Saturday, 23 March 2019

Anger and the piling up effect

Something which has been welling up inside of me over the past few years as I've become more attuned to the news, politics and thinkers largely ignored by regular media is an overwhelming feeling of hopelessness and powerlessness. I am so pessimistic about humanity's future and I exist in a perpetual state of annoyed and/OR pissed off. Being angry and frustrated all the time really sucks. I spend time doing things I really enjoy, work a job I adore and live with a girl I love. However at the back of my brain, from which I can recall it at a moment's notice, exists a dreaded bundle of existential pessimism. This feeling leaks out of these larger, Sword of Damocles-like situations like a corrosive miasma, corrupting smaller everyday life events which shouldn't even warrant a response, let alone an emotion one. This sense of being already wound up, then having tiny non-events pile up on top results in a disproportionate emotional response.

Things like driving or small inconveniences really frustrate me to a disproportionate levels. I hate that about myself. I used to be so chill. Anger spills into everything, and it's pure poison.

I got into a series of arguments with a friend's family member (one of the topics was he did 'not trust the numbers the government is telling us for herd immunity to be a thing'). It worked me up so much, and nothing I said was able to even doubt his perspective. I was drunk at the time, but completely unable to communicate science effectively enough for someone not trained in science to understand. I was so disappointed in myself for not being able to argue for it effectively and persuasively. I am so defeated by this situation. It should not be that big of a deal and it's not the end of the world.

How I think I should be feeling is to learn what I did wrong, read up on what information I'm missing, then try to make sure it doesn't happen again. Which I'm doing, but the piling up effect is a heavy burden. 

So that's where I'm at. I want to be less angry and more chill. I want to care though. Can you care about things without getting angry when they're compromised?

Friday, 1 February 2019

TENTATIVE potential bruxism/teeth grinding prevention idea


Sleep with your head at an angle of ~95° - 110° angle, as long as it's comfortable.

zzzzz liek dis ^.  Adapted from here


I, like many of you (8% to 31.4%) experience bruxism or teeth grinding during sleep. It's that feeling when you wake up and your jaw muscles are sore already, and your teeth feel like they've had a rough night.

The dentist will give you a dental guard, and this will generally reduce wear and tear on teeth, but it won't prevent bruxism itself. I am going to get one in a few months myself for my check up.

I was thinking about sleep, how I sleep and why my bruxism is occurring. I am not stressed, don't have sleep apnoea, have no physical or oral ticks and I get regular, high quality sleep. Despite this, teeth grinding occurs for me on a nightly basis, and it is starting to tornado into a positive feedback cycle, because now I am a little stressed my bruxism is going to destroy my teeth, so it may have led to an increase in grinding, and so on and so forth.

So the question becomes, how to reduce the chance of teeth grinding? 

The idea

I have come up with a tentative idea which I've been trying out, with fairly decent success. I am in the middle of graphing it over a year, so I'll post that when I'm done, to see if there has been any statistical improvement.

It involves the angle of the head during sleeping. I usually sleep with my head tucked down, which looks something like this, with some meat and skin stretched over it:

A quick image edit using GIMP2, showing how tucking your head will compress your mandible (jaw) into your maxilla, forcing your teeth together in close proximity. This is a quickly edited image and in reality the spine would bend more, resulting in a realistic tucked head. Adapted from here.

Tilting your head down to sleep, while allowing you to drift off peacefully, creating a safe, somnolence-inducing sleeping positionnested upon your own bosom brings your mandible (jaw) which houses your bottom row of teeth, into contact with your upper teeth, attached to the maxilla (face bone where in which your upper teeth are embedded).

Now the opposite should be true. Try tilting your head up at 95° - 110°. The only way to grind your upper and lower teeth is by engaging 4 major masticating (chewing) muscles attached to these bones: the massetertemporalis medial pterygoid and ateral pterygoid. Not only do you have to engage them, but they will need to contract across their full dynamic range for your teeth to come together. This is probably a bigger ask compared to keeping your head tucked in/lower than 90°.

The pillow

Something which may be contributing to the bruxism-inducing angle (<90 font="">°) or BIA which I am now coining, is your pillow. If your shoulders aren't also on your pillow, it will put your neck at the BIA, which you should try to avoid if you want to PROBABLY reduce bruxism.
Now I don't know enough about proper sleeping positions to recommend anything, but I've also been sleeping up higher on my pillow and it may be helping me.

Considering there is no true 'treatment', just ways to deal with the symptoms, I can't see how this will hurt.

The drawbacks

Firstly, any sleepytime adjustments will render this moot. I don't recommend tying/fixing anything to your neck or head for sleep either, as this can be dangerous and lead to asphyxiation. 

Secondly, this may not even work. It hasn't been proven yet, and I could still be under the placebo effect. I would like to see it tested on a large number of people to see its impact. Even being mindful of the angle of head during sleep may help. Who knows?

Maybe something to keep in mind.

Friday, 28 December 2018

Quitting facebook and withdrawals

I quit facebook the other week. For a number of reasons, firstly out of protest due to how facebook nonchalantly shares and disregards our privacy. Secondly because I was probably spending too much time on there that I could be spending properley elsewhere. Thirdly because most of the content is low quality and basically spam, which didn't offer the in depth discussions I actually used the site for.

Unfortunately I have been having some withdrawals. I've been using social media daily since ~2007ish onwards. It's a big thing to leave behind, considering it's made up such a large portion of my life. I find myself opening Firefox only to close it again since I deleted my account.
It has been strange, and I feel slightly lonely. Maybe this is normal human existence; my brain has been hopped up hypersocially for such a long time that getting back to regularity feels boring.

I am staying active mentally and physically and everything, but I will sometimes pause a video and feel the need to check facebook etc, when in reality it will add nothing of value to my existence.

Maybe I'll feel differently in a few weeks or months.

Edit: Fuck it. I am so glad I quit facebook

Sunday, 23 December 2018

Going to sleep with computer addiction

So, I have computer addiction. I don't want to miss out on anything (massive FOMO) and will stay up till I am extremely tired. This is due to blue light

I have remedied this with a few major changes in my life.

Firstly, by going to bed at a regular time. This has been incredibly difficult. Many people have trouble sleeping. I don't; I have trouble going to bed.

To resolve this, I went to Windows Task Scheduler:

I then clicked 'Create Basic Task' and enter the following information:

Then I clicked 'Next' and set the Trigger as a Daily task:

Then I clicked 'Next and set the time to 11:00 PM (as this is when I should be getting off the PC), recurring every 1 day. 

I then set it as 'Start a program' and click 'Next'.

Here are the details:

For 'Program/script': C:\Windows\System32\shutdown.exe
For 'Add arguments (optional)'-s -t 300 -c "Goodnight Ben!" -d p:4:1 

I then click 'Next', then 'Finish'. This sets up an automatic prompt for shutting down my computer at 11:00 PM, with a 2 minute warning window.

This has helped me significantly, allowing me to get off the computer and get to bed, so I can retain regular sleep habits.

Secondly, I have added f.lux to my desktop, which removes blue light. This kicks in around 7 PM and slowly removes blue light from the computer screen, which has been demonstrated to keep people awake.

Thirdly, using a Samsung Galaxy S9, which copied f.lux's blue light filter technique, I have turned on the 'Blue Light Filter' setting. 

Finally, I have set my phone alarm for my phone for 11:00 PM, which tells me to GTFO the computer, my phone and get ready for bed. I have time to shower, read and get into bed for a 12:00 AM sleep.

Going to sleep on a regular hour, and waking up regularly at 8 AM has been a legitimate boon for me. I highly recommend it.

Friday, 23 November 2018

I designed a new Australian flag

Inspired by Roman Mars’ (99% Invisible) TED Talk, I designed a new flag for Australia based off Ted Kaye’s rules for good flag design. This is most likely in the event of Australia becoming a republic. Below is my flag design and reasoning, but before that I think it’s important to talk about why Australia should have a redesigned flag.

Australian flag since 1901

It’s been spoken about before, but let’s go through it quickly.

 Things I like about it

  • I like the colours of the flag. They are a well-chosen trio of colours (borrowed from Britain) which are aesthetically pleasing to me.
  • The Federation Star (below the Union Jack) is a great example of a simple and powerful symbol. Children can draw it and it has great historical value.

Major design issues

It is cluttered with three different symbols and therefore  three major focal points.
  • The Union Jack, while nice on its own, floats awkwardly in the top corner of the flag. How relevant is the Union Jack and Britain to the Australian way of life now? Forty-four out of forty-nine nations of the Commonwealth have abandoned the Union Jack on their flags? Why? I assume not out of spite, but because they have forged their own national identity, and it is probably only proximally related to Britain.
  • The Southern Cross is not a constellation unique to Australia (the seven-pointed star modifications are, however). The Southern Cross is currently found on the flags of Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Samoa and Papua New Guinea.
  • The seven-pointed Federation Star sits centered below the Union Jack. I feel like its purpose has already been served by having seven-pointed stars in the Southern Cross, making it a tautology. It was possibly only included for visual balancing.

Current national flags with the Southern Cross on them. From the top: Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Samoa and Papua New Guinea

Designing a new flag could allow inclusion of the Indigenous Australians into our national identity. That might be nice. It would also give Australia an opportunity to have a modern, simplified flag which represents us today. My proposed flag is below: 

Flag available here in scalable svg format

Design philosophy

Keep it simple

  • This flag is simple, anyone could draw it and it would be easily recognisable. There is one clear focal point: the Federation Star.
  • The flag has standard flag dimensions of 1:2. 

Use meaningful symbolism

  • If Australia was to become a republic, then we would most certainly ditch the Union Jack. The most important part of the Australian flag from my perspective isn’t the Southern Cross (which can be seen predominantly across the Southern hemisphere). Instead I utilised the seven-pointed Federation Star, symbolising the Federation of Australia (in 1901) and all the territories and states within.
  • I would have liked to use a kangaroo, but it seemed gimmicky and QANTAS would love it too much. Would it be weird to have an animal on our flag that we also eat?
  • The Indigenous Australian flag is quite elegant in my opinion, so I borrowed heavily off its design. The Federation Star is seen here in place of the sun, coloured gold.

Use two or three basic colours

This was the trickiest bit of the flag because using colours that represents all Australians is hard.
  • The Australian green and gold combination looks terrible. Green does not go with ‘gold’ in my opinion. It looks tacky.
  • The black in the Indigenous Australian flag represent the Indigenous Australians, so this wouldn't be representative of everyone.
  • I got around this by going with dark blue. This represents the sky, as well as being reminiscent of the British Blue Ensign currently displayed on the Australian flag. This works well with the red (representing the earth just as in the Indigenous Australian flag), and the golden sun/star. Technically, most stars in the sky we see are suns, so it works.

No lettering or seals

None included

Be distinctive or be related

  • I designed the flag in this way to marry the two major components of Australian history; the pre-colonised indigenous Australia and the British-colonised Australia. This was done in an effort to reconcile both histories within today's modern Australia.
  • The flag contains elements of both the current Australian flag and the Indigenous Australian flag to reflect this. Also creating new things is hard, and using currently established symbols seems like a much better idea.

So it was pointed out to me that I basically created an inverted Viet Cong flag. Lol. This is hard.

Should Australia become a republic?
I mean, probably, I guess? I think it makes sense, but I wonder what the actual changes to society would be, because I assume not much. There are many more pressing and existential issues such as climate change, nuclear escalation and wealth inequality which deserve the full attention of legislators. If it’s not going to cost too much (besides souvenir shops who will have to restock thousands of little koalas which clip onto pens, holding little flags) and create legal issues for citizens then sure. I can’t see why people would be against it.
Even if Australia does not become a republic, there is still an opportunity for us to pick up a new and improved flag. In reality, this isn’t a big issue and barely registers as one. I just got caught up in trying to design a new flag. It was much harder and took much longer than I thought. I am actually too embarrassed to publish the trial and error flags I designed along the way. Below is my alternative design.

S'truth m8

I don't think what I have designed is perfect, but I can't be bothered spending any more time on this. If you have any alternatives or any feedback, let me know.

Sunday, 21 October 2018

The job of scientists and journalists

In my opinion, the thing these professions have in common is the communication of facts and truth. They are very similar, and I am personally attracted to both.

My job is to disseminate what is true. To further develop that point: to communicate information which is most likely true, given the information/evidence at hand.

I like that. I like that a lot. It's a cool job with a lot of responsibility to not only scientific peers but also to the public, and future generations of humans.

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Fight club: human identity in a commercialised world

It's important to talk about the faux relationship forged between identity and commercial products by advertisers and manipulators of human emotion and psychology, an amoral trade which has been honed since commerce began. 

"You are not your job, you're not how much money you have in the bank. You are not the car you drive. You're not the contents of your wallet. You are not your fucking khakis. You are the all singing, all dancing crap of the world."

The endlessly quotable Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk dissects identity on a level that I like to think about. I watched it at 15 and it altered the course of my personal development entirely. I owe much of my own identity and the way I engage with society to it. I've also done a lot of thinking since then. In truth, I think this book (or the film) should be required reading by every modern human, along with 1984. It adds untold value and insight into navigating a world in which the ruling elite AKA hucksters (should totally be 'huxters' - the 'x' efficiently obviates letters 'cks') have reprogrammed society into a state of perpetual consumption by exploiting biological reward pathways and human patterns of behaviour all in the vain attempt to accumulate the most toys before they die. The true slaves of the coin are the ones at the top. Unfortunately the world at large bought it, and we're forced to pay retail prices.

 If Fight Club is your jam, consider checking out Mr. Robot. It may be the greatest torch-bearing contemporary which refined and modernised the message. 

"Self-improvement is masturbation. Now self-destruction..."

Fight Club was never about selling you something, it was getting you to buy out of perpetual consumerism and self improvement that people have tried to tie to your identity. Advertisers and merchants have been perfecting the craft for centuries. This here's the real con in consumerism. The promise that if you use a product or service it will improve or carve out your identity, then others will like you more. Then you won't be lonely.

In truth, the thing people are really trying to sell you is something you can't actually purchase. You can't buy it. It's just not that easy. There aren't even any reliable shortcuts with regards developing a robust identity. Working out who you and developing your identity is a gradual, lifelong journey which involves periods of stagnation, isolation and deep self-reflection in a punctuated equilibrium-type model. Propping up an identity with commodities, objects or hobbies is a superficial mask rather than a bypass. It gives the impression of an identity without having to do any of the work. Your identity is everything you are once externalities are stripped away. It's defined by the absence of confounding variables, not the sum total.

"Let go!"

Fight Club is constantly reminding you of this throughout. The most clear to me is the car scene. Abandoning the relationship between commodities and self is freeing. You learn the shape of your identity once you remove the putty covering the imperfections. Only then can you see who you are. Looking inward is the only way forward. It's raw, flawed and unfiltered, but it's who you are. In the age of social media and serotonin saturation, a flawless facade of identity can be carefully synthesised, and even believedBut it's not real. It's not you. It's just PR. Even #nofilter is part of the narrative of a calculated and constructed identity. The unhealthy obsession with maintaining a well-filtered online identity is a real issue we need to deal with both on a societal and individual level. The cons probably outweigh the pros here. Imagine being able to change the world with a version release. Humanity hyperconnected but everlonely.

"It's only after we've lost everything that we're free to do anything".

I think it's probably a common thought process that if you don't build up a dynamic personality of interesting interests, objects and hobbies that people will be bored by you and therefore not like you, leading to loneliness. Ironically, loneliness is something we all go through together, separately. I think it's a bug/feature of the human experience. Existence just happens to be a lonely thing, even for the hypersocial. Personally, I don't think it ever goes away - loneliness that is. It will always encapsulate your entire existence like an enteric coating, as life slowly digests you back into nutrients, not that you ever weren't. That's not entirely a bad thing though. That nakedness that loneliness exposes gives you a chance to see yourself for who you are. Only then can you evolve.

Your human experience is totally novel, yet completely common. This means two major things: you are not special, but you are unique. Therefore, your identity has value because there is no one else like you. You don't have 'value' in the intrinsic sense that 'all life and opinions are valuable' etc, but for the simple fact that there is no one else exactly the same as you. It's a pretty amazing thing to think about. In all of human existence, there has never been another you. There will be others highly similar to you or will share similar patterns of behaviour, but for now you can rest easy with your distinct but meaningless existence.

As a sidenote: in the future if cloning/brain uploading becomes legal/possible then there will be beings that are almost you, but they will be completely disconnected from your personal human experience.

The double-edged sword of uniqueness cuts through everyone. It's a festering wound of isolation and loneliness because no one can ever really understand what it means to be you. Understandably, they either don't care nor have time to find out because they are busy feeling the same way about their own existence. This is why trimming the fat and excising the shit you patch your identity with is liberating. You are not your taste in music, nor the number of social media followers. You are a unique but inconsequential organism. You are flawed and one day you are going to die and never come back. Once you really understand that, you'll start to see the fuzzy outline of who you really are, then there's nowhere you can go but up.