You can have anything you want, just not everything you want

My parents are in the process of moving into a new house. They lived in their previous home for over 30 years. Over the course of those three decades they raised seven children, drifted into and out of various hobbies, and witnessed technological advancement. As such, they have accumulated a lot of stuff.

Moving from a larger house into a smaller one necessitates the downsizing of one’s possessions. If in your old house you had four bedrooms and your new house has two, there is no need to retain four queen sized beds. Your new house just can’t fit them. If your old house was chalk full of various cabinets, entertainment centers, and desks that spanned two full living rooms and your new house has a single living room, good design principle requires one to get rid of some things to avoid clutter.

This brings me to a maxim I have been thinking about for the past few months that I believe has applicability to multiple aspects of one’s life. That maxim is the title of this essay. You can have anything you want, just not everything you want. I want to relate this maxim to three different areas of life, design, finances, and diet.

My mother does not understand this principle. She wanted my father and I to pack up everything she owned and move it to the new (smaller) house. Predictably, the new house is now so cluttered it is nigh unlivable. I sat down and told my mother that she could have anything she wanted moved to her new home, she just couldn’t have everything. She could have her entertainment center, her roll-top desk, or her china hutch. None of these things on its own would destroy the aesthetic of her house. In choosing everything, she created a cluttered claustrophobic mess.

In finances and diet you are ultimately working with a budget. I only have $xxxx to spend every two weeks. That $xxxx has to pay for vehicular expenses, rent, debt services, food and entertainment. If I spend more than that I have to take out debt to finance it, which is ultimately destructive to my future. Ideally, I will spend less than my biweekly paycheck, allowing me to save, invest, and pay down debt faster.

I definitely have more than $xxxx in biweekly wants. I’m sure that I could double or triple that amount without even blinking. As we all know, it is very easy to live outside of your means. The good news is that many (not all, by any means) people can spend their income in a way that allows them to buy anything they want. As above, though, you cannot buy everything you want. Love computers, buy the best computer you could possibly want. This may mean that you don’t get to take that trip to Iceland next year, however.

The best way to do this is to maximize the happiness that you buy with your money. Find out what makes you happiest and spend your money on that. Through introspection, find out what doesn’t make you all that happy and cut your expenses in that area to the bone. We all have those areas in life that we spend money on but do not increase our happiness. On top of this, at some point we reach a point of diminishing returns, where the more money we spend on an area does not appreciably increase our happiness. Once you have a decent wardrobe, does having any additional clothing actually increase your happiness?

The third area is, for me, a key revelation. I am an overeater. If I ate whatever I wanted whenever I wanted I would (and did) balloon up to 260 lbs or more. Fortunately, sticking to a diet is in principle the exact same as sticking to a budget. For my size and activity weight I can eat around 2000 calories a day. If I eat more than that I will gain weight, less than that and I will lose weight. In the past I have done extreme restriction on certain foods to get to my goal weight. However, once I realized the principle elucidated  in this essay my goal of maintaining my weight has become easier.

I can eat anything I want. I cannot eat everything I want. If I want to eat pizza for dinner I can definitely do that. Eating an entire pizza for dinner is probably a bad idea, although it can be done. As long as I eat under 2000 calories a day I am good to go. This works even better if I string it out to an entire week. As long as I eat less than 140000 calories a week I’m golden. This can often afford me an entire Saturday of extreme eating as long as I make up for it during the week. However, for my mental sanity I like to keep my day to day diet pretty similar.

The logical process of taking what you learn from one system and applying it to another is called abductive reasoning. It does not always work perfectly, so care must be taken that the different systems are similar enough to allow the conclusions to follow. In these cases we are dealing with systems that have budgets. In design there may be something called a space budget. In finances there is a budget budget and in regards to weight loss there is the calorie budget. Budgeted systems allow one to have anything they want, just not everything they want.

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Highpoint #6: Mount Elbert, Colorado

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To say that climbing Mount Elbert was just hitting another state highpoint would be an understatement to say the least. I would not be lying if I said that every day for the past year and a half went towards making this summit possible. I am still having a hard time processing my accomplishment. Let’s be clear, climbing Mount Elbert is not some crazy physical accomplishment and anyone who is in decent shape should be able to climb it. However, for me it is an insanely personal accomplishment.

Last year my brother and I went out to Colorado to try and climb some 14ers (14,000 foot peaks in Colorado). We attempted to climb Gray’s Peak. To say that our climb was a failure would be an understatement. I moved slow and was constantly out of breath. Above 12,000 feet I could literally only take ten steps and then have to stop and rest. At around 8am I made the decision to turn back because of storm clouds over the summit. I think I made the right decision because as we made it back to our vehicle it started pouring rain. Still, we failed because I was not in adequate shape.

At this point I was ready to give up my goal of highpointing. If I couldn’t climb Gray’s Peak, then I couldn’t climb Mount Elbert, and if I couldn’t climb Mount Elbert what was the point in highpointing. Luckily I shut that line of thinking down quickly and got to work. Over the course of the next year I proceeded to step up my exercise routine to actually include cardio and cut 50 lbs. I trained for a marathon and completed it on May 22nd (with a embarrassing time of 5:20, but I finished). I practiced hiking. I practiced backpacking. I knew that if I made the drive out to Colorado again, I would not fail. I would not allow myself to fail.

I arrived at the trailhead to Mount Elbert at around 6pm on the night of September 6th. I set my watch alarm for 3:00am and snuggled in the back of my Buick LeSabre with the book “Colorado’s Fourteeners” by Gerry Roach. I read his description of the route several times and tried to memorize the map. I would be taking the 10R1 ‘classic’ route, which is a 9 mile round trip Class 1 hike with 4,393 feet of elevation gain.

I woke up at 3am sharp and was on the trail by 4am. I wasn’t the first person to get started, but I was one of them. Within the first mile I had already passed another climber. The difference between how I felt on this ascent and how I did on my attempt at Gray’s a year prior could not be more stark. I could still tell that walking at this elevation was a little harder. Breathing was a bit more laborious, but it was not a killer. I could still hike continuously at a fairly brisk pace. I crossed the treeline at 12,000 ft well before sunrise. I was probably 3/4ths of the way up before the sun finally arose over the mountains.

The sun rose and before me I saw a massive talus slope before me. It is hard to find a trail going up a talus slope because it is pretty much all rock. I lost the trail. For the life of me I could not find it. Fear actually began to pulse through me. The slope ahead of me was steep and if I was forced to go up it I would actually have to climb, which is something I was trying to avoid on my first 14er. I slumped and sat down for a few minutes as thoughts rushed through my brain. 14ers are not your average hiking trail. Although they are relatively safe, people can and do die on them. I seriously considered abandoning my attempt and going down. Better to be safe then sorry.

But I could not live with that. I had been training for this moment for the past year and a half. I could handle being turned around by weather or ill-conditioning. The weather was perfect and I felt like a million bucks. I slapped myself and told myself to stop being a faggot. If I had to climb the talus slope because I couldn’t find the trail, I was going to climb the talus slope. So, putting one hand in front of the other I climbed. I did not hike on a trail. I climbed. And it was easy. I don’t know why I feared it. It was, dare I say, fun. When I reached the top of the talus slope and the false summit that it was a part of I easily found the trail I had lost and continued to the summit.

I reached the summit at 7:30 in the morning. 14,433 ft. The highest point in Colorado. I was the third party to make it up that day. I took a selfie, took some pictures of another group and had them take a picture of me. And then I headed down. I do not think I spent more than 10 minutes on the summit. I remember from all the books on mountaineering that I have read. Getting up is only half the battle. Getting down is just important. On my way down I started crossing the paths of maybe a hundred other hikers. Labor day was obviously a popular day for summiting 14ers.

On my way down I crossed a group of college students. One of them decided that he could not continue and had to turn around. I walked back with him and we talked. It seemed like his situation was very similar to mine on Gray’s last year. He just was not conditioned enough to make the journey. I told him not to fret. It is better to realize your limitations than to push yourself past them.

I arrived back at my car at 10:30 am. Three and a half hours up, three hours back. Not a bad time. Not the best, but that was not my goal. My goal was to conquer a 14er and I had done that. Not only that I had done it with a Class 3 pitch, something I was not psychologically ready for. The next day I would tackle Mount Massive and the same thing would happen. I would lose the trail in the talus slope and have to Class 3 the summit. However, this time I had no fear.

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Price

Lately I have been selling stuff that I have not been using on Craigslist. I have found that the easiest way to sell things fast is to list them for a third of their retail price. It gets you plenty of responses and you can usually sell an item in a few days. My brother commented to me that I was losing too much money pricing things to move as such.

I may be losing money compared to the hypothetical top dollar I could get for an item, but I am still making money compared to not selling the item at all. I view the money that I originally spent on the item as already lost. It no longer really exists for me, especially if I do not use the item at all any more and it is just sitting in my closet.

Today I sold a Pelican Case that I have owned for three or four years. Over the course of those years I have received zero value from the case that I had bought for $160. I used it for a case for my camera, but it’s bulk guaranteed that it wasn’t used for that too often. I had destroyed the interior foam of the case by forming it to my camera. New interior foam can be purchased on Amazon for $50, so I put the retail price of the case at $110. I listed it on Craigslist for $35 and had it sold within three days.

Could I have sold it for $50, maybe. Maybe I could have even gotten $60 out of it. I don’t think I could have gotten much more, no matter how much I waited. So the opportunity cost of having sold it in three days was $15-25. But now it is out of my life. I don’t have to worry about it anymore and I am $35 richer than I was with the thing.

Don’t look at sunk costs when selling an item. Look at what you can realistically get for it.

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Blood and Judgment

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My favorite authors always combine genuine imagination with an appreciation for true beauty. Lars Walker definitely includes both of these. While his works can be a little brutal, especially for a Christian author, they also speak the sublime beauty of creation while taking you on a fantastic tour of Viking Age Scandinavia (one of my favorite subjects).

Blood and Judgment is one of Walker’s Epsom novels, as I like to call them, meaning they start off in the sleepy town of Epsom, MN and then venture off into the multiverse to go a viking. This is in contrast to his Erling novels which follow the adventures of the Viking Erling Skaldsson. Blood and Judgement follows a troupe of community theater actors as they are sucked into alternate dimensions where they are forced to recreate the events Hamlet, the play they are currently performing.

The central character, Will Sverdrup, gets transported to Dark Age Denmark where he finds himself in the body of Amlodd, the Viking inspiration for Hamlet. His plot is the more interesting of the two. Walker is an expert in the Viking Age and it shows. He understands the Viking mindset and illustrates the difference between the pagan worldview and our post-modern Christian one. Walker, more than any other author, has helped me understand the Viking religion. It is brutal, bloodthirsty, and honor bound. Seeing Will Sverdrup become Amlodd in body and outlook is interesting to say the least.

The other storyline involves the other cast members in an alternate dimension specifically created for the reproduction of Hamlet. The cast members gradually begin to understand what is happening to them and in spite of their knowledge come to play the parts in which they were cast, meaning that blood is shed.

I liked a lot about this novel. The subject matter is of immediate interest to me. It is a Christian novel and presents the story of salvation, but does it in a way akin to how C.S. Lewis did it in his Narnia tales. He does not hit you over the head with it, but it is definitely there. The novel could be confusing at times, however, especially if you are not familiar with Hamlet. I read parts of it in the 11th grade and have not thought about it much since. The cast can be a little large and it can be hard to tell which cast member is supposed to play which counterpart. The main villain is also a tad underdeveloped.

If you are at all interested in the Viking Age, I highly recommend you pick this one up.

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Change

“Can you promise that I will come back?” -Bilbo

“No, and if you do, you will not be the same.” -Gandalf

Making personal change requires a lot more than just changing what you do. Your habits, in sum, do ultimately determine what kind of person you are. If you eat the right things in the right amounts, you will not be morbidly obese. If you spend only what you can afford, you can be financially solvent. If you can stick to hard tasks, you can master them. However, your thought patterns ultimately determine your habits. Going into change with the idea that you will only change a few of your habits and leave your thought patterns alone is a recipe for failure. If you make it through your change, you will not be the same person you were when you started the change.

Three years ago I was morbidly obese at 260 lbs. My mindset caused this. I viewed food as entertainment. I loved coming home from school ordering a large pizza with breadsticks and eating all in a massive food orgy. I am disgusted with myself when I think about it now.

Now I weigh 172 lbs and have recently finished my first marathon (it was glacially slow, I admit). My journey to this point has been long and arduous with many backslides. When I first started I only tried to change my habits. Just eat less was my mantra. I did not attempt to change my relationship with food, I just tried to change how I ate. I still viewed it as entertainment and looked forward to my ‘cheat days’, where I would binge like there was no tomorrow,  with reckless abandon. This caused me to yo-yo diet for a few years. I would drop 40 lbs and then gain back 20. I always thought that when I finally lost the weight I could go back to my old habits that got me in trouble in the first place.

I have now maintained my weight loss for a few months and am finally feeling like I can maintain it for the foreseeable future. Every day I feel satisfied with what I eat and have very little desire to go eat an entire package of Oreos. What changed? What is different this time? My mindset. I had to change my mindset in order for the change to be permanent. Food is now fuel. It is not entertainment. If you have a permanent change you want to make, take a look at your mindset. See if it needs to be changed first.

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Workspace

I arrived this morning to a desk cluttered full of folders, papers, and other miscellaneous junk. Philip K. Dick coined the word kipple to refer to this kind of stuff. It is the kind of stuff that naturally builds up in any system without any intervention to declutter it. It is the folder that I completed working on three weeks ago that I never filed again. It is the note sheet that I pinned up in front of my desk that I never reference any more. It is the note I left myself a week ago to remember to go grocery shopping.

My desk was full of kipple. I made it my goal this morning to be merciless in its destruction.

My first object of attack was the references that I had posted in front of my workstation. Some of it was useful, some of it wasn’t. Instead of spending time carefully weighing, whether I would ever use each reference, I simply scanned everything, put it in a folder on my computer called “wall” and tossed everything in the trash. If I ever need anything that I threw away (which I kind of doubt) I can just look in that folder and find it.

Next I targeted the various folders and paperwork that littered my desk. This task proved to be a bit more difficult. Firstly I took everything that I had completed and filed it. Then I took everything that was to do and put it in a tidy ‘to do’ stack. More sinister was that stuff that fell in between. Stuff that was not vital, but I did not feel comfortable just getting rid of. My solution involved filing it in a desk drawer with the intention of going through it every week. After awhile I should get a feel for what I need and what I do not need.

Lastly I had to deal with my personal stuff. I had a few hats lying around. Since I have not used them in months I had no qualms about scooting up to the thrift store and donating them. I’m sorry ‘Gone Squatchin’ hat, while at one point I loved you, you no longer fit into my life. Since I have a detailed calendar on my computer, my ‘Star Wars’ calendar that I received during Nasty Santa from my brother last Christmas went in the trash. Finally, I took a few books and brought them home with the intention of selling them on Craigslist.

After 15 minutes of work, my desk looked as clean as the day it was first installed. I had de-cluttered my workspace.

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The Great De-Clutter

I made the decision this past week to dramatically de-clutter my life. My apartment had been getting dirtier lately with my little brother moving in. Before he moved in I used the room he is now in as my ‘junk room’. It was a mess, but the mess was contained to one room in my apartment that I never visited. With him moving in all that stuff had to be transferred into out main quarters or my room.

This left me with a very messy and very cramped room. I barely had room to do my bodyweight exercises that I do every morning. Something had to give. I couldn’t live like this forever, cramped in a small room with my stuff suffocating me. So I decided that a lot of my stuff had to go.

I started small. I opened up a box last week that was full of miscellaneous stuff. One object was a 22 inch TV that I had bought five years ago when I was working in Montana. Since then I used it as my main TV for a few years, then as my computer monitor.  I upgraded my computer monitor to a 30 inch TV this last March. Since then it had been sitting in a box, not giving anyone any value.

I posted the TV to Craigslist for $30. I bought it five years ago for $200. I’m still not quite sure how to price stuff on Craigslist. I obviously priced my TV a little low because I had four or five people wanting to buy it within the first day. It was a quick and easy 30 bucks. I’m 30 dollars richer than I was a few days ago and on top of that I no longer have an item that wasn’t giving me any value.

The great de-clutter has begun.

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