you have chosen to. If you want to live a hedonistic life, do so because it’s your choice. If you want to be serious, make that decision.

There are a lot of things out of your control in this life. Don’t relinquish control of what you do influence by being lazy or uninformed. Learn as much as you can – and I don’t just mean in school. Gain wisdom and apply it so that you can be happy because you get one shot at life.

You get one shot at life, and then you die.

So make every moment count regardless of what your path is. No matter which way you are going, do it well, do it right.

Some people say success is a habit – I’d argue that happiness is a habit also.

Where do words come into play?

Be deliberate in your choice of words and how you perceive the world. If you’re going to call something or someone beautiful, make sure you mean it. If you’re going to communicate to someone, be clear in your message. Understand what you want when you say you want to “live your life.”

Words are little, mundane things I feel like people don’t focus on very much but they can have such a difference if you approach them deliberately. For example, don’t just call the next person you don’t like a “fag”. Do you really mean that? Don’t just call that next girl who is dressed more provocatively than the norm a “slut”. Do you really know that? Don’t just impulse buy something because you “need” it. Did you really?

People are careless about their words everyday, and they are careless about their life every day. I highly recommend being DELIBERATE with your words because starting from there you can ultimately apply the same principles to being DELIBERATE with your life.

BE DELIBERATELY HAPPY!

4 December 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

People Are Boring

There. I said it. For some reason I was lost for a while in an almost overwhelming desire to find everyone interesting but I’ve come to realize that there’s a difference between beauty and interest.

People ARE Beautiful

My thoughts on beauty could warrant a whole discussion itself. There are a lot of subtleties from beauty through scarcity (snow for a Floridian vs. snow for somebody in Alaska, as a potential example) to beauty through awe to so many other mechanisms. In all cases though I think they can be understood. After all to think something is beautiful is nothing but a reaction in the brain and the stimulation leading to that reaction can be – in theory – discovered and analyzed.

Of course, the most beautiful things are the ones where the theory is not so easy. The mundane becomes magical simply because we don’t know the why.

When it comes to people I think it suffices to say that the fact everyone is an individual is enough to make them beautiful. The sheer immensity of existence a single human being carries – a past, a future, dreams, hopes, pain, despair, joy, sorrow – makes a human life beautiful. Everything you find beautiful in your own life exists in another person’s life.

This is my take on people, anyway.

Beautiful =/= Interesting

The thing about beauty is that it can be understood.

Keep in mind that I am using “beauty” here in the manner I described it earlier. I’m sure there may be some subtleties of abstractness I am leaving out. And of course carry on to have a little bit more detail added to what I mean by “beauty” here.

Take this, for example:

World Rally Championship (WRC) is something I find beautiful and interesting. The beauty of it is something I could explain to you:

  • pushing the limits of human skill and endurance
  • scenic locations and conditions of racing
  • cool cars and cool moves
  • adrenaline

Now my thought is that you may not be particularly interested in these specific traits but the core characteristics you can translate to another arena. Perhaps, for example, the adrenaline and pushing of skill and endurance is something you see in rock climbing. Or perhaps in dancing (if Dancing with the Stars has taught me anything, it’s that while people learn dance routines, they will fall often and also have emotional conflicts that are resolved conveniently for the final performance). Thus you can see that WRC is beautiful. That ain’t no guarantee you’ll find it interesting though. (Another example: I find NASCAR beautiful, but entirely uninteresting.)

That’s actually a good example I think. Let’s compare. Why do I find NASCAR beautiful?:

  • pushing the limits of human skill and endurance
  • cool cars and cool moves (I mean come on, drafting? That’s fluid mechanics right there!)
  • adrenaline

Still, I don’t find it interesting at all.

Perhaps a better example would be the Mona Lisa.

This piece of art is arguably universally accepted to be beautiful. You might be thinking, “But Benny, I think it’s interesting because of the things that make it beautiful!” I’d argue that’s just a semantics issue – what you’re calling “interesting” is what I’m calling “beauty.”

Frankly, while I can understand the subtle features of this work that people find alluring and the history behind it and all that jazz I’m just not interested in the Mona Lisa.

What IS interesting then?

Think of people you find superficially attractive. Now think of the subset of that you want to spend time with extensively (ideally on the order of marriage).

That’s the best analogy for the interplay between beauty and interest I have. Maybe.

There are some implications here. For something to be interesting it seems like it must be beautiful. In this world I’ve created where beauty does not equal interesting, it also goes hand in hand that without beauty there can no interest.

Let’s think for a second. Can something be interesting but not beautiful? In other words, could you want to marry a girl if she has no qualities you find beautiful? This goes deeper than the previous example with attractive people (and keep in mind I am using a male, heterosexual viewpoint – adjust for that as necessary in your own mind). Physical qualities certainly fall under qualities you find beautiful, but so does the ability to hold a conversation. In my mind I can think of many girls I can hold conversations with and I’m cognizant of the attractiveness of that quality. However, I am drawn to certain types of conversations more than others.

In short, in my world, to be interesting you must be beautiful but being beautiful does not mean you are interesting.

One note: I’m using interesting here in a much more “heavy” sense than just simply saying, “Oh, yeah that’s interesting” in a dismissive way. It may have been better to use the word “attractive” in this context but I prefer the word interesting. And we are talking about my perception after all.

Well, if it’s just my perception, what’s the big deal?

Ah so now you’re wondering what the whole point in all this talk was if I was just going to pull the whole, “Well, this is my perception so you can’t exactly disprove it” type argument.

Here’s the thing: that’s not entirely true. If you’re going to give me a better perspective according to what I want to achieve (happiness in particular) I will adjust my perception.

Similarly, if you have a less than perfect perception for what you want to achieve here is a way to think about it. Or a stepping stone to developing your own perception based on your needs.

You can be wrong though. Don’t hurt anyone else, for example.

In all actuality you and I probably have the same thoughts. I use the word “beauty” and “interesting” but as I briefly mentioned earlier, especially with the latter, it’s the wording I use. You may be using different words for the same idea. Take a minute to think about that so we don’t get into any needless debate, though I would certainly be curious to see what words you use.

The Point of All of This

If you’ve read this far, congratulations! You get to find out what I’m trying to say.

The core of the thought process here is that understanding your instinctive drives will help you work with it and change it as necessary. Beauty is defined by society, but what you find interesting is personal.

The distinction offers two notable benefits:

  • You can accept others’ points of views based on the idea that what they find interesting and what you find interesting are both beautiful, and you can compare the interests to find the core beauty values that link them.
  • You can understand why you find things interesting and make informed decisions about pursuing interests of all sorts.

So basically I’m saying you can be a better person than you are now. If you aren’t already doing this, you should be in some form. And if you are, increase your awareness of it and keep developing. Maybe we can come to an even better paradigm in the future.

29 November 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Let’s Hope My Laptop Experiences a Christmas Miracle!

Much of why I’ve been mum the last little while is the breakdown of my laptop. It has been sent to a HP service center so hopefully I will get it back soon and my productivity comes back up. I also don’t have my desktop because I’m at home in Florida. Thus I’m in a pickle and am sorely missing my usual tools (such as Windows Live Writer).

In any case, I hope to be back writing comfortably soon!

24 December 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

New Call of Duty: Black Ops Launch Trailer

This is an impressive looking trailer indeed.

I wonder though, am I the only gamer out there who sees this and wonders, “Will it feel different from Modern Warfare 2 or any other modern FPS for that matter?”

1 November 2010 Posted by | Gaming, Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: