Category Archives: Life Journal

The Contented Mind

Who doesn’t want to be happy? I suspect we all do.

All of us have a natural desire and tendency to want to be happy. Usually, our happiness is dependent on something. For example, how often do we say I’ll be happy when I have money, when I’m married, when I get that job, when I get a promotion, when I have a new car, when….

We are happy when our ‘when’ happens, but it doesn’t last. Happiness is temporal. It’s a point in time, an emotion. It comes. It goes. It’s not permanent.

Instead of wishing for happiness, we are better off choosing to be content. When we are content, we enable ourselves to experience happiness. As such, contentment is a precondition to being happy.

Contentment is not a point in time. It is an underlying condition that is present within everyone, at all times. Contentment means being at peace with yourself, your surroundings, your place in life. It is a state of mind that we can choose, or not choose, to be in.

If being content is a condition we can choose, how does one cultivate a contented mind?

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Measuring Character

I was recently reminded of a post that came across my blog feed a while back by Dave Winer titled – “Your human-size life.” The entire post is worth a read, but the opening is great:

In the early years of this blog I wrote a lot about the personal struggles of people who had attained financial independence only to find out that it revealed that money was not what was standing in the way of happiness.

It’s a reminder that money is important, but it isn’t everything. Sure, we need it to live, but there is a point where it isn’t about how much you have.

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Takeaways from the Pygmalion Effect

Over fifty years ago, researchers Robert Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobson performed an experiment where teachers were told which students in their class had higher potential based on the student’s performance on an IQ test. The students were tested again at the end of the year. The students the teachers were told had higher potential improved their scores more than the others. The catch? The students labeled as higher potential were not based on the test results. The researchers chose them randomly.

“Higher expectations lead to higher results” was the primary finding of the study. It’s become known as the Pygmalion Effect, or Rosenthal Effect. It’s a powerful finding that can be applied across many facets of our life.

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No such thing as a wasted vote

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. - Albert Einstein

As we finally move on from the 2020 Presidential Election, I decided to reflect on my posts from four years ago. I wrote three posts following that election:

Since that time, nothing has changed. I could repost those same articles, change the year from 2016 to 2020, and they would be just as applicable today as they were then.

Given that the system has not changed, no one should be surprised at the result. The election did more to divide us than to unite us. If Einstein were alive, I believe he would agree that our process of electing a President has reached new levels of insanity.

I still believe what I stated four years ago – it’s time we had more than two viable candidates to choose from for President. If anything, this year’s election only reinforced and strengthened my belief.

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Government for Sale

California 2020 ballot proposition 22

If you have $200,000,000 lying around, there’s something new you can do with it. You can write your own law in California. That’s effectively what Uber, Lyft, Doordash, and others did recently so they could classify their employees as independent contractors. It allows them to save hundreds of millions of dollars annually by not having to pay their fair share of FICA taxes (Social Security and Medicare), unemployment insurance, worker’s compensation, and state and federally mandated benefits such as health benefits, family and medical leave, and paid time off.

I usually don’t get too wrapped up in politics, but this one got me pretty wound up, as those close to me can attest. But, the election’s over, the people have spoken, and Proposition 22 passed. So before I put this one behind me, there are just a few remaining items I’m going to say, and then I’ll let this one rest for good.

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The press needs to do better, and so do we

What would you think if 2% of the population drove the discussion on the most important issues facing the country? How would feel if this 2% was driving the country apart rather than uniting it? Would you feel part of a representative democracy?

Well, this is the situation we are trending towards, if we’re not already there.

As my one of my favorite bloggers, Michael Mace, pointed out in his most recent post, We’re not as divided as we think we are, 2% of the US population writes 97% of the political posts on Twitter. It’s these posts that are promoted by the press. These posts, which are usually very opinionated and highly controversial, are picked up by the press and presented as though these are the views of the majority of Americans.

Source: We’re not as divided as we think we are – Mobile Opportunity

It begs the question, why does the mainstream press behave this way?

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Benefits of reading

There are those who worry that our worst technological invention will be the creation of a runaway, artificially intelligent supercomputer. While it’s a valid concern, my greatest fear is that we may have already created the scourge of our generation – the internet. Watching The Social Dilemma certainly didn’t ease my fear.

On the other hand, the internet could also be considered the greatest invention of our time. It’s the collective hive. I use it to learn how to fix things around the house, to make all sorts of baked goods, and to program, which is essential to my career. I also discover intriguing content on it. For example, one of my favorite bloggers posted the link to a speech that I would have never found, heard about, or otherwise read.

You can read the full text of the speech by clicking here. It’s a long read, but well worth it. The speech, delivered to the plebe class at The United States Military Academy at West Point by William Deresiewicz in October 2009, is about the relationship between solitude and leadership.

So how is this related to a post about the benefits of reading?

It turns out it has a lot to do with it. It made me think about why I read, what the benefits of reading are, and why I encourage others to read.

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The Value of Browser Diversity

At the beginning of 2019, I made a conscience effort to reduce my usage of Google’s Chrome browser. I felt like Google was collecting too much of my personally identifiable information (PII). Based on the sites I visited, I would see similar ads in Gmail, video recommendations on YouTube, and news recommendations on my Android device. It was very big brother like, and quite honestly, it started to freak me out a bit.

Instead of Chrome, I began using Mozilla’s Firefox browser. The switch was gradual, and I probably use Firefox for 2/3 of my web browsing these days. The best part, switching was easy. Outside of controls being in different places, the browsing experience is identical. It’s the beauty of the web. Standards allow any company to make a browser rendering engine, in theory.

In practice, the number of browser rendering engines is small. There are 3 primary rendering engines – Blink (Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge), Webkit (Apple Safari), and Gecko (Mozilla Firefox). There are a few others, but none have any significant market share. And of the three I mentioned, Blink dominates with over 70% market share (stats as of August 2020).

It begs the question, is browser diversity a necessity to maintain the health of the web, or is it OK if one engine dominates?

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PC upgrade: The 2020 edition

Fractal Node 202 mini-ITX PC

I like building my own computers. Why do I do it?

I enjoy customizing my computer, setting the specs, and selecting the parts. More importantly, I like understanding what’s going on under the hood. If something goes wrong with the machine, there’s a better chance that I’ll be able to fix it.

I built my first PC in 2005. It worked well and lasted over 8 years. In fact, had it not been for Microsoft ending support for Windows XP, I probably would have kept the machine a few years longer. You can see the parts list for that first machine along with that of its replacement by clicking here.

I’ve built several computers since then, both for myself and family members. I doubt that I will ever go back to buying an off-the-shelf desktop PC again.

My latest build is a compact PC in a mini-ITX form factor, which is what I’ve used for my last few builds. Unlike in the past, you don’t have to compromise on performance when building a machine with a small footprint. To see just how far things have come, here’s a rundown of the new machine and a comparison to the one it replaced.

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