Tuesday, November 16, 2021

The Foggy World of Misplaced Righteousness

Yesterday I was hungry -- somewhat late taking my nap -- had run short of romaine so had a smaller salad than usual -- thought, “after all, these bananas are smaller than usual -- and so I after having my “snack,” my banana and ¼ cup of peanuts, I had a second banana and a second ¼ cup of peanuts.

I’ve gone back and forth in my mind about whether this counts as a “binge.” If the defining characteristic of a binge is eating off-regimen, and engaging in self-deception (how exactly did the size of the bananas justify the extra peanuts?), then it was a binge. But if the defining characteristic of a binge is eating treats uncontrollably -- not being able, for a certain period of time, to recover even the intention of staying on regimen -- then it was not. I’ve decided that I’ll choose not to call it a binge or record it as such, for the rather unrespectable reason that chasing the record of “bingeless days” seems to motivate me to stay on program, and setting that counter back to zero would be discouraging. It’s paltering, maybe. We’ll see. If it encourages us actually to do more of the same behavior, then it will have been the wrong choice. But the decision is made: yesterday counts as my eighteenth bingeless day. Ipse dixit.

I believe the largest contributor to my lapse was that Martha asked me to buy chocolate ice cream -- a treat we don’t usually keep in the house -- and I was working not to cave in to eating it. This translated, in the foggy world of misplaced righteousness where all these decisions take place, as having earned the right to a minor indiscretion. Earned? Right? Good Lord. Save us from this sort of juvenile moral arithmetic. What has all that to do with eating the way I want to eat?

Monday, November 15, 2021

An Unexpected Reprieve

This is my fifteenth binge-less day, so I think we can affirm that the collapse of Favierian civilization has been postponed. My ambition is to have no binge days at all. I have three feast days scheduled during the year, which I will not count as binges: Thanksgiving, my birthday (in March) and some as-yet unspecified high summer date in July or August.

Since I have been tracking binges, my longest binge-less streak has been 46 days. My primary focus right now is securing the habit of binge-less eating: what happens to my weight or waistline is irrelevant if it’s not under control and sustainable. So while I still have the goal of getting a 90% waist-hip ratio, eventually, and/or my 32” waist, it can wait indefinitely while I nail this down: it doesn’t much matter which way the ship happens to be pointed if I have no steerageway. I’m going to be very wary of cutting my calorie intake while I get this settled. I’d do it if my waistline started expanding, I guess, but I won’t do it just to make it shrink. A 34” waist is fine, and a timeline of five years to get to my final goals would be fine. First things first.

I suspect, though I don’t know -- sample of one, & all that -- that fasting destabilized me, and that it may not be a tool I can use. Anyway, I won’t be experimenting with it again for a while.


The longer I think about my truncated icosahedron, for representing my world, the happier I am: thinking of the pentagons as open sea was one kind of delightful, but another and even more delightful thought is that they can be otherworldly places. Annuvin. Faerie. Mordor. Places you can't see into from outside, and where, once you have crossed their thresholds, the rules are all different. Maps don't quite match up: but what else would you expect? It's not actually a game defect: it's a game opportunity.  Sure, you can go there, but can you get back? You go over a few restricted passes, or through a tunnel, or you open a gate, and suddenly you're not in Kansas any more. Making some of the world by hand will be its own kind of delight.


Washed clean by the autumn sun, and by the wind blowing from the fresh snow in the mountains, and by the serious rains rolling in over the Coast Range. This Indian summer of my life: I have never been so happy, or so at ease. An unexpected reprieve. May it come to all of us.

Thursday, November 11, 2021

A Truncated Icosahedron

I think that by the time I finish the first project in Python Crash Course I’ll have the tools to proceed with my to-do list thing. But really, the more I’ve looked at them, the more I think I want to do all three of the projects in the book: they’re all things that I’d like to be able to do. 

I start to wonder about the difficulty of representing a sphere tiled with hexagons. Take a fishnet stocking with hexagonal windows, rather than square ones, and pull it over a globe: if the hexagons are small enough, could only very small tweaks in the side lengths  accommodate the sphere? The problem is beyond my casual geometric imagination, but I bet somebody has thought it out. It would be cool to have an imagined planet with its whole surface tiled with a hexagonal grid. You could always hack the seams with inaccessible polar ice caps, but it would be splendid to have a real and elegant solution.

Note post hoc: Amit Patel, as usual, was there way before me, and the the answer is: no, there’s not a real and elegant solution. But there is a solution in which you hide the inevitable pentagons in inaccessible regions. Of course, quite a bit of distortion and irregularity is perfectly acceptable if you place limits on zooming -- all that matters is that it *looks* like a hexagonal tiling, locally, and that the vague relationships (i.e. Siberia is closer to Alaska than Hawaii is to California) be more-or-less observed. For pre-Steam human history, this works fine: no European really knew how long it was going to take to reach Japan. It was just over there across the ocean. If your sea travel is simulated at all well, distance distortions will impinge far less than storms and prevailing winds… look at those awful Mercator projections I grew up on: I still learned geography.

Comparison of truncated icosahedron and soccer ball
Image by Aaron Rotenberg via Wikimedia Commons

The best solution for my purposes might be a truncated icosahedron (the soccer ball pattern) with the pentagons being the seeds for seas: the constraint would be that all (reachable) land would have to lie within the hexagonal regions (which after all are well over half the surface of the polyhedron). That’s plenty of land surface available, for an earthlike planet with a surface that’s largely water. It would rule out a mega-continent like Eurasia, but I’m not particularly attached to megacontinents. Open sea navigation could be handled (if it were handled at all) totally differently. It was not until the 20th Century that fleets could really find each other at sea. For technology of the 15th through the 19th Centuries, a player could just kiss their ships goodbye, when they entered the open sea, and hope they showed up on the far side somewhere, some months later. Actually kind of a nice representation. It’s ridiculous to have a simulation that suggests that Ferdinand and Isabella were conducting business by nudging model ships over a map of the Atlantic ocean. Columbus disappeared: and then maybe he showed up again, or maybe he didn’t.

So my world map would basically be twenty hexagonal maps stitched together at the sides, each map with land on it bordering (at most) three other maps. Sea travel that you could *see* would be limited to some coastal zone.

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

State Transitions

Pomodoro 1. 8:30 - 8:55. Github: go to the site, read about what they offer, sign up, upload the files in my python_work directory… Hah! I got so far as reading and signing up. I suspect bad estimations of how long things will take play a key role in procrastination… so this is useful. Orientation takes time: it’s not wasted time, it’s necessary time. And now I will take a walk. (The new walk rule is that I walk at least twice a day. No rule on how far. It could be to the end of the driveway and back, I don’t care. Once I’m out the door I will actually walk, because I like walking. But walking is like showering -- an activity I like very much, but it involves a… what? … a state transition?... that something in me resists mightily. So I need to reduce the friction as much as possible.

In Middlemarch, George Eliot praises the parson Farebrother for going out to speak with an errant parishioner despite the fact that it entails putting his boots back on: I've always thought that was a keen moral observation. You can see the same resistance to state transitions in children, who generally love baths, furiously objecting to taking them. Once in, they'll be perfectly happy. It's the transition they're resisting, not the activity. I can make the walking easier by dressing for it well before I'm actually going to do it. Much easier to get myself out the door if I already have my boots on.

Pomodoro 2. 9:50 - 10:15. Do the github hello world tutorial. Yikes! Github is huge: I was imagining something much leaner. A person could wander around there for weeks. But anyway, I’ve gotten what I first wanted: a transfer and version-control site. (And yes, this took two full pomodoros, and no, I wasn’t wasting time.) Uploaded task.py.

Pomodoro 3. 4th chapter Stars.

Pomodoro 4. 8:15 - 8:45. Python Crash Course: got so far as creating an empty screen with pygame; created it as a project, and checked it in, like an actual programmer :-)

Monday, November 08, 2021

The Terrain Ahead

 Pomodoro 1. 5:35 - 6:00  I should make five pomodoros today. The first one is this: a planning one. Of the remaining four, three are to be devoted to learning git and github, and one to reading Perhaps the Stars. After my first, I’ll go shopping. I have a zoom meeting for work at 10:00. Tomorrow’s going to be busy, with work, and a dental appointment in the afternoon, and a massage in the evening. So better get the shopping done today.

A broad sketch of the terrain ahead: one of my primary goals is to put my Python skills to regular use at work. One trouble there is I have two environments -- my workstation at work and my laptop -- and they don’t work exactly the same way, and transferring files between them is harder than it ought to be. If github is what I think it is, it will at least solve the file transfer problem. And if I’m going to do any serious programming, I need to have version control: the fact that I haven’t had it so far is a total embarrassment. After that, I have two ways I could go: do the first project in my Crash book, or invest some Pomodoros in actually, finally, getting competency in using the Windows command line. The fact that I’m going back to Unix someday doesn’t mean I need to tolerate being a crippled Windows user. I realize that I still have echoes of the trauma of my corporate career whenever I think about using unfamiliar operating systems. It really sucks when you don’t have enough time to do what you need to do. But I do have enough time. I realio trulio do. And I can lavish as many pomodoros on it as I need or like. The whole point of my life for the past fifteen years has been getting enough time to be able to do things efficiently. Now I’m there, and I can actually do things in the order that makes sense and gets the most done. What most impedes me right now, in putting my programming skills to work, is not the programming skills -- which are fine, and brushing them up is basically just a matter of learning a bunch of Python libraries, at this point -- but the mechanics of getting the scripts from one place to another, and deploying them efficiently on the Windows ground. This is not rocket science, and it’s not beyond my capacity. It only takes turning my full attention to it until it’s done. So -- we start with git and github.

Pomodoro 2. 6:15 - 6:40. Installed git and created a project environment So far so good :-)

Pomodoro 3. 11:08 - 11:33. Ran through typical git commands. Seems pretty straightforward, though I’m getting interference from dim memories of clearcase :-)

Tuesday, November 02, 2021

Sufficient for the Day

Four non-binge days running, so that’s encouraging. I’ve been being very exact, which takes a great deal of the pressure off. Any leeway fills up with mental disputation and uncertainty, cunning arguments from the first lieutenant and vague policy rants from the captain. It’s not worth it. Easier to follow my own rules to the letter. There’s a time for changing rules -- it’s Wednesday morning, after the weekly averages have been reckoned. At no other time are the rules even to be questioned. That’s not what we’re doing.

I’m not gung ho on psychological approaches to weight control: I think it’s fundamentally a hormonal problem, not a psychological problem, and that psychological solutions mostly miss the point. Conceptualizations don’t trump hormones -- they just make excuses for them. My job is primarily to prevent temptation from arising, or to make succumbing to it difficult. But when I do  fail at that, and get into a conceptual tussle with myself, I get some use out of a simple phrase that I mutter to myself: “that’s not who I am any more.” I used to be someone who engaged with temptation, took it seriously, struggled with it: now I just don’t have time for it. I don’t have to be that person. I can just step out of that skin and walk away. It’s a mental shrug, shaking it all off. I used to be that person, but I got tired of it, and now I’m another person.

The other thing I find helpful is reminding myself that the binge is lying to me. On the far side, it says, will be peace and contentment. But what’s on the far side is actually ever more wanting, ever more restless looking for more food, more piquancy, more indulgence. There is no end to it. There’s no contentment on the other side. There’s a moment or two of pleasure and relief, and then it’s back to relentless temptation. If I want some freedom from craving -- and do -- the only way to get it is to interrupt the craving/indulgence cycle. Wait. Let the craving burn itself out. It usually does it quicker than I expect.

This week I bump my work hours per week from twenty up to thirty, to deal with the increased volume of the giving season. It’s a little embarrassing to realize how large an impact that makes on my disposable time -- it’s only ten hours, after all! But it’s actually very large, and I have to cut back on my ambitions in other areas to accommodate it. I’m going to cut back my workout schedule a bit. (from 1 every 3 days to 2 every 7 days, to be exact. Not a huge change. It’s much easier to that way to make the exercise days not land on work days.)

I’ve also abandoned my program of progressively increasing my walking-time, at least for now. I had weekly totals I was trying to reach, which seemed like a reasonable approach, but involved just a bit more tracking and remembering -- the sort of first lieutenant versus captain disputes that wreck my eating program. I really can’t afford to maintain any additional regimen with a memory that crosses the sleep country. Yesterday has to utterly vanish. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day. The moment my head hits the pillow, all debts are cleared. I had to do that with eating too: what I ate yesterday, whether I binged or fasted or whatever, has no implications for today at all. I get what I get: I don’t try to repair the past or steal a march on the future.

There are a few things that have to be planned and remembered across the sleep boundary: in particular, shopping and food prep. But every one drains my energy and capacity for self-regulation: so I have to be thrifty with them. I can’t wantonly take on new ones.