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  1. The theme for my challenges this year is based on something I read in Charles Duhigg's "The Power of Habit." He found people who succeeded at recovering from hip replacement surgery by using a specific strategy: identifying critical moments which he called inflection points, circumstances where they were likely to face a significant moment of weakness such as the first painful moment of getting up off the couch, and crafting small habits using the cue-routine-reward formula to get themselves through those circumstances. I found some ways in which this was really helpful to the application of nerdy goals. * Quest: Take care of my arthritic knee. To that end: lose 30 lbs between May 28th and December 23rd, 2017, five pounds per challenge. My first challenge (Chapter One) went really really well. It seemed almost too easy. Which of course, heralds the arrival of a monkey wrench in the works. I didn’t just get one monkey wrench, though. I got an army of flying monkey wrenches, all of them cackling madly at my vain attempts to stay on target. I got a wholly unfamiliar (yet not unappealing) new work schedule, my fiancé went off his diet without warning and starting turning out home-cooked dinners at 2k calories a plate, and the fire alarms started going off in the middle of the night and evacuating the whole building, on the order of five or six times a week! But, nerds don’t quit, so it’s time to get things under control. I didn’t make any progress toward my goal in Chapter Two, but I feel I have adequately reconnoitered the problem, so it’s time to make some headway. Goal One: Quit overeating in the evenings. I’ve been eating really clean during the day and it’s been going great, but then I eat way too much after work, partially out of a sense of social obligation, but more due to simple weakness in the face of opportunity. In order to make this happen, I may have to take a more active hand in the cooking than I have been. Goal 2: Exercise (physical therapy and more) before breakfast. Getting a workout in at the start of my day is one of my favorite treats. I start off with some tai chi and then some kung fu stretches, and then I do some aerobics or dancing, and then some strength training, and finally my physical therapy for my knee (primarily balance related exercises). The rule here is going to be: if the fire alarms didn’t go off last night, or the night before, then this morning I exercise. I have no idea how often this will lead to, but we’ll see! Goal 3: Sleep. I think this is going to be the keystone habit of this challenge. I’m going to start trying to gradually go to bed a little earlier. This will give me a small buffer against interrupted sleep, and I’m hoping it may give me a graceful excuse to cut the feasting off early, at least for myself.
  2. Last challenge I was focused on Charles Duhigg's "The Power of Habit," identifying critical "inflection points," circumstances where I was likely to face a significant moment of weakness, and crafting small habits using the cue-routine-reward formula to get myself through those circumstances. I found some ways in which this was really helpful. Below I'll post a standard run-down of my goals for this challenge, and after that I'll analyze moments where I'm most likely to fail at these goals and craft myself habits for how to get though those moments successfully.
  3. <Narrative follows. Skip to second post for goals.> I ascended the summit of the volcano. I had crossed oceans and worlds, answered to sphinxes and gods and querulous accountants, trekked across deserts and through rush-hour traffic, and at last I arrived at my destination. I saw a decrepit mining shack on the very summit of the volcano, and a stooped old man with a scraggly beard entering and exiting with a lone skeletal mule. Noxious fumes wafted out of the dark mysterious portal that led into the heart of the volcano. The miner looked at me and muttered. I peered closely at the man's face, attempting to resolve what he had said. Was this what it sounded like when someone "spoke in tongues," as they say? And if it was a riddle, wouldn't I need to understand at least some of it to be going on with? The sulfurous fumes did coil about him in a most enchanted fashion, but aside from that I discerned no evidence of oracular miracles about. "Are you the oracle," I asked hesitantly. "The... Greecian oracle?" The mule twitched one ear and spoke. "There was a brief period of time when I wanted to be called The Artist Formerly Known as Delphi," it said, "but these days I mostly go by Python." "Python," I said to the mule, nonplussed. "I am in need of your wisdom." "I am in need of a good rum and coke," said the mule. "We all have needs. This guy, it's a good thing you can't even tell what he says. His needs are endless. And disgusting." The mule looked from the miner, to myself, and back. The miner muttered incomprehensibly. "You can't, can you?" the mule asked me. "No, sir. Um, ma'am. I mean, Python. No, Python, I can't tell a word." "For the best," the mule declared. I floundered, and then tried again. "Oh, Great Python, vessel of truth, dispenser of wisdom, giver of -- "Cut that shit out and just tell me your problem." "I've got arthritis in my knee. I think I should lose some weight. But it's, you know, hard...." The mule gave me a withering look. Sulfurous clouds begin to billow out of the mine along with thick, oily smoke. The earth shook. The mule stood rooted to the ground and it's voice came out like thunder. "You will fail to lose weight because you like to drink too much in the evenings," the mule said. "And when you drink, you snack." "You will fail to lose weight because on your days off your fiance over-feeds you," it continued. "He means well, but he has no sense of proportion." "You will fail to lose weight because you give in to unexpected temptations," the mule said with a sneer, "as if each one was an irreplaceable opportunity to enjoy comforts that you may otherwise never experience." "You will fail," the mule concluded, "because you will rationalise your own downfall." I stood for a long moment. I said, "Well, that's heartening." "There's only one solution," the mule said. I raised one eyebrow. "You must take me with you and study as my apprentice." "Apprentice Oracle of Doom?" I hated to admit, but I rather liked the sound of that. "There is a price." This time I raised both eyebrows. "I have not had a good laugh in over two thousand years. I think stepping on this one's foot would give me a laugh of some sort," the mule said, nodding at the miner, "but I've resisted the degredation of my soul thus far, and I'd hate to imperil myself with such malign glee. You must relieve me of this temptation. You must make me laugh." I couldn't begin to imagine how I would bring glee to such a being as this, but my need was great. "I accept your terms," I said. "Now what?" Python swatted the miner with its tail. "I declare you a fully empowered journeyman oracle, with all the rights and responsibilities thereof. I don't think anyone will come to you for guidance, but if they do, no false stories of drowning all their future children in the bathtub. Nobody deserves that shit." The mule glared at the miner. "I mean it." The miner muttered incomprehensibly, and nodded. With that, I turned and led Python down the side of the volcano. Briefly, I wondered whether I'd be better off getting myself a motorized scooter and saying to hell with this whole project. Then I glanced at the mule. Heavy saddle bags lay across its back. "Did I accidentally just steal all the product of that guys efforts?" I asked. "Oh, the sulfur?" Python asked. "Yes, you did. But you'll need it." "Great," I said. "That's wonderful." Then a minute later, "Hey, did you hear the one about the...."
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