“Passion Not Spent” by Caleb Madrigal

What’s my great fear?
I’ll tell you; come near…
To lay down in death
with so much left.

Passion not spent –
Oh cowardly regret!
For fear of others?
The thousand deaths.

I’m afraid to die
With no twinkle in my eye –
To pass meagerly by
Yet hidden inside.

To walk through life
Not truly alive,
And to pass in the night
With an unfelt “goodbye”.

Being Wrong

“A whole lot of us go through life assuming that we are basically right, basically all the time, about basically everything: about our political and intellectual convictions, our religious and moral beliefs, our assessment of other people, our memories, our grasp of facts. As absurd as it sounds when we stop to think about it, our steady state seems to be one of unconsciously assuming that we are very close to omniscient.”

– Kathryn Schulz in “Being Wrong“

Nine-tenths of our brain

It is a popular fact that nine-tenths of the brain is not used and, like most popular facts, it is wrong. Not even the most stupid Creator would go to the trouble of making the human head carry around several pounds of unnecessary gray goo if its only real purpose was, for example, to serve as a delicacy for certain remote tribesmen in unexplored valleys. Is is used. And one of its function is to make the miraculous seem ordinary and turn the unusual into the usual.

Because if this was not the case, then human beings, faced with the daily wondrousness of everything, would go around wearing big stupid grins, similar to those worn by certain remote tribesmen who occasionally get raided by the authorities and have the contents of their plast greenhouses very seriously inspected. They’d say “Wow!” a lot. And no one would do much work.

– Terry Pratchett in “Small Gods”

The Power of Plain Text


One of my most important tools I use daily is a text editor. If you don’t know what a text editor is, it is a piece of software that is for editing text alone. In other words, it’s doesn’t handle formatting, printing, images, tables, or any of the other things you might be used to in a program like Microsoft Word. There are many reasons you might want to use a text editor instead of a full word processor.

  • Fewer Distractions – you don’t need to get the formatting right before you start writing. There’s no stylesheets. Just write.
  • Simpler – since it doesn’t need all that other stuff, it’s not there. Start times are faster, for example.
  • Text Emphasized – the text is really the most important part of anything you write. So when text is the only thing you’re working on, you can really focus on making it the best possible.

There are several different text editors out there. If you’re in windows, then it comes with Notepad, which isn’t all that great of a text editor, but definitely is good enough. Some good free text editors are programmers notepad and notepad++. A newer free text editor is Atom. I’ve been keeping a close eye on this editor, because I think it has a lot of potential. There are also editors that you can purchase. The most popular is probably Sublime Text Editor.

I use text editor for nearly everything I write. Even if a document ends up in Word eventually, it starts out in a text editor. It’s a good place to throw thoughts into words and worry about organization later. If I’m working on something, and I just need to keep notes, it’s a good thing to have open. As I read through code or a paper, I’ll keep my thoughts organized there, tracking todo items, things to bring up with others, and anything else that I really need to remember. It really helps me to always know exactly where I’m at in my work.

The other great thing about a text editor is that it saves files in txt formats, which can be opened by pretty much every piece of technology ever invented and available today. If you’re working in Word, and you want to share that work with other people, then they need to have Word as well. But text files aren’t like that. They can be opened on any platform, on the web, on phones, on tablets, all without extra software.

In the same sense, you don’t have to worry about bit rot as much. Bit rot is where files sit for a long time, and lose their usefulness, because the software used to read and interact with those files doesn’t exist anymore, or work the same way. Text files are so fundamentally important to how computers work that they’re unlikely to go away any time soon.

The biggest benefit is that I find it super helpful to remove as many distractions as possible. Today I bought a bluetooth keyboard and I’m actually writing this post on my iPad. I can set the iPad in Do Not Disturb mode, open up my text editor, and not be distracted by a thousand other things happening. So far, it’s really going well.

BTW, if you have a good text editor for iPad that interfaces with dropbox, please let me know.

If you haven’t really used a text editor before, I really recommend it, especially if you need to spend long stretches of time really focussing on writing. I’ll keep you posted on how my iPad setup turns out.

Beethoven’s Ninth: The Peril of a Bad Recording

I had a most wonderful experience last night. I heard a brief sound clip from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, and decided it was a good time to listen to it. I pulled out my usual recording, which will not be labeled here. This is a recording I’ve since before even going to college. It was, erm, a bargain bin purchase, because I wanted to listen to Beethoven and didn’t know any better. Nearly every time I have ever listened to Beethoven’s Ninth, it’s been from this recording. I did see a live performance back in my freshman year, and it was pretty amazing.

Tonight, though, I started listening to my usual recording, and I made a fortuitous decision. I thought to look for other recordings, and I stumbled upon this one. It’s the recording from a performance following the fall of the Berlin wall, using both east and west performers, and being conducted by Leonard Bernstein.

Almost immediately I noticed changes. There were whole parts of the music I had never heard before. To be honest, I’m not sure if this was just because it was a different recording, or if my usual recording is really that bad, but my mind was blown. Especially when you consider the context of this event, it is an incredibly moving performance, and I spent the majority of the evening doing nothing but listening to this.

I think there is pretty broad agreement that Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony is one of the greatest pieces of music of all time. Written after Beethoven had gone completely deaf, I cannot even imagine what it took to get it down on paper. In my ear, it is pure bliss. Every movement is perfect, every chord, every melody sublime.

If you have never taken the time to really listen to Beethoven’s Ninth, I really encourage you to do it. It’s a little more than an hour long, but you won’t notice the time. Get some good headphones, lay back in bed, and just listen. You won’t regret it.

Stealing Ideas

Disclaimer: I think this is going to be an easy post to write, because it’s something I feel pretty strongly about, but I have to recognize going in that this also means I’m more likely to be wrong and not be able to see it. If you think I’m wrong, or if I’m being mean, or anything like that I certainly want to hear about it so I can change and improve.

If you’re worried about someone stealing your idea, you’re worried about the wrong thing. Ideas are a dime a dozen. Ideas happen all the time. I tend to have four or five ideas before breakfast. The problem is that most ideas are crap. If something just pops into your head, it’s almost certainly a bad idea. The only thing it can possibly have is potential.

The first trick to master, and I think this is a skill that takes a lifetime (I certainly don’t have it yet), is to be able to tell which ideas actually have potential. At this point though, they are still almost worthless. All the value will be in what happens next: how much work are you going to put into it. To make an idea worth something, it takes work, whether it’s careful and methodical thought, or programming, or practice, or anything, it’s going to take dedicated effort.

And effort is not easily stolen. If I have an idea for something, I can probably explain to you in a few sentences, but those sentences won’t mean much. You might be able to take those sentences and build something with them, and it will almost certainly be different from what I would build with them.

But here’s the thing. I don’t want your ideas. I wouldn’t take them if you tried giving them to me. I have enough ideas on my own. I have ideas for computer programs, books, photos, hikes, movies, so many things. I have enough ideas to keep me busy for a lifetime. If I have an idea similar to your idea, I might propose that we work on it together. But I’m not going to just take your idea.

So please, don’t tell me you’re worried about me stealing your idea. It’s simply not true.

If there is something that you’re thinking about, that you’re excited about, then I would love to hear about it. I want to share in your excitement. I want to encourage you to pursue things that you believe in. Perhaps we’ll share a passion, and our minds will meld. Perhaps I’ve had a similar idea, or you blow my mind, and we work on it together, building something much better than either of us could build on our own.

That’s the world I want to live in.

Thanks for tolerating this little rant.

Everything in Fluxx

Most of my Fluxx Games

Let me tell you about one of my favorite games, a little card game called Fluxx.

Example Fluxx Rule: Talk like a pirate.

New Rule: Talk like a pirate.

It starts very simple.  There is a deck of cards.  Each person is dealt four cards.  The rules are simple.  On your turn, you draw one card, and you play one card.  As soon as the game starts, though, it gets more complicated.  Every card tell you how it’s supposed to be played.  Some of the cards change the rules of the game, for example to say you have to draw two cards instead of one).  Other cards will help you win, while their opposites will actually prevent you from winning.  Some cards contains surprises that you can spring on your fellow players.

In other words, the game is always “in flux.”

There are lots of different flavors to this game, and I’ve enjoyed every one that I’ve tried.  It starts with basic Fluxx.  After that is Star Fluxx, a sci-fi themed game that adds in two new ideas, surprises and creepers, which prevent you from winning.  Pirate Fluxx is completely pirate themed and very similar to Star Fluxx.  Eco Fluxx is ecology themed and has new concepts like player interdependent goals and removing cards from the game all together.  My friends and I were not sure about it before we played, but it is indeed fun.

The most complicated in Cthulhu Fluxx.  It has everything all the other games has, but with a few other new mechanics as well.  It’s possible for everyone to lose in Cthulhu Fluxx.  One of the best games of Fluxx I had was with a friend where a card was played and we knew someone won, but we had to unwrap four layers of rules in order to figure it out.

There is little that is predictable about a game of Fluxx, including how long a game could take.  It could be over within a few minutes, or it could take more than an hour.

The next step, and the one I’ve not taken yet, is to try Fluxx the board game. It goes even crazier, and to give you an idea, check out the introduction video below. Have fun playing!