2007-02-28 23:59:59 -0800

there is a unix tradition of creating configuration files in your home directory to customize the behavior of programs you run (preferences or settings files serve a similar purpose in other computing environments). as a way of reducing the visual clutter from the proliferation of all of these configuration files, their names are prefixed with "." (pronounced in this context as "dot") because files that begin with this character are hidden from casual inspection. sometimes the syntax of these files can be a bit arcane, and discovering the settings that best fit your style of work can take time, research, and even serendipity. but one of the great advantages of this system is that once you have invested the time in preparing your dot files, your computing environment will consistently and reliably operate according to your preferences. you might spend a fair amount of time experimenting, but once you have found what suits you it is preserved indefinitely for future use. some people have carried their dot files from one computer to another for decades.

my interest in things technical has been on a sharp upswing, so i have been spending quite a lot of time lately tweaking dot files. as i woke this morning i thought of how nice it would be to have something analogous to these configuration files for myself, for providing consistent and systematic initialization values for my mental and emotional states. these are currently so unpredictable and apparently random that i occasionally wonder if i am the same sentient entity from day to day.

i suppose this function is roughly filled by habit and ritual, but i am not happy with the volatility of these. my memory is not good enough to reliably reproduce the original rationale behind my habitual behavior, and this often leads to the dissolution of habits even though i might still consider their motivating principles to have great merit (if only i could remember them and correctly associate them with the behavior). and unfortunately, i often require reaffirmation of my habits in order to continue them, especially after any significant hiatus.

there is a certain amount of distrust of myself inherent in this attitude. all of this might just be a roundabout way of saying that i do not have enough confidence in my decisions, and that developing a more formal system of recording and describing important decisions might be a good step for me.