Saturday, 25 January 2014

We are moving

25/01/14 06:11 [Saturday]
There was a time when as soon as I came to write a journal entry - either one for my own consumption in a handwritten notebook in years gone by or more recently a computerised entry which most likely would be put out for public perusal - my mind would flood with 'context information'. By that I mean information about where I was as I was writing, what I had been doing recent hours or days and what reasons I had for making the journal entry. Things are not quite the same now, and (as I believe I have mentioned under related circumstances) I cannot tell to what degree the different way my mind operates now is down to ageing (on the one hand) or dopamine-blocking medication (the other possible causative factor).
However, with a little effort and not as naturally or inescapably as in those times gone by, I can bring out what I am doing and what is happening around me as I write this morning. Most recently - within the past twenty minutes - I have been eating cheese thins and drinking a cup of coffee. Dawn has gall-stones and thinks some of the items we were eating on our diet weren't suiting her; hence we have come off the diet completely. At the last count I had put back on half a stone of the stone (almost a stone) I had lost thanks to the diet. I regret no longer being on the diet, because with my weight lower I was less puffed when walking or doing other physical activity, and generally felt fitter and better in myself. But since Dawn is not doing the varied and enticing recipes she was following for the diet I have thrown in the towel and am eating quantity rather than quality to become satiated. A few days ago I felt the absence of biscuits as a snack between meals - whereas on the diet we would plan carefully what snacks we were allowed and they were non-fattening such as celery or yogurt - so yesterday while shopping at the Co-op I added packets of biscuits to my basket. Hence I have cheese thins.
Another thing I was doing, say an hour ago, was copy my Tweets for January so far from the feed in my own profile of my own Tweets. A few months ago I wrote a VB program to turn these into a version suitable for basing my 'Twitter diary' on which I upload to my website (and the main thing needing doing is inverting the feed so the most recent Tweets are at the bottom) but recently (I cannot tell why) copying-and-pasting from web pages on my computer has become very slow if scrolling down for more than one screen (or more than the height of the screen if it is a continuous feed). Therefore I had planned to copy my Tweets every week instead of at the end of each month, that is copy them into a simple text file to use my VB program on. But so far in January I had not remembered to do so. I have now created the text file for January up to yesterday, but doing it was quite tedious so I must try to improve from February on.
Another thing I did this morning - this something I do every morning around 3 am - was my online banking, that is keeping track of spending and income for yesterday's date so that I do not get into the confusion I was in around 2009-2010 when I was not on any medication. I must say that wasting money partly because of confusion (and partly from overly excited and mistakenly premissed activity) was an unfortunate feature of being unwell - as I must accept it should be called - when I was not on medication.
Now I come to what I had in mind as the reason to make this blog entry. I will interject that I follow other people's life stories through their blogs and online activity and it can be frustrating if they do not let us know what is going on (so I apologise to anyone who reads my Twitter diary for the late preparation of the December 2013 edition). Of course following people in that way is risky because sometimes they just disappear - no more online publishing, at least under the name they had been using - and it can leave the reader feeling cheated.
The most significant single factor in my life at present - or certainly the most significant factor involving change - is the home move we are going through. After we thought we had sold our bungalow in the spring and then it fell through, we have been worried that the recently concluded agreement to sell it might equally come to nothing. To make sure of the sale we decided that rather than wait for our purchase of a house in Harworth to go through we would move into temporary accommodation, and my step-daughter (the one whose home we looked after at New Year) offered to put us up. In any case the house we had put in an offer for is not now available because the people whose house the lady we were buying from was going to have, they decided they weren't selling after all.
We have since found another house in Harworth, have put in an offer which was accepted, and are proceeding with the survey and legal arrangements, and are hoping it concludes sooner rather than later. But still it isn't going to conclude in a few days so the upshot is we are moving out from Kingswinford and going to my step-daughter's next week. The sale of our bungalow is done - contracts were exchanged a few days ago - and it is now just a matter of packing the few remaining items and having our belongings taken into storage (which is already arranged and scheduled). This is another reason I am eating a bit more, to try to use up the food we have in before we move out (as well as the cheese thins I had a nighttime feast of apples and custard).
The situation looks quite good and our stress is alleviated, in that the bungalow is legally and inescapably sold and our immediate future made certain. Of course we still need to buy our new place, but every indication there so far is that difficulties will be few.

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Individualism versus collaborativism

04/01/14 06:23 [Saturday]
I have been thinking about politics again, that is about the degree to which I still have a preference for individual freedom and responsibility as against merging in with the body of humankind (or the body politic in the country one calls home). Yesterday and the day before I went on walks from the house where we are staying (my step-daughter's in Harworth near Doncaster) and quite long walks from my point of view (half a mile to a mile: bearing in mind that I am overweight and very unfit). Yesterday I walked with Dawn up to the main shopping street in Harworth and the day before I walked on my own to a more local shop as we had run out of bread. What I mainly have to say, in comparing the two walks, is that the walk of two days ago was more enjoyable for me and less of an effort. On that walk I could please myself where I stopped for rest - although there were a limited number of sensible stopping places - and this benefited me not so much by allowing extra rest as more efficiently spaced rest, plus a certain pleasure accruing from planning ahead where to stop and then fulfilling the plan.
If someone else is directing what I do - and, of course, walking with my wife it is not like being under the thumb in a place of employment but nonetheless there is a degree of restriction of freedom - I do not get the pleasure of deciding on plans and then fulfilling them nor (in the specific case of walking) do I get rests just where they would do most good. As an aside I will say that if people similar to the way I am are to contribute to some enterprise where they are in a hierarchy of management (and are not top-dog) - for example in employment - the way to get the best from them is to set realistic goals then leave them to achieve the goals (or try to achieve them) through procedures decided by themselves. That way their morale is boosted by deciding for themselves a structure of subtasks and subgoals leading to the required ultimate goal and pleasuring themselves in the fulfilling of the subgoals.
Part and parcel of what I am saying is that for me to communicate - eg in negotiating the resting places, or more generally the structure of subgoals - is a cost in effort for me, and this cost in effort is the basic reason I prefer to do things - if it is a case of having definite aims in mind and not just passing time and avoiding loneliness - independently rather than in concert. There are some types of people, I know, who communicate effortlessly and blend in easily with a generally agreed plan (or rather, something less rigid than a plan: say a direction of thrust or of attack) and they are people who like to do things as part of a corporation and who (I suspect, for the most part) feel that way is absolutely the right way. They are people who are naturally Socialistic.
The type of person I am is more naturally Capitalist, that is for us achievement of goals is of major significance (and they are goals often measured in money terms or - more so when the world was at a different stage in history - in military terms) and to achieve an overall goal the preferred way is for there to be a hierarchy more or less strict of subgoals with individually responsible managers receiving mostly top-down directives.
Of course it is a truth, even for people like me, that not everyone is capable of achieving goals or certainly sometimes not goals which bring in income. I know from personal experience that having an other way the mind works than what fits in with the society where we are - and plainly it is equally true if the body is infirm - leads to unemployment. I might not find it easily possible to communicate with many people but I do naturally empathise in a sort of theoretical, stand-offish way (especially with people who have the same sort of mental build as myself), so that I cannot think it right to let the feeble fall by the wayside and (ultimately) starve.
Luckily one observes that as people on average do better for themselves - the basic reason for improving living standards being economies of scale with increasing population - they are more willing to share part of what they have with others. This I think is somewhat independent of being the type of person who naturally communicates with others, or mixes in, because even if you are not that type of person you may well be one who empathises in a theoretical, stand-offish way, so that I think the range of people of the one type or the other who are willing to share money with others is very large (so long as they have enough for themselves which with improving living standards, as I say, they do).
The fact that - with present-day living standards in the West - by far the majority of people do not want the elderly or the sick who are unable to support themselves to literally starve (or indeed people who are able to work but who because of the cyclicity of the economy are between jobs): this fact is what leads to the present-day centralism of the major political parties.
Jedenfalls, I go along with this centralism: I don't think individuals can any longer (the population density being what it is) live completely independently. However I do (for reasons of personality explained above) have a natural preference for individualism and for permitting the maximum freedom which can be to individuals.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Order has more significance than heat

03/12/13 06:04 [Tuesday]
I have just downloaded cryptlib which is a software library containing encryption algorithms made accessible to those who don't wish to get involved in the nitty-gritty of computation. What led me to do so was the desire to back up my stuff without having to plug in auxiliary devices, that is to back it up via wireless internet which means to, or via, 'the cloud'. Now 'my stuff' is stored in Truecrypted files which are 4000MB in size (or sometimes bigger) and backing up one of these files via WiFi would take a while and it would be desirable for every little update or alteration I made. My idea therefore was to split up the big files into segments and back up afresh only those segments which have altered since the last backup, or (simpler but not tying in with the way Truecrypt works) separately encrypt each file I work with and back up afresh only those which I have worked on recently. The main thing I wanted to do with cryptlib was not so much encrypt files as produce a trustworthy hash value to verify the files backed up (and perhaps to assess which files - or segments of the big files - have altered since last time).
This has led to me thinking about what the point is of life, or - because I'm pretty sure there is no point as such - what there is of significance to life, or in the universe. And myself, I think it's information. Some people are more physical, and do physical things to look after their bodies (play sports, for example) or do things which bring physical pleasure to their bodies; but the way my brain and body are, I am more mental than corporal.
I'm still working out just what 'information' is, but broadly speaking homo sapiens is constructed - more so than other animals - for processing it. Human processing of information has as a large component of it simplifying or summarising information. Part of this is pattern recognition: we observe things in the world around us which we categorise towards the end of processing all instances in a category much the same. Tables can be treated all very similarly, and so can dogs. Of course a lot of what makes for interest in life is that things even within a category are not identical: there is symmetry but imperfect symmetry.
Another way of saying it is that human processing of information is a battle against increasing entropy. This applies also to life in its physical aspects. The fact that animals reproduce versions of themselves - similar but not identical - is on the face of it a contradiction of the law which states that entropy (a measure of randomness or chaos) always increases. Of course it isn't in fact a contradiction because in putting things into order a lot of waste heat is emitted and that is an increase in entropy. I'm not so much thinking of hot air here as steam, that is in converting hot vapour into an ordered to-and-fro motion of a piston a steam engine is considerably less than 100% efficient.
Jedenfalls, this is what life is and specifically it's what human life is: on this planet circumstances have arisen whereby a lot of order comes into existence - order measured at a certain level of abstraction - at the same time as the creation of a lot of heat. I am with Sartre in noting that order - a piece of music for example - doesn't exist within the physical universe and as such for some of us more than others order has more significance than heat.