Last day of the experiment.

The experiment comes officially to the end tonight. One month of strict rules have left a definite mark. I think I got to know my limits better. I know now what feels hard. I understand better the various stages my body goes through when “unlearning” some of the automated behaviours. I got more disciplined too. It feels weird- in a way I do not want to change much. It feels good to be where I am now. I really like the common lunches with Adrian, Tony, and Peter. We’ll continue having them. It feels weird to think of not sleeping on the floor, and being able to spend money, and all that.  Sure, I missed music and films a lot, but beside that everything else came natural. We’ll do have a break now, Tony is having his birthday week (yup, he is going to celebrate for the week – a day is not enough he reckons 😉  Then Tony reckons we continue throughout the August. I’ll join him after Dunedin Film Festival. 

Randy Pausch

CS prof. Randy Pausch’s famous Last Lecture quickly became widely watched inspiration story, especially for young people and CS students. Simple rules of thumb, worked on and implemented in one’s life can lead to improved quality of life and motivate people to work harder on achieving their targets and dreams. Notes: brick walls, people, enabling dreams of others, “experience is what we get if we do not get what we want”, head-fake learning, fun-orientation, honesty, love.

ABC has organised Randy to play a pro football game in NFL after it was clear that he is terminally ill. It reminded me of Kasia and what the organisation she works with do. Although Randy is not a kid, he had his child’s dream fulfilled because of his terminal illness (Kasia works for non-profit organisation that makes seriously sick children’s dream fulfilled).

Randy talked about everyone of us as terminally ill though. From the ABC News article: “His fate is, is our fate, but it’s just sped up,” said co-author Jeff Zaslow. “He’s, you know, 47, and, and we don’t know when we’re gonna go, but we all have the same fate. We’re all dying, just like Randy is … when we can see him, how he’s, how he’s traveling, it makes us think about how we’re going to travel.”

It is difficult to keep that perspective in mind without having a more or less clear “deadline”. Thinking about “the end” gets in a way of our daily routines and we are used to put things up for later. There is nothing really that unusual, that this “later” is ultimately a really limited resource. Aligning one’s life with this, and keeping one’s priorities sorted out seems obvious and common sense, yet prohibitively difficult to achieve for most people. Again, simple rules of thumb and guidance seem to be the best we can think of. Those and other rules of thumb have been developed 1000s years ago, and seem as valid back then as they are valid now.

Is religion a form of “head fake” to get people into a better place that they could get themselves otherwise? I am getting more convinced that it is indeed the case. Yet people do not see it this way. I think this is quite unfortunate – both religious and non-religious people seem to be missing the point.

The point are the rules of thumb – everything else is a form of fake head play, yet people seem to be focusing on the fake, rather than on the core of the issue. Both extreme positions are missing out what the real core of the issue is. Let’s use Randy’s Alice system as a fake head approach to teach kids Programming. On one hand a constant fight with equivalent of “Alice” is getting in a way of people understanding the equivalent of “Programming” (see Dawkins for examlpe), and on the other hand religious fundamentalists stressing the “Alice” are missing out the core, which is the concept of “programming”. Alice is irrelevant – what is relevant is what that fake head is used for. And in each single religion, it was at its core used to improve the quality of one’s life. An optimistic affirmation of life, of love, of friendships. An inspiration, and a set of simple rules of thumb to follow. Once this was institutionalised, it led to abuse and misuse, but that’s a completely different issue. 

Moja pierwsza zabawa.

Dzis bylam razem z mama, tata i moja siostra na imprezie w University pre-school. Przyszlo bardzo duzo dzieci – wszyscy byli poprzebierani, ja tez mialam smieszny stozkowy kapelusik na glowie. Ciekawe swiatla, duzo muzyki. Emilia bawila sie swietnie, i smakowalo jej tez jedzenie. Usmiechalam sie do wielu osob, i po raz pierwszy ssalam swoj kciuk publicznie – rodzice sie smiali ze maja druga corke ktora ssie palec – chyba beda musieli zorganizowac jakis smoczek dla mnie. 

Roland Dale talk.

Roland Dale from Timaru gave a very interesting talk on today’s meeting. Roland is 70+ years old. For the last 15 years has been going to Fiordland each year for a month-long trips. Living a dream. The party is dropped off in a helicopter at one location and picked up a month later at the destination, with food drops along the planned route. He carries 30kg backpack and the routes often include climbing sections. Amazing journeys. Extraordinary photos. Lots of hardship especially in rainy days. But very rewarding when the weather improves.

The meeting today was quite interesting. Lots of good photos, especially in “smooth and rough” theme.

Weller’s Rock

Perfect day for a diving trip today – nice breeze, calm harbour, sunny. Going out with Kelly, MarieAnne and Xavier. Started at 945 from the dive shed, got to Weller’s Rock at 10:25. Preparing. Ready to go into +8C water at 11:15. Huge sea lion joined the diving party. No aggression. Really close encounter with New Zealand wildelife – freaked out a bit. These beasts move in water with so much ease! 20min swim, going down before the first post. Small current but easy to swim against it. Reaching the end, with a bit of incoming tide still going through. Going back. Total dive time 33min. Back at the shore at 12:25. Good tide timing. Port Chalmers high tide scheduled at 12:09 – right on the spot. 

Nie mam sie z kim bawic.

Troszkę brakuje mi kogoś do zabawy. Mama i tato są teraz bardzo zajęci i często muszę się bawić sama. Nie mogę się doczekać kiedy będę mogła się bawić z małą Lidzią. Lubię sie bardzo bawić klockami, i różnymi ukladankami, i lubię bawić się w lekarza i w kucharza itd. Uwielbiam jak ktoś czyta ze mną bajki i mam bardzo dobrze wyrobioną wyobraźnię. Śmiesznie odmieniam końcówki i tato obiecał kupić mp3 recorder żeby nagrać niektóre z moich powiedzonek.

The real world and the “real world”?

Interesting article about Zen retreat. I’m reading more about Buddhism and Zen recently – goes well with the experiences from the experiment. The ultimate goal is to remove any forms of illusions that distort our perceptions of reality. Is enlightenment just a form of experiencing the reality in a more direct way than usual? What is real? The most important this week are the 5 rules for improvement: 1. removing ignorance (working on knowledge, and understanding the world); 2. proper use of daily items (especially food and clothing); 3. mind control (being in charge of one’s own mood and thoughts); 4. body control/endurance, 5. recognition and avoidance of dangers. So, we have been watching TV series yesterday, at Carl’s farewell party. We all enjoyed it and it felt good to sit there procrastinating for few hours with friends. I have stopped watching TV on Monday, 2nd of June: 1 documentary and 2 movie nights since then. Yesterday everyone cooked vegetarian food, lots of lentils and curry, with nice Polish pancakes with cheese and cabbage. Nice treat. No finger-food. All those rituals makes me think. Makes me contemplate the reasons why things are the way they are, and I guess I’m learning more about my own limitations. I have various preconceived ideas about my limits and what I can and cannot do. I am getting more in touch with the true reality of myself. I did not know that some of the things, such as TV or sleeping on the ground might be as hard as they prove to be. Not eating meat also gave me some weird sensation of lightness. It is very difficult to follow the precepts but it is not impossible.

Mam juz 4 tygodnie.

Dzisiaj odwiedzila mnie nasza midwife, Wiki.  Mam juz 3720g, 54cm wzrostu, a moja glowka ma 36.5cm obwodu. W nocy budze sie sama regularnie co 3 godziny i glosno domagam sie jedzonka. Potrafie wodzic oczyma za roznymi jasnymi przedmiotami, i czasami robie smiesznego zeza. Meczy mnie jeszcze troszke kaszel, ale mama daje mi antybiotyk i kaszel powoli przechodzi. Po zoltaczce nie ma juz praktycznie sladu. Rodzicom wydaje sie ze potrafie sie usmiechac – znam jeszcze inne sztuczki, ktorych jeszcze nie zauwazyli. 

18 days to go – my misses to date…

I must say you guys are true inspiration. Tony – being on holidays and keeping ANY of the rules – it just blow me away and really inspired ;o) – I must admit I thought you will just let go off completely for a week. Amazing. Adrian – without a spouse and anyone else in a flat to support you, you are doing amazing.  So, my sins to date-

  1. do not kill – fine.
  2. do not take what’s not given to you- I broke that one few times in respect to food around the house. I write about it more below.
  3. abstain from sex (in any form) – err – half miss.
  4. do not lie – fine.
  5. addictive food – fine.
  6. eat 3 times a day – fine.
  7. TV and music – 1 TV show and I listen to ambient music in various places (not intentionally). See below.
  8. earthly possessions – more or less fine.
  9. sleep on the ground – I failed few times at the beginning, but recently doing ok.
  10. do not spend money – fine – no money spent so far. But I broke rule #2 instead of #10.

PS #2: I have made shopping for a month on the last day before the experiment. And I thought I would be able to sustain myself throughout the month on the food that I bought. How wrong was I – even though I had food, I did not have enough variety and after a week of pretty strict diet, my mood and spirit were looming pretty low, to the point of considering quiting the experiment all together. I had to make adjustments to my daily diet and introduce ingredients that I have not had: mostly fresh vegetables, milk, potatoes and eggs. After I have added more ingredients and switched to more balanced diet everything improved. It seems to be fine now. But I had to “take” some of the food items from various sources around the house. One excellent outcome of the experiment already for me is better understanding of my nutritional needs and what ingredients are where and how to make a balance diet throughout a day. 3 meals a day seemed really tough the first 10 days or so, but it is better now.

PS #7: Listening to ambient music is probably a miss too – I really enjoy it – really difficult to give that one up. TV – I have stopped watching tv on 2nd of June – so my 1 TV show must be taken in the context that it is already over 1 month for me.

Heng Sure – constantly real.

“[…] we are wired to connect to the outside world in really subtle and powerful ways, but once we come inside to live under a roof, all that goes to sleep”

“Where did you sleep while you were travelling? – Actually, we took a vow not to go indoors during those three years.”

“I learned a lot about my own mental habits. I kind of caught on to my mind’s tricks. We learn these stories about ourselves, these perceptions that we get from our folks, from our TVs, from our friends. And I saw the dimensions of that. I saw the limits of my understanding of right and wrong, of self and others. These are all things that our mind makes. They aren’t the whole of the mind. The sutras compare this to bubbles on top of the ocean. The mind is the ocean, you know. By bowing and being quiet, slowly, slowly, I went deeper into the ocean. It’s deep, deep water.”

“We’re out there investigating new technologies, but our own fundamental ancient technologies, we haven’t investigated. […] Prayer is a technology. So is generosity, compassion. So are tithing, fasting and silence. Every single religious tradition has tools that we can use. Look at the Ten Commandments. It says, “Thou shalt not bear false witness.” That’s so powerful, and yet, every day, we’re out there lying to one another, you know, to survive. We call it being smart. We call it making a profit. But it’s hurting us.”

Heng Sure, and Martin Verhoeven with others at Berkeley.