Tuesday, March 27, 2012

And Now For Your Moment Of Zen

Took my 1st bike ride of the year this last Sunday morning. 1h15m 16.3 miles by Little Texas, back in via James and Delaney Ferry. Hills have somehow gotten steeper since last November, #TectonicActivity was tweeted.

I noticed, I really don't get much Zen going when I'm biking. My mind is always all over the place. Occasionally I will tell my mind to focus in and pay attention only to what is around us. But it never lasts long.

One of the coolest things that happens biking is when you get to smell woodsmoke. Millions of years of association of company, food, women flood your brain. Totally hard-wired, nice!

I've always felt like getting a massage I should be able to turn my brain off and just let it dwell in the sensation, but Zen not so much there either. Probably because it's too easy to get some napping in.

Playing music doesn't wind up being Zen either. Say for instance, I am just about done working up "Shaky Ground". One of the drummers at the jam told me that was one of his favorites, so I thought I'd work it up for him. I wind up playing the same lick over and over for the whole song, except for 3 bars on the 4 and 1 on the 5 for the solo. So for something like that, I practice the lick over and over until it is committed to muscle memory, and then start working on singing the lead over it. Interesting, I thought I was ready to do it tomorrow, but tried it tonight and the 2 brains required, 1 for the guitar lick and 1 for the vocals, refused to disengage for the 1st 4 measures of the vocals. So, need to practice a few times more, give the muscle memory a few more reps.

But the point is, it winds up being not very Zen. The only time I think I get Zen playing music is when I'm really clicking on a lead. But, at our jam, I really focus on playing rhythm guitar, singing, and leading the band, which involve enough components that it doesn't lend itself to getting into a Zen groove, and which often lead me to skip taking a lead.

I guess not surprisingly, the most Zen place I currently wind up going is when I get In The Zone writing code. I've been doing it as a full-time job for 40 years. When you get In The Zone, the beautiful, interconnected, white towers of logic out of which you build software become the whole of your existence. You are the logic and the logic is you.

So I guess that's why I still like coding. Getting In The Zone coding is by far my greatest current source of Zen.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

A History Lesson

I have actually read a non-fiction book! Something to improve my mind!

I read "Natural Experiments of History", edited by Jared Diamond and James A. Robinson (2010).

I am a big fan of Diamond's, as noted in these earlier blog posts. In school, history was always my worst subject -- no logic, no point in memorizing dates. Diamond's work tries to tease out the "why" of history, and he is extremely good at it.

This book has 8 cases of comparing historical development that diverged from similar beginnings, and attempting to evaluate theories of why history diverged as it did. It was surprisingly topical politically in that several of the articles dealt in why different countries developed at different rates economically. In all of these, it turned out that the sooner feudal and old regime type systems were put aside and more modern democratic institutions were put in place, the more rapid the economic development.

The more you think about that, the more obvious it seems. When wealth and power are concentrated in the hands of a few, it festers there, as the primary interest of the privileged few is protecting the exclusivity of their wealth and power. In contrast, the more people can have a real chance to borrow money, build a business, better educate their children, etc, the faster an economy will develop and prosper.

So how can the 1% not realize this? I really think that the overall standard of living was improving to the point where they just didn't feel "rich enough". I mean really, someone practically a beggar can maybe buy a smartphone as good as that of the richest man in the world. Where is the justice in that? What about all his hard work? (or not if he inherited his wealth).