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UFC then and now Mon, Nov 16, 2015
I started watching UFC in 2006, and back then as well as for the following several years, the UFC was a bit like college football:  Week in and week out, you never knew what to expect.  Both opponents were expected to be at roughly the same skill level and physical ability, but in actuality the fights were often one-sided, and surprisingly so.  This was almost expectable in a sense, because it was a relatively new sport, and fighters were still figuring out which techniques worked (grappling and kickboxing) and which didn't (traditional martial arts). 

The UFC has evolved quickly since then, and to continue the analogy, it's now a bit like professional football:  Week in and week out, you have a pretty good idea of what to expect.  Fighters are fairly evenly matched.  There's rarely a standout that destroys everyone they encounter.  Most fights at the highest level are back-and-forth, skill vs. skill.  It's boring at times, but it definitely has its place. 

But sometimes, just like in the NFL (undefeated Broncos getting shut out for three quarters before benching their record-setting quartback) some fights don't go as expected (newcomer Holly Holm knocks out undefeated submission artist Ronda Rousey). #sports

Life-changing Thu, Nov 12, 2015
I've had a few experiences in life which have changed me from that point forward.  Some of them seem almost trivial to call life-changing, but they literally altered the way I viewed or approached situations.  Here are some of them: 
  1. Harry Potter books.  These books introduced me to literary fiction.  Before reading them in my late 20s, I mostly read non-fiction books and whatnot.  I read obligatory fiction in high school and hated all of it, feeling completed disinterested in any character or plot.  For whatever reason, Harry Potter changed that.  Its mix of approachable language, compelling storytelling, relateable characters, and complementary movies literally changed my life.  Now I read fiction for fun.
  2. NFL RedZone Channel.  I used to watch football in a love-hate way:  The local team, on the local channels, filled with commercials and boring gameplay.  The RedZone channel plays only the exciting parts of every single game.  I went from watching a few hours interspersed on a Sunday afternoon, to seven straight hours of commercial-free action.  It literally changed how I watch football.
  3. All-wheel drive.  My old two-wheel-drive car used to get stuck in my own (flat) driveway.  Plans were changed because my car couldn't make it in less-than-ideal driving conditions.  With all-wheel drive, I can literally drive in the snow.  I've passed cars on snow-covered, hilly roads, spinning their tires, as I effortlessly drive through it.  It's literally changed when I can drive and how much bad weather I can drive through.
  4. Destiny.  This video game was given to me as a gift, and I wasn't that into it at first.  It's a first person shooter with a mediocre storyline, but it's designed by people who understand human psychology.  There are elements of collecting, time-specific quests, and compelling personal challenges that get players to spend more and more time (and money).  I used to play a video game until I beat it in 20 or so hours.  I've spent something like 100 times as long on this game, and I'm still going.  It's ridiculous to think about, but this game has literally changed the way I live my life and play games.

Hard work vs. reality Wed, Oct 14, 2015
We like to tell young people that you can do anything if you put your mind to it.  You can be anything, accomplish anything, as long as you put your best effort and your hardest work into it. 

This is all obviously false.  It's good to encourage young people, because it sets their standards high and motivates them to succeed.  But in reality, you can't be anything.  You should still try hard, and dream big, and work for it.  But there's a really high chance you won't be an astronaut.  You almost certainly won't be a professional athlete, no matter how much you practice.  You probably can't be a professional musician, because you'll die of starvation before you get your first record deal. 

And that's just statistics, i.e. a very small proportion of people who try to become these things actually succeed.  There's also the idea of innate talent.  Some people are born with certain talents that enable them to do certain things.  Some people are born without those talents.  They might be able to work hard to get up to the level of a person born with that talent, but chances are, they'll still be behind the curve because they didn't win the genetic lottery. 

This idea occurred to me admittedly somewhat recently in life -- the idea that I might not be able to accomplish everything I set my mind to.  Two recent examples are embarrassingly trivial, but kay-suh-rah.  The first is bodybuilding.  I've always been a skinny person; it's genetic.  But I've also always been moderately athletic, both from genes and from practice.  I've always wanted to develop bigger muscles, and I've never had much success.  I was told it was my weightlifting style.  I improved it.  I was told it was my diet.  I changed it.  I was told it was calories, carbs, protein type, specific exercises, amount of weight, number of reps, etc.  I've done lots of different things to build strong muscles, and I've completely failed, aside from some slight increases in the amount of weight I can lift.  I've finally stumbled to the conclusion that I'm not genetically built to be a big, strong, muscular person like all the other people at the gym.  That sucks, but at least I've reached a conclusion and can stop being disappointed by my lack of progress. 

The other example is video games.  I've been playing a lot of player-vs-player (as opposed to player-vs-enemy) games, and I'm routinely worse than any of my teammates or opponents.  Even after a lot of hard work and practice, I still lagged behind most people.  Like weightlifting, I came to realize that certain people are just better than me.  In technical terms, they probably have faster reaction timing, better quick-twitch muscle control, and things like that.  It doesn't matter how much I play or how hard I work at it, I likely just won't be as good as other people.  Again, that's disheartening.  But at least I have an explanation for my mediocrity.  And that's better than failure. #psychology

Atomic clock sync Tue, Oct 13, 2015
I was in the market for a new watch recently, and I stumbled upon Casio's line of watches that automatically sync to the NIST radio signal.  A problem I was having with my previous watch was that I kept having to set the time because its mechanism was wound by motion, and I didn't wear it over the weekend.  Having a watch with the wrong time is worse than having no watch at all.  So I bought one of the Casios, and so far so good. 

I liked the idea so much, I bought a little bedside alarm clock with the same functionality.  Knowing my clocks are always synced to the right time is a good feeling. #products

Automobile usage Tue, Oct 06, 2015
Sometimes I like to remind myself that the vast majority of automobiles are only used for about 10% of the day and are only filled to about 25% capacity.  Put another way, cars and trucks sit unused in driveways and parking lots for 90% of their life, and waste about 75% of their passenger space.  That's a dumb system. #travel

Time and money variance Mon, Oct 05, 2015
I've noticed that equal amounts of time and money spent at different times in history are worth different amounts.  For instance:  I bought an Xbox One a few months ago.  In the ensuing time, I've seen it on sale for lower prices.  This happens with a lot of purchases.  But I've spent a sizable amount of time with my Xbox One.  And I've spent that time playing newly-released games with other people who are doing the same thing.  If I had waited and made my purchase a few months later, I would've missed out on those opportunities.  Even though I would've paid a lower price, it would've been worth less, if that makes any sense.  I always expect that I'll regret spending time or money on something, but I rarely do. #psychology

Colorado trip Wed, Sep 30, 2015
Recently the wife and I took a nice long trip to Colorado.  We
  1. flew into Denver and stopped in Boulder
  2. stayed in Estes Park before touring around Rocky Mountain National Park, where we camped
  3. drove through Grand Lake before heading to Steamboat Springs, where we swam in Strawberry Park Hot Springs
  4. stayed in Craig before heading to Dinosaur National Monument
  5. crossed over into Utah, stayed in Moab, and visited Canyonlands National Park
  6. headed south and camped at Goosenecks State Park
  7. crossed over into Arizona to see Monument Valley
  8. drove back to Colorado to tour around Mesa Verde National Park, where we camped
  9. stayed in Alamosa before heading to Manitou Springs
  10. walked around Garden of the Gods and drove to the top of Pike's Peak before heading back to Denver and flying home.
Overall we drove something like 1300 miles in 10 days.  We only camped 3 nights, but the night in Goosenecks State Park overlooking the winding San Juan River was completely worth the trouble of bringing camping supplies (plus Southwest Airlines allows two free checked bags per person!).  The drive up Pike's Peak was literally breathtaking, i.e. I could barely breath at the top because of the altitude.  Colorado has legal weed, so it was interesting smelling pot smoke at various locations throughout the state.  Unlike previously trips, we didn't have any hotel reservations or real solid plans, so we kind of flew by the seats of our pants, and it worked.  All in all, this was a cool trip, and it was easy to do at the end of summer before a bunch of roads are closed because of snow. #travel

Expensive watches Mon, Sep 28, 2015
Watch prices make no sense to me.  I get that there are cheap Timex watches and expensive Fossil watches and whatnot, but we're talking a single order of magnitude here -- $25 to maybe $250.  That's fine.  What isn't fine is when a different kind of watch is grouped into the same category -- of search results for example -- costing ten times that price.  That's an additional order of magnitude.  I understand that different products can be manufactured to different standards, and that some components or decorative parts can really increase the price.  But when there are no diamonds on the watch, and it's not made of solid gold, and it costs $6000?  How does that work economically?  And can we please acknowledge that these are very different products?  Yes, they're all watches.  Yes, they keep time and sit on your wrist and look good.  But if I'm in the market for a new watch, I'm either in the $25 to $250 range, or I'm in the over $5000 range.  I'm not in the $25 to $5000 range, because that's stupid.  There are watches; and then there are luxury watches.  They're entirely different. #products

Customer service humanity Thu, Aug 13, 2015
I've had a couple customer service experiences lately that I wished included more of a "human" feel to them.  One was when I ordered something online and was told when to be at my house to receive delivery.  I was notified and reminded several times of the timeframe, as well as the new timeframe due to a delay.  When that time window came and went, I called the company to see what was up.  They said essentially, "Whoops, how about tomorrow?"  Tomorrow's time window came and went, so I called the company again.  They said essentially, "The truck is on its way, albeit 28 hours later than originally intended." 

Twenty-eight fucking hours.  We live in a ridiculously technologically modern age.  Everyone can be contacted at all times in a variety of ways.  How did you not get around to delivering my stuff on the right day, and how did you not figure out how to contact me to tell me before it didn't happen?  How did you still miss the time window on the second day, not contact me to tell me about it, and then proceed to send me a survey asking about my purchasing experience?  "How satisfied were you with the timing of the delivery?"  Not very satisfied, asshole. 

A few days later, the electric got shut off at my new house.  It was probably a simple mix-up, or that's what I'd like to believe.  A simple call to the electric company should solve that.  But no, the electric company says we have to call back the following business day (since it was after hours), and service will be restored the day after that.  So that's two days without power, all because I didn't transfer utilities in the 4 days since I signed the fucking closing papers.  I talked to a customer service idiot on  the service restoration day to ask what time the technician would be there.  Her answer:  Sometime between 8 am and 6 pm.  I asked her in the event that she lost power at her house, if that would be a good answer.  She said no. 

I just wish companies weren't so stupidly rigid.  I understand that nobody has time to address each and every circumstance like it's a beautiful unique experience to enrich a person's life, but how about some wiggle room?  Yes, the "policy" is a two-day turnaround, but how about a fucking favor for a new homeowner who can't take a fucking shower or flush his piss-filled toilet?  How about a phone call or a letter or a knock on my fucking door to tell me you're gonna take away my electricity?  How about an email or a text message to let me know my vacation day was essentially useless and you can't even come up with a reasonable explanation for why you couldn't deliver a $2000 tractor to a waiting customer.  I realize it's not "standard operating procedure", but could you maybe try to act like a human being? #business

Surprised by ignorance Wed, Jul 15, 2015
I'm surprised by people who are surprised by ignorance.  Ignorance, i.e. not knowing something, is pretty common.  Everybody's ignorant about something, and a lot of people are ignorant about a lot of things.  Not everybody knows physics, or philosophy, or philology.  Our society kind of expects everyone to have a certain level of basic knowledge, i.e. you live on planet Earth, which orbits the sun, which is a star, etc.  But most things other than that are simply specialization. 

My coworker is constantly surprised by my lack of knowledge about things that have nothing to do with our job.  Whenever it comes up, it follows the same pattern: 
Me:  I didn't know that.
Her:  How could you not know that?
Me:  I just don't know it.
Her:  But didn't you learn it at some point?
Me:  If I did, I forgot it, because I don't remember everything I've ever learned.
I posted a comment online earlier about some knowledge I had gained regarding a video game.  Some people responded with "Thanks" or "I didn't know that".  But one guy responded with, "Everybody knows that.  How could you not know that?"  Wasn't there ever a time in this guy's life when he didn't know something?  Or was he, like my coworker, simply born with perfect knowledge of everything?  Omniscience isn't a real thing, you know. 

I guess I find it incredibly self-centered that a person can't possibly imagine a scenario in which another human lifeform doesn't have the exact same level of knowledge in the exact same arrangement at the exact moment in time as them.  Come to think of it, what I'm talking about is theory of mind, which is something that usually develops in early childhood.  Maybe the people I'm dealing with are damaged. #psychology

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