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Aug. 12th, 2019 @ 09:57 am Daily Diary: August
A couple of friends started writing daily diaries in dreamwidth again. Sometimes that seems to work really well and sometimes it doesn't and I don't really understand the difference.

Anyway, I think my dreamwidth has suffered for lacking "what I did today" in comparison to "what I was thinking about". But partly, I don't have time to write that every day, and partly, I don't usually have the sort of "will Jack have the energy to go to the party? if he stays in, will he go out to the shop" tension I used to have, because my day-to-day life is much more settled.

So I decided a compromise was to write a slice of life for one day, but only once a month :)

Last time was in the midst of Dad's death, so I didn't write it up. It wasn't very representative anyway.

So, what about today?

I woke up at 8 with the radio alarm. That's been my standard for a while, but I've varied between procrastinating in bed for another 20 minutes, and leaping up promptly 5 minutes before. Liv got up with me which was really nice: it always used to be that she had to get up earlier to get to work on time.

My morning routine is usually "wash face, get dressed, have tea and toast". I'll shower in the evening because often I'm going to the gym anyway. And aim to leave for work by 8:45. That's been mixed as well, it used to often be 9:30 before I left, but recently I've been doing ok.

Then drive along King's Hedge's Road to A14, and to Bar Hill. Fortunately all the commuting traffic is in the other direction.

Then work until 5:30 or so, with approx an hour for lunch.

Tonight I'm hosting roleplaying. Group 2 in my Underlabyrinth world is on hiatus because everyone was v busy over summer, so I never really got to try the "two groups at once". And I've really enjoyed the campaign, but I'm thinking of bringing it to a finale is a couple of months. I've really enjoyed it though, I would like to run another, either in the same world or another.

Liv needed to skip tonight as it was the only time she could see ghoti. But Houseguest might sit in. Then there's the four other regular players. We'll arrive about 6:30, start about 7:00, finish about 10:00. Which pleasantly gives me a little but of time to relax/tidy before bed.

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Aug. 11th, 2019 @ 12:58 pm Piles of post
For quite a long time I had quite a good system for post, after I set up a filing system a la David Allen's Getting Things Done. Basically, have a file for each company/org that sends you post. When you receive the post, put it straight into the file.

The secret is, if filing it is easy, then it's easy to just do, and if you're behind, you can file a bunch at once.

If there's stuff you need to DO, you can put that in a physical in-tray. Although I just filed it and used a virtual todo list instead.

But since I moved into this house I got behind. Mostly, I think, just that the filing cabinet slowly filled up, and then filing anything became a chore, and when my "willingness to file" fell below "amount of incoming" even a tiny %, then a backlog just slowly mounted up.

I had a few attempts, like separate files for "post to open", "post to process", "post to file". I used to be intimidated by post because I'd often have stuff I hadn't dealt with, and have urgent letters saying "you need to have done this by last year" (not because I had no money, but because I was bad at dealing with post). But one way or another it didn't help.

This weekend, I started a new set of files, basically the same but creating them new for stuff which is "current". And sorted most of the backlog. That was pretty easy. I found one or two important things I'd put aside. And nothing I'd forgotten I shouldn't have.

Because fortunately, my organisation was on top of things enough that a usual amount of reminders was more than enough to get me to do something.

In fact, I weirdly became someone who deals with important things, neither immediately, nor last minute, but a couple of weeks before the deadline, which is about perfect, and better than I ever expected to reach :)


At some point I need to go and throw out anything I don't need to keep from the old system to make more room. But that got less scary too, when I know realistically what I will need (bank statements, certificates) and what I won't need (all the extra bumf which comes in the envelopes)

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Aug. 7th, 2019 @ 04:39 pm OK Maybe We Have Free Will 40% of the Time
Do we have free will?

Forget your preconceptions. If you ask, "what does it look like to have free will" or "what does it look like NOT to have free will", it rapidly becomes a lot more obvious what you actually mean by that question.

What does it mean to NOT have free will? Well, think of examples:

* Someone asks you to pick a number between 1 and 10. You felt free to choose any number! But it unbeknownst to you beforehand, it turned out that you were more likely to pick 7 than any other number
* You are trying to concentrate on something. But there's some delicious food / a person you're fond of / a persistent worry in your brain which keeps stopping you
* You're drunk, tired, too young, or otherwise impaired, and can't fully understand the options and have to choose between them based on a very limited understanding

All of those where you're TRYING to do something, but something stops you. Often something INSIDE YOUR BRAIN. And I mean, that bit is still you. "Being bad at choosing random numbers" is just as much a part of you as anything else.

I used to stop the argument there. That's who you ARE. It's still that 'you' choose. If you don't like that you're not a pure abstract reasoning machine, that's not a "don't have free will" problem.

I used to jokingly phrase it as a syllogism

Premise: You are actions are predicted by deterministic rules.
Premise: You control your actions
Conclusion: You ARE deterministic rules.

But that's not actually the whole story. Sometimes those "something in your brain stops you" happens more than others. Choosing to do something else instead of eating when you're hungry is HARD, but you usually can if you try hard enough. Some things are harder to suppress. And you can't choose to "not sleep" or "not breathe" by strength of will however much you try.

Sometimes more free will, sometimes less.

What about all those OTHER times. Everyone knows that sometimes something overrides your attempt to decide something. But the rest of the time, when it feels like you have a free choice, do you really?

Well, there's some other exceptions. But... we know a lot of the time, your brain is running on heuristics that produce weird answers like "the first choice offered" or "the choice most like what you remember from childhood". Even when we don't know that it's half-assing the analytical reasoning, it probably is some of the time. That's just who we are.

What about what when people say "no free will". Like, an implacable force forcing you to certain outcomes? Well, if you count the laws of physics, then yes, we already covered that. If you mean something else, then, "there's no way to tell, but probably not".

What about practical consequences? Well, yes, act like you have free will. And what about other people? Well, sometimes they do and sometimes they don't -- interact with them in ways that work, not ones that meet some theoretical standard of "fair".

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Aug. 5th, 2019 @ 02:28 pm Dividing "things I need to do by categories"
It took me a long time to develop a normal amount of "doing necessary things". Partly I had problems getting started on things (from big projects to every day things like getting out of bed). Partly I resented learning a rote system that didn't fit what I prioritised, so I didn't learn a system of "do this amount of housework every day" routine that I might have benefited from. Partly I was very perfectionist, so it felt futile to do *some* when I still wasn't doing *all*

I've got a lot better in various ways. Partly I have built up routines for day-to-day stuff. I have through various different tricks/habits/self-therapy slowly de-mystified "getting started". But there's a lot I'd still like to improve on.

I used to survive by basically living a status quo that had terrible housework, and a lot of regular socialising, but almost none of what you might call "working toward things". So in some ways that worked well, but I didn't want to get to age 80 and discover that I still went to the pub twice a week, but had never achieved anything and still lived in a similar student-style flat to when I was in my early twenties. Although I mean, maybe I should have been happier with that trade off, but I wasn't. But because my brain is infested with counter-productive perfectionism, as soon as I started to get better at things, it felt like I needed to be getting better at things ALL THE TIME.

Ideally I'd have regular self-care time. And regular socialising with other people. And time for the creative hobbies I enjoy doing: writing, GMing roleplaying, designing board games, programming, etc. And time for self-improvement, time for self-therapy, learning to dress better, learning to be a more pleasant person to be around. And time for "we really should have done this at some point" chores. And now I'm adding to the list "activism" as the crises I'm living through have ever more impossible to ignore. And so on.

But that is... a lot. I probably *can't* do all of that. But I can't bring myself to officially decide not to bother on any of them.

I've been through several previous systems. Recently I've been trying out "no responsibilities sat" where I can do just nothing, or work on what I feel like, without feeling constrained by "what I feel like I should do" which often killed my motivation. And I added "overdue chores Sunday", not the entire day, but basically I'd try to do SOME chore/chores which had been lingering with me never finding time for it, without feeling guilt for whether it had been on the list for days or years.

I realised the reason those worked is that it didn't make so much difference if I did the self-care and chores a lot or a little, as long as there kept being SOME at a steady rate, but not so much they took over everything else, or so little that they never happened.

Partly, I made the effort to stop thinking of all the chores as "I'll catch up once and then I'll be a Functioning Adult TM" but instead, "if I do a little bit every week or so on necessary house-ownership care, or necessary body-having appointments, or buying things that we might need but were never urgent, then over time I will be mostly up to date on the important things". And new things will always arrive, but as long as the new stuff is added.

Now I'm seriously considering... should I do that for everything? Not so much have a dedicated day, as I don't know if I want to do all those things the same amount. But maybe have a shuffled list, where if I have some time, I can say, "pick one or two of these at random, work on one of those for a bit", to ensure, I keep doing SOME stuff on all of them.

What does everyone else do? Do you have a way of balancing so many demands? Or do you in practice live in a status quo of "if things keep going like this, then in 20 years I'll feel it went well", and responding to additional demands as they come up?

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Aug. 5th, 2019 @ 01:51 pm Dad's death and funeral
Dad died a couple of weeks ago and the funeral was last week.

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Jul. 8th, 2019 @ 10:40 pm Avengers Endgame
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Assorted comments, some spoilersCollapse )

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Jul. 8th, 2019 @ 10:22 pm Library at Mount Char
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There is an emperor of the world. Like this modern, real world, except this guy magically underpins the very fabric of the universe. He took over, about 6000 years ago, overthrowing some other ruler about who little is known. He has powerful allies, beasts, planets, sometimes humans but not usually.

His power is in magic, mostly in the form of knowledge. The language of beasts. Incredible healing arts. The ability to walk the lands of the dead and resurrect others or possibly yourself. Stored in a vast library.

For complicated reasons, he has an identity as a regular human in a suburb somewhere. Hosts barbecues, etc. His neighbours are, unbeknownst, some protective camouflage, if any enemy finds him.

He ends up adopting twelve children, and raising them, each being taught one of twelve major fields of study. There is a lot of being sent off to live with powerful sea creatures, or live in the woods with deer, or study endlessly under his guidance until you know whole books.

The novel skips through the early years, and then the bulk of it is what happens when the emperor goes missing and his children try to deal with it: there is a lot of one of the quieter ones trying to juggle multiple balls of intrigue amongst all the others.

I loved, loved, loved, loved the worldbuilding. It was a marvellous marrying of a traditional academic-y magic education, like things from Dark Is Rising, or Earthsea, or Once and Future King, with an almost urban fantasy setting of these ridiculous people trying to juggle alliances and also get familiar with mainstream american society.

The first caveat (and content warning) is, their upbringing is very abusive, both emotionally and physically, both from their father and some of the other siblings, including some occasions of torture and sexual violence. This is very well written, and it doesn't linger on it gratuitously, but it was still pretty heavy.

The second caveat is, I loved the worldbuilding and inter-sibling politics more than the overarching change-the-whole-world stuff. Some parts of that worked very well (when the emperor's rule overlaps with mundane politics, for instance). Others were ok, but just felt like they were too much for the book to carry.

So, if you like the magical library and people training in specialities with animals and learned other powers, this is a book you might REALLY REALLY REALLY like, or you might not.

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Jul. 8th, 2019 @ 10:14 pm Good Omens
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So, yes, that was ever so well done! I don't have much more to say, really. I mean, gosh, what a difficult adaption, but they did it very well.

Some people pointed out they had rather more voiceover than you might expect, which I think is true, but it didn't seem unreasonably much -- I can see you might have adapted it more, but since the adaption they did do I thought worked ever so well, I'm not sure I want to second guess what could have been different.

Crowly and Aziraphale were so so lovely.

I'm really glad I watched it with people too, I think that helped the experience.

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Jul. 3rd, 2019 @ 03:49 pm Allusions, foreshadowing, mysteries, in-jokes, sarcasm, flirting
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With puzzles or mysteries, there's a big benefit to consuming ones that are just on the edge of what you can work out.

But what it took me a while to realise was that the same applied to a lot of stories (and maybe real life as well). Like stretching your comfort zone, stretching your understanding by reading things you can follow but only if you work at it, is useful because it gives you practice at understanding things, and *feels* good because it feels like you worked things out.

Not all the time! It's good to read things you can follow easily, for various reasons, and to read things that are beyond you occasionally to see what you can get out of them. Lots of book-loving or precocious children are like these, hoovering up stories they only partly get, but getting a lot of out it.

But there's some particular techniques that rely on the same process, but because they can fail with too much understanding just as much as too little, they only work for some readers.

What Harry Potter Got Right

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Jul. 1st, 2019 @ 01:56 pm The Friday Five

1. What is one of your favorite things about your country?

Oh! Um. Temperate weather. NHS, obviously. Countryside. Never being more than a few hours drive from the sea. Vegetarian food (it seems strange to praise British cuisine, but you should see everywhere else). A nation heavy with people who also find socialising just a little embarrassing :)

2. What is your favorite thing to do on your country's national holiday?

Ooh. No. No, no, no. No-one sensible wants to see British patriotism again. We don't have a holiday, the closest in England is St George's day (which is still pretty suspicious). Or "whenever England are playing in the [soccer] world cup".

3. What do you usually do for your country's national holiday?

See above. But if there were one, it would probably be mostly like another bank holiday, so, enjoy sunshine if appropriate, have an extra day of weekend, maybe have some beer?

4. What is your favorite national/regional ethnic dish?

Probably fish and chips. Or "chip shop chips", since I don't eat fish. I know that's not exclusive to this country, but it still seems quite quintessential, and is one I really appreciate.

5. Who is your favorite national hero and why?

Oh gosh, there are so many favourite Britons, but how many could I still bear to be associated with. Maybe Newton, because how many countries have a maths-themed hero?

And I have a soft spot for the retro personification of Britain (or varyingly, England), John Bull, mostly just because hes's a bit less well known now. But I find it sort of endearing that people saw themselves represented by someone bluff, strong, stubborn, maybe a bit bull-headed, down-to-earth, maybe a bit stupid. It's like, "What do you want to be seen as? Well, ok, I'll accept stupid but never let it be said I listen to reason,"

Which, well, may cause as many problems. But is very far from the dainty, effete stereotype I periodically see applied to this country. Apparently he's shown up in some "each nation characterised by a giant fighting robot" anime.

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