Writing and writing programs

December 12, 2019

The following is from the book, Computer Power and Human Reason by Joseph Weizenbaum, page 108. I think it’s great.

“Often when we think we understand something and attempt to write about it, our very act of composition reveals our lack of understanding even to ourselves. Our pen writes the word ‘because’ and suddenly stops. We thought we understood the ‘why’ of something but discover we don’t. We begin a sentence with ‘obviously,’ and then see what we meant to write is not obvious at all. Sometimes we connect two clauses with the word ‘therefore,’ only to then see that our chain of reasoning is defective. Programming is like that. It is, after all, writing too. But in ordinary writing we sometimes obscure our lack of understanding, our failure in logic, by unwittingly appealing to the immense flexibility of natural language and to its inherent ambiguity. The very eloquence that natural language permits sometimes illuminates our words and seems (falsely, to be sure) to illuminate our undeserving logic just as brightly. An interpreter of programming-language texts, a computer, is immune to the seductive influence of mere eloquence. And words like ‘obviously’ are not represented in the primitive vocabularies of any computers. A computer is a merciless critic.”

My biohacks

October 27, 2019

The word “biohacks” seems to be popular these days. I take it to mean doing some action on the body that gets rapid results.

Here are my biohacks:

  1. Sleep: 8 or more hours of deep sleep will eliminate mental and physical toxins. This is the most important biohack.
  2. Foam rolling: 10 minutes of foam rolling every day releases the fascia (connective tissue that covers the muscles). It makes you more mobile.
  3. 10-minute walk after each meal: three 10-minute walks every day balances the body’s blood sugar level, reduces cholesterol, and a bunch of other wonderful things. Next to sleep, this is the best biohack.
  4. Eat simple, unprocessed foods: make meals from scratch, using real ingredients.
  5. Deep breathing: breathe in deeply, exhale, hold. This will push oxygen into your body and brain. Yogis have been doing this for thousands of years. Very important biohack.
  6. Fresh pepper: improves digestion!
  7. Read for enjoyment: let your mind be immersed in another life, it will release stress.
  8. Exercise: many of the sins from poor eating can be reduced or eliminated by regular exercise.
  9. Vacation: get away from work. Think of other things. It will keep your mind fresh.
  10. Fresh rosemary plus mint: forget coffee (i.e. caffeine). Rosemary and mint in a glass of water plus the juice of a fresh lime will make your mind alert. Remember, caffeine doesn’t make you alert, it merely blocks the sleep receptors in your brain, i.e., it just makes you less sleepy.
  11. Super-strong peppermint tea: when I feel a cold or flu coming on, I make a super-strong batch of peppermint tea: pour hot water over one cup of loose peppermint. It doesn’t eliminate the cold/flu, but it does lessen its duration and intensity.
  12. Chinese cupping: remember the odd ring marks on Michael Phelps back at the last Olympics? That was from cupping. I have found cupping to be very effective at providing instant relief from back pain.
  13. Hot-cold baths: I fill one bathtub with hot water. I fill the other bathtub with cold water and 30 pounds of ice. I soak 2 minutes in the hot water, immediately followed by 2 minutes in the ice bath. Repeat three more times. After that, all aches and pains are magically gone.

The secret to deep breathing that pushes tons of oxygen into your cells

October 19, 2019

Recently I learned some exciting things:

  1. When we are young, we have a lot of oxygen in our cells.
  2. As we get older, the amount of oxygen in our cells decline.
  3. Want to get younger? Then increase the amount of oxygen in your cells.
  4. The way to increase the amount of oxygen in your cells is to do deep breathing.
  5. However, there is a secret which makes deep breathing much more effective: inhale deeply and then exhale completely and then hold for as long as you can. While you are holding, carbon dioxide is building up in your system. The carbon dioxide pushes the oxygen into your cells!

The Yogis have been doing this kind of breathing for thousands of years. I never knew what the rationale was, but now I know.

This morning on my 10-minute walk I did this type of breathing. I will do it 3 times per day, every day.

Wake up and move

October 13, 2019

After sleeping 8 hours I would go sit in front of my computer for 30 minutes. No more.

I realized, “Hey, I just spent 8 hours inactive, it makes no sense to be more inactive.”

Now, immediately after getting up, I walk around the house for 10 minutes.

Also, I used to turn on the (artificial) lights immediately upon waking. No more.

I realized, “Hey, I want my body and mind to gradually enter the new day, I want naturally lighting from the moon and stars.”

So, I do my 10-minute walk in the dark, with lighting only from the moon and stars.

Recovery is key to mental and physical health

October 7, 2019

“There is one thing that I am better at than anyone in the world, and that is recovery.”

  • Eddie Hall, the only person to deadlift 500kg (1100 pounds)

So, you just finished a hard exercise session. The degree to which you will benefit from that physical stress is the degree to which you recover from it. If you don’t recover 100% before your next session, then you will decrease your physical health.

So, you just finished a hard day of knowledge work, creating and solving challenging problems. The degree to which you will benefit from that mental stress is the degree to which you recover from it. If you don’t recover 100% before your next knowledge work session, then you will decrease your mental health.

I have listened to Eddie Hall talk about all the recovery techniques that he does – massage, hot-cold therapy, shockwave therapy, oxygen therapy, foam rolling, chiropractic, and others. Very impressive. I understand why he is the best in the world at physical recovery. I am incorporating more and more recovery techniques in my daily routine.

To recover from mental stress, lately I have been reading mystery novels. I have found that beneficial. I can approach my knowledge work with a fresh (recovered) mind.

Pace yourself in career and exercising

September 29, 2019

On Friday my chiropractor informed me that, starting next week, he is only working mornings. He said, “throughout my life I have always paced myself.” He is currently 69 years old  and wants to work another 14 years, to the age of 83. To enable this, he is reducing the stress on his body (chiropractic is a physically demanding occupation).

The words “pace myself” struck a chord with me. I have never been good at pacing myself. In anything. But I will change. I will look at my career as a marathon, not a sprint. I will look at my exercising as a life-long endeavor, not a short-term ego trip.

So, practically, what does this mean? It means that I will stop dedicating nearly every waking hour of my life to work. I will stop being obsessed with exercising. I will find, appreciate, and enjoy other things in life.

Parents, don’t let your child grow up to be a video game designer

September 7, 2019

4-year old Tommy announces: “When I grow up, I want to be a science teacher.”

“Wonderful,” replies his grandfather. “That is an excellent career choice.”

Six months elapse. Tommy has discovered video games and is now immersed in them.

Tommy announces: “When I grow up, I want to be a video game designer.”

This time his grandfather kept his thoughts to himself. He thinks, “That is an awful choice. We have too many video games already. The world doesn’t need another video game designer.”

3 easy steps to freeing your mind of stress and worry

September 7, 2019
  1. Write down all the tasks you need to accomplish. When a task is finished, check it off the list. Have one to-do list for work, another for non-work. Writing the tasks down saves you from juggling them all in your head 24×7.
  2. Read novels that engage your interest but don’t tax your mind. This gives your mind a rest from thinking about work and the stress of reading heavy technical material.
  3. Reduce the amount of news consumed. Avoid incendiary news organizations which deliberately stir up emotions. Stick with reading web sites that just report the facts without fanning the fire of emotion.

Muscle memory

August 24, 2019

When you can do an exercise for 6 reps, then increase the weight by 10% and do the exercise again. If now you can only do 5 reps, walk away. You are done with that exercise. That is your 80% weight.

I believe in muscle memory. The body remembers the last weight it lifted. You want your body to remember (in the next workout session) the heavy weight. Always finish on a high, at the top of the pyramid. Then, the next time you’re in the gym, your body will remember the heavy weight.

Never go down the pyramid. I see people work up to their 80% level and then go down to lighter weights to do reps. Don’t do that. Why? Because the next time you’re in the gym, your body will remember the lighter weights.

Example from my own experience: When I do chin-ups, I finish with a set of 3 reps (always just 3 reps). I do those 3 reps extra special – when I ascend, I get my chin much higher above the bar than normal and when I descend, I go extra slow and deliberate. At my next chin-up session my muscles remember that extra high ascent and extra slow descent and my chin-ups automatically take that form.

Would Albert Einstein succeed in today’s distracted world?

August 19, 2019

I feel sad for today’s students. They have so many shiny objects (email, instant messaging, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, web sites with flashy graphics) competing for attention. Concentrating on schoolwork requires students have enormous discipline and willpower.

When I went to school there was no World Wide Web and there were no laptops. There were just books, paper, and pencils. It was relatively easy to do the deep work – long, uninterrupted periods of concentration – needed to do well in school.

If Albert Einstein had lived in the distracted world that we live in today, would he have been able to make his discoveries?