The Euthyphro Problem

 

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Raise curtain, Socrates is sitting on the steps of a courthouse in ancient Greece, a few hundred years BC, waiting to go to be indicted by Meletus. His crime? Corrupting the youth by speaking against the gods and making his own. Enter young Euthyphro; his business at the courthouse today is of another sort. He seeks to indict his own father for murder. The victim was a servant of his who himself had taken another slave’s life in drunken anger. Socrates questions Euthyphro’s motivation. How could someone seek to bring charges against their own father for the murder of a mere servant? Especially when, on further examination, negligence rather than firsthand bloodshed is the cause of death. Euthyphro’s answer is that the only pious action is to indict the one who has committed a crime no matter who it is. This leads to a lengthy discussion to attempt to define piety. Spoiler alert: Socrates isn’t happy with the outcome and Euthyphro flakes out and rushes off.

As with much of ancient Greek philosophical thought, we are left with more questions than answers. Primarily this one:

“Consider this: Is the pious being loved by the gods because it is pious, or is it pious because it is being loved by the gods?”

Translating this into something that looks more familiar to our modern culture and way of thinking we arrive at something that looks more like this:

  1. Are right actions right because God commands them?
  2. Are actions commanded by God because they are right?

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Growing vs Saving

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I have $5k in the bank, now what? Most of us work for a living and in the process we manage to tuck some of that away into an account somewhere. What we do next can change our lives.

I’ll use this analogy from farming:

If you are given a hundred bushels of wheat, you have a few choices. First you can get rid of the wheat, sell it (use it) then you get something in the short term but it’s gone. No more wheat. This is like spending your money. We’ll ignore the fact that you get money when you sell wheat, we don’t want money in this example, we want wheat. Money represents some kind of goods or services in our imaginary, wheat-driven world. Your second choice is to put that wheat into a grain elevator and save it. If you put 100 bushels into an elevator, you have 100 bushels, easy math. Next year you’ll still have a hundred, and so on and so forth; if you add another hundred, you’ll have 200. Lastly, you can plant your wheat. This takes time and has some risk involved.  There might be a drought and all the wheat might die, leaving you with nothing. Ouch. But if you check the weather forecast (market indicators) you can increase your chances of avoiding such a calamity. What’s more likely to happen is that wheat grows up and produces a yield. One hundred bushels of wheat can turn into a hundred thousand. Or it can burn up in the summer sun and turn into nothing. Or it can land somewhere in between.

I’m not a farmer so these numbers are made up, but you get the idea.

In the example, we see the three choices people face when they have money, spending it, saving it, or investing it, respectively.

If you put money into a savings account, it’s going to stay there. But if you grow it via smart investments, it will multiply. The question is, how?

When I was in college my friend took $8,000 and bankrolled it into a poker account. He invested in himself and his ability to play cards. I remember his words “everyone is going to have a few thousand dollars saved up at one point, what they do next is life changing. Most people use it as a down payment on a car or something and get into debt. What’s smarter is to invest it.” It worked out well for him as he turned that into a career and became very successful, branching out his investment into business and real estate. Everyone has their own way to grow their money, but regardless, much like growing wheat, it takes time and effort. There’s also risk involved. Risk that can be mitigated with training, study, and understanding, however.

The key for my friend is that he found his “thing.” For him, it happened to be Texas hold’em poker Seems like a no-brainer, but why don’t more people do it? Why don’t you?

Business is about validation.

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“Too many people are playing business.”

— Noah Kagan

I’ve seen this so much. I’ve been this person on more than one occasion.  Noah Kagan @noahkagan calls them wantrepreneurs. What does that mean? We want the idea of starting a successful business, but never really try to get to the point: making money. Get that idea, and immediately get a customer to give you money. Get a few. And once you reach the point where managing your customers via email, calls, Facebook messages, text, whatever, then it’s time to start to think about getting a domain or building a website.

When I was in Japan I discovered Skora running shoes online and ordered a pair. They’re awesome! I love running and they are the best running shoes I’ve ever worn, you can literally feel the road every time you put your foot down. But I couldn’t get them in Japan. Skora is a small Portland, OR based company that doesn’t have a wide distribution yet. No stores had them, and I couldn’t get them at any local online retailers. So I had to order them from the US and pay something like $50 shipping to get them over to me. Running is popular in Japan and people spend a lot of money on shoes so I had an idea to bring Skora to Japan and set up an online retailer. Cool. What did I do first? I got the domain name and started building the website. Then I spent some time on design and some money to hire translators for my site copy, then server fees, then … I hadn’t even found out if anyone in Japan would want these shoes! I liked them, but would anyone else!? After sinking a bit of money and time kicking at the website, I hadn’t even contacted Skora to get any shoes. I had no product and no customers. The project was dead in the water before it even began. Why? I had no validation.

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Surviving Japan(as a foreigner): The Office, Part 1

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“If you don’t prioritize your life someone else will.”

– Greg McKeown

This is my fifth year living and working in Japan. For the first four I worked for an American company which pimps out English teachers to schools all across Japan. Although the people that I reported to were American (or British), the people that I worked directly with were Japanese teachers and school administrators. Strange as it may seem, seeing these people everyday, didn’t mean that I had to work with them if I chose not to. In fact many of my meetings with the Japanese teachers to plan out classes, and discuss lesson schedules were against our company’s policy. Nevertheless I wanted to plant myself into my environment and make a good relationship with the people that I worked with on a day-to-day basis.

That ‘rebellion’ (along with a few other things) lead to me eventually leaving that company and working directly for the Board of Education in the city that I was stationed at.  I’ve spent the last year working as a Japanese government employee, civil servant type guy.  I work in schools, and also in the city hall office of the “Teachers Management Division.”

During my time here I’ve learned a lot about surviving as a foreigner in the Japanese workplace; what the expectations are, what the limitations are, and how to make the best positive impact on the workplace and your coworkers. Being on the fringe has also given me a great window into what it’s like to work as a (Japanese) teacher, or office worker in Japan. Both of which I’m glad that I will never have to do.

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A quote to live by

Every man dies. Not every man really lives.

I’ve always liked this quote and have used it many times without actually knowing its origin (a little embarrassing, I know). But I found out the other day that it was originally spoken by a man that I view as a real-life superhero: William Wallace. Which makes me like it even more.

We’re all faced with many fears in life, and standing up for what you believe in is often difficult. The Wallace overcame these challenges and although he eventually died for what he believed, I don’t think he would have taken back the decisions that he made.

Time for a spot of self-honesty

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Original Post date: 05 November 2015

 

I don’t like web development that much, and don’t want to do it anymore.

I’ve spent probably the last seven or eight years telling myself that it would be cool to be a web designer. Or if I got really good at it, I could get into development and create online software that would help people do X,Y, and Z. I’ve worked freelance a little, tried joining a startup run by one of my best friends (nearly wrecking our relationship in the process), and have taken on a project in my “fringe time” at work.

Every time I fall into the same pattern. The project sounds cool at the beginning, and then I get to the point where I don’t even want to turn on my computer to avoid looking at the thing.

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Install Linux Mint on ThinkPad X1 Carbon

Original Post date: 02 July 2015

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This guide is intended as a reference for dual booting Linux Mint alongside Windows. It also covers some common issues, and fixes, that I ran into with Mint on this machine.

To skip to the issues section click here –> Issues

I’m using the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon 3rd Gen with the high resolution, non-touch, display — 2560 x 1440 (16:9) I ran into some display specific problems that I’ll talk about later in the guide.

As far as I can tell this guide applies to many other ThinkPad models as well.

The version of Mint I’m using is 17.1 Rebecca; Cinnamon Desktop (64 bit) Get it here: 17.1 Rebecca

*NOTE at the time of this writing 17.2 Rafaela has been released, which you can get here: 17.2 Rafaela

I haven’t upgraded to this version yet, so some issues may be resolved already and installation may differ slightly. It’s worth noting also that both 17.1 and 17.2 use Ubuntu Trusty as the package base, and are both listed as Long Term Support releases until April 2019.

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Can we change our momentum?

 

A 300-year-old supernova remnant created by the explosion of a massive star.

Original Post date: 14 September 2015

“Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance.”

This morning I opened up my email to see this quote, from one of my favorite books, sitting in my inbox. The book is The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, and it’s on the list of top five books that I recommend to people, especially for artists as you may tell from the title.

The email was from the Five Minute Journal mailing list. I like the 5MJ and I’m sure I’ll talk about it more in later posts, but that email got me rethinking all the lessons that I’d learned and forgotten from The War of Art.

The Resistance can be such a strong force, whether it be in the form of procrastination, excuses, or laziness. But alongside the Resistance, fueling it with vicious high octane gasoline is our momentum.

What I mean is all the inertia built up from past decisions and events in our lives that have lead us to the place where we currently are.

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Essentialism

This is the first book report that I’ve written in a great number of years, so please forgive me for any roughness, or even incompleteness that the following may entail. I hope to provide a summary and review the many takeaways from the book Essentialism, by Greg McKeown, both for my own reference purposes later as well as for anyone who manages to stumble upon this post.


Table of Contents
1. Introduction
2. The 90 Percent Rule
3. The Power of Small Wins
4. Routine
5. Finding the Right Path
6. Essential Intent
7. The slowest hiker
8. Doing less is hard
9. Uncommit
10. Final Thoughts


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The index card version of this book would probably be a bold-printed single line: “Less but better.” In other words, pick a thing that fits your top rated criteria and reject anything that doesn’t move you toward achieving that thing. Do one thing at a time, really well, because if you try and “do everything,” you’ll make very tiny amounts of progress in lots of different directions (and not end up making any significant progress in any of them) rather than a significant amount of progress in the direction you’d like to be going.

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It doesn’t look good

Original post date: June 10, 2015

“In the most dysfunctional organizations, signaling that work is being done becomes a better strategy for career advancement than actually doing work (if this describes your company, you should quit now).”

~ Peter Thiel from Zero to One

Today I took some time to step back from my ‘work’ at the office in order to map out some of the thoughts bouncing around in my head. I look really busy right now, typing away on my computer. I looked busy scribbling my idea map in my notebook. We have an open office (meaning no cubicles or walls) at both of the offices I work at so I get to see a lot of my coworkers in action. When I think about it, this quote from Peter Thiel describes my current work environment exactly.

I’ve know this for a while, and if I was single and didn’t have any kids, I know what I’d do… but since it would be irresponsible to pull the rip cord in such an abrupt manner, my exit must be planned with the utmost care. But it will be an exit non-the-less.