Archive for the ‘the internet is serious business’ Category

Hello again, world.

March 24, 2014 - 8:29 pm 4 Comments

*deep inhalation*

*blows off a thick layer of dust*

I’m not going to explain why I stopped writing for so long, because it’s personal AND boring, but the itch to exercise those muscles is getting pretty strong, so I need to stop self-criticizing for everything I might or might not write and Just Do It, as the overpriced brand has it. So, in light of that, I’m gonna start with a warm-up set commentating on an article I saw today. It’s LIFE ADVICE, y’all. Mostly about destructive self-criticism. So naturally I’m going to criticize someone else’s insights instead.

1. 1. Stop spending time with the wrong people. – Life is too short to spend time with people who suck the happiness out of you. If someone wants you in their life, they’ll make room for you. You shouldn’t have to fight for a spot. Never, ever insist yourself to someone who continuously overlooks your worth. And remember, it’s not the people that stand by your side when you’re at your best, but the ones who stand beside you when you’re at your worst that are your true friends.

Mixed feelings about this. The first bit is good- people who like you will act like they like you, it won’t be a mystery, and you won’t experience much ambivalence over it that isn’t fairly recognizable as coming purely from yourself, and passive-aggressive or mercurial “friends” are a waste of time and energy. The same thing applies to dating- someone who is constantly giving you mixed messages is either a pointless time-waster or someone who is actually giving you really clear signals you don’t want to hear, and more to the point anyone who couldn’t be a good friend as well as a lover isn’t worth your time either unless all you’re after is short-term sex. (In the long term these people won’t make good partners in bed either.)

But I have a big issue with this line: “And remember, it’s not the people that stand by your side when you’re at your best, but the ones who stand beside you when you’re at your worst that are your true friends.”. Yes, true friends will stand by you during the lowest times in your life rather than scattering as soon as you’re no longer that fun to spend time with, but a really true friend will kick your ass if you’re acting like your worst self. They won’t put up with it. They’ll tell you you’re wrong. If you’re really fucked up they’ll tell you to get professional help, repeatedly. And eventually, if you refuse to work to get better? They’ll leave, because you’re no longer the you they loved.

2. #2. Stop running from your problems. – Face them head on. No, it won’t be easy. There is no person in the world capable of flawlessly handling every punch thrown at them. We aren’t supposed to be able to instantly solve problems. That’s not how we’re made. In fact, we’re made to get upset, sad, hurt, stumble and fall. Because that’s the whole purpose of living – to face problems, learn, adapt, and solve them over the course of time. This is what ultimately molds us into the person we become.

No issue here. Good advice. The only thing I’d add to it is that no matter how painful dealing with the problem is, it’s not nearly as painful as living with indefinitely.

3. #3. Stop lying to yourself. – You can lie to anyone else in the world, but you can’t lie to yourself. Our lives improve only when we take chances, and the first and most difficult chance we can take is to be honest with ourselves.

Actually you can lie to yourself very well if you’re really motivated to, and a lot of the time you’ll do it without even thinking twice about it. It’s pretty normal, actually. But your life will go smoother in direct proportion to how well you learn not to. Also while lying to others is sometimes necessary and even honorable, it usually doesn’t help you to lie to them, either.

4. #4. Stop putting your own needs on the back burner. – The most painful thing is losing yourself in the process of loving someone too much, and forgetting that you are special too. Yes, help others; but help yourself too. If there was ever a moment to follow your passion and do something that matters to you, that moment is now.

You don’t actually get a cookie or a medal for martyrdom. And constantly feeling deprived or like your own needs don’t matter is a recipe for misery, and miserable people make lousy friends and partners.

5. #5. Stop trying to be someone you’re not. – One of the greatest challenges in life is being yourself in a world that’s trying to make you like everyone else. Someone will always be prettier, someone will always be smarter, someone will always be younger, but they will never be you. Don’t change so people will like you. Be yourself and the right people will love the real you.

Actually if the real you is a shitty person with shitty values, no they won’t. But the good news is you actually CAN change that, it will just be a lot of work. But ultimately very rewarding work.

6. #6. Stop trying to hold onto the past. – You can’t start the next chapter of your life if you keep re-reading your last one.

Having your brain taken over by constantly re-enacting past patterns, emotions, and experiences is one of the most effective ways to attach a metaphorical boat anchor to your own ankles.

7. #7. Stop being scared to make a mistake. – Doing something and getting it wrong is at least ten times more productive than doing nothing. Every success has a trail of failures behind it, and every failure is leading towards success. You end up regretting the things you did NOT do far more than the things you did.

Or, as we say in derby, “If you’re not falling, you’re not learning.” And most stuff isn’t going to leave bruises.

8. #8. Stop berating yourself for old mistakes. – We may love the wrong person and cry about the wrong things, but no matter how things go wrong, one thing is for sure, mistakes help us find the person and things that are right for us. We all make mistakes, have struggles, and even regret things in our past. But you are not your mistakes, you are not your struggles, and you are here NOW with the power to shape your day and your future. Every single thing that has ever happened in your life is preparing you for a moment that is yet to come.

I sometimes think there’s a Shame Center of the brain that has no other purpose other than going over past regrets and embarrassments until we feel almost as bad about them as we did the first time, all over again.

9. #9. Stop trying to buy happiness. – Many of the things we desire are expensive. But the truth is, the things that really satisfy us are totally free – love, laughter and working on our passions.

Actually, working on our passions isn’t remotely free unless your passion is bodyweight exercise, and even then it costs in time and energy. Love isn’t really free either, it requires hard work, lots of time, and sometimes money- though real love usually (usually!) doesn’t feel like work.

10. #10. Stop exclusively looking to others for happiness. – If you’re not happy with who you are on the inside, you won’t be happy in a long-term relationship with anyone else either. You have to create stability in your own life first before you can share it with someone else.

More or less true. I don’t buy this sentiment’s close cousin, “you can’t love anyone else until you can love yourself”, though. I’ve known plenty of people who struggled or still struggle with loving themselves who did a lot better at it when they had a strong, healthy relationship- but it does take a lot of self-awareness and self-control to pull off.

11. #11. Stop being idle. – Don’t think too much or you’ll create a problem that wasn’t even there in the first place. Evaluate situations and take decisive action. You cannot change what you refuse to confront. Making progress involves risk. Period! You can’t make it to second base with your foot on first.

Mostly true. Sometimes taking action won’t lead to success though, especially when you have a basic belief that doing something is invariably better than doing nothing and placing a little faith in those around you.

12. #12. Stop thinking you’re not ready. – Nobody ever feels 100% ready when an opportunity arises. Because most great opportunities in life force us to grow beyond our comfort zones, which means we won’t feel totally comfortable at first.

Again, mostly true. Sometimes we genuinely aren’t, though, and failure when there was never a possibility of success isn’t necessarily beneficial.

13. #13. Stop getting involved in relationships for the wrong reasons. – Relationships must be chosen wisely. It’s better to be alone than to be in bad company. There’s no need to rush. If something is meant to be, it will happen – in the right time, with the right person, and for the best reason. Fall in love when you’re ready, not when you’re lonely.

You shouldn’t pursue love just because you’re lonely, as that will only lead to searching for anyone to fill that partner-shaped hole in your life, which NEVER ends well. (Healthy people you actually want to be with will correctly sense you see them as an object/spacefiller and not a person, and they’ll run like hell- but the people who are fucked up or exploitative might bite.) But we all get lonely, and it’s not a reason to back-burner it until we’re not. You might wait forever.

14. #14. Stop rejecting new relationships just because old ones didn’t work. – In life you’ll realize that there is a purpose for everyone you meet. Some will test you, some will use you and some will teach you. But most importantly, some will bring out the best in you.

I agree with the first sentence and nothing else. People don’t exist to serve a purpose for you, they’re people and they exist for their own damn sake, not to teach you some sort of lesson. Definitely avoid people who seem to bring out your worst self and stick with ones that bring out your best, but people are not FOR you and your personal development.

15. #15. Stop trying to compete against everyone else. – Don’t worry about what others are doing better than you. Concentrate on beating your own records every day. Success is a battle between YOU and YOURSELF only.

Yup. Though for certain very specific goals (like picking up your time on a speed/endurance metric, or a weightlifting personal record), it’s sometimes helpful to pick someone who is *already very close to you* and use them as a rabbit to chase- as long as it remains good-natured.

16. #16. Stop being jealous of others. – Jealousy is the art of counting someone else’s blessings instead of your own. Ask yourself this: “What’s something I have that everyone wants?”

Actually, that’s ENVY. Jealous is worrying that someone else is going to take or already has something you have. This is why we use the phrase “jealously guarding”, and refer to someone as jealous when they’re suspecting a partner of cheating. Technically speaking this bit of advice is telling you to drop envy for jealousy instead. This has been your pedant moment of the week.

17. #17. Stop complaining and feeling sorry for yourself. – Life’s curveballs are thrown for a reason – to shift your path in a direction that is meant for you. You may not see or understand everything the moment it happens, and it may be tough. But reflect back on those negative curveballs thrown at you in the past. You’ll often see that eventually they led you to a better place, person, state of mind, or situation. So smile! Let everyone know that today you are a lot stronger than you were yesterday, and you will be.

While it’s true that wallowing in self-pity and constant bitching will only get you more of the same, you still need to feel and process sadness, disappointment, and unhappiness and there’s nothing wrong with you doing so. Thinking you need to show a happy, positive face all the time will only make you feel a miserable secret self and terrible loneliness. Also, telling someone else to smile is a fucking asshole move, and sometimes what doesn’t kill us doesn’t make us stronger, it just leaves scars and crippling injuries.

18. #18. Stop holding grudges. – Don’t live your life with hate in your heart. You will end up hurting yourself more than the people you hate. Forgiveness is not saying, “What you did to me is okay.” It is saying, “I’m not going to let what you did to me ruin my happiness forever.” Forgiveness is the answer… let go, find peace, liberate yourself! And remember, forgiveness is not just for other people, it’s for you too. If you must, forgive yourself, move on and try to do better next time.

You don’t have to forgive to not being wasting energy and thought cycles on the person you haven’t and maybe will never forgive. Sometimes forgiveness benefits neither of you. Letting them ruin your life or your peace of mind after you’ve gotten clean away is letting them win, and living better is your victory- but you don’t have to forgive to do that.

19. #19. Stop letting others bring you down to their level. – Refuse to lower your standards to accommodate those who refuse to raise theirs.

Words to live by. Tit for tat erodes your own integrity and self-respect- or it should.

20. #20. Stop wasting time explaining yourself to others. – Your friends don’t need it and your enemies won’t believe it anyway. Just do what you know in your heart is right.

BULLSHIT. If you take it for granted all the time that your friends understand exactly what you’re doing and why you’re doing it, you’re going to lose friends, and your butthurt reaction when you discover you were NOT understood is only going to hasten the process. This is particularly important applied to partners. (Romantic or business.)

21. #21. Stop doing the same things over and over without taking a break. – The time to take a deep breath is when you don’t have time for it. If you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep getting what you’re getting. Sometimes you need to distance yourself to see things clearly.

Fair enough, but far from universally applicable. If you’re a paramedic keeping someone alive on the way to the hospital, you don’t want to take a break, change what you’re doing, or pause to reflect. Less extreme situations sometimes also apply.

22. #22. Stop overlooking the beauty of small moments. – Enjoy the little things, because one day you may look back and discover they were the big things. The best portion of your life will be the small, nameless moments you spend smiling with someone who matters to you.

Agree. Happiness is a fleeting enough emotion you’ve got to savor it while you’ve got it.

23. #23. Stop trying to make things perfect. – The real world doesn’t reward perfectionists, it rewards people who get things done.

This is true. Although perfectionism is sometimes appropriate to time and place- perfectionists make good neurosurgeons, though you still have to close up that skull someday.

24. #24. Stop following the path of least resistance. – Life is not easy, especially when you plan on achieving something worthwhile. Don’t take the easy way out. Do something extraordinary.

Agreed, just so long as you have a healthy sense of proportion about it. Your life is not wasted if you don’t climb Everest or otherwise go down in the record books. Being a good parent and raising kids to well-adjusted, kind, productive adults is extraordinary. So is doing a job the way it should be done, every time.

25. #25. Stop acting like everything is fine if it isn’t. – It’s okay to fall apart for a little while. You don’t always have to pretend to be strong, and there is no need to constantly prove that everything is going well. You shouldn’t be concerned with what other people are thinking either – cry if you need to – it’s healthy to shed your tears. The sooner you do, the sooner you will be able to smile again.

You have to pick your time and place, but also words to live by. Take it from someone who has an ulcer without a helicobacter infection, purely from internalizing stress: it creates so much long-term misery permanent stoicism just isn’t worth the cost. Doesn’t mean you have to be public about it, though.

26. #26. Stop blaming others for your troubles. – The extent to which you can achieve your dreams depends on the extent to which you take responsibility for your life. When you blame others for what you’re going through, you deny responsibility – you give others power over that part of your life.

Yeah, though this really cuts both ways. If you constantly internalize everything bad that happens as having been somehow your fault or something you could have prevented, you will eat yourself alive and then you won’t be much good to anyone, including yourself. Psychologists call this internal vs external locus of control; people who are balanced somewhere in between are happiest and most successful. Plus taking credit for sheer gobsmacking luck will make you an arrogant ass.

27. #27. Stop trying to be everything to everyone. – Doing so is impossible, and trying will only burn you out. But making one person smile CAN change the world. Maybe not the whole world, but their world. So narrow your focus.

Take it from a lazy person: this is so much less work and stress it’s not even funny. Doesn’t mean don’t make an effort, but taking on impossible tasks just consumes you.

28. #28. Stop worrying so much. – Worry will not strip tomorrow of its burdens, it will strip today of its joy. One way to check if something is worth mulling over is to ask yourself this question: “Will this matter in one year’s time? Three years? Five years?” If not, then it’s not worth worrying about.

Would that people could just turn this off by thinking positive. Believe it or not, how much anxiety you experience, as well as how easily you can turn it off on command, is heavily genetically influenced- and people who draw the short end of that straw have to learn much more powerful coping methods, and in some cases use medication.

29. #29. Stop focusing on what you don’t want to happen. – Focus on what you do want to happen. Positive thinking is at the forefront of every great success story. If you awake every morning with the thought that something wonderful will happen in your life today, and you pay close attention, you’ll often find that you’re right.

I DO BELIEVE IN FAIRIES I DO I DO I DO. Being able to visualize success clearly and move toward it is very important, but so is avoiding pitfalls you can see if you keep your eyes on the road and not the horizon.

30. #30. Stop being ungrateful. – No matter how good or bad you have it, wake up each day thankful for your life. Someone somewhere else is desperately fighting for theirs. Instead of thinking about what you’re missing, try thinking about what you have that everyone else is missing.

Ehhh. This is a good way of calming yourself in a crisis, but feeling like you have no right to your own unhappiness over your circumstances just because there are starving children in Africa isn’t going to lead to any sort of psychologically positive outcome. It’s not good for making kids eat their dinner, either. Is good for giving them a weird and dysfunctional relationship with food, though. And for that matter happiness.

Tune in next time for… I have no idea what, or when.

Flat Dark Earth

January 14, 2014 - 2:02 pm 11 Comments

I know I’m just pissing in the wind for all the effect this will have, but can we please stop playing hard-ass make-believe and just say “tan”? Interior decorators have already come up with a dozen names for this color, calling it “coyote brown” doesn’t make it any more ninja at the end of the day than calling it “taupe” or “latte.” In fact, I encourage all three of you reading this to switch to using interior design color names exclusively in place of these tactical-fluffer color names.

At least they’re not manifesting as voodoo loa yet

June 28, 2013 - 2:22 pm 5 Comments

Another post subject stolen from someone else, this time Tam, this bit of abstract machine-generated poetry got caught in the spam filter:

Lights from the aircraft dexter missouri banks would seem unusually bright and appear
orange because of the daily limits that have been put in place in some of the slacks taking
place. Please note that even though I didn’t do my shopping early like I normally do. Court documents say Creagh, who is an amazing guy.

Better poetry than some of the crap I had to read in high school, at least. Maybe I’ll keep a copy in this pretty, intricate little box I found…

I learned it from watching Lawdog!

June 25, 2013 - 11:33 pm 15 Comments

Ok, don’t get your hopes up that we’re coming back full time. I’m going to try to post more frequently, but those of you who still stop by have probably noticed that hasn’t been going so well. But tonight, tonight I wound up with a special snowflake I just had to share with everybody. As the title implies, I may have gained some inspiration from everybody’s favorite Texas cop LawDog (or he’s your second favorite and you prefer someone else, there’s room for differences of opinion).

Partway through this afternoon, my very own little close-enough-to-prepaid cell phone, FUT*, alerts me to an incoming text message.

Hola amor

Fine. It’s a wrong number, I will just ignore it. An hour or two later,

Amor I got a new number

Terrific, skippy. I guess you didn’t import your old phone’s settings. More ignoring. Finally, many hours later, as it grew late and I grew weary of a world of idiots,

Amor I got a new #

This was around 11pm. Thank you, but that’s enough. I engaged, and replied

Sorry, Mario. Your amor is at a different number.

Things did not improve from here.

Who is this

I’m the wrong number you keep calling amor. I know love is blind but this is pushing it.

But who r u

It’s a little early in the relationship to get that metaphysical.

What…I’m just asking who u r

At this point, it was late and I was bored. I popped the number into google, and came up with the president of a small tax business in Santa Fe. In the grand tradition of TV psychics, a theme that will come up again later, I ran with it.

I’m a thought experiment, Andrew. I’m the answer to the question “What if the wrong number is bored?”

What do u do
What r u doing

I have a very particular set of skills. Skills that make me a nightmare for people slow on the uptake. But I do my own taxes, so I’m good there if you’re looking for business.

What do u mean a nightmare for people slow on the uptake

I dug a little further on the info I’d found.

Well you’d think by 54 years old one would have learned a) what a wrong number is, and b) that Andres and Ray might appreciate a bit more technological savvy from a partner.

Andres and Ray were listed as the vice president and treasurer of the company.

Ooooo so what r u dedicated to

Wheeled performance analysis delivery. Everybody needs a hobby. Y’know, besides this.

What? I love derby reffing.

Besides what

See what I mean about “slow”? Crystal says good night. Take care, amor. I grow bored again.

I threw the net a little wider and found another probable hit on facebook, so I figured there’s nothing really for me to lose in this, let’s see if Crystal gets a hit.

Wait I don’t think we r done talking…What do u mean slow…and who’s crystal

Swing and a miss. Oh well.

You ever see those tv shows where psychics talk to people’s dead relatives, Andy? Do I really have to draw a map here?

Yea u do…I’m slow

Admitting it is the first step. You with me that we don’t know each other, that I’m not amor? Follow up, do you know what a “wrong number” is?

Nop

Those of you in NM hearing a sudden thunderclap with clear skies, that would have been the sound of my facepalm.

To which question? Specificity is the soul of good communication.

The second question

Jesus, really?

What is it?

Apparently an anachronism. It is a term which means you have (historically) dialed, or more currently, texted, a number that is not correct to contact the person you desire. It puts you in contact with an arbitrary stranger, who may just be bored enough to mess with you if “wrong number” is too complicated. Good night, Andrew, now go away.

At which point I put the number on ignore. Fifty bucks says this idiot votes, too.

*Fucking Useless Toy. It never works when I need it to, so functionally it is a toy.

A Few More Words

October 16, 2012 - 10:20 pm 5 Comments

So there’s this internet kerfuffle going down, as they do. A Gawker writer decided to publicize the identity of a long-time Reddit mod whose range of activities have historically been mostly dominated to creating and maintaining all that is most awful about Reddit*: he was most famous for creating and maintaining r/jailbait, a subforum for trading sexualized pictures of minors taken from more or less wherever (which Reddit eventually shut down- after six years and with all evident regret), but also in a long highlight reel of subreddits devoted to enthusiasms for various racist and sexist subjects, including r/creepshots, a sub for sexualized candid photos of women taken on the sly**. The fellow has subsequently lost his job and is generally very sad about having been outed against his will.

Ken at Popehat has said about all I would have wanted to say about the subject, better than I would have, typically. So if you feel I’m missing a point, it’s probably because Ken has already covered it.

However, from what I’ve observed in discussions about the subject, there are a couple of points *I* want to hit.

1) As a principle, “protecting the worst of us to protect all of us” actually has its intended effect generally more rarely than people seem to think. But when, in the process of “protecting the worst of us”, you do so actively at the expense of innocent others (like, say, the children and women who had their pictures posted against their will specifically for creeps to fap to), you’re not “protecting the worst of us to protect all of us”, you’re just protecting the worst of us, period full stop.

2) Being offensive isn’t virtuous. Neither, for that matter, is being inoffensive, but making an internet career out of making as many people angry as possible isn’t some form of activism, it’s just being an asshole. Being an asshole isn’t and shouldn’t be against the law, but neither does it grant you any sort of moral standing of its own distinction for the act of being willing to offend people. Being willing to offend people to the ends of some moral goal is noble; going out of your way to offend people because that’s just funny to you is being an asshole. Being an asshole as your primary hobby will open you to a lot of purely social consequences, including an employer in an at-will state deciding that they wish to disassociate themselves from a notorious asshole. Do people deserve to lose their jobs for being an asshole in one area of their lives that has little or nothing to do with their jobs? Probably not. Do children deserve to have their pictures yanked off their Facebook for a coalition of creepazoids to make their masturbation fodder for the day, just because “the internet is public”? Also probably not. Pick a moral standing- “public is public”, both pictures and personal information, or “posting with a baseline expectation of privacy should be private”, but trying for both at the same time as favors you most will impress no one.

*Also training and helping new moderators. The fact that this has been brought up as an argument for “he’s not all bad!” rather than a warning bell tells you everything you need to know about Reddit culture.

**Because apparently it’s a painfully important distinction, he only moderated Creepshots, he didn’t create it and evidently didn’t contribute. So, y’know, he only moderated it. For the public good and all.

Brief Thought

September 22, 2012 - 12:36 am 7 Comments

…Which I will hopefully have time later to expand upon.

Reading the discussion at Popehat about comment moderation approaches, and the way upvoting and downvoting comments seems to be more about popularity of opinion or agree/disagree than about the quality of civility of the comment, I find myself musing on the distinction between “unpopular opinion” and “asshole comment”. Especially because of the frequency with which I see the acronym “PC” for “politically correct”.

Although I’ve encountered cases which I genuinely regarded as “political correctness gone wild”- mostly cases in which someone tried to completely do away with an unpleasant reality by altering language until it was sufficiently sugarcoated- in the last five years or so I’ve vastly more often run into cases in which someone was claiming that their own abominable behavior or belligerent/dismissive/openly hateful assertion was getting negative social reaction because it was “un-PC”.

….Yes, I will expand upon this, which I should have time to do soon. Perhaps. I hope.

Weapon Charging

August 9, 2012 - 4:01 pm 5 Comments

It makes the sort of troll commenters* that come in distinct subspecies make a lot more sense when you realize that, from their chair, you are effectively the giant enemy crab. And they ARE by-god going to attack your weak point for massive damage.

*Not my trolls. Someone else’s.

School Isn't Real

April 16, 2012 - 4:42 pm Comments Off

….Or, well, it is, in the sense of being a thing that happens to you from the age of 5 or so to 18, it just in no way will resemble the rest of your life.

Backing up a bit, last week I ran across this post at Jennifer’s place, featuring a video by Felicia Day and the Guild crew. They seem to do one big music video release per season, and they are always awesome, and this one is no exception. As is a common theme with geeks and other people who spent middle and high school on the part of the social totem pole which is buried in the ground, and go on to wind up as perfectly respectable and likable people who are awesome in their own right, the theme is celebrating going from the bottom to the top.

I tapped my foot along with it and thoroughly enjoyed the whole thing. Then I got to thinking, successfully transcending the social realities of high school isn’t that much of a thing to celebrate so much as getting over with as quickly as possible, just because life immediately ceases to be like school the second you leave it. Lots of people continue going through the motions as though it were, but it’s because the only patterns they know and no one bothered to tell them that contrary to preparing them with rigorous accuracy for adult life, school gave them a highly artificial reality that must be adjusted away from. There should really be some sort of an exit briefing at or after graduation, just so you are warned, whether or not you choose to listen to any of it.

1. Never again will the norm of your life involve moving through a highly regimented schedule you did not choose with a peer group that all closely resemble each other, monitored by authorities who take an interest in everything you do.

Unless you go to prison or join the military, which are the only two adult-life environments that have any close resemblance to school. Even in the military you volunteered to be there and the end goal is for you to either leave after having performed adequately, or become the authorities. Only in prison are you treated as an incompetent population to be managed as closely as possible for a time-based sentence.

After school, you are free- and expected- to manage your own time, which you may do as well or poorly as you choose to, though if you consistently do it badly you will find yourself with a shortage of people willing to give you money in exchange for your time and efforts. Authorities largely do not care about your life beyond your performance, though strong leaders may take an interest in helping you manage those areas of your time that relate strictly to your job. If no one is paying you for your time currently, you can do whatever the hell with it you wish so long as it’s not actually illegal, and no one but you will care. This is the point in your life where you find out for yourself that staying up all night all the time and eating ice cream for dinner actually make you feel like crap with no input from your parents or any other authority at all.

This is one of the areas of transition from the school system to universities that is easiest for students to miss completely. College looks like school, and feels like school, but now you have a lot more freedom, including the freedom to look at a scheduled class you don’t really want to go to and then not go. However, instead of being warehoused by an educational system, now you are actually paying to be taught things at specific institutions; using your freedom to blow off “authorities” is actually a shot downrange at your own feet. This phenomenon is one of the major disconnects between adult students and students transitioning in from high school.

2. Your social life isn’t a zero-sum game anymore.

You are no longer bound to a particular age and location-based peer group who can only be escaped via a major life upheaval that can only be ordered by some other authority. Never again will you be with any people other than your family who care what you did when you were thirteen, unless that something was the sort of thing that will get the justice system to try you as an adult. If they find out anything about your life when you were in school, it will be a mildly interesting background note in contrast to who you are now, rather than finding out Who You Really Are.

If there’s a clique and they don’t like you and exclude you? You can just leave, and find some people who enjoy your company. They need have no relevance to you at all. At the absolute worst, they could be your co-workers, but at least then you can be making an evaluation of how much your job is worth to you in money, time, and aggravation factor to remain there even though the working environment is chilly and hostile- and you can go get a different social life outside of work.

You still do need social skills, you don’t get allotted friends, and acquiring them may be an uphill battle if you were raised by wolves and are essentially starting from scratch.

However, you aren’t restricted to a single pool of people who all know each other and have all known YOU since the third grade, you aren’t in a hierarchy in which every person who gains in popularity must do so at the expense of someone else, and the people you think are really cool may not think this of themselves and probably don’t really think of themselves as being in any way above you or others. (If they DO, this is generally because they are a narcissist. People behaving the way high school students do normally as adults are behaving pathologically.)

If absolutely no one wants to spend time with you and you are regularly expelled from the company of others, it may be time to do some serious self-examination (especially if you have the vague inkling you may have been raised by wolves and do not know any of the social rules others seem to take for granted), but for the most part even obnoxious trolls can find other trolls to share under-bridge space and trollish camaraderie with.

3. Your hobbies are just your hobbies, not your identity.

Adolescents are in a weird psychological space where they’re transitioning from having their identities mainly defined by their parents to being self-generated, and being adolescents in a social species, they tend to accomplish this first by letting anyone OTHER than their parents start providing some of the definition. Our culture has a lot of easy tropes for kids to fall into and build a self-image around, so that art mirrors life and life mirrors art pretty much Because. This is how a kid can believe whole-heartedly by the time he’s twelve that if he excels at math he must shun athletics, or if he excels at athletics as part of the conditions for membership in his tribe he can never reveal he really likes Star Wars.

In the adult world, your hobbies are what you do or work on because you enjoy them, not defining aspects of your identity. At your job you’re just another person in a business suit or uniform, and no one gives a shit if you were a geek or a nerd or a jock or a stoner or a metal kid or what have you. You can be a powerlifter and also have a serious investment in your D&D group and no one will care. Your gym buddies will probably not want to talk about your campaign and your DM will probably not want to know about your squat PR, but who knows, especially if members of both groups are actually friends rather than just friendly.

Speaking of, nothing of what you internalized in school about what you can and can’t learn or do, for fun or otherwise, is true. Even if you were fat and slow and uncoordinated in school, you can be a powerlifter or rock-climber or be a speed skater or whatever the hell you want to, as long as you’re willing to put in the work and practice at it. Even if you sucked at math, you can learn it later, and better yet you can shop around for a teacher who can show it to you in ways you can grasp. If you really want to you can put all your focus into developing your strength to mass ratio and join the damn circus, though it will be a tremendous amount of work and sacrifice for not much unless you REALLY want to be an acrobat.

The bad news is that seriously doing anything takes work, practice, and tolerance for frustration and failure, and due to the limited number of hours in the day and weeks in the year, you have to pick only a handful of them to be really good at any of them. But you aren’t restricted from any of them because of what little tribes in the artificial world of school you belonged to.

4. You can never count on everyone having closely shared experiences again unless you work at it.

In school, everyone is your age, most other people are probably your ethnicity, if they aren’t the standard norms of gender/sexuality they probably won’t have admitted it yet, you’re probably from about the same socioeconomic background, and everyone is, obviously, in school together. If nothing else they have a shared experience called Mrs. Johnson’s Math Period.

As an adult, any given other person you meet may be from a radically different background from yours, may be from an entirely other country or culture, may have had formative experiences so different than yours you may as well be from different countries. You may have nothing whatsoever to relate to each other over other than whatever experience you are currently sharing.

If you work hard enough at it, you can avoid this as much as possible, and some people do spend their adult lives making as sure as they can that everyone they are likely to encounter is going to be extremely similar to them. This does come with the downside of having the same narrow perspective, and the same constant experience of everyone constantly comparing each other to everyone else, forever. It can be very refreshing to be dealing with a group where nobody thinks to make very many comparisons because there are very few meaningful ones to be made.

5. In the real world, people’s tolerance for bullshit is directly proportional to the rewards of putting up with it.

The most common incentive to put up with inefficiency, byzantine and bizarre rule sets and authority structures, bureaucracy that exists for its own sake, and other soul-suckers familiar to anyone who’s been through a school system, is called a paycheck and it can make up for quite a lot. In school you do it because the alternative is not-school, which is generally a much harder row to hoe, in real life you are much freer to put it down and walk away, and people will. This is particularly true if whatever activity you’re engaged in is a for-fun hobby group where the paycheck incentive is absent.

In an extra-curricular group in school, you do it because you signed up to do it and because it will nebulously look good on your college transcript. You learn a handful of things about how people behave in small groups and if you are very lucky one or two other things.

In a local sports league, gaming group, book club, cooking circle, or any other collection of enthusiastic amateurs who get no rewards other than those intrinsic to the group or the activity, either someone or several someones have excellent skill at managing people with no reason to be there other than those rewards, or you find out what it looks like when a group of people collectively realizes they do not have to put up with bullshit and the only authorities are self-appointed.

If you were wondering, I went to a good school (private), and while I definitely wasn’t climbing the social ladder, I wasn’t the fat kid in the cafeteria getting milk poured on her either. You can make things better or worse with different school systems and approaches, or you can sign up for an entirely different set of problems via homeschooling, but a lot of things that make school a weird and artificial world stem entirely from the fact that the people inhabiting them are children, and as such are not yet mentally or emotionally mature. Everything that happens in school is of devastating emotional import even when the people involved are worthless jerks because the world of a schoolchild is very small, because they ARE still a child.

We shouldn’t celebrate becoming better and stronger and cooler people than we were in school, though broadly speaking being better and stronger is always nice. We should celebrate having left the world where any of it matters more than an footnote.

Learning Good, Predation Bad.

August 19, 2011 - 6:03 pm Comments Off

I swear I sometimes post about things that aren’t reactions to Peter. He’s just good at getting reactions out of me that don’t fit in a blogger comment box character limit and/or arguably ought to be posts of their own anyway.

Today’s- or really, yesterday’s, I wanted to do this then but there was no time- is the problem of pedophilia, a discussion of both the issues in general and specifically of a group whose mission is to re-examine the DSMV with respect to pedophilia- with input from pedophiles themselves. I’ll quote from the group’s description of their immediate goals:

This day-long symposium will facilitate the exchange of ideas among researchers, scholars, mental health practitioners, and minor-attracted persons who have an interest in critical issues surrounding the entry for pedophilia in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) of the American Psychiatric Association. The symposium will address critical issues in the following areas:

Scientific and philosophical issues related to the DSM entry on pedophilia and/or hebephilia
Effects of the DSM entry on stigma, availability of mental health services, and research
Ways in which minor-attracted persons can be involved in the DSM 5 revision process

I’d recommend reading Peter’s whole post, as I usually do with these things as well as sampling at least some of the other linked articles and reactions, because most of mine are based in the context therein and I’d like to get through this without having to recap all of it. I’ll try to provide what I can, though.

Point one I wanted to address has already been made in the comments, which is that pedophiles and child molesters aren’t necessarily the same thing. Peter says:

My huge problem with the way B4U-ACT talks about this problem is that they appear to deliberately adopt a neutral, non-judgmental approach to those with pedophilic tendencies. For example, their second principle states:

2. INDIVIDUALITY. We realize that other than their sexual and emotional feelings toward minors, minor-attracted people do not have any particular characteristics in common. They vary as do all people, and it is inaccurate to claim that all or most minor-attracted people have certain beliefs or personalities, exhibit psychopathology or specific personality disorders, or engage in particular behaviors. We do not assume that they abuse children, that they are prone to deception or violence, or that their sexual feelings are more compulsive or uncontrollable than other people’s. We see clients as individuals, not as a category.

If someone has never committed an offense against children, that’s not an inappropriate attitude. If such individuals can be helped to control their wrong attractions, that’s a good and healthy thing for society. My problem is that I don’t see B4U-ACT actually coming out and saying, bluntly, that such attractions are wrong.

And while my visceral response is to entirely agree with him, I can’t really nod my head and agree that the state of being attracted to children is, without action, either inherently wrong or morally the same as acting on the attraction. Most of my principles- the ones that have been actively examined, anyway- are based around the idea that what makes your actions right or wrong is what you DO, not what you think. We may commit murder in our minds a thousand times in a day, but until you actually raise your hand to your fellow man, you haven’t done anything wrong- something maybe for you to be concerned about with regards to your mental health, or serve as a warning sign that problems are going unaddressed, maybe, but nothing that would even remotely give, say, the state the right to restrain you.

Part of the problem as I see it with this is we really have no clue at the moment how many people who are attracted to children actually molest children, if that number is “all of them”, “almost all”, “some”, or “a minority”. We know what the recidivism rates are for people who go to prison for child molestation, but if you presented me with any other psychological issue, or even a generic unnamed issue, and told me that our sole source of data on people with the issue was collected from prisoners, I’d say we had a massive sampling problem and truly understood very little on whatever the issue was.

Realistically speaking, we’re not going to get a lot of data or understanding either if we insist that part of the mandated protocol for a patient admitting attraction to children is to immediately get to work reinforcing that they are worthless evil people. Call me a liberal, but I think the “child molestors are the worst kind of monster there is” meme is well-established in our culture, to the point that the easiest way for a prosecutor to get just about every kind of judicial protection for suspects overlooked is for a child to be involved and the allegations to be sexual. I think it speaks to the degree of our cultural hatred for people who molest children that I’m seriously worried typing this paragraph that someone is going to derail the discussion by either accusing me of being a pedophile myself or that I think we’re too hard on actual child molestors.

One very troubling trend I’ve noticed in the people speaking out against this group is comparing them and their goals to earlier movements to destigmatize other things that used to be viewed as sexual deviancy disorders- like homosexuality. The argument seems to be that first the psychiatrists were willing to reconsider the idea that being gay wasn’t a horrible disease, and then the next thing you know we have gay marriage and now we’re going to have accepted pedophiles too!

For a given value of “correct”, they’re right; actual child molestors would very much like this outcome and have done a fair bit of comparing their own plight to that of homosexuals, which I would link you to if I wanted to open that particular portal to Hell. The process from electroshock therapy for having bad thoughts about the same sex to two old women getting married in New York did indeed begin with depathologizing first, and then to a process of greater acceptance through exposure. Pedophiles who want to be free to act on their desires and people who fear that very scenario can easily see the parallels.

The problem with basing any kind of argument on that is that it’s a self-weakening one; if you argue that it’s bad for us to not react with total hatred and revulsion and immediate criminalization to pedophilia because we stopped reacting with total hatred and revulsion and criminalization to homosexuality and then homosexuality became OK, that immediately begs the question of why that’s such a terrible thing if the only obstacle is our collective energy to maintain visceral disgust.

The difference between molesting children and homosexual sex isn’t “we only still disapprove of one of them”, it’s that one of them is sexual activity that one party is incapable of consenting to, and one is almost always completely consensual sexual activity between two adults. (And when it’s not, it’s rape, which amazingly enough is still illegal and disapproved of.) Sex with a child and sex with an adult of your own gender isn’t just two flavors of “deviant sex”, it’s one flavor of sex versus rape. This is not a distinction that should be left between the lines or taken as given. Actual child molestors would love it if we did that more often, because it leaves them all the more room to paint themselves as merely misunderstood people facing visceral and unfair societal revulsion.

I agree with Peter that some things are wrong-just-wrong and moral relativism is a hazard, but I think it’s extremely important to retain our moral compasses to be capable at all points of articulating WHY something is wrong. And if all you CAN articulate for why both homosexuality and pedophilia are wrong and we should never have stopped violently hating the former is “because God thinks so”- you are welcome to your opinion and may even be right, but this is a secular society when it comes to policy, as well as psychiatry, and the argument will quickly wither.

All that said, Peter is entirely right to see the danger in pedophiles who want to freely act out their desires using the same social structure to advance that goal, because they absolutely will and if you know where on the internet to look*, you’ll find them doing just that. He’s right to use the Catholic church as an example of an institution that lost sight of the scope of the wrong done by people who molest children, and who acted to shelter them and thus opened thousands more children to predation. Those are real threats; we as a society, and maybe as a species, have a huge problem separating understanding from empathy from sympathy, and psychologists are not immune.

I don’t know whether B4U-ACT is going to be a group that opens inroads into a corner of psychology where we have very little- I would say dangerously little- understanding or not. In order to do that successfully a group that wanted to try would have to have and maintain perfect credibility, and reading some of the linked articles I’m not at all sure that’s going to be them. If not the only thing they’ll achieve is making people more vigilant to the threat of being lulled by predatory pedophiles.

One more point I wanted to make, though it doesn’t flow all that cleanly with the rest: working to maintain the attitude that pedophiles are HORRIFIC MONSTERS may not actually protect children as much as we think it will. It may serve as a clumsy bulwark against moral relativism, but one of the most commonly cited reasons given by victims of abuse, perhaps especially sexual abuse, for why they didn’t report earlier (or at all) was because they didn’t recognize it as abuse, because their abuser was someone known to them and maybe loved and they couldn’t be an abuser because they weren’t a monster. This is also how real predators manage to get actual protection from their neighbors and friends even after their victim reports- good old so-and-so couldn’t have diddled that little girl, he’s our friend and neighbor and he’s not a monster, we’d know if he was a monster. She’s probably lying, maybe someone encouraged her to lie, someone bad. We don’t want to believe we could have harbored, related to, bonded with a monster, and the lengths of psychological protection we’ll go to in order to avoid facing that can sometimes only be shattered by staggering evidence.

I don’t think I can see a way where we will cleanly thread the needle going forward- there are too many hazards, both in ourselves and in the way our society works- but I don’t think the position we’re in now is a healthy or harmless one either.

*I have a very bad habit of turning over digital rocks.

They Are My Peeves And I Will Pet Them As I See Fit.

April 28, 2011 - 4:23 pm Comments Off

There is no good goddamn reason for every single article/how-to/hey-look-at-this link on the internet these days to include an embedded video. 99 times out of 100, the information or joke would’ve been just as good, if not better, as text only, if only for the simple fact that the last time I had to wait for text to buffer, I was able to whistle the connection string to the modem on the far end of the line and leave it confused when I didn’t continue the conversation. If there’s an ad in front of the text, I can look below it and start reading without having to sit through 30 seconds of What’s Gonna Suck At The Theater Next, or some damn middle aged fuck’s idea of what is hip and edgy in graphics and styling assaulting my eyes to sell shoes or phones.

And speaking of phones, let me just throw this out into the wild: I don’t give two flying shits at a rolling donut how you got your message to my eyeballs. I think it really is nifty as all get-out that you can use your idroidberry to communicate with more power than they fucking had on Star Trek TNG in a smaller form factor. I get that the tech is cool. But again, I don’t fucking care that you posted using shovepress for your ipeen (omg there’s a new one that has VERY SLIGHT CHANGES coming out soon, and it’ll only be $500!). Great. That really added to what you were trying to communicate to me. Unfortunately it added the exclamation point that you’re either too dumb to turn off the default advertising, or you just HAVE to make sure everybody knows JUST HOW COOL your communicator is, or you just get down with giving free advertising to whoever makes the damn thing. Stoppit. Odds are if you’re reading this you’re a grown adult, now stop waving your little silicone chubby at me every time you want to communicate.

Paper based books are not dead. Kindle is not evil and without the soul of paper. If you’re reading, good. Full stop. If you just want to jihad on about how you just can’t stand ebooks because you don’t physically turn a page and can’t flip to just the right spot, stop it. Either go read something, or join in fighting with the people who argue that chili must/must never have beans in it. If you’re going on about how archaic paper is and it’s stupid to have 1000lbs of books when you can fit the same amount in one device, you get to go play with the glock vs. 1911 crowd. And yes, I’m sending you off to separate arguments for a reason. Think hard, you’ll get it.

Now go laugh at this video, check out this book for kindle or paper, and please note:
-Posted using a Zephyr Vibroplex Telegraph Key US Patent No. 767,303

(Update: Go watch this one too. Poor lady must not be very popular if she’s digging for links here. ;) )