Perfectly ridiculous

Recently, I tweeted this:

Every decision we make is ultimately driven by our feelings and emotions. Those are in turn driven by Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Simple, right? So why do we all try so hard to hide it?

Shame and fear.

Do you really like to work, or are you just ashamed to admit that you depend on it for food and shelter? Do you really think your spouse needs to change, or are you just afraid to admit that your spouse has certain unchanging behaviors that upset you and no one else, and you’re worried that uncovering these irreconcilable differences is going to cost you your marriage?

The fact is that our behaviors and thoughts are all rooted in feelings and emotions. Political opinions are often rooted in basic feelings: Libertarians love choice. Authoritarians hate it. Left-wingers hate that life’s unfair. Right-wingers take it to heart. These basic feelings, stances, attitudes, are not altered by something as insubstantial as a rational argument. They are only altered by emotionally powerful events.

If you’re looking to influence a person, find out what his basic feelings are, and see if your argument can be adapted to satisfy those feelings. If this is impossible, you will not be able to influence him. With a rational argument, you may be able to force him into a corner. While this may be immensely satisfying to you, this only serves to humiliate him. He will reject everything you said and substitute self-affirmations in order to repair his shattered ego.

For example, if you wish to convince an authoritarian left-winger of your libertarian right-winger views, you must convincingly argue that your policy proposals will lessen the burden of choice and make life fairer. There is a good chance that is impossible to do without lying. This, of course, explains why the politicians who tell the best lies are the most successful ones.

If we were all honest about our basic feelings, I suspect there would be fewer friends and lovers in the world. There are simply too many irreconcilable differences. In order to get along with each other, we must tell lies.

And it’s all perfectly ridiculous.


Programmer on a Diet

For the past 20 days, I’ve been keeping meticulous track of every single calorie I have put in my body. I’ve read the nutrition labels on everything and I’ve weighed and measured it. When I can’t find a nutrition label, or can’t weigh it, I check online and make an estimate. I’ve been logging all of this, plus a target calorie intake, to a big spreadsheet that keeps a running calorie balance.

I’ve been working very hard to keep this balance equal to zero.

The balance started out at -3720 kcal/day, the amount I needed to eat to stay at my current weight. Each day after that, a computer program has been emailing me a new target intake: 3682, 3645, 3607, 3570 and so on, that I have input into my spreadsheet as a negative number.

These numbers don’t reflect my metabolic rate anymore. Rather, they are gradually zeroing in on a calorie deficit of 1100 kcal/day, scheduled to happen in about 10 days. At that point, I will be dropping about 1 kg/week. I have about 80 kg to drop until I reach an ideal weight.

“Why the computer program?”, you may ask. Well, it turns out that metabolic rates depend on your current weight, height and age. If you’re tall, heavy and young, you need more calories than if you’re short, light and old. And I’ll necessarily be getting lighter and older as the diet progresses.

No matter how much you weigh, a 1100 kcal/day deficit gives a weight loss of about 1 kg/week. To maintain it as your weight drops, your calorie intake must slowly decrease over time, to reflect the lower metabolic rate caused by your prior weight loss. If you don’t take that into account, your weight will eventually plateau instead of falling at a steady rate.

If I were to do that calculation by hand, I would be doing this every day:

MR = 1.2 × (88.362 + (13.397 × kg) + (4.799 × cm) – (5.677 × years)) – 1100

And it would actually be even more complex, because I’ve been slowly stepping up that 1100 kcal/day deficit over the course of 30 days, so I’d actually have to start at 0 and add 36⅓ to it every day.

Instead of all that hassle, I opted to write my own computer program. It sends me emails like this every day:

Day ? of ?

Current weight: ? kg
Target intake: ? kcal

Breakfast: ~? kcal
Lunch: ~? kcal
Dinner: ~? kcal
Supper: ~? kcal

Remember to log what you eat!

The “Current weight” value is an estimate based on how much weight I should have dropped. I don’t own a bathroom scale at the moment, so this is how I’m tracking my progress.

Perhaps you’ve noticed that this diet doesn’t seem to involve any specific foods. That’s because I’m not eating anything out of the ordinary. All I’m doing is controlling my calories.

I can eat unhealthy food if I want to, but because my calorie balance is kept as strict as a bank account, it has to replace another meal I was going to have that day. There have been days when my “dinner” was a bag of potato chips, because, well, I wanted potato chips. I stayed within my calorie budget, and had normal food the next day. No problem.

So, that’s what I’ve been up to lately. Wish me luck!

New Monitor Speakers

I ended up buying Yamaha HS8 monitor speakers instead of the Dynaudio Professional BM5 mkIII ones I had on my wish list.

Yamaha HS8

I had heard some bad things about the old Yamaha NS-10 that this model is supposedly based on, so I had neglected to take a closer look at it. However, reviews on the Internet now favored it over the BM5 mkIII.

Before going to the shop, I had actually set out to buy its little brother, the HS7, but they were out of stock everywhere. At the shop, they had the HS7 and HS8 hooked up to an A/B switch. While the HS7 sounded better than my old Tascam VL-X5, the HS8 made them both sound boxy and constrained. It was a stretch for my wallet, but I went for the HS8.

I took my new speakers home and placed them in my small bedroom studio. They sounded terrible. I should have anticipated that the size of the room would be a problem with these bigger speakers. After thinking about it for a while, I spent a few hours moving all my equipment into the living room.

I placed the speakers a few feet from the wall, as per manufacturer recommendations. Better. But the sub-bass notes were all over the place, nothing like what I had heard on the shop floor. Following some further research on speaker placement and some acoustic measurements and calculations, I moved them as close to the wall as I could. Better still, but not optimal. At this point, I concluded that only acoustic treatment of the room would improve things further, and called it a day.

There is an inherent contradiction in optimizing your audio mixing room too much: Your audience will nearly always listen to what you produce in a vastly inferior room, on vastly inferior equipment. What sounded great in your mixing room may sound terrible on the Bluetooth speaker that your neighbor keeps in the kitchen.

I have found that the producers of the music in my personal collection have mostly opted to minimize sub-bass content. When it’s there, they have kept it very simple, which helps it sound acceptable in environments with poorly controlled acoustics.

I have found the same to be true of my own music. I don’t find myself more actively using sub-bass in my music simply because it’s available to me. More often, it actually alerts me to unwanted sub-bass in my mixes. There have been several instances in the past where I have released a track, only to realize, with the help of headphones, that the sub-bass was out of control. Now that I have speakers that can detect it, I’m more often using filters to remove it.