Running, Building a Base and R.O.T.C.

I’ve never actually looked up what R.O.T.C. meant, the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps apparently, but it was always clear to me what it was about. It was a combination of education and military training. I’ve never really liked the idea, and it wasn’t until yesterday that I had some insight into why.

I’m in the process of getting back into my preferred exercise, running. After years of running too hard, too long or too fast when getting back into it, I’ve finally found an approach that works every time.

You start doing 10 miles a week. If you want to run 2 miles for 4 days and 1 mile for 3 days, that’s fine. If you want to do 6 miles 1 day and 4 miles another and take the rest of the week off, that’s fine too. It really depends on what your body can handle. Generally, I start with 3 or 4 miles a day and stop when I hit the weekly total.

And the next week, you do 2 more miles, which means 11 weeks of 10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 20, 22, 24, 26, 28, 30 miles a week. Once you reach 30 miles a week, then you can increment at 10% of your weekly mileage until you get to your goal weekly distance. If that goal distance is more than 60 miles a week, you need to think about doubling, or doing 2 runs a day and only running longer than 10 miles on your long run day, 1 day a week.

I’m currently on a week of 22 miles, so a little over halfway through this initial base building period. I’m thinking of a goal weekly distance of around 50 miles a week, something like this schedule:

  • Monday: 4 miles / hills, 8 * 0.5m speed
  • Tuesday: 9 miles, easy
  • Wednesday: Off
  • Thursday: 6 miles easy (morning), 9 miles easy (evening)
  • Friday: 6 miles, easy
  • Saturday, 16 miles
  • Sunday, Off

The nice thing about a weekly schedule is that you can modify it to conditions. If the weather forecast says rain on Thursday, then it is easy enough to shift your double to Wednesday. If you plan to go out Friday, then make Tuesday a double.

All of the above is a bit of prep for my anecdote. I was out running 6 miles yesterday when a group of R.O.T.C. cadets were preparing for a 1 mile run. They took off from my turn around point, a minute before I got there. Then, I passed about 1/3 of them before they got to their turn around point. Why? Because they went out and ran as fast as they could. They were poorly conditioned, and the non-commissioned officer was telling all the people that were turning around in front of me that they needed to run faster. While running past him, I said, “Their problem is they are walking.” And they are walking because they haven’t built a conditioning base. They are trying to run as fast as they can and a mile, much of it with a 4% or more grade, is not something you try to run without building up your conditioning first.

It’s a simple idea. You wouldn’t expect these cadets to go into combat without making sure they are competent with their weapons, would you? Shoot faster? No, you have to develop a training program that supports the capabilities you want to have to reach specific goals. Run faster would only make sense with this group if you were doing quarter mile sprints.

Of course, I suspect this is tied into the physical fitness test the military administers. I think tests are great, and I am all for them. But, you do not do physical conditioning to a test. A test is to help you understand what you need to work on. And the one thing that is obvious to me, as an observer of this group, is they need someone competent to run their physical fitness program.

The Challenge of the 20%

“One fifth of people are against everything all the time.”

-Robert Kennedy

I was reading somewhere that communities evolve away from reason to affirmation. In the initial stages of community formation, there are many elements that serve as a kernel that the community can form around. Sometimes it is an idea. Sometimes it is a person. Sometimes it is an activity or process. In the beginning, there is a choice. You want to be part of the community for some reason.

But, at some point, the community itself becomes the draw. If you think of the lifecycle of churches, for instance, it may initially serve as a gathering place of a town, drawn together by the ideas of the religion. But, at some point, the ideas of the religion becomes less important than the community that has formed around those ideas. Then, this serves as the focal point for joining the group. It’s no longer a means of serving some other reason beyond the group itself. The community becomes the reason, and when that transition happens, what is important is affirmation. You pledge allegiance to the community in exchange for the benefits of the community. There may still be a kernel. Key people that run or support the church and enable its continuation. But, they are no longer central to why people join.

Communities can continue long after they are viable. Or, they can transform further, into something that bears little resemblance to their original shape. Eventually, it will reach a point that it needs to be revitalized, to either return to its roots or find new development pathways. You see this in major movements like the Reformation in response to the decadence of the Catholic Church during feudal times, and it’s inability to adapt to the changes of the world around it.

Some don’t have meaningful pathways for renewal. Their purpose has been served and members of the community fade away, to drift off to join other communities and lend their vitality to them.

When I think about this process, I think about the value that the 20% play, the people that are against everything, particularly the community itself. In A Rebel Without a Cause, it’s interesting to think about this dynamic. On one level, a motorcycle club or gang is another type of community, one that undermines existing social structures. But, in another way of looking at it, they are calls for revitalization, the first signs that a community has entered on the pathway toward stagnation.

I think it is this dissatisfied 20% that plays an important role as first mover, that highlights the problems in the communities they are absorbing members from and create reactions that lead to revitalization. Or, they can affirm the health of the existing system, who can marginalize and maintain community cohesion in the face of the chaotic forces this group can bring to bear.

But, in some ways, the 20%, even when they have their own communities, will always be outside them. They are against everything, even on some level the communities they are part of. They play a valuable function for the other 80%. However, it’s a more difficult way of being in the world.

A Drake Equation for Alien Artifacts

“I propose a version of the Drake Equation for Lurkers on near-Earth objects. By using it, one can compare a Search for Extraterrestrial Artifacts (SETA) strategy of exploring for artifacts to the conventional listening-to-stars SETI strategy, which has thus far found no artificial signals of technological origin. In contrast, SETA offers a new perspective, a new opportunity: discovering past and present visits to the near-Earth vicinity by ET space probes.”

—Paul Gilster, “A Drake Equation for Alien Artifacts.” Centauri-Dreams.org. April 20, 2021.

Imagine an alien civilization finding the Voyager space probes a billion years in the future. Over the span of cosmic time, how many other civilizations managed the same? What is the typical civilizational life span of those civilizations capable of doing it?

Then, there is the question of how many would have survived and developed far enough to place probes in nearby stars with environments conducive to life?

Preferring Pain to High Cognitive Effort

“Cognitive effort is described as aversive, and people will generally avoid it when possible. This aversion to effort is believed to arise from a cost–benefit analysis of the actions available. The comparison of cognitive effort against other primary aversive experiences, however, remains relatively unexplored. Here, we offered participants choices between performing a cognitively demanding task or experiencing thermal pain. We found that cognitive effort can be traded off for physical pain and that people generally avoid exerting high levels of cognitive effort. We also used computational modelling to examine the aversive subjective value of effort and its effects on response behaviours. Applying this model to decision times revealed asymmetric effects of effort and pain, suggesting that cognitive effort may not share the same basic influences on avoidance behaviour as more primary aversive stimuli such as physical pain.”

Todd A Vogel, et al. “Forced choices reveal a trade-off between cognitive effort and physical pain.” eLife: Neurosciences. November 17, 2020. doi: 10.7554/eLife.59410

Of course, it’s a little more complicated than outlined in this abstract.

HumanIPO

“Invest in people you believe in…HumanIPO is a marketplace for capitalizing human potential.

https://humanipo.app/

Ingenious new form of finance under late-stage capitalism or fresh coat on old idea. Thought experiment what if the unit of shares were expressed in years? That’d be called indentured servitude. Express it as fraction of a share or in dollars, you’ve suddenly have an intriguing new financial instrument. Magic!

Book Review | Encyclopedia of 5,000 Spells | The Ultimate Reference Book For The Magical Arts | By Judika Illes

I love this book. It is one of my favorites in the occult section of my library. It is valuable as a practical and historical tool. The book is an excellent guide for the beginning as well as experienced witch. I have never seen another book that has so many spells.    Get this; […]

Book Review | Encyclopedia of 5,000 Spells | The Ultimate Reference Book For The Magical Arts | By Judika Illes

Sometimes, I see something on WordPress that makes me think strange thoughts. A book of 5,000 spells? If I cast one spell a day, that would take me over 13 years to cast them all. Maybe I should just chose the top 365 spells and do it for a year? What would a year of spellcasting be like? In my mind, I become the sorcerer’s apprentice, except sure in the knowledge that no one is going to save me.

Ah, another life lived, in my imagination.

Possessed by Demons or Become Your Own?

It is of course famously difficult to say exactly what happens in [Philip K Dick’s The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch], because the essential question that the major characters have is always: What is actually happening? But at least one major potential timeline, perhaps the most likely timeline, tells a story like this: Palmer Eldritch is a titan of capitalism, in many respects the Jeff Bezos of this world, and he travels to Proxima Centauri on a quest that is ambiguous in character but certainly involves financial motives. Eldritch discovers on Proxima Centauri a substance that the sentient beings of that solar system use in their religious rituals — a substance he thinks he can manufacture and sell and thereby win a victory over the currently dominant corporation called PP Layouts. But on his return from the Proxima system he is — well, perhaps the word is possessed by a sentient creature from some other part of the galaxy. And this creature is at least for a time interested in distributing its consciousness, through the mediation of Palmer Eldritch and the substance he has discovered, into the consciousness of human beings…

…Of course, this is not the only possible explanation of what is happening in the book. It is certainly possible that there is no alien being possessing Palmer Eldritch; rather, Eldritch himself has, through a combination of economic leverage and biotechnology, assumed equivalent powers. That is, it may be possible for surveillance capitalism to generate its own demons. Whether this is a better or worse fate than the one I previously described I leave as an exercise for the reader.”

-Alan Jacobs, “It’s Palmer Eldritch’s world, we’re just living in it.” ayjay.org. April 8, 2021.

Given the choice between being possessed by demons from some other culture or possessed by demons generated from one’s own, both are bad options, and your answer is probably determined by how much novelty you prefer. I think the more interesting question is whether you’d rather be possessed by a demon or become one yourself. Neitzsche hits on the point:

““Beware that, when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster… for when you gaze long into the abyss. The abyss gazes also into you.”

― Friedrich W. Nietzsche

Most people can’t imagine being (or that they are) a monster. So, this choice is really about one’s self-concept. Are you good? Then, you may be more willing to be possessed, so you aren’t responsible for acting like a monster. But, choosing to be a monster? The first casualty is conscience, and then the body count goes up from there. Still, it’s probably true most people, even good people, would rather be predator than prey. This fact probably explains a lot about the human condition.

People Aren’t Perfectable

“Progress is a possibility for the animal: it can be broken in, tamed and trained; but it is not a possibility for the fool, because the fool thinks he has nothing to learn. It is his place to dictate to others and put them right, and so it is impossible to reason with him. He will laugh you to scorn in saying that what he does not understand is not a meaningful proposition. ‘Why don’t I understand it, then?’, he asks you, with marvelous impudence. To tell him it is because he is a fool would only be taken as an insult, so there is nothing you can say in reply.”

-Eliphas Levi

“Telling the truth to someone who can’t understand it is tantamount to telling that person a lie.”

-Eliphas Levi

I’d go further than Eliphas and say this isn’t a problem just of fools. It’s a problem for the vast majority of humanity. It’s a rare person that is prepared to hear anything different than what they already think they know.

One of the things that most people seem to believe in is progress. In it’s most generic format, it’s doing well in school, getting a job, getting married, having children and so forth. If you look at it as a sequential timeline with markers to be hit, then it looks like progress. But, is it?

Let’s say we change the measuring stick to include various types of intelligence: analytical, emotional, social, psychological, et al. Are people that are older more advanced in these modes of intelligence?

Perhaps in some ways. It is probably true that, as we age, we refine out mental models for how the world works because we’ve done a lot of reality testing of different models and have found some that work much better than others. It’s probably also true that different social experiences have provided some depth in our ability to be graceful in a social setting, at least most people.

But, at the same time, it is also clear that there is accumulated damage that works against this notion of progress. Clearly, as we age, we become subject to a whole host of ailments that could probably be described as a general decline for most people after their twenties. For example, 20% of Americans aged 65 or older don’t have a single tooth. Or, 40% of Americans aged 80 or older have some level of dementia. Clearly, aging is not physical progress.

Does aging allow for other types of development? For example, does cognitive decline open up some other previous state, A Flowers for Algernon in reverse, where someone burdened with worries becomes care free? I’m sure it happens, just as I’m sure it happens only rarely.

When I think about the people I know, I don’t see strong signs of progress. I see a give and take, where certain qualities tend to be at a set point, which can be influenced, up and down, by effort, circumstances and other factors. But, I think the pattern I most commonly see is that people rarely change dramatically.

And, if we cannot make progress, what then of perfection? If only we were 10 pounds thinner, finally learned calculus, got in tune with our emotions, got the nose job or mole removed, found the “perfect” mate, won the lottery – you pick it, but it seems that a lot of people have notions about what is missing in their lives, and if they only had those things, their lives would be perfect.

Progress or perfection is probably a bad mythology to undergird our perceptions of the world with. Perhaps, it is time to accept the fact that we got dealt a hand, and it’s only going to get worse from here, a regression model, if you will. Then, we might think more in terms of maintenance, rather than perfectability, which strikes me as a better mental model.

Constraints Liberate, Liberties Constrain

Interesting throughout. Main points:

  • Build in abstractions, with symbols and functions.
  • Counter-intuitively, abstractions make precision possible.
  • The more expressive a language, the more ambiguous the content.
  • Or more generally, freedom at one level implies constraints at another level.
  • Plan for interoperability and extension, which also implies limits.
  • As much authority is necessary, but no more.
  • The more something can do, the less predictable what it will do becomes.
  • The more capable your syntax, the fewer semantics.
  • The larger the group, the less you can say about it and be accurate.
  • Don’t optimize too early.

If you aren’t a programmer, you might ask yourself: how is this applicable to me? And, I think the answer to that is that these are universal truths that programming, and perhaps math more generally, reveals about the larger world.

For example, when you have complete freedom to live your life in any way that you want, what do you choose? What ends up happening is that people don’t choose at all. Their lives become a series of accidents, which they accept and later rationalize as choice.

But, by imposing limits, which is a kind of choice, you can throw other choices into sharper relief. If you choose to be vegan, then that constraint effects a whole range of choices you might make from the food that you buy, restaurants you consider supporting, and even broader issues, such as your politics. You may, if you live in the United States, be unable to support either major political party since both support factory farming.

Or, perhaps you decide to adopt the religion of The Society of Friends, also known as Quakers. This implies ethics of peace, integrity, equality, and simplicity. These, in turn, might lead to other choices, such as non-violence protest, refusing to take oaths, working on freeing people in slavery in the modern world, or living on a certain level of income and avoiding participating in the money economy.

Or, you might decide to focus your efforts on becoming famous. That choice largely closes off the Quaker pathway, and vice versa. Although, perhaps if you limited your aspirations to fellow Quakers, it could be accommodated.

Constraints require making choices, but then, it opens up a freedom to choose within the context of those choices. This is obviously true in life, but so much so it is also easy to miss. A computer program makes the trade-off easier to see.

Sifting the Internet for Gold

“…which of my beliefs remain unchanged? What assumptions will remain in place? What trends will be accelerated, which delayed, and which stopped entirely? What do I care about that has become newly relevant, and what no longer matters?

-Toby Shorin, Drew Austin, Kara Kittel, Edouard Urcades, “Premonition.” subpixel.space. March 25, 2021.

Something about the phrase “lifestyle performance and participation” bugs me, but I agree with the thrust of the commentary, i.e.:

  • More culture is shifting online
  • It will continue moving away from giant aggregators like Facebook
  • Much of it will not be generally accessible, moving away from clear net to more private modes
  • Smaller communities, by definition, introduce more variance in behavior, that is, they are weirder
  • The death of retail will open up spaces for small culture and these small communities formed online will reconstitute themselves in meatspace, making meatspace downstream of online life
  • There will be a general flight from most cities as work-from-home becomes a legitimate optionThis will give birth to a new suburban culture

However, there are obvious places where they are wrong too. For example, retail is going to be devastated, but it isn’t because of a recession, it will be because they have been made redundant by online stores and to your door delivery that is already impacting general retail, pharmacy, restaurants and practically every other area of retail you can think of.

“More self-organizing friend groups and professional networks are using video calls and enterprise chat as a way to socialize. As a result, many individuals will suddenly begin to experience their interactions as content that can be public and monetized, and will feel more pressure to externalize their communications for an audience.”

Specialist physicians, for example, can create “journal clubs” and presentations for little cost for Continuing Medical Education credit, which will probably will help in the cross-pollination of practices and lead to better health care.

“We are still exiting an era of defunct political parties that are failing and fragmenting, and making our way into an era of discovery and realignment.”

Possible, but I think the existing political parties in the United States are a Coke/Pepsi duopoly that serves elite interests. It’s possible these new movements will be captured, but if it goes off in a truly new direction, you can be sure that the old guard will protect their lunch.

“The culture war between the East Coast and West Coast, which has been going on for some time, is now all but over. It has self-evidently been lost by the East Coast.”

About as right as saying the United States is declining and China is replacing it, which is to say there’s a surface truth here that falls apart if you think about it for five minutes.

Some of the ideas here are truly horrible. A digital graveyard? Want to imagine what your digital grave is going to look in a century in a culture like the U.S. that doesn’t believe in filial piety or worshiping ancestors? One is the loneliest number, indeed. There is something deeply sad about wanting desperately to be remembered and the reality that very few of us will be. Personally, I think it is better to think about this moment, this life as “tears in the rain”, lost forever once it is over. The transience of it, of the moment, is what is valuable about it. We are thinking about this issue all wrong.

“Breathe. Read the air. We are all going online in a new way, and we will never entirely leave again. In this new era, cultural literacy is a baseline requirement for making technology, for making policy, for living and for dying. Squad up. The real knowledge work begins now.

Let me say, with all sincerity, “Fuck that.” I’m going to stick in my own little weird subculture of one, and while I take an interest in the broader culture, since it is fascinating, let’s also understand Sturgeon’s Law applies, i.e., 90% of it is crap. The real knowledge work isn’t cultural literacy, it is taste making. In the deluge of terrible that comprises much of the Internet, who can distill all of that dross and find the nuggets, the pearls? No one can find them all, obviously, but there’s gold in them there hills! Well, reader, it’s probably as good of a description of what I’m up to with the site as any.

New sites I learned about from the article:

  • Figma helps teams create, test, and ship better designs from start to finish.
  • Notion: One tool for your whole team. Write, plan, and get organized. So, maybe a Slack/Roam?