Book Review of “The One Thing”

The book The ONE Thing was highly recommended to me as a self-help book that helps people achieve more by focusing on what really matters.

There are many bits of useful wisdom, and much of what the author cites is based on studies as well as anecdotes. The idea is that most of the big results that successful people get come from very specific efforts, and that not all efforts yield the same kind of results. The book cites an 80/20 ratio, while clarifying that the ratio in each activity and business model will vary: most companies get 80 % of their revenue from products or services that take 20 % of time and investment (effort).

One of the things that the book does is help us to value our time, investigate where efforts yield the best results, and focus on that. Also, we live in an age of instant gratification and where apps, phones, and devices are constantly fighting for our attention. It’s easy to develop a short attention span, and this takes a toll on productivity. The One Thing helps us to train ourselves to focus on that which will make all other things either easier or unnecessary, and it reminded me of the advice in the Tao Te Ching about achieving great things by focusing on the small things, by performing one little thing at a time, with consistency.

Plan difficult tasks through the simplest tasks
Achieve large tasks through the smallest tasks

Further Reading:
The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results

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Happy Twentieth! – The Black Hole and Incidental Properties of Nature

Happy Twentieth to all Epicureans and our friends everywhere! Some literary updates:

This month, after a long hiatus, SoFE finally published a new educational video on its youtube page titled Epicurus: Against the Use of Empty Words. Please watch, like, share, and subscribe!

Astronomers finally were able to give us photographic evidence of black holes, confirming once again Einstein’s theory of relativity–according to which time-space is a folding/curvature created by bodies in nature. We are reminded that Epicurus, in his Epistle to Herodotus, expressed an early form of the theory of relativity, saying that time is an incidental (aka “relational”) quality of nature–which is to say, an emergent property of atoms as they flow in the void. “Time“, Epicurus said, does not “have a material existence“, neither does it exist “independently … from bodies“, and yet it is part of reality, existing as a materially-rooted, emergent property of bodies. The Epistle to Herodotus categorizes time as an incidental, or relational (relative), property of matter.

Although those qualities which are incidental are not eternal, or even essential, we must not banish incidental matters from our minds.  Incidental qualities do not have a material existence, nor do they exist independently in some reality that is beyond our comprehension. We must, instead, consider the incidental qualities of bodies as having exactly the character that our sensations reveal them to possess.

For example, it is important to grasp firmly that “time” neither has a material existence, nor does it exist independently, apart from bodies.  Nor must we think of “time” as a general conception, such as those conceptions which are formed by reasoning in our minds.

The book review of The Millionaire Fastlane was published this month. Here are some of the many things I’ve learned and observed thus far in my experiments, books and learning concerning autarchy this year:

  1. The marketplace is impersonal, and really is made up of INDIVIDUAL consumers whose quantifiable needs an aspiring entrepreneur must identify. Many speak of the “market” as a quasi-mystical Jedi Force that has an invisible hand and is supremely efficient, and they speak as if interfering with its mechanistic “will” is a sin. But there is no such market. In other words: the market is concrete, not Platonic/imagined. It only exists as individuals and groups with their own needs and interests: if we keep in mind a materialist, contextual understanding of the market, we will see that to attain wealth, one must walk the cement, hard-rock path of individuals’ needs and wants, rather than the sand of Platonic ideals.
  2. Our Epicurean sources link mutual advantage to “justice”, and that tends to be the focus when mutual advantage is addressed in academia–where philosophy is treated as a “fossilized” field and a study of a history of itself. But mutual advantage is also a hugely important concept in business. Mutual advantage provides an opportunity to easily find the point of least resistance between any two nodes in any social network, encouraging exchange of goods and services, lubricating relations and increasing peace, safety and and prosperity in that network. Mutual advantage encourages creative and sustainable approaches to problems in economics and in other fields. It really is, and deserves to be, a much more fundamental concept in Epicurean economics than people give it credit for, and it’s a shame that we have such meager sources on it.
  3. The author of Fastlane Millionaire had a similar “dark night of the soul” to the one I discuss in Tending the Epicurean Garden. It’s an anecdote concerning powerlessness, and how both of us developed a firm resolve to attain control over our financial lives after going through a period of great difficulties. The thing about this is that, for me, money making opportunities only came when I didn’t need them anymore: for instance, I applied to work in a book translation project while unemployed and got a call back about six months later, when I had a full time job. But I put in the extra hours and did the side hustle, anyway. This accentuates the importance of sowing seeds of wealth and waiting for their maturity, for being patient–or, as I say in my book “the season of failure is the best time to sow the seeds of success”. Sometimes things come when it’s their time, and we must be patient and always plan and sow seeds of our future success as favors to our future selves.
  4. My dad was a merchant. He sold t-shirts initially out of our back yard–which he converted into a t-shirt printing business. Then, he leased a store space in a mini-mall by the main road a block away from our home, which he upgraded once before he retired. While many struggle to make ends meet and live paycheck-to-paycheck working conventional jobs, his business provided for us during all my most crucial years of growing up. We never lacked anything, and now that I’m learning about the self-reliant entrepreneurial mindset, I’m frequently reminded of his long hours of work, as well as those of family members who have exhibited great pride and self-sufficiency as business owners. I’m re-discovering my deep-seated respect for self-starters and small business owners.

This month, the Narrative platform went live. Narrative is a smart content economy built on blockchain technology where content creators and participants can get rewarded with altcoins. This allows content creators to more easily monetize their work, and contributes to further decentralizing access to information. Another blockchain platform that hopes to revolutionize the content economy is Gilgamesh. As an author and blogger with only one patreon subscriber, I am excited for both initiatives and wish them success.

Further Reading:

On Holy Laughter

Twentieth Messages from April / previous years:

The Well-Walled Fortress of the Wise – 2016

In Defense of Pleasure – 2017

The Pleasure of Knowledge – 2018

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Review of Muscle Stimulator for Pain Relief

As many of my readers know, the Epicurean recipe for a life of pleasure includes ataraxia (freedom from mental anxieties) as well as aponia (freedom from physical pain)–and while it’s true that mental pains and pleasures last longer and we have more control over securing them, the flesh also needs relief from pain from time to time. I typically review books on this blog that relate in some way to Epicurean philosophy, but this time I’m reviewing a product I strongly believe in, which has helped me to secure aponia. If this products helps you like it did me, I invite you to leave a review on amazon for it also. People tend to be quick to criticize bad services or products, but not so quick to praise helpful ones.

I hurt my back in December, and paid considerable amounts of money to a chiropractor to basically apply a machine like this one for about 20 minutes twice or three times per week, and later on (weeks into my therapy) to do some lower-back stretching. I had no idea that one could buy the machine for this treatment so affordably online.

So when the pain came back this month, I didn’t want to go back to the chiropractor but I also couldn’t find this device at local pharmacies. So I decided to buy the machine on amazon. It’s very easy to use. The only confusing part was initially not knowing that one has to disconnect the machine from its power source before it will work.

The device is an electronic muscle stimulator. It sends electric pulses through the skin to massage the muscles that are in pain. The stimulation occurs via adhesive pads that stick to the skin. The pulse massager has different settings in terms of how many pulses and what kinds of pulses it emits. One can also choose from a spectrum of intensity, from very low to very intense, and one can try out different levels of intensity until one finds the one that does the trick.

My back pain (which I think had to do with a pinched nerve and went down into the muscles around my hips and legs) has subsided. The main benefit of this device is that it helps to bring instant relief to throbbing or debilitating muscle and nerve pain. Combined with getting full nights of restful sleep, with sleeping in the right position, using ice bags or heat pads, and not over-exerting oneself, this device provides effective (and affordable) treatment for muscle and nerve pain.

Buy here:

2019 Latest Version Rechargeable Tens Unit Muscle Stimulator Electronic Pulse Massager with 16 Modes and 12 Pads Portable Smart Electro Pain Relief Machine

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History is Poetry

I’ve noticed something very poetic about recent events in history.

Julian Asante is arrested on 4-11, which is code for information. this is what UrbanDictionary.com says about 411:

Another term used for “information”. Hence dialing 411 for information.

ex. Damn she’s fine, I am gonna go get the 411 on her

And as Notre Dame burned and its tower fell, I was reminded of the rise of the nones and the perpetual sexual scandals that the Catholic clergy has been involved in for over a decade now. It is clear that the time of the Catholic Church –an institution from the feudal era … just like the Notre Dame Cathedral–has passed.

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Bablic: Automated Translation App for Webmasters

Bablic Website Translation – 10% off with codeAs many of you know, I’m a big fan of Amikumu, Duolingo and other apps that teach or help to practice languages. I’m also a big fan of languages in general, and of apps that translate content, maybe because I see them as prototypes for C3PO–a Star Wars droid fluent in millions of forms of communication. (Couldn’t avoid the SW reference, as the trailer for the final Star Wars film went live yesterday and the internet is abuzz…)

I recently discovered Bablic, a resource for web designers who want to have their content translated into multiple languages. Their logo is Localization Simplified–which reminded me of Amikumu’s ability to connect people to others nearby who want to practice a similar language, except that here the process of communication is robotized, and takes place online. This trend is one of the reasons why many are skeptical about the international auxiliary language Esperanto, as they believe machines will make the need for it obsolete.

So basically Bablic offers the service of professionally translating anyone’s website, and offers both machine and personal translation. Their assistance with localization of content can help anyone who builds a website anywhere, and in any language, soon become relevant globally. Localization also helps with SEO–search engine optimization–as Google and other search engines tend to favor locally relevant content when people search for things online. This means that a website that has been translated and made locally relevant will gain priority in search engines and appear higher up in a search. Since people today have an increasingly shorter attention span, and since there is such information overload, this can make a huge difference to a business.

The Bablic homepage allows one to enter a random website to test its service and see how accurately it translates. I did this with my page, societyofepicurus.com. I had it machine-translated into Spanish, and found that the site was readable, with negligible errors (like the exclusion of ¡ at the beginning of an exclamation, which is necessary in Spanish).

In the past when I’ve offered translation work, I’ve used Google Translate to save time, and then edited the badly translated content from there to make it understandable. And so I was naturally interested in comparing how Bablic would do against Google Translate, and found that Bablic is much more professional for many reasons.

For instance, when you copy and paste the translated content from Google Translate into a blog or website, you’re also carrying over GT’s formatting baggage, which can take a long time to edit out. That does not happen with Bablic, which offers a visual interface that is instantly embedded into our website and is much more user-friendly than GT. If personal translation assistance is needed, it’s only one click away. It also allows the webmaster to edit out errors, as sometimes words in one language may have two or three possible, contextual translations in another language. One may also want to edit the content for the purposes of style, or to make sure that words that turn out to be too long (which happens with German, Russian, and other languages) can be shortened to fit the screen.

With the constant advances we see in artificial intelligence technology, machine translation is likely to only get more sophisticated, to continue evolving–until we get C3PO-type of polyglot intelligence–and services like Bablic will see growth in the coming decades, particularly as machines continue to learn on their own and to get feedback from users on how best to express ideas. I can see this technology leaving the confines of the web and being embedded into robotics, cell phones, international business, and maybe even transportation services, within the next few decades as the world continues to shrink.

Further Reading:
How much can we afford to forget, if we train machines to remember?

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Holy Laughter

Laughter is holy. All good things laugh. – Nietzsche, in Thus Spake Zarathustra

I am writing this in memory of my cousin Lydia, who died in April of 2009 at only 43 years young, which is my current age. This month marks the 10-year anniversary of her death, and I’ve had a couple of dreams about her in recent weeks. She had been one of the clowns of the family: whenever she walked into a room, she would light it up, and had this gift that allowed her to see the funny side of things. She easily produced a parody of every event, not demeaning people but using exaggeration and laughter to lighten everyone’s mood. Even after she got sick, she told jokes about the hospital waiting room and how patients nervously looked at each other because no one wanted to go next.

This does not mean that she did not experience pain: I once texted her late at night to wish her well, and she called me back crying from physical pain and mental anguish. She had a tumor the size of a grapefruit, and wasn’t sure if it was cancerous. We talked for a few hours late that night. She just needed someone to talk to. The gift of laughter won’t make us invulnerable, but it will help us cope. In fact, laughter therapy is used in hospitals and has been shown to help reduce the pain and stress of terminal cancer patients. Laughter separates the object from the subject, and helps us to feel power over what we are laughing at.

At the very last moment of her funeral, just before her body was returned to the Earth, her sister gave a final speech and closed by asking everyone to offer an applause for a life well lived. A thunderous applause was heard in the cemetery that lasted for more than a minute.

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Amikumu App Review – More than an app for Language Learning

Amikumu.pngI learned about Amikumu and Duolingo through the Esperanto community. All Esperanto speakers also speak at least one–sometimes two or more–other languages, and many are language-learning enthusiasts. Studies demonstrate that:

  1. Esperanto is a gateway to other languages, and makes it much easier and faster to learn a third language (I learned it before I took French in college and it made French feel very easy for me), and
  2. Learning other languages is great intellectual exercise that actually changes the brain, making its neural network more efficient at any age.

Phone apps are contributing to how easy and fun language-learning can be. Duolingo makes learning (or practicing) a language easy and feel like a game, while Amikumu uses the GPS feature of the phone to look for people studying, practicing, tutoring or willing to speak one of our languages in our vicinity. Also, language tutors can find clients through the app, speakers of a minority language can find each other (the language has found many supporters among Yiddish speakers who wish to preserve their language), and it’s being used heavily by the mute-deaf community to find other sign-language speakers in their area.

I’ve taken to learning bits of other languages on Duolingo and to practice my French and expand my knowledge of vocabulary, and have used Amikumu for finding other Esperantists (particularly to stay abreast of the activities and meetups in my city), and when I went to Puerto Rico I chatted in the language with people from PR and the Dominican Republic–which seems to have a much bigger Esperanto community than PR.

Amikumu does more than identify people in our vicinity who want to speak or tutor a language we’re learning. In the Amikumu app, we are able to choose as many languages as we wish to practice, and the app has both a private message feature (an in-app “Messenger”) and a public flow, which is somewhat like scrolling through Facebook, except that it focuses on the speakers of the chosen language. From time to time, these public comments include book reviews, information about either current or language-learning events, links to webpages and resources (even songs) for learners of the language in question, and other bits of useful advice.

Amikumu would be a good way to practice a language, find tutors, or to find others who speak our native language when we travel. A Spanish speaker visiting Tokyo would be able to find other Spanish speakers, and maybe even find someone to guide them in their own language through the city, or make new friends. This may help the visitor feel safer and more comfortable, by hearing a familiar tongue, and maybe even find a friend or translator for an important event.

My verdict: I love Amikumu. The app horizontalizes language-learning and makes it easy to experience peer-to-peer teaching, practicing and learning. It’s also potentially a way to make new friends with similar interests. By the way, the name of the app means something like “to befriend“, or “to hang out with friends” in Esperanto: it’s a verb form of the concept of friendship.

Amikumu (like Duolingo) works with android or iphones.

Further Reading:

Interview with Richard Delamore, CEO of Amikumu

Finding Friends Who Love Languages

Complete Esperanto: Learn to read, write, speak and understand Esperanto (Teach Yourself)

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