Pleasure and utility

A friend mentioned that the Venn diagram in “Your Life in Weeks” resonated with him. The diagram focused on the intersection of what you enjoy and what builds your future: try to spend your time on activities that do both; one or the other is okay, but if something doesn’t address either of those, you should probably stop doing it.

While reflecting on the diagram, I realized that I prefer an X-Y chart instead. It reminds me that there’s a mix of pleasure and subjective utility in everything I do. Otherwise, I wouldn’t choose to do it. Pleasure and utility vary by activity, and even for a particular activity, they may vary based on factors such as time or energy. There are no hard cut-offs or fixed measurements. I can adjust things up or down with attention, too.

2015-07-25a Pleasure and utility -- index card #choice #utility #pleasure #time

2015-07-25a Pleasure and utility – index card #choice #utility #pleasure #time

For example:

  • I can increase my actual utility by double-checking subjective utility against what actually happened (decision reviews, etc.).
  • I can increase my subjective utility by thinking about what I could get out of an activity. For example, co-op gaming turns out to be a fun way to spend time with W- and practise managing small stresses.
  • I can break an activity down into the things I enjoy or find useful about it, and find similar activities that might be more enjoyable or more useful.
  • I can increase the pleasure I get from a useful activity by focusing on different factors
  • I can decrease the pleasure I get from an activity by focusing on the opportunity cost or thinking about what I enjoy about other activities.

Here’s where a few of my current activities are on this chart:

2015-07-25b Utility and pleasure - activities -- index card #utility #pleasure #time

2015-07-25b Utility and pleasure – activities – index card #utility #pleasure #time

This reminds me a little of my reflection on leisure activities (noble, advantageous, or pleasant, following Aristotle’s distinctions). It might be useful to analyze utility (noble/advantageous) and pleasure with the extra dimension of energy/effort.

While the sweet spot of high utility and high pleasure (for me: prototyping and learning) is fun to be in, I also like spending time outside that intersection. It’s not all about “Hell, yeah! or No”. Experimenting with things that make me feel awkward or mediocre might lead to discovering an activity that I enjoy or find really useful.

Lately, I’ve been giving myself permission to focus on things I enjoy, even if they aren’t particularly useful – like playing video games in the middle of the day. At the same time, I’ve also let go of the desire to enjoy everything. Some activities are not pleasant, but they’re necessary. Even as I get through them, though, I’m happy about my growing ability to get through them. I might be annoyed for a few minutes, but I’m happy about the decisions of my past self and the results that I anticipate for my future self. I’m learning to enjoy adapting to my circumstances, even as I know those circumstances will change.

2015-07-27b Pleasure and satisfaction -- index card #pleasure #philosophy

2015-07-27b Pleasure and satisfaction – index card #pleasure #philosophy

I like being able to step back and think about what I do, why I do it, and how I feel about that. Because I can influence how I feel about something, I can change why I do it, and even what I do. Through little nudges here and there, I want to make things that are good for me both easy and fun. If I can’t, I want to make them extra-useful and satisfying.

Weekly review: Week ending July 24, 2015

Dusted off an old Rails codebase I hadn’t really touched in years, since my former client and my former teammate needed a little help. Fixed a couple of bugs. It was great to have those automated tests.

I wrote some Emacs Lisp code to help me find and fill in missing entries in my daily sketch journal. Given a starting date, it checks the days since then, looking at the filenames in several directories to see if I’ve drawn a daily entry. Then it displays a list of the missing dates as buttons. When I select a date, it sets up the index card template and displays the matching time entries from my Quantified Awesome logs. It’s been pretty handy, since my journaling has been rather sporadic lately.

My sister and my mom have been writing cooking-related posts on Facebook. I realized that I like chatting about cooking, so that might be good common ground. Since I’m still sorting out issues with energy, I’m leaning more towards asynchronous communication (messages versus Skype). I like the undirected general conversation of streams, too.

Oh, and I spent a day running a few errands downtown. It was nice to be out in the sun.

2015-07-29c Week ending 2015-07-24 -- index card #journal #weekly output

Blog posts

Sketches

Link round-up

Focus areas and time review

  • Business (17.1h – 10%)
    • Earn: E1: 1-2 days of consulting
    • Earn (8.2h – 47% of Business)
    • Build (3.5h – 20% of Business)
      • Drawing (3.5h)
      • Paperwork (0.0h)
    • Connect (5.4h – 31% of Business)
  • Relationships (5.4h – 3%)
  • Discretionary – Productive (2.6h – 1%)
    • Emacs (0.6h – 0% of all)
    • Announce Emacs Hangout 2015-07-15
    • Verify Jen’s public key by calling
    • Writing (1.5h)
  • Discretionary – Play (41.8h – 24%)
  • Personal routines (21.4h – 12%)
  • Unpaid work (17.5h – 10%)
  • Sleep (62.2h – 37% – average of 8.9 per day)

What I’m learning from Borderlands 2

W- and I have been playing Borderlands 2 on our PS3. It’s the first time I’ve seriously played a first-person shooter. I’m more used to turn-based games where you have a little time to think, and I’m not at all used to aiming at moving targets. Borderlands has been surprisingly enjoyable and easy to pick up, though, especially with its focus on cooperative play.

W- plays a Gunzerker, although he rarely uses the action skill to dual-wield guns. I play a Commando, and my action skill involves deploying a turret. The turret is awesome. I like how it can deal with lots of enemies by itself, especially the ones I haven’t even seen. It’s almost like having a third player – one who can aim better than I can. I use the turret a lot.

When W- and I play together, it’s a lot of fun coordinating our attacks, reviving each other as needed, then looting the area and pointing out good stuff or trading what the other person might find useful. The game’s dialogue gives us more fodder for jokes and references. Once in a while, we catch a glimpse of the developers’ thoughtfulness, such as when the characters say something clever when you spend too long looking at your inventory. It’s nice to be able to share those moments.

Sometimes I play on my own to build up more experience and get used to this style of game. Even with the turret as backup, I catch myself tensing. I notice my heartrate increasing a bit and my breath slowing down. It’s a good opportunity for me to direct my attention, breathe better, and then go ahead with the game.

I recently read The Well-played Game: A Player’s Philosophy (De Koven, 2013), an impulse-read from the stacks at the Toronto Reference Library. In one of the chapters, the author made a point about the value of practising quitting. That way, quitting loses its stigma and its emotional charge. Losing is similar, I think. In Borderlands, I catch myself thinking: “Oh no! I’m about to die!” And then I remember that death in the game is momentary and can even be handy. I respawn with whatever ammo I came in with, and the automatic save-points are never too far away. It’s useful to learn the difference between things that are scary and things that only look scary, especially when my brain is getting fooled by external cues.

It’s good to practise quitting, too. I think I’m past the initial intense sprint of new interests. Even if I haven’t finished a mission (and there’s always another mission!), I can move on to other things, like writing or reading.

I’m learning more about my play style, too. In the game, I tend to favour elemental weapons, with a sub-machine gun as my primary weapon. That said, picking enemies off with a sniper rifle makes me feel a little more accomplished. I can aim! When I’m not panicking, that is. I don’t do melee unless I have to, since it’s a little more nervewracking and I sometimes find it difficult to make sure my character is facing the right direction when attackers are moving.

I’m sure I’ll get the hang of this eventually! =)

Weekly review: Week ending July 17, 2015

Wow, I played a lot of Borderlands 2 this week. I tend to pick up new interests in sprints, I guess. =)

Also hosted an Emacs Hangout and developed an interesting prototype at work, yay!

2015-07-19a Week ending 2015-07-17 -- index card #journal #weekly output

Blog posts

Sketches

Link round-up

Neat Emacs-related things:

Focus areas and time review

  • Business (16.4h – 9%)
    • Earn (13.0h – 79% of Business)
    • Build (3.4h – 20% of Business)
      • Drawing (3.4h)
      • Paperwork (0.0h)
    • Connect (0.0h – 0% of Business)
  • Relationships (4.9h – 2%)
  • Discretionary – Productive (4.3h – 2%)
    • Emacs (2.6h – 1% of all)
      • Announce Emacs Hangout 2015-07-15
    • Writing (0.0h)
  • Discretionary – Play (39.6h – 23%)
  • Personal routines (32.7h – 19%)
  • Unpaid work (4.8h – 2%)
  • Sleep (65.3h – 38% – average of 9.3 per day)

July 2015 Emacs Hangout

We talked about Python, Org Mode, system administration, keybindings, Hydra, and other neat things. =)

I’ll probably set up another hangout mid-August, or we’ll just do the one on the 29th. We’ll see! You can follow the Emacs Conferences and Hangouts page for more information, or sign up to get e-mails for upcoming hangouts. Past Emacs Hangouts

Text chat (links edited to avoid weird wrapping things):

me 9:18 PM literate devops link
Daniel Gopar 9:34 PM config link
me 9:37 PM jwiegley/dot-emacs jwiegley – haskell
Howard Melman 9:48 PM cocoa-text-system
Mr Swathepocalypse 9:55 PM I have to go attend to some work stuff, I look forward to watching the rest of the hangout later on.
me 9:55 PM Orgstruct
Mr Swathepocalypse 9:55 PM Thanks guys!
me 9:55 PM Bye Dylan! my config erc erc-pass
Howard Abrams 9:59 PM Did I mention how I’ve been using emacs mail to mime encode an org-mode buffer into HTML for the most awesome mail messages.
Daniel Gopar 10:05 PM Have you guys used “helm-M-x”? It’s part of the helm package I believe
Kaushal Modi 10:07 PM ready to share which-key package
Daniel Gopar 10:10 PM Got to go. Nice talking to everyone.
Kaushal Modi 10:14 PM config link
Kaushal Modi 10:37 PM (setq debug-on-message “Making tags”)
me 10:39 PM org-map-entries
Correl Roush 10:47 PM git graphs
me 10:54 PM imagex-global-sticky-mode imagex-auto-adjust-mode
Kaushal Modi 10:54 PM Emacs-imagex config link example of setting ditaa and plantuml
Correl Roush 10:58 PM writing specs link that has some setup steps listed out as well

Weekly review: Week ending July 10, 2015

I thought I slept a lot more last week, but that’s just the recency bias talking – I guess the hackathon balanced it out! Our team won third place, which was a nice bonus for our Evil Plans. =) Aside from that, I’ve been taking it pretty easy.

2015-07-15b Week ending 2015-07-10 -- index card #journal #weekly output

Blog posts

Sketches

Focus areas and time review

  • Business (35.8h – 21%)
    • Earn (26.9h – 75% of Business)
      • Participate in hackathon
      • Earn: E1: 1-2 days of consulting
    • Build (6.0h – 16% of Business)
      • Drawing (5.7h)
      • Paperwork (0.0h)
    • Connect (2.9h – 8% of Business)
  • Relationships (1.4h – 0%)
  • Discretionary – Productive (9.6h – 5%)
    • Emacs (0.0h – 0% of all)
    • Announce Emacs Hangout 2015-07-15
    • Scatter-plot grocery data
    • Investigate semi-canned demo options
    • Writing (0.2h)
  • Discretionary – Play (30.3h – 18%)
  • Personal routines (22.1h – 13%)
  • Unpaid work (7.7h – 4%)
  • Sleep (61.2h – 36% – average of 8.7 per day)