Sunday, June 2, 2013

The Hermit Shouting From The Mountain Top

Man. This blog. So conflicted.

So here's the skinny, faithful readers. I stopped writing this blog partially because some dark emotional stuff was getting out that was upsetting my now wife. To put it flatly, I was having some commitment issues, and it was bad. And in some ways I blame those issues on the over emotional philosophizing that I was doing here. In addition, due mostly to the pressures of the adult world, I've become more and more secretive, withdrawn, and security conscious to the point of near paranoia.

I don't want to write some deep religious or political thought here and have my next employer see it and decide not to hire me because of it. And it's tragic that that sort of thing happens, but it does, and there's not much I could do about it, without a drawn out legal thing that I just don't want to mess with. And, with where my religious and political opinions lie, I tend to end up on the opposite side of everyone in one way or another.

I've got some obfuscation in place to prevent that sort of thing. But the best way to make sure someone doesn't see something is to not post it.

But, in conflict with my secretive, security minded lifestyle, I've also still got a strong belief in openness, and transparency, in everything.

It comes down to a balance of the past and the future. With what I want the world to be, and with what I perceive the world to be.

A big part of my personal philosophy, as I've probably talked about here before, is a very deeply libertarian one. I believe in Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness or Property, in that order; The right to life is greater than the right to liberty, and the right to liberty is greater than the right to property. The second part of my personal philosophy is based on the idea that the thing that sets mankind apart from animals is that we are able to build on the knowledge of others. We all stand on the backs of giants, and there is no need for any of us to reinvent the wheel before we integrate it with the invention of the cart, and then the car.

With that in mind, we all stand taller if we share our knowledge. Cancer will not be cured in a void; It will be cured by people who read the research of others, which was written by people who read the research of others, and so on.

When we don't share our knowledge, we are held back. When the FBI and the NSA and the CIA and all of the other alphabet soups held their information jealously from each other, 9/11 happened. And I am sure lesser 9/11's have happened repeatedly through history. And even worse, even when the agencies in one country work together, they don't work with the agencies in other countries. Even friendly countries hide their secrets from each other, and people die because of it.

But that, NSA guy who is surely putting me on a list right now, is where we hit my internal conflict. I can  understand why we restrict that knowledge into smaller and smaller divisions. There is certainly information out there that is dangerous enough that we wouldn't want rogue countries like North Korea getting their hands on it. And there is certainly no such thing as a perfectly secure system; Or at least the lengths we'd have to go through to get there would be worse. Restricting that sort of information to smaller and smaller groups makes it harder for that information to get into the metaphorical "wrong hands."

And wrong hands exist on smaller scales as well. I was actually thinking about this the other day, while being a creepy Facebook stalker myself; There is something neat and almost beautiful, and potentially useful in a good way to have all of ourselves out there on Facebook. Facebook has this thing now where people can see where you've been on a little map, if you've posted statuses and such that show you as being in a certain location. And that is so cool. You can use that to figure out a story about someone.

And that is so fucking creepy. You can use that to figure out someone's life story, without ever talking to them.

In this specific case I was feeling nostalgic, and I looked up someone on Facebook I haven't seen in ages. And, without ever speaking to her, I was able to find out that, since I'd last seen her, she'd gone to college, but graduated late because she had a kid when she was twenty, and she was now a single mother who had only just started dating her latest boyfriend six months ago.

She looked happy, and that was nice. But God, I felt creepy enough figuring that stuff out without doing anything with it. If I were someone who wanted to do her harm? I could've done so much. I now know what school she went to, when she graduated, and who she was dating. I know what her daughter looks like, and where she lives. Using that kind of information, I can extrapolate all sorts of things.

That's terrifying. There are people out there who would use that information to do all sorts of horrible things.

And part of this is the fault of Facebook's terrible privacy settings. I've done a lot to make it so that people can't get anything out of my profile, but even in my case you can get a scary amount just by being a friend of a friend. Probably not enough to do anything too scary, it's mostly dated information, but still.

But a lot of it is that we want to share this stuff with some people. We want to connect with a wide, but restricted, range of people on a deeper level than has ever been possible before. I can't seem to find it now, but I was reading an article the other day that said that the majority of teens were concerned about Facebook security, and tried to restrict their security so that outsiders couldn't get at their information, but the majority were also posting all kinds of personal information, like cell phone numbers and addresses, on their Facebook. And that's exactly what it's all about. It's that desire to share what you have with the right people and restrict it from the wrong people, but without the wisdom or knowledge to know that there is almost no way to share your information with the right people while completely preventing the wrong people from getting it.

Now, more than ever, the internet remembers everything. And the best way to keep your personal information from getting into the wrong hands is to not post it at all.

I really want to end there. Because that's exactly the sort of pithy, "words to live by" sort of thing I like to end my blogs with. Also, this blog is getting super long, and I have to wake up in five and a half hours.

But the truth is that even what I am posting, and have posted, right here in this blog could potentially give someone more information than I'd like them to have. Here we hit the other truth, and the reason I am thinking about getting back into the philosophizing game: Where do you draw the line? Do you post nothing, and say nothing, and talk to no one, and go no where, for fear that someone might snap a picture of you and post in online with a caption and a location? Do you dig your little bomb shelter, stock it with enough food to last your entire life time, and then pull the dirt in on top, so that you are absolutely secure?

First of all, that's dumb, you'd just suffocate to death.

Second of all, that's no way to live your life. You become a cog in a machine, going to work, coming home, paying the bills. Probably consuming copious amounts of entertainment, because what else are you going to do with your time, and never producing anything. Allowing the non-work related creative centers of your brain to atrophy and die from disuse.

That might work for someone else. But I still hold on to this fantasy that I might one day be a published writer.

I can't let that happen.

I won't let that happen.

So I'm not going to set a deadline for myself. Not in this blog, not until I get onto my weekly deadline for 2 Topics, 1 Story. And I'm not going to start giving out my address, phone number, birthday, or mother's maiden name. But I am going to try to get content up here.

To paraphrase Neil Gaiman, when I'm pensive, and depressed, and generally tired of life, I intend to make good art. And I encourage you to do the same.

Heavy, Black, and Pen...sive

Well hello there, my rambling blog. It has been a while. How have you been?

God... I haven't posted here in ages... And those last few posts, especially the ones I didn't post, were pretty emotional stuff, in a kind of bad way. It was a rough time in my life, and I partially blamed that rough time on the fact that I regularly opened my emotional wounds, caught what spilled out, and splashed it up on the internet.

Not entirely invalid. But I feel like there are ways of draining the emotional glands without completely upending them.

Plus, I love the title of this blog. So it's either start writing stories here, or using it for "deep thought" type philosophical rambling again.

Maybe I'll try something of both. That could be interesting.

I'll keep ya'll informed. ...By posting here. So really, if you keep watching this space, you'll see what I eventually do with it. Kind of common sense.

Friday, July 22, 2011

You Gotta Keep Dancing

I keep idly thinking about this blog, and about blogging, and then pushing the thoughts away.

The problem is, I made this blog for posting my raw thoughts and emotions. But now, to do so would be dangerous from two sides; On the one side, it could look bad on my job's background check, on the other side, putting my raw and unpolished thoughts and emotions out there for people to see could only damage what I'm trying to get through in my personal life now.

I guess that's something to talk about; The values and detriments of speaking your mind.

I don't know if it's something I want to talk about, but it is something to talk about.

But part of the reason I felt that this blog would be a good thing for me was that, for as long as I can remember, I've been an extremely quiet and reclusive person. There's all sorts of reasons for that, but to make it short, I'm picky about who I spend my time with, and I've got a low self esteem. So it's kind of a superiority/inferiority clusterfuck.

But I think that my insistence on honesty could be an element as well. If your choices are to either tell the truth or not say anything at all, you end up not saying anything at all a lot. For example, people start talking politics at work, and my choices are either to chime in about how they're all wrong, or at least being completely intolerant of the other side, or shut up.

I chose to speak out once at work. During the last elections, my boss was trying to tell one of my undecided coworkers that he should just vote all Democrat if he didn't know who to vote for. My boss and several of my coworkers also told him that he had to vote because it was his duty as an American. I railed against that, since it's the worst kind of pushy manipulation, and it didn't go well at all.

In any case, I was quiet. Despite this, I had all sorts of emotions that just kept building up inside of me. And I felt like I needed a place to let them out, where they wouldn't put me in hot water. I also thought, hey, I want to be a writer, and this is a kind of writing, if I'm writing a blog a week. And while I was at it, I figured I could send my friends to my blog and they could maybe see inside my head a little bit. All of the things I have trouble saying in person, that come so much more easily when I am sitting alone at a keyboard.

Because I don't have any reason to hide who I am and what I'm thinking from my friends. Or I didn't think I did.

I don't know. I'm trying to reign it in this time, because I've made two other blogs that got un-posted because they became too hurtful. But this is no longer a safe place for me to post my thoughts. People are getting hurt, or are getting the wrong idea, and I don't want to risk that anymore.

I don't regret starting this blog at all. It helped me make some big steps, I think. It just hasn't gotten me quite to where I need to be. I'm better at getting my thoughts out there, now I need to work on polishing them up before presenting them to anyone.

To be honest, a part of me worries that I am putting myself behind a layer. Hiding the true me behind a mask, all too similar to hiding behind my silence. And that would have been something I would have probably shot down just on principle. But these days, I don't know anymore. My extreme dedication to principles, combined with my incessant desire to "understand myself," whatever that means, have led me to where I am. Maybe it's about time I threw them out and just start "living in the moment." Doubly whatever that means!

Again, I'm just unsure about anything. Maybe what I'm trying to say is that my steely, inflexible dedication to these things have only led to tears. Some principles deserve that sort of dedication. Loyalty, freedom, honesty, to an extent. But as for the rest of them, maybe I need to just stop worrying about them.

As an aside, I'm hoping to start updating my story blog, Verb Dump, more often. I'm starting to get my words back, I think. So hopefully I can get that Rephaim story off of the (back)ground, and into the interesting stuff soon.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Fraud Police

I feel like I should post a blog. Which is remarkable stupid because a) No one reads these and b) I'm kind of nervous that the people doing a background check on me will find this. Like, will they judge my political and philosophical opinions? I don't think there's anything wrong with what I think, but what if they do?

But I've got one topic I wouldn't mind writing about that should be pretty non-offensive.

I got a new job as a computer programmer about three weeks ago, and I've been freaking the fuck out pretty much ever since then. It doesn't help that, the same night I got my new job, my girlfriend, who was also pretty much my only local friend, broke up with me.

So I started a new job, that I was terrified of failing at, during what was already going to be the most emotional time in my life, and now I had no moral support, or really support of any kind.

But that's a whole other post that would cause more damage than it would help with. I've probably said too much as it is.

The point is, ever since I started this job I've been terrified that the people who hired me were going to figure out that I wasn't qualified. That I would go in to work one day to find out that they've fired me, and I almost feel like I couldn't blame them. Not because of anything horrible I've done, just because I feel like I'm not keeping up with where I should be.

It doesn't help that I was fired from my last job without any warning. That sort of thing can make a person really paranoid about it.

During my first week of that, I think it was, Amanda Fucking Palmer, formerly of the Dresden Dolls, posted a link in her Twitter feed to a commencement speech she gave at the New England Institute of the Arts. In this speech, she talked about these same sorts of feelings in art professionals, the feeling that someone is going to show up and call you out on not knowing how to do your job. I'm embedding that video at the bottom.

I don't know if these feelings will last, but I can definitely tell you that it's true for new computer programmers. No Comp Sci bachelor's degree fully prepares you for the work force, partially because they have to spread your time between multiple programming languages, leaving you as the master of none.

Even knowing this, there's a certain terror that comes when your boss tells you that he doesn't you to work on a project for longer than a couple of days, and you realize at the start of the second day that something you did at some point over the past 24 hours totally broke the program and you have no idea what it was.

It gets even worse when you have gone through the entire program for the eight remaining hours of the work week and you still can't seem to figure it out.

I do have the whole weekend to work on it, but just thinking about it is causing a panic-induced sweat. And I've been staring at this code for the past week, and I have to spend some time away from it or I may just have a panic attack.

Amanda Palmer's NEIA commencement speech:

Friday, June 17, 2011

And We're Back

For now, anyways. But I probably won't post as often anymore. I'll have to figure out what I want to do with the blog.

But I did upload one semi-new entry, which you can see below. I had written it about a week ago, and I just hadn't posted it yet. So, with a bunch of editting, I've now posted it; Hooray!

The Fickle Heart

I have always tried to keep an open mind to the social practices of other cultures. Not in the super-liberal way of saying, "Their ways are just different than ours so leave them alone," about female genital mutilation, but in a, "There's usually a reason people do things a certain way, and I want to find out what that reason is before I judge them one way or another."

Take arranged marriages for instance. I'm on the subject today because of an article in National Geographic about child marriages, which really made me think, "Huh. It's really not as simple as it seems." I'm not speaking in support of child marriages, mind you, as I believe in the freedom to choose who you will be with, and that a child is not capable of that choice. But the article makes some interesting points about the parent's point of view, including the fact that the husband is partially there to protect the child from predators, when the family is no longer able to.

And, again, child brides are not cool at all. All sorts of reasons to be against that, despite the arguments of its supporters in that article. But I've felt sympathetic towards arranged marriages for a long time.

Think about the notion of love. As I've talked at length about before, the notion of "one true love" is iffy at best, and dangerous at worst. I sometimes wonder if there might be something to arranged marriages. Families who know the couple better than they, perhaps, know themselves, and know that they will be compatible. The couple not ever even considering the possibility of being with someone else, or that someone else might be better for them.

Bowing to the wisdom of their elders.

I've gone through some relationship issues recently stemming, in some small part, from a lack of dating experience. I just eventually got to thinking, "What if there's someone better for me out there? She is awesome, in every way, but what if there is someone out there who is somehow more awesome?" As I said in that previous post, this idea that there might be someone else out there is a dangerous illusion stemming from the idea of a single true love, a soulmate who you are meant to be with.

To an outsider, it might seem like not believing in true love is more dangerous. Because, no matter who you are dating, you always know that there's someone else out there for you. And I can understand that argument. But what you have to realize is that, when you assume that there is no single person you are meant to be with, you also assume that there is no force pulling you to be with that person. Sure, there might be someone else out there for you. But what are the chances of finding them? And if what you have is great, and you know as well as anybody that there are a lot of people out there who are bad for you, and in fact probably most of the other people out there are bad for you, why would you leave a great relationship to seek a better one?

Meanwhile, if you believe in one true love, when your love starts flagging it becomes easy to think, "If there is one person out there who I am meant to be with, and this isn't that person, then by being with them I am preventing myself from being with the person I am meant to be with." Depending on your religious philosophies, it may even seem like you are going against God by staying with someone who might not be "your one."

This makes it easy for doubt to expand into something worse.

But cultures that have a social tendency towards arranged marriages are less likely to have that. Because the cultures typically poo-poo the idea of romantic relationships because of the fluidity of human emotion. The fickleness of the human heart. There is no reason to think, "Maybe I would be happier with someone else," because the idea would never have any reason to occur to you. You're with the person you married, and you didn't marry them because you thought they were the thing that most made you happy. You married them for stability, and for family. Happiness can come from the marriage, and love will hopefully grow in the marriage, but if they don't you find your sources of happiness and love elsewhere. Without having to worry about making a relationship with and marrying someone else.

Another factor of arranged marriage is the fact that you don't pick your groom/bride. Your family does. With the steady and less easily swayed eyes and hearts of your parents picking for you, hopefully you end up with someone who is actually suited to you, rather than someone who just seems good because of the emotional swings of your heart. God knows I've been attracted to enough women who would have been no good for me. It's amazing how many of my former crushes got pregnant long (or very shortly) before marriage.

I'm not at all saying it's perfect, and what I've said there is basically the most optimistic view of arranged marriages. There are, of course, always the concerns that you will be arranged to marry someone abusive, or someone who you could never work with. The Taming of the Shrew is a great example of a father giving his daughter away to someone he thought would, essentially, rape her "shrewish-ness" out of her. But I like to think about the things that other ways of doing things have to offer us, even when, in the end, they are just as human and fallible as we are.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Writer's Moods

So I really wanted to keep writing Rephaim as my Verb Dump story for a while, and try to focus on it, because it's been one of my pet stories for a while. But things in my life aren't going in such a way that I can write it right now, unfortunately. If I were emotionally stable, or better yet if I were filled with a sort of righteous anger, I might be able to do it. But mostly I'm just really really sad, and it's not conducive to writing about angry anti-heroes getting into badass super-powered fights for what is questionably true love.

I'm in a far better place to write about whiny teenage angst, so I think that's what I'm going to do. I don't think I'm going to post it any time soon, I'll just save it up and post it after I can get back to Rephaim.