It’s clear that the yield on these one-quart jars, pretty as they are, is just not high enough to experiment with.
I get about 2-3 of those square bottles….MAYbe out of one of these.
So I went to walmart and picked up a couple gallon jars and
some jalapenos (well…the jalapenos were from publix, not walmart.)…
I actually was able to get them all in there, startling as that may be. It may also have been an awesome mistake. If that thing starts bubbling over I’m gonna be in a tough spot, so I’m setting the whole thing in a cookie sheet (with it’s minimal 1/3″ walls) for the first couple weeks, ’til it calms down.
I MAY just take a bunch out and blend them, to reduce their volume a bit. I mean that’s what I’m gonna do to them on the back end anyway and I’m not sure I believe it makes a lick of difference.
I also picked up about a pound of garlic. That I’m going to treat a bit differently. I’m going to mash that to death in a food processor, squeeze it as close to dry as I can, then spread the pulp out on a cookie sheet (don’t worry, I have several) and bake it at something like 200 degrees for 6 hours. Just turn it all to dust, then see what I can do with it. Probably mix it back in with the extracted juice and, after I tip some weapons in it and let them dry (can never be too careful about vampires down here) I’ll put it in some vinegar and see if I can use it as the basis for an interesting sauce.
There will be no fermenting of garlic until I get a multi-chamber charcoal filter for the blowoff. That was just too disgusting for words. But there are a lot of ways to do this besides puttin’ its head in a boot jack and yankin’ on its tail.
I ALso bought ingredients for marinara, ketchup, and limoncello. So…we’ll see how motivated I get this weekend.
We’re only two weeks away from Agents of Mayhem’s release.
AoM is the next game by the guys who did the absolutely impeccable Saint’s Row series, the only video game that tempted me to get a tattoo besides Skyrim, which really came later anyway. No, I didn’t go through with either. Though maybe I should. Not like I’m ruining a piece of art or anything.
I’ve kept away from trailers and previews, except for the very first one. Plus, I’ve blocked their twitter account. I really really REALLY hate getting visuals of things I’m already sold on.
I don’t watch coming attractions, trailers, nothing. It’s pretty easy, not having cable. But people will still send me links to things and whine when I don’t watch them. That’s fine.
So next month I’ve decided I’m giving up wheat. Not because I’m one of those insufferable fucking shitbags. Just because the monthly “give up a thing or two” has turned into a cakewalk. Time to amp up and hit this where it hurts.
I think the next phase of this whole thing, which I’ve been doing for more than a year now, is going to be going 3 months at a time, and trying to come up with some kind of criteria for deciding on whether I want to make some of these changes permanent. It’s all well and good to dick around with doing something good for myself. It’s another thing to be at all serious about improving my life.
But that’s all I’ve got going on in my head. I really want nothing more than to go hang out in the commonwealth and snipe some raiders and synths.
First, this “post every day” thing is getting really threadbare. It would be different if I didn’t just wait ’til the end of the night when all I want to do is go to bed to post. So, come Tuesday, posting is gonna get sparse, fast.
Second: We have a monthly billing process in the office. Because what we do involves a lot of money moving (not a lot of money, just between lots of parties) the details are somewhat obscene in complexity. Anyway the guy (THE guy) who handles billing started a bit less than a month before I did. He’s ostensibly a DBA, but…he’s the only one that can call himself that with a straight face. He’s a junior web developer.
For 20 months I’ve watched this kid thrash with the billing process. He’s “had it under control” while sweating through it every single period. He will neither ask for nor accept help. The manager is a complete push over, so he just shrugs it off.
It’s absolute torture. He forgets major steps on a daily basis, then wonders why the numbers don’t (manually) tie out. You wouldn’t believe a company in the digital age operates like this.
It just make me furious to watch. Soon as there’s a problem our manager puts his headphones on, hoping to avoid it.
I’ve never dealt with anyone like el jefe, the cto. He’s afraid of everybody. His primary goal in any conversation is to get out of it. He will say ANYthing to ANYone. Anything he perceives as dissatisfaction, especially with him, sends him in to an absolute panic of symptom triage. He has no interest in actually FIXING anything (though if that happens along the way he’s not a complete fool about it.) He just seems to take any complaint as a dissatisfaction with him and his ego can’t handle it.
It might literally be the most pathetic personality trait I’ve ever seen.
I’ve got to stick around for the 2 year mark, and I really don’t just want to jet on them that day.
– Gotta do something different with meditation. I’m getting to the point where I spend most of my energy trying to keep my focus straight because I keep passing the hell out in five minute blocks. I don’t know why I KNOW it’s five minute blocks. But I do. The “internal clock” thing is really interesting because I know when I’m coming up on the end (of 45 minutes) usually to within 90 seconds or so.
– Similarly, the “pick something to deprive myself of for a month” is turning into a cakewalk. I’m thinking about amping that up a bit and doing something like going without wheat for a month. It’d be interesting to see what the hubub is about and frankly, I don’t see how I’d do that. I’ve usually got SOME kind of bread at just about every meal, whether it’s sandwiches, pizza, or sandwiches. It might be fun to experiment with some of those Keto bread replacement recipes.
– I realized today that I’m never going to get the chance to really work on the new C++ project at the office. There are just too many things that nobody knows but me. I can’t just write these piss-ant reports and automation systems anymore.
So here’s some fun: In trading (or, in anything else, really) “Cost Basis” refers to the average price you paid for a bunch of something. For instance, if I buy 10 shares of BLAH at $100, then I buy 10 more at $200, the cost basis for my 20 share position is $150/share. Nothing fancy.
Back in ’07-09 I daytraded for a living. It was absolute fucking hell. I made a lot of trades (probably 4 positions a day on average.) There were some BIG winners, and lots of slim losers slowly shaving away my capital. Looking back on it now I’m amazed I lasted as long as I did, given how bad my understanding of risk management was.
But one of my points is that I was trading the same money back and forth. I’d be in an out of a position sometimes in seconds, never really putting TOO much at risk.
It was exhausting not quite understanding what I was doing wrong. Blind spots like that are always a big pain in the ass.
Finally enough was enough and I got out and started working again.
I moved jobs a couple times, left the apartment in Brooklyn and moved to a house about half way between NYC and Albany, thinking to myself that I’d figure out wtf I was doing wrong and eventually come back to it.
Fast forward to the fall of…shit…2014? That sounds right.
I get a letter from the New York Department of Taxation and Finance. Well THAT’S never good news.
So I’m getting sweaty when I finally open this thing.
Now, if you want to take hallucinogens to achieve altered states of conscious, knock yourself out. But it will never compare to the buzzing in my temples, fucked up depth perception, and complete reevaluation of realities underpinnings as reading “You owe us $654,000.”
I MAY have actually had a cardiac event.
At this point in time (September ’14) I already had plans in motion to move cross-country under development. I didn’t know where or QUITE when. But that was irrelevant. The engines had been started and it was happening. Suddenly I had no idea what my life was going to look like for the foreseeable future. Would I be stuck in some wacky payment arrangement of some kind for the rest of my life, fruitlessly trying to whittle this down to nothing?
The dramatics of it all really just involved me hyperventilating a lot and not telling anybody why the hell I was so bent out of shape.
Now this was before I listened to a lot of audio books during my commute, instead spending a lot of time listening to country music radio, fantasizing about moving down south someplace. I’d been laughing at a commercial from this guy:
Finally I was damn near crapping myself and it came on and I just threw up my hands and said “fuck it” and I gave the guy a call. I talked with him a couple times over a week while his people got their ducks in a row and figured out wtf was going on.
APPARENTLY the state of New York retroactively decided that, for every trade I made (that is, for every position I entered and exited) my cost basis was ….drumroll please….
Meaning that if I spent $5000 on 100 shares of whatever at $50 each, then sold them immediately, the NYS Tax people decided I bought it for $0 and sold it for $5000. So my net gain wasn’t zero, it was $5000. Literally infinite profit. $5000 on which I obviously didn’t pay taxes because it didn’t exist. Now, if I traded that same $5000 five times a day…. I “magically” made $25,000.
So they thought I had a zero cost basis on more than 6.8 million dollars worth of trading activity.
It was a long slog. The company I had my trading account with had been bought at least twice. I was on the phone with them and they said there simply weren’t any records to get. FINALLY either Jerry or I got through to someone at the new firm who (this defies belief) found someone who had come over along with two levels of mergers from the original company and knew where the account transaction backups were, sitting on some old defunct server someplace.
So this guy saved my ass.
The CPA’s people got that info, put everything together and went back to New York.
It turns out…
Owed me more than $30,000.
Now, they won’t just write you a check like that. They’ll write some limit amount and take the reset out of your taxes going forward, a bit every year. Fine. Fine. It’s all fine.
So I had a party and blew half the cash. Stuffed the rest in the bank. I probably, now that I think about it, built my current desktop computer with it. The panic subsided, my step lightened, I went back to my master plan for getting the fuck out of New York. (Eventually I’ll tell that story. There’s no one alive who knows more than about 45% of it.)
Other concerns floated to the front of my mind. Life moved on.
I moved down here October ’15.
Took me a long time to get started. But again, I have a plan that’s under way now and I won’t be stopped. It’s going to take a while, but that’s okay. I’ll skip along the bottom. That’s fine.
I pull in to the parking lot tonight, not really minding the heat SO bad. I mean, at least I was moving. I toss out a bag of soda cans from my passenger seat on the way up to the lobby;
where I stop at the mailbox.
Oh, mail. I never get mail. (Seriously. I get like 1-2 pieces of “not an amazon package” a week.)
White envelope. Hmm.. I wonder….
I start making a noise like a cat horking up a hairball.
“Hey, are you okay?” A woman who lives in the building asks me, just having gotten her mail. I don’t even make eye contact, just show her the envelope. She takes a second to look at it, then goes wide eyed and sucks wind through her teeth. “Ouch.”
I just blink for a few seconds before catching an elevator up. I go up the 18 floors replaying the events described above something like 172 times.
I plop my stuff down at my desk and stare at the envelope.
“Fucking WHAT!?! I haven’t DONE anything. But I thought that before too, didn’t I. That means precisely dick.”
I hold my breath and use my trusty little EDC knife and slice the thing open.
In big, bold letters.
“Notification to Owner of an Uncashed Check”
Yeah. Apparently one of the checks got lost in my transit from New York to Nashville.
They’re going to issue me a new one.
I’m going to fucking bed now.
I don’t think my heart can take any more good news today.
Basically that doesn’t mean much more than “I read this and typed it all in.” The reason for the surprise, by the way, isn’t “omg I can’t believe I have the skill set to type in all that code!” I thought the tutorial was 16 parts. Turns out it’s only 13. So I kept looking for the “next” button and couldn’t find one.
Like I said at the beginning, this is the early version of one that’s being posted in weekly installments over at reddit.com/r/roguelikedev. I just couldn’t wait.
I have….so much I want to do to this.
First I want to organize the code better. Then I want to decouple the dependency on the libtcod toolkit, I dunno, make the game a local server so I can really screw around with it. But I want to add fucktons of buckets of items. I’ve got ideas for an enchanting and “essence” mechanic I really wanna try and I want to use it as a platform to experiment with AI. That way I could take the PC and just pull him out as a necessary component and just drive the thing off of NPC AI logic.
My brain is just BUZZING with this crap.
The interesting thing about it is that almost none of the things I want to do with it have ANYthing to do with the fact that it’s a “roguelike” which was always the plan. It will become a sandbox for me to screw around with all kinds of ideas and techniques. And if, hell, I slap a tileset on it or port the thing over to another language (Probability: 10/10) all the better.
What I’m most surprised about it really is the fact that it’s ACTUALLY fun. This goofy little thing with 6 items, 2 types of mobs and unlimited levels is actually a fun little time waster right out of the box.
But now I get to play all kinds of horrible games with it.
OH! You may or may not remember that I’m doing this “read 52 books in a year” thing. I found the /r/52books subreddit and thought it’d be a good idea. I made a post where I started listing the books I’ve read as I finish them. But it occurs to me that editing it in place just sorta buries it in the past. So here’s the running list. I’ll probably sidebar it.
Seriously. Even I’m getting sick of it now. I went through the day with half a dozen “ooh, I’ll post about that”s. Now it’s 10:30 and my brain is entirely empty.
Hit the stupidmarket this morning and bought all the cold cuts. Prosciutto, Roast Beast, Turkey, Havarti. Sad thing is, none of it is likely to ever make it to a sandwich. I’m just gonna roll it up and eat it.
I suppose that’s actually the healthier way to go.
I’ve had this recipe in my “Try this” page in OneNote for a couple months now and I finally pulled the trigger on it. I doubled up everything but the beef. I WAS going to put two roasts in there. But I figured that maybe, MAYbe I should try just making a 1x batch of SOMEthing once in my life. But I always regret not having enough gravy/sauce.
About 2 hours in (on low) I tossed in a bunch of mushrooms, thought about it, then went and fished them out. That much balsamic vinegar was just going to soak right in to them and make them taste ridiculous. I pulled the mushrooms out and put them in a frying pan with a bit of butter and cooked them a bit. I tasted one and damn near spit the thing out. Yep. Gak. Called it. So I tossed them. Well, it served the original purpose of “I’ve gotta do something with these mushrooms or throw them out” at least.
But now it’s at about 8 hours and the roast is sitting in there just stewing away. I suppose I’ve gotta go tend to it now.
Aside from that I got absolutely nothing worth doing done today. It was NOT okay.
When I got home and stuffed the groceries in their proper places I went down and retrieved the dozen books that came in in the last two days. I’m starting to get book hangover.
I noticed that, within the last week it’s happened. I’ve had two copies of “Pattern Languages of Program Design” come in. I only hope there isn’t a third one on the shelf someplace.
Anyway here, watch some more Feynman. Try to ignore the Californians:
Almost certainly not within the next 10 days, that’s for sure.
The applications are away and I’ve downloaded the trading platform. It’s…improved in the last 9 years. I may end up starting with equities and options trading. Me, writing covered calls? Shit. I might actually wet myself.
I bought a plain old Agenda notebook. Nothing fancy, just a year long (July -> July) dated book with about 8-10 lines per day to jot stuff in. I suppose I ACTUALLY bought two of them, one for the office, that I’ve been using for a week, and one for home, that’s….still in the bag someplace around here.
I get quite frustrated with the immediacy with which the past disappears into obscurity. It’s amazing to me that I couldn’t tell you what I had for lunch last week, or that I’m not QUITE sure how many weeks these peppers have been fermenting, or how long that 5 gallon jar of JAOM has been fermenting on my countertop.
In looking at my notes, it seems that the JAOM has been bubbling away for a scant 4 months. I would’ve sworn it was closer to 8 or 9. I suppose it’s just that it’s so damn conspicuous that my perception of time has been stretched a bit by the attention it forces out of me.
But it makes me wonder what would happen if I could actually look back and see it all, even if it were just a series of bullet list items of things I’d done. Sure I’ll use it as a tickler file as well. It’s nice to get that kind of crap out of my head.
But it’s 11:00 now and I can’t get all spun up for a lecture on Chesterton’s notion of “The Inside of History.”
Called my old brokerage firm (or at least, the company that acquired the company that acquired my old brokerage firm) and talked to them about getting my account reinstated. Because of the account’s disposition during the M&As, there’s going to be some gymnastics. But I’m well on my way and they’re making it pretty easy.
So most long-term projects are on ice for a while I get my sea legs back in to the trading world. My reading material is switching from pulpy fantasy to the trading classics, and some new stuff.
Not sure how much I’ll post about it. But you never know. I suppose I’m not going to be able to avoid having it on the brain.
No I won’t pick stocks for you. Let’s just get THAT shit out of the way up front.
And now for something completely different:
I pretty much have to have music playing while I’m programming. It’s got to be relatively uninteresting and a bit repetitive. But of course I have to actually LIKE the stuff.
I listened to the Buddha Bar CDs for years, numbers 1-9. One of the great things about that stuff is that anything with lyrics is generally not in English, so I was able to enjoy the voice as instrument without getting caught up listening to “lyrics” per se.
15 or so years of that sorta burned me out on it though, and I’m constantly on the hunt for new stuff.
There’s a website: musicforprogramming.net. It’s a great idea. I think they’re up to 48 separate single-mp3 mixes. Unfortunately I can’t stand them. Your mileage may vary.
Then there’s the youtube stuff which is usually just positively awful. There are exceptions though.
This is lovely. But I’ve listened to it hundreds of times and am finally starting to wear out the bits:
But I’m always poking around. A couple guys in the office keep sending me links to things I don’t like and I end up sending them links to things they DO like, which is fine with me. I’ll almost always give something different a shot.
Last night though, I discovered this little 45 minute gem:
It’s as close to perfect as I’ve found. It reminds me of the soundtrack from The Matrix, just slowed down a bit. Sure there are a couple flaws. He’s got few second delays between some of the tracks. But over all it’s dead on. I ran through it I think 3 or 4 times last night while working on a programming project.
The kid’s got a bunch more work. But frankly I haven’t bothered to look in to it. I’m just jamming on that thing too much.
So, yeah. I’m having “Shit or get off the pot” itis. I can’t keep doing what I’m doing, and I’d be a fool to think that any other firm is going to be any better than this one.
So it’s time for me to come up with another income plan and start making it happen.
My current candidate is Forex trading. I day traded for a few years in a couple stints back in the 2000s and I was pretty good at it. I had really shitty money management skills though. I didn’t QUITE realize how much of a thing it was. But now, running some simulations I’m starting to agree with Van Tharp, that money management and exit strategy is PROBABLY more important than your entry price and thesis.
It sounds like a strange thing to say, and I’m not going to go in to the particulars just yet. But “cutting your losers short and letting your winners run” is how you turn the probabilities to your advantage.
So it’s back to school with me. Lord knows I’ve already got the library. I’m most of the way through the first Anna Coulling book. She’s positively excellent for this stuff. Trading the currency exchanges is a much different beast than trading equities. Though I fully expect I’m going to do a lot of that as well.
Also I went back and did another of the Roguelikedev lessons. I somehow let that slip and had almost forgotten about it. I SUSPECT I was trying to trick myself out of finishing it now that I’m getting towards the end. That’s…an unfortunate thing I do sometimes. Leave projects at 90%. I haven’t really decoded it. But it’s on my short list of shit to fucking sort out.
But it’s time to call the broker, get my old account reinstated, and check the funding requirements for currency trading.
I dunno. What today? I don’t have anything to wax eloquent about. I’ve spent most of the day looking at a block of 110,000 lines of C++ code that’s really 1989 style “c with classes” that I inherited at the job.
No documentation. A few hundred classes. Approximately 20 binary targets (exes and DLLs.) No documentation of any kind.
“Yeah we bought this code. Can you make it in to our flagship new product? Great kthxbai.”
Mgr and President don’t understand what they’re asking. That’s okay. I don’t ask that people know. But I do ask that if they DON’T know, to not know and to listen. But they won’t do that.
I remember their lead in announcements (they’d call it “planning”) and how excited I was to actually dig in to a C++ project again after too many years.
But now that I’ve got my mitts on (most of) the code and I’m getting those pie eyed looks from management I realize what I’m in for.
I’d had the impression, for a while, that I wasn’t getting any better at…well…not my job, but my profession. I’m certainly getting better at my job in that I’m acclimating to the office environment and am more and more able to deliver software that brings civilization to the wild wild west of our business.
But I’d largely plateaued as a programmer.
It got me to asking myself: What was it that helped me make the largest leaps in skill that I THINK I used to make fairly regularly.
The right answer is something like “I improved dramatically when I tried something beyond my current skill level and forced myself to step up and figure it out.” But that shit ain’t the truth. The TRUTH is: “I make quantum leaps in skill when I read something that gives me another set of gears for my ‘ways of thinking’ machine.”
Yeah, it takes some practice to get new cogs and sprockets fitted right. But that’s really just that.
So, in my furious out of control rush to rebuild my library (which I’m doing at a positively ALARMING rate) I then refined my thinking…Which books then?
Well, there were a couple things:
– Technology cookbooks that have concrete plug and play solutions to very specific low level problems. (“Java Examples In A Nutshell”, any of the old O’Reilly “Cookbook” books.)
– The Design Patterns books.
Ah yes, that blast from the 90s and early 2000s: Design Patterns, Pattern Languages, and all the various associated conference proceedings books. Design Pattern thinking (the specifics of which I won’t really get in to too deeply here. Far better people have done a far better job) exploded on the scene with the Gang of Four book in 95.
The Pattern Movement produced a way of describing complex component interrelationships without being either bogged down in technology specifics or staying too lofty to be useful.
You couldn’t copy a design pattern out of a book into a code editor. Not really. But IF you had basic fluency with the language you could implement a solution that encoded the pattern itself, but that would be tightly bound to your specific application.
If you didn’t have fluency with the language to implement the pattern, the gap in your knowledge was pretty easy to track down and remedy. So, if you knew a pattern fit, but couldn’t figure out how to make it work, there were (I just realized I’m talking about patterns in the past tense. There’s nothing past tense about them except their overwhelming popularity.) ways to figure it out. That way you’d increase your language/toolkit knowledge as well.
But going back over 40 years of programming in my head, aside from the Stephens book (Advanced Programming In The Unix Environment) I don’t think any other book, series of books, lecture, project, job, or person has had quite the cumulative effect on me as the Patterns literature.
So I’ve ordered (and am starting to re-accumulate) the PLoPD (Pattern Languages of Program Design) and POSA (Patterns of Software Architecture) books. There are about five of each and I think I’m back up to half of them.
Even just browsing these things feels like I’ve reacquired ancient keys to knowledge. It’s so much fun, browsing back and forth through these, picking them apart and looking through my brain for problems/solution matches.
Time to figure out what the next frontier is though. I think re-familiarizing myself with this stuff gets my head back in “actual thinking” mode. But I’m not sure if it’s going to help me advance.
I’ve officially got too many damn projects going at once.
The major ones are:
– Mead (several different batches)
– This hot sauce nightmare
– Teaching myself game development in my spare time
– Gaming (gotta give it its due.)
– Teaching myself about the Forex markets.
– Some light leatherwork.
– Some RaspberryPi and other microcontroller projects I’m fiddly farting around with.
And a couple more I can’t possibly remember at the moment.
For all of the crap I actually DO get done (which sorta surprises me at times) I’m still pretty conscious of how much time I waste being indecisive about what to do next or how to spend my time.
I mean, I’m PRETTY ADD (film at 11) on the best of days. But I’ve never really managed time very well at all. Nowadays I just see it blowing past me like Scott Adams’ deadlines.
Today I certainly did some stuff. Cleaned up my apartment (part 2 of 723.) Put some more peppers in fermentation jars (though I can’t seem to get a good seal on the wide-mouth jars, which is getting a bit frustrating.) I’m sure I got other stuff done, though again I can’t for the life of me remember what it was.
Time to make myself a big list. But not now. I promised myself I wasn’t going to go to bed at midnight anymore. It’s making me grumpy as shit in the morning.
Beginning of this week I mentioned the hot sauce. I brought a half dozen bottles in to the office as a goof.
For those six bottles I started from 3 different batches of fermented peppers. I did the whole process description a couple days ago, so I’m not going to rehash that much.
BUT, for each variety of peppers I made a couple/few different combinations and I coded the bottles so I’d know what was in them.
The fermented pepper combinations were:
A: Dried Japones peppers
B: Fresh Jalapenos and Habaneros
C: Dried Chilis of some sort fermented with pineapple pieces.
TO these I had a bunch of available additives:
Coconut milk. I figured this would work great for mellowing out some of the heat, which I simply can’t tolerate.
Apple Cider Vinegar. My thinking was that the cider vinegar would be a bit more sweet than a white vinegar, so it’d be worth trying.
White Wine Vinegar. As a baseline.
I didn’t do ALL combinations because I just didn’t have that much original sauce. (Remember I started with 32oz of fermented peppers and only used what I was able to strain out after putting it through the blender.) There was about enough for 2 different combinations of each original.
The proportions were ABOUT even for listed ingredients.
So knowing that, you could go back to the original post and read what I came up with:
It’s interesting to look at the list now. The Japones peppers were just TOO damn hot for me to taste without carrying on like a lunatic, so coconut milk went in both of those and I tried both vinegars.
I brought this stuff in to work and people tasted it and nodded politely. But the test came when I left these bottles in the office fridge for a week.
I watched people during lunches and while I’ve got one fan of A13 (the resident salamander) the B3 is now gone. People were putting it on everything. Chips & Guac, burritos, chicken dishes. Whatever. It was going in.
So tonight I made a couple more canning jar airlock lids and started a batch of fresh jalapenos and a batch of fresh habaneros. I figure if I do them separately I’ll have that much more latitude in coming up with the right proportions.
If I blend them first I can use my mead glassware now that I’m thinking about it.
But for all of this nonsense, it’s time for me to get back on track. I wasn’t actually so interested in hot sauces. I was looking to duplicate a garlic sauce I’m particularly fond of, or at least create something in the same category that I like very well.
Still though, continuing to make and refine the one that people like helps me to develop and refine my skills and…well…gets me the fan base.
I’m interested to see how this all turns out. I may make a hot sauce lover of myself yet.
As I’ve mentioned here and there, for a couple months now I’ve been back in the meditation game. Frankly I’ve spent more time sitting, straight-backed, listening to the screaming demons in my mind over the last 6 weeks than I had in the previous 48 years.
I’m not a Buddhist. Hell, I’m not even PRETENDING to be a Buddhist anymore. (Don’t ask. It was my early 20s. Though at least I had the self awareness (heh) to call myself Buddhish.) I’m not a Malibu Transcendental Meditation practitioner. I’m not an Eckist, and frankly I’m less religious all the time (much to my continual shock.) I’m not a Taoist and I am, without a doubt, the least Zen motherfucker you’re ever gonna meet.
Feels good. It’s affecting my life in deep ways that I can vaguely sense, but are really tough to pin down. I’m less of a mess, but I can’t really get more specific than that or I’m just trying to turn around fast enough to catch a glimpse of my own face.
But the mechanics of it bear relating. I’ll try to go through this. But there are points where it’s gonna sound like I’m leaving stuff out that I’m not. The problem is I have to also not leave stuff out.
Taken at it’s most simple and most profound, here’s how to meditate:
Sit down and shut up.
“But Flint WTF does that MEEEEAANNNN?”
S’ok. It’s a reasonable question.
Here’s what I do:
I have a cheap beanbag chair that’s shaped like a chair (rather than just an amorphous blob.) I’ve got it turned around so the ‘back’ is on the floor, and the ‘seat’ is supporting me in the back. By doing this I have space to sit loosely cross-legged, such that my feet are not under my knees. So I sit cross-legged, then sorta half-unfold my legs until I’m in a position where my knees and hips aren’t going to start screaming in a few minutes.
Put your hands on your knees.
Sit up straight. Posture is pretty important. If you relax into a lump you’re just gonna fall asleep. I’ve wondered more than once if the point of the lotus position wasn’t to maintain a requisite amount of discomfort that was an easy focus point. But more on that later.
The most useful description I’ve heard about how your posture should feel is: Imagine you’re being pulled up by a cord attached to your spine, straightening you up.
Now start the timer, whatever that means. (Ideally you can start the timer for your starting time (let’s call it 15 minutes for your first time) plus two or three minutes, giving you time to get situated.)
Close your eyes.
Breathe slowly, deeply and consistently. I personally just breathe through my nose. But there’s all KINDS of wacky horseshit out there of “in for a count of 4, hold for 8, exhale for 8.” or “Box Breathing” which is the same thing but 4-4-4. Yeah, that’s great. You’re not there yet. I’m not there yet. It’s not worth worrying about.
Because you’re going to need all your mental energy for these next two parts:
Don’t fucking move. Seriously. That itch? Ignore it. Believe it or not it’s going to go away. When you find yourself relaxing and slouching, correct your posture, by all means.
Managing your mind:
There’s an idea that people have that your mind goes blank and that thoughts are bad. Sure, calmness of mind is something to aspire to. But the only way to do that is to dis-involve yourself with what’s going on in it. Give it no importance and watch it float away. Okay okay, wtf does that mean?
So you’re sitting and you’re somehow suddenly thinking of that miserable prick in the office who’s on your ass like a bad rash. There is no way for me, sitting here typing this, to tell you how to let that storm of thoughts and feelings go. This is what I was eluding to up above when I said it’ll seem like I’m leaving things out.
What you can do is focus on something else. I recommend your breath because, well, unless you’re undead, it’s pretty readily at hand. Count out your breath, move your attention to something that has no emotional weight to it at all, the sirens outside, the conversation you can’t quite hear in another part of your building (though that’s dangerous because you don’t want the topic to be interesting.) The trick is to not FEED it and let the emotional charge associated with the thoughts dissipate, then the thoughts will follow it, as it has nothing in your mind to hang on to.
One thing you’ll try is compelling your mind into a quiet state through force of will. I actually urge you to go through with the impulse to watch what a godawful mess it makes of the inside of your brain. Go for it. Get it out of your system. It won’t work. It will pull exactly in the opposite direction which, really, should give you a big clue.
This all sounds elegant as shit. But here’s what I think is the most important thing about meditating (so far for me):
You won’t be able to do it. You’ll suck at it. Things will keep coming up and it’ll be the same things. That may or may not mean something to you. Doesn’t matter. If you expect to “win” at this you’re going to go in to a tailspin of disappointment and frustration. You should endeavor to treat this the same. Draw your attention back to your breath.
Also, you’ll probably fall asleep. It happens. You’ll figure out how to navigate around your own brain to avoid that MOSTLY, eventually.
You’ll go back and forth like this for your whole allotted time. It’ll seem endless, then, just as you’re getting a bit comfortable, the timer will go off.
Here’s the fun part:
The timer goes off. Your eyelids seem…a little heavy when you open them. Not tired. Just… a little heavy. Your breathing is quiet and steady. You don’t even turn your head too fast. There’s a feeling at the base of your skull that’s oddly well described as a cool breeze, and the world feels like you’re standing in a midnight snowfall…just a bit quiet. But it didn’t feel like you did anything. It didn’t feel like you accomplished anything, like you quieted your mind down at all, certainly not THIS much.
You spent the last 15 minutes so hyperfocused on your mental landscape that of course it doesn’t seem like you got very far.
For the next hour, give or take, you’ll be pretty damn mellow.