Diary 12/29 to 1/4/2020

Copyright 2020 by Alan Carl Nicoll
All Rights Reserved

A favorite book (also called The Encyclopedia of Doris)

{12/29/19}  Weight 216.6.  Sometimes, as last night, I weigh myself before bed; last night it was 218.8, freaking me out.  But I was up and down three times, with the result you see.

However, remembering the unreliability of the scale, I weighed myself again:  217.2.  A third weighing was also 217.2.  I’m feeling betrayed, and the wp challenge of 215.0 looks misbegotten:  when I set that number, was I basing it on unrealistic “progress”?  The solution:  take the first weigh-in as correct, and try to make that 215.0 by the end of the year.

Coming home from a no-show Hemlock Club, I felt like I was exerting a continuous, low-level upward pressure, trying to keep the heaviest depression from crushing me.  Seeing a slovenly woman on the bus, with a male companion, chattering almost continuously, cheerfully greeting friends and strangers (me), her appearance suggesting an impoverished, possibly homeless drug addict, I wondered what was wrong with me.  When did I go sour inside?  And what do I do about it?

I had an urge to go to Barnes & Noble to buy a third copy of The Bullet Journal Method, for which I have no real use.  I resisted the urge.  I also had various food-related urges that I resisted.  It is little short of amazing to me that I am able to lose weight (not necessarily this week) and resist spending urges while battling this depression and facing an apparently hopeless future (and a dismal day).  I need to buy groceries…but first, a nap.  (Contrary to my usual practice, I’m typing this in bed.)

Reading Cindy Crabb (Things That Help) at Dagny’s and on the bus, I felt a breath of fresh air in my depression; it didn’t last, clearly, but it was encouraging nonetheless.  I also read some of The Gay Science.

{12/30/19}  Weight 215.8.  Yes!  Checked four times.

The few pages of The Gay Science I read yesterday seemed contrived and irrelevant.  I’ve also been reading Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring as before-sleep matter.  I think I picked it up at “The Council of Elrond,” which I found quite different from the movie, and rightfully so.  In the movie, it would have been tedious and much longer.  Also browsed a bit in Will Durant:  The Pleasures of Philosophy, which purports to be “a new and revised edition of The Mansions of Philosophy.”  I found a few quotes to preserve in the CQ.

Yesterday I decided to start saving money as fast as I can, because I want a new apartment and a car.  This is a great change in my priorities, and I’m having second thoughts.  But I’ve been up since five, and it’s now 7:15 and I’m ready for a nap.

Reading Martin Buber:  I and Thou, which I have tried before but have always given up on before getting more than a couple pages.  This time I lasted a while longer, and I’m finding my own “models and mysteries” expressed in different (and very obscure) language.  As I’m seeing it today, Buber’s I-it relationship is like my I-model relationship; he uses the example of a tree, which we can “experience” or “encounter.”  Experiencing a tree as a “model” is attempting to use the tree for some purpose or goal, such as a source of food, a source of wood for a fire, or as a height which can be climbed; experiencing a tree as a “mystery” is an attempt to get beyond the models to the essence of treeness, or even to the essence of this particular tree.  If I hadn’t seen this parallel to my own theory, I likely would have given up on Buber again; but now I will continue a while longer, to find out if I’m getting it this time.

{12/31/19}  Weight 215.8.  I expected a loss, but this is what I weighed yesterday.  So, my weight loss wp challenge was not a complete success, I didn’t reach 215.0.  See 10/15/19 and later entries.  On 10/15 I weighed 221, so I lost 5 pounds in 2½ months.  On 12/18 I weighed what I weigh now—that’s when I decided that 215.0 was “the goal.”  However, I was sabotaged by unreliable scale readings and I was fighting depression (or “depression”) most of the way, while also saving $100, getting my exercise done on most days (21 of the last 30), and have had no dirty dishes overnight every night but two or three—I think it’s fair to say that The Willpower Instinct has changed my life.  I was telling others of a “breakthrough” simply on the basis of having washed my dishes.

Lessons learned?  First, it’s not enough to have wp goals, calling them challenges or not—it’s necessary to have good rules, a rule for each challenge.  It was lack of a rule that allowed me to relapse sometimes on the “easy” goal of “no channel surfing,” as well as the failure to meet my 215.0 goal and the minimalist saving of only $100.  Rules need to be in a form that allows constant, decisive checking, and I was unable to devise a workable rule for weight loss.  Also, it was not taking my rule seriously that led to meh results on exercising—I failed to think hard enough when setting up the rule of “no shopping for pleasure if I haven’t exercised for the week.”  I knew that it wasn’t a good rule when I wrote it, so I dismissed it.

Second?  Possibly it was a mistake to establish four wp challenges at once (dishes, weight loss, savings, and TV).  Given that I am pleased with the results overall, having at least partial success on all four, I have no conclusion about this.

The failure to interest others in McGonigal’s book and wp in general probably added to my depression and possibly led to poorer results.  Not much I can do about that.

Otherwise in the past twelve months:  I asked Maureen, twice, to join me in an activity; she turned me down both times, but the mere asking was an accomplishment in my battle with shyness.  I revised Kick Me twice and added pages; it still needs work.  I wrote 313 pages of diary, and posted most of the text on my blog; it now has 77 followers.  I acquired some acquaintances through the Hemlock Club; one (N) might prove important, and the club is more known now than it was last year, though I’ve dropped the publicity of Meetup dot com.  I read a number of books that impressed me deeply, and two have helped with my personal problems:  Lost Connections, and especially The Willpower Instinct, which really has amped up my self-control—this is huge compared to other books read and other years’ accomplishments.

I have also, apparently, turned a corner in my understanding of philosophy:  I have added “antiphilosophy” to “my philosophy,” that is, I recognized that the old philosophical questions have no good answers, and probably are “bewitchments by words,” as Wittgen­stein said.  Since that happened, I have read very little philosophy, and have changed my book buying habits accordingly, returning to my “first love,” self-help books.  Most significant, other than those mentioned in the previous paragraph, is probably Maslow’s Toward a Psychology of Being.  Every time I look at it, or quotes from it, it blows my mind.  I should also mention Walter Kaufmann’s The Faith of a Heretic, which gave me a nudge in the direction of accepting his virtue-based ethics.  This does not fit very well, perhaps, with “antiphilosophy,” but even that is a work in progress.

I mailed three Christmas cards, including one to she-who-shall-not-be-named.  Writing to her was a hurdle that I procrastinated about for over three years.

I took up cartooning, and did little with it so far, but I intend to keep plugging away for a while.

Accomplishments and philosophy aside, what else about this year was noteworthy?  The Marvel Cinematic Universe completed its twenty- (or is it twenty-two?) film series, an entertainment unmatched in my experience, and seemingly never to be topped, even by Marvel—but who knows?

I’m ignoring politics in this survey, except for the “personal.”  All I did of a “political” nature was to commit to donating $20 for 20 months to Free Speech TV.

{1/1/20}  Weight 217.8 I think.

Well, I went off my diet yesterday, so a two-pound gain.  Yikes.

Afflicted with cabin fever, or something, I went out for dinner to Carl’s Jr, where I spent over $8 to get 2,000 mg of sodium [Santa Fe chicken + fries].  Then I went to Yum Yum donuts and spent another $4, intending to buy two donuts but ending up with three (two are in the freezer).  How many times was I stupid?

Let’s not count the ways.

Pablo and his friend G came over, Pablo wanting to shower.  It was a complete waste of more than an hour.  At least he relieved me of some donation books.  I have yet to hear one sensible thing from G.  Pablo talked at length about someone’s “dirty laundry,” which I criticized him for.  When will I decide that I don’t have time for Pablo?  Probably never.

The Simpsons marathon is over; a Twilight Zone marathon is running now.  Fortunately, most of the TZ episodes are too familiar to watch again.  But what am I to do with the ninety minutes until the next one I want to see?  Read Thoreau.

So I finally finished I To Myself by Henry Thoreau.  Many, many dull pages, but also I noted page and paragraph numbers of things I want to type up or revisit, to the extent of eleven lines of notations (i.e., a lot).  It might have been preferable in some sense to highlight, but then I’d have to keep the book forever—which I’ll likely do anyway, even if I type up the quotes.

{1/2/20}  Weight 218.0.  I have work to do.

MSNBC news at 7:00 am disappoints, leading off with presidential candidate fundraising totals, while “Stephanie Miller” is on without Stephanie Miller.  Nothing to see here, folks.

Dr. Holder (doctor-holder?) did say one useful thing to me:  perhaps Maureen isn’t interested in me because of my associates.  So maybe D’s significant other also pressured him because our group is, uh, what it is, which is Pablo’s opinion.  Well, given a choice between Maureen and Pablo-N-J, who wins?  The latter; I will not give up friends for a woman.  I need both.

Democracy Now! shows video of a very young girl being removed from rubble in Syria.  Protests in Hong Kong and Chile.  And France.  US bombings in Iraq and Syria.  Analysis of the Iraq situation, seldom mentioned in MSM.  No mention of US politics.

Thinking about the bullet journal, and how it might be implemented on the computer.  It would be necessary to link together a calendar, a Word document, and perhaps spreadsheets.  Perhaps this has already been implemented and is available online?  Probably would be a smartphone app.  The links might be workable in Word.  I’m thinking that I might need this because priorities and wp challenges need to be reconsidered and reordered each month.

{1/3/20}  Weight 217.8.

Yesterday afternoon and evening were totally chewed up by getting to my group meeting and trying to get home—an hour was wasted in trying and failing to get a taxi.

So I bought yet another copy of The Bullet-Journal Method.  My interest in this is a bit vague, aside from wanting to have a “record of my life” in addition to this diary.  What finally decided me was the steno notebook I use to record things like what I want to look up on the internet—typically books, CDs, movies, cultural references, and web sites—plus shopping lists (typically just before I get paid).  I could save the notebook, of course, but nothing is dated, and these things don’t get into the diary.  Also, more than half of them don’t get acted on.  So, a systematic approach to that area of my life would be helpful towards making me better informed, both about my activities and about the things I want to research.

This morning it occurs to me to record my reading:  when I decide that I want to read a book, when and how I acquire it, when I start reading it, when I abandon it, an overall rating, and when and how I dispose of it.  This data often gets into the diary, but having it in one place, in very compressed form, allows easy review.  It can also function as a sort of index to the diary.  I could do a similar thing with CDs and DVDs, but I don’t want to bother, except for movies seen in the theater, because it would be too much work—in longhand!  Possibly I’ll want a day-by-day record of my reading, also.

BuJo possibilities:  writing goals and activity, willpower challenges, HC and other meetings (who attends, what is discussed), meals, the calendar, shopping lists, cartooning, and such activities as housekeeping, laundry, showers, and masturbation, things currently going into the calendar.  Weight record, sleep and naps, moods, all together to allow spotting of trends and correlations.

Symbols will complicate the reading and writing, while making the writing a faster process.

I’m hesitant to commit to a daily log, but it looks essential—otherwise, the BuJo doesn’t get done at all, perhaps.  Too many commitments would be bad…perhaps no commitments (aside from the daily log and monthly log) would also be bad.  What goes into the daily log (maybe I can abbreviate this to DL) is the most important decision, and it will likely be decided in the long run by default.  Separating the reading (a “collection”) from the DL, yes—but symbolized cross-references in the DL then will be wanted.  Books being a majorly important part of my life will therefore be a majorly important part of the BuJo.

I’m thinking that money matters should be restricted to the spreadsheet I already keep—the spreadsheet is essential, but as presently handled it doesn’t allow easy month-to-month comparison.  That could be set up as a separate sheet, thus automated—easy to do, actually, with yearly totals.

For the first BuJo, at least, I’ll want to use the “smart pen.”  This will give me a computerized backup, and allow easy searches.

I’ll keep the Words and Quotes and 100 Ideas notebooks; the WP notebook, which never proved very useful, will go into the BuJo.  The nameless, chaotic fourth notebook will go into the BuJo, too—its value was that it could fit into the pocket, but the BuJo won’t be doing that, unfortunately.  It would simply be too cramped, and difficult to write in as well.  Given that most days I take a bag with me when I go out, carrying the BuJo won’t be a problem.  Keeping the pen charged and getting it downloaded might become a problem.

One advantage of this diary compared to the BuJo is that it forms a kind of narrative, something I really enjoy reading.  I don’t see the BuJo being like that…but it’s too soon to say anything, really, until I’ve tried it for a while.  Given the choice of one or the other, I’d keep the diary.  But I can easily do both.

The “smart pen” fails me again.  Now what?

{1/4/20}  Weight 217.6.  A snail’s pace, but the right direction.

So, yesterday I started a BuJo, but using the “smart pen”; I will contact the manufac­turer and get a replacement or a refund.  But I wanted to record here what I wrote, describing my day of January 3rd:  Spent much of the day reading The Bullet Journal Method, on the Net at Valley Plaza, watching news, and two naps.  Sleep last night was good.

Today I meet Pablo at Dagny’s at 10:00.  I will ask him about seeing Little Women and will tell him that I don’t want him to waste my time with gossip.

Now, about the BuJo Method, I tried to get into “The Mental Inventory” but the results were worthless, mostly because it seemed pointless to make a list of the usual things of “what I’m doing, what I should be doing, and what I want to be doing.”  It seemed pointless because pretty much everything I’m doing is what I should be and want to be doing!

So I tore up what I’d written and instead made a list of “problem areas” [later additions are in brackets]:

  • Friendships weak and unsatisfying
  • Progress on book slow
  • House is dirty, noisy, buggy, isolated [Padre Hotel??]
  • Typing neglected
  • Too much sodium in diet
  • Not saving money
  • Depression or low mood [—appropriate but painful]
  • What’s wrong with Dagny’s? It’s not a party.
  • Meetup failed because I wanted to pursue my interests, which…? [was the wrong approach—social]

“Social” requires explanation:  I was not attempting to form a “social club” or “dating scene,” but that’s perhaps what I need?  My thinking was that meeting someone once a month is too slow towards making friends—but if the people are there explicitly to make friends or find mates, it isn’t necessary to keep meeting monthly at the social club.  Instead, you do like normal adults do and seek common interests which you can then pursue together—that is, ask for a date.

Having come to this new understanding of Meetup groups, I now have a new goal regarding Meetup:  “go shopping” at those events that are explicitly “social.”

This means, of course, “playing the game” of competing with other men, trying to make myself attractive to women, and so on.  In other words, the very things I don’t want to do!  NO.  I’m not going to cut hair and beard and buy flashy clothes and take dance lessons.  I’m going to continue as my garden-gnome-self and let the women shop for me.  My appearance will announce who I am, to the extent that it can…perhaps I should take a representative book with me, say, Walden.  (Joke)  Maybe I should form a nudist Meetup group?  (Joke)

In fact, being myself was effective bait at Skin City (hence the nudist joke), leading to two sex partners in one year, without my having to “make the approach.”  Alas (or not), environments like Skin City are not to be found in Bakersfield and are no longer appropriate (Probation officer ever-watchful).

Now, about that “Padre Hotel??”—the thinking is, get into a very convenient new apartment, i.e., convenient to downtown Bakersfield.  I have no idea what it’s like in there, but there might be something suitable that I could get into.  I know there are other hotel-like buildings downtown.  How can I find such places?  (Yellow Pages.)  I could pay as much as $1200 a month, if necessary, though that would be painful.  The point is not to find a place to live forever, but to find a place that will help rather than hinder my social life, until I hook up with some old broad.  Then I move again, or not.  This is a revelation.

I’d want to get rid of—gasp—most of my books.  That is, I’d want it to be easier to move.  In theory, I’ll have less time for reading, and will be spending more time exploring downtown and be hanging out at Dagny’s most days.  I’d want to cultivate a more open persona, become more of a people person.  “Be interested in everything and everybody.”

I do not like this solution to “my problem.”  I need some kind of middle way, because “the solution” might turn out to be no solution at all.  Or am I just afraid to take risks?

Finding a place that I would not be totally ashamed to have a woman visit, seems a reasonable goal.  I can afford to pay a little more ($1000) because I don’t need to buy as many books as I’ve been doing.  In recent months I’ve bought relatively few books.

What kind of books do I have?  Literature, philosophy, history, science, psychology, Native American…  What kind of books am I not reading?  Literature, philosophy, history, science, Native American…  What kind of books am I reading?  Recent purchases, mostly.  Look at all the books that I don’t intend to read any time soon!  That’s most of what’s on my shelves.  I haven’t even scratched the surface of the most recent acquisitions from a library sale, maybe a dozen volumes of the Library of America:  Emerson, Melville, James, Thoreau, Hawthorne, Poe.  I’ve glanced into some of them, is the most I can claim.

And yet, I like being able to browse my own library, pick something up on impulse and get into it for an hour, then put it back on the shelf for another year or two.  This is what public libraries are for, eh?  Alas, public libraries don’t have the books I want, unless, sometimes, I’m willing to wait a week for it to come in.

I considered putting books in storage.  If the PO permits it, should I?  Probably not.

I have almost ten books of quotations; surely that’s too many.  I have two full shelves of poetry books; surely that’s too many.  I have a whole bookcase full of philosophy books; surely that’s too many.  Yet when I go looking for books to get rid of, I find few.

I could get rid of the Dickens, and The Story of Civilization, and most of the Russell and Wittgenstein.  I could get rid of the Native American and the Japanese fiction and the feminist literature that I haven’t read.  These wouldn’t hurt much, individually, but each would hurt a little.

There is no perfect solution that involves no pain.  Having five full bookcases is a pain only when I contemplate moving; but I am no longer content to remain where I am.  Alas, alas, I cannot expect to find “the perfect apartment for me.”  No bugs, no noisy neighbors, suitable furniture, good location…gah!

Copyright 2020 by Alan Carl Nicoll
All Rights Reserved

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