Jach's personal blog

(Largely containing a mind-dump to myselves: past, present, and future)
Current favorite quote: "Supposedly smart people are weirdly ignorant of Bayes' Rule." William B Vogt, 2010

The Witness: a short review, admission of failure

Spoilers of course.

I wrapped up The Witness tonight -- just the main ending, didn't 100% / see the other ending. Overall I had a fun time. It either took me 15 hours or 20 hours (my connection went out during one session so may have killed ~5 hours of time being logged). But by the end I was pretty done with the game. Last weekend I got to the endgame area in the Mountain (minimum lasers), and almost gave up during the area before the two-light-path-puzzle floor because the puzzles there are bullshit. I continued until I completed that, and stopped. I could have played again several times since last weekend but didn't, I knew more bullshit would await me to wrap up the endgame. Sure enough there was more, but I wrapped it up tonight, and now I'm done.

The only puzzle I remember successfully bruteforcing was the final tree area one. All the previous puzzles were pretty straightforward since you just look for the apple / broken branches or whatever. The last one I couldn't make sense of even after I found the solution by brute force. Whatever.

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Mindlessness Meditation

My company has been pushing the 'mindfulness meditation' stuff on its employees for a while now. Long story short, I don't really like it, nor its goals, but that's probably because I have a more effective technique (for me) for my own goals. Maybe more effective for introverted nerds too. In particular, during one of the guided meditations I tried several months ago (since I figured I'd give it a shot for comparison) one of the comments was something like (taken from the mindfulness website): "Think of a time you were talking with a friend, spouse, or therapist about an important situation in your life, and when the conversation was over you felt lighter, loved, and cared for." My issue there is: I can't think of such a time! And this was the case for most of the "think of a time..." guide phrases. I'm just too weird I guess. Or I'm a man, mindfulness seems to attract more women than men, it may be because its methods resonate with women more easily.

I call my method 'mindlessness' now to contrast it with 'mindfulness'. But it's really just intentional zoning out, stopping your conscious thinking. It came about during my early teenage years while I learned about Taoism. I certainly have mistaken views about that and I don't claim my form of meditation is necessarily more 'Taoist' than not, though I do like to think of it like that sometimes. In any case, don't a lot of (at least western) meditation advocates like to say meditation is a personal thing you do for yourself and that there's no truly wrong way to do it?

My way is pretty simple, though not always easy. The goal is to empty your mind. Cease your thinking. That's it. A little more elaboration? If you are aware of anything, let it be that you are aware that you're aware there is no other thought besides that awareness and that is OK. Surrender to the Void (or perhaps the Tao) and relinquish your emotions, your body sensations, your very thoughts, to the flow of just Being in a state very close to Non-Being. Achieve nothingness.

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Emails restored

Last week I noticed I had stopped getting emails about new comments on my blog posts. (And similarly no emails to commenters about new comments in their thread went out.) I'm not quite sure when this happened, but it was at least as early as October, since I got an email in June but didn't get the next comment email that happened in October. It's not unlikely that the problems started after I upgraded Ubuntu and my ec2 instance type.

Now that it's resolved I'm also not sure about the ordering of what went wrong or why. So I'll just describe all the issues and my fixes, maybe it'll help someone.

My blog runs on Amazon's EC2 and uses their SES to send emails. This requires verifying my domain, and the way they want to verify domains is by you adding a TXT entry in your DNS records. When I noticed my emails were dead, I went to the SES console and discovered my domain verification had somehow been expired. I went to my domain administration page, and sure enough the TXT entry I had since 2012 or so was still there. A key of "" and a value of some b64 key. I told Amazon to reverify, and went on a business trip.

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Interesting, not interesting

I often think I'm not very interesting. This doesn't so much bother me but will probably make it uncomfortable when I start dating. But at the same time I think I'm at least somewhat interesting. The problem I still have though is that what makes me interesting now is the stuff I did in the past, most of which I'm no longer doing.

What am I doing right now? Well that means the recent past, so let's say in the past month or two. Most of my time is spent working. My job's not very interesting to talk about, at least with non-programmers, and with programmers I'd rather rant about the ways my job doesn't satisfy me than what makes my job great enough I'm not seriously looking to quit soon. Besides work, I lift weights, but that's currently very flaky. (I have completed the Strongman 5x5 challenge before (again something in the past) but I'm weaker now than then.) Besides weights, I'm casually learning Japanese. I'm going about it very lazily -- this is a pattern you'll see a lot if you look at my history. I've managed to memorize the kanas and am slowly gaining speed at deciphering sequences of them, and I've started learning kanji (but very few so far), and a few more bits of vocab, and have outlined future lessons and resources, but that's it. My current plan is to learn more kanji -- at least 1000 -- and then make an attempt at grammar and building vocab. It's unconventional, but I'm an unconventional person. I also took 5 years of French and 3 of Latin so I'm aware of conventional ways to learn a language. (Yet again something in the past.)

Besides weights and Japanese, I'm working my way through a bunch of books. My 'tsundoku' grows. Primarily I'm working with a book on Lisp, a few Go (the game) books, and Prof. Hanson's book. I'm also playing video games. I just finished The Witcher 2 and Ys VI and am working on Fallout: New Vegas. I'm only really making game progress because I've been on a work break. Besides that, I'm lazily learning how to play guitar. My birthday present to myself was an electric guitar (since prior to that I've only noodled on an acoustic) and related gear. I haven't been very diligent lately in studying but I'm getting another guitar in the coming months (I pre-ordered it a few months ago) that will hopefully inspire me to put some more time in again.

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Quick remarks for religious people on the 'religion debate'

My general policy these days is to stay quiet with those I know on the subject of religion, unless they take an interest in the debate. And even when they take an interest in the debate, my only thoughts are to present the argument from the atheist side rather than to attempt to persuade them to change their beliefs, or even expect them to change mine in rebuttal. In a situation where me and someone else disagree but both feel confident in our beliefs (as is typical with polarizing issues) I can only present my side in a neutral manner, if I'm going to present at all; I can't take it seriously as something to be 'won' or something to be fruitful in my pursuit of the truth. There is an exception to my attitude, in that I'll treat the exercise seriously and try to stay or get close to the object level, and that's if I know the other person has the same beliefs about rationality and how to actually change one's mind and make beliefs pay rent that I do. Without that common ground, it's pointless to argue seriously, but not necessarily pointless to argue. I think a lot of atheists come to that position not through any one argument but by being exposed to enough material and thinking about it long enough. The best I can hope for when I don't have a common ground in rationality with someone is to seed some ideas for them to reflect on later.

So what prompted this blog is a post a cousin made on Facebook that appears to be a copy-paste thing. In it, the post asks several mostly rhetorical questions and answers or implies answers to them that aren't actually what an overwhelming majority of atheists believe. It was clearly put together by someone who only imagines what people who don't believe in God actually believe, possibly in response to an atheist being mean on the internet. (I can't deny that happens or that I never partook in such activities years ago, but it's no reason to infer beliefs or values of all non-believers...)

I haven't replied on Facebook yet since I ask if the person is actually interested in hearing a rebuttal or not. Again I don't want to waste people's time if they're not actually interested. But I did type up some quick answers to the questions in a separate text editor and thought I could at least put them on my blog for later. Since my blog is a better format than Facebook to write things, instead of the answers all at once (like I'd do for Facebook) for each question I'll post a quick summary of the question on one line and then my quick response on the next line.

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Thought Dump

I haven't felt like writing in a few months, clearly. But I've had some thoughts on what I could write about. Except many of them seem like rather obvious thoughts so to expand on them would be somewhat wasteful. But I'd like to record them anyway, so here we go with a handful. Disclaimer that I have not really thought much about this stuff -- to write is to think, thinking without writing is self-delusion.

New Years resolutions are coming up. I think an uncomfortable truth is that we can't really change ourselves that much, or that quickly. As much as media leads us astray with epic hero journeys and countless self-help books to the contrary, many people still have the same resolution year after year. "This time will be different," they say. And this is even when they have so concrete a goal to go for it! Many other goals are either vaguely defined or just non-existent.

So much is hereditary. It shouldn't be too surprising then that you can't escape too far from your genetic limits and starting point. In the heuristics and biases literature, just knowing about the ways you can be biased is not necessarily enough to guard against them. I like to think it helps, but only marginally. Similarly with knowing the techniques of Persuasion. And to top it off, you can be self-aware of a mental illness and perhaps live with it but that self-awareness can't let you think your way into a cure. Some days I suspect the only real way to reach a goal that is beyond your comfort zone is the old arsenic method.

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Converted AWS T1 instance to T2

Shout out to this blog: Go there for all your concerns.

I've been putting off moving this blog for a long while. It involved upgrading from ubuntu 12 to 14, upgrading apache (had a brief scare where I accidentally exposed everything in /var/www for about 20 seconds, fortunately no requests other than for /...), and following the blog. There was one last step of moving my elastic IP to the VPS, which turned out way more annoying than it should have been since it involved setting up the AWS CLI again. (Why can't it just be in the web console?)

Still, the server should now have a better CPU, better storage, better network, more RAM, and cost me half as much. Amazon really hates their legacy T1.

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