Oct 24

Had a chat with a sexist today

I had an argument about feminism today. There wasn’t anything new or exciting about it — I walked into a classroom at the tail-end of an argument between a professor and a student about whether that professor should, when talking about feminism, give equal time to the kinds of oppression men face.

The guy’s argument was that, since men deal with systematic problems too, they deserve equal attention in any argument for justice. His two pieces of evidence for men’s oppression were the higher suicide rate and “Having all that extra power is a lot of responsibility.”

His criticism of my argument was that I was failing to define sexism in explicit, straightforward terms. The meat of my argument was that sexism is a problem of such great complexity that it’s impossible to reduce it into straightforward terms in a satisfying way.

It was very frustrating.

Oct 23

I am whelmed

Two more posts before I can blow off a day.

I have not been having a great week. It feels like it should be over by now. Or, it felt like it should be over by the end of the day on Tuesday, and now it just feels like I’m in a cruelly hyperbolic grind towards the unknowable but almost certainly destructive and vile future.

And it’s been pouring raining in southern NH and northern Mass. for days. It’s almost as if by Tuesday reality ran out of time and now it’s just coming apart. The sky is literally falling. Somebody pulled a plug somewhere and now the clouds are melting and the heater’s off.

And I still have tomorrow to get through. Tomorrow’s not going to be a short day. I’ve got an exam, and a presentation, then I’ve got at least one story to finish at work, but I should probably stick around long enough to get two done.

And then. THEN. I still have work on the weekends. It’s not even going to be a day off. It’s just a different character of business, and different places to be and not-be.

Sorry for being so vague. I actually kind of don’t like talking about my personal life much on the internet, but there’s a lot going on right now and it’s preventing me from devoting mental energy to cool stuff to blog about.

Oct 22

google keep story notes

It still hasn’t been quite two months since I promised not to write a non-post for at least two months. It’s been a busy, stressful, complicated week that involved a huge number of things that I don’t currently want to publish on the internet.

I scrolled through my Google Keep files looking for a topic, and I found two posts in the color I use for fiction ideas.

One of them says

Promises, broken and unkept

The other says,

Riddle magic

Whale fire

The first one, I just had a mental image for. A little shop that sells broken and unkept promises. They’d be little symbolic objects vested with ‘pataphysical meaning. A ribbon with a pin in it, a cracked circular mirror, a pair of clock hands, stuff like that.

Riddle magic is a plot device idea that I’m still excited about, and I’m sure I’m going to use it in a story eventually. It’s magic that’s cast by reading someone a riddle, then the spell that follows is based on the solution to it, but the target of the spell can break it by solving the riddle.

I’m not actually much good at writing riddles, although I think I could probably get better at it, but, like, if the answer were ‘water,’ the room might start flooding, and the target of the spell would have the advantage of the really blatant hint about the subject, but also the disadvantage about being literally about to drown and so presumably panicking and distracted.

Whale fire was an idea for flashback chunks of my magic setting — from when people were still using whale oil for lamps. I don’t know anything about how that industry worked, but I like the idea of a kind of magic where there’s something deeply embedded in the spell that’s angry at, and hostile to, the people casting it. In this case, whales being pissed that they got murdered to be lamps.

Oct 21

I had homebrewed mead tonight

Or, I think it was homebrewed. My friend who gave it to me said his friend made it, but I wouldn’t be surprised to discover that that friend owned a brewery.

mead pic

 

It was kind of minty? I’m not sure if that’s the right word. Jon told me what the herbs were that his friend used, but I can’t remember what they were.1 And it was drier than the mead I had tried before. But still, it was good. If mead counts as a form of wine (I’ve heard mixed accounts on this) then this one still ranks among the best wines I’ve had. (Because wine is terrible.)

  1. I would be an awesome drinking blogger.

Oct 20

Rants

I think I’ve mentioned here before that I want to start vlogging. I’m not really set up for it at the moment — I know what I want to do, and I know I’m going to need Premiere or a similar program to do it, and I know it’s going to take more time than I could reasonably borrow off someone else’s computer, so it’s going to have to wait until I have my own computer with Adobe Creative Suite to work with.

In the meantime, my Google Keep page is packed with partially or completely written rants about like a dozen different things. I spent a little time yesterday putting together a rant about the Tragedy of the Commons. Some others that are already pretty completely written are: Are opinions a meaningful concept? The difference between ignorance and willful ignorance, why lots of people should see therapists if they can, and one called “The food metaphor,” which is about how everything’s political.

Some of these, I think I’m going to post as blog posts to accompany the videos when they finally come together. But a lot of them, I really want to do in video format. I think I know what I want them to be, and it’s not just a wall of prose.

Unfortunately, that means occasionally I’ve devoted the majority of my mental attention to a narrative I can’t blog, which is kind of how I feel right now.

Oct 17

Time passing speed, redux

I couldn’t think of something to write about, so I started going through my recent posts. Two Fridays ago, I wrote a post called “Time passing speed,” which I promptly forgot about.

I mean, like, it’s not like I’ve never had this feeling before. I think it’s possible that this is the feeling I have all the time, and it’s just that I only sometimes notice. I don’t know what it would be like to not have a cyclical feeling about the passage of time.

I really mean forgot about. I forgot that I had felt like that, and right now I cant even conjure the feeling. Time feels very linear right now — or, time feels like an ambiguous expanse ahead of me and a fixed line behind me. It doesn’t feel like anything’s going to come back around, ever again.

So — like, I guess I was wrong about always feeling that way.

Time is weird.

Oct 16

Started a new story

So, I settled on an answer to my Solarpunk progress failure problem. I was thinking about it today, and I just kind of got fed up with myself and started a different story, one that’s been kicking around in my head for a little while.

It’s about a woman who has depression, has been in treatment for a long time, and has made progress but is still significantly affected by her illness. It’s near-future SF, and she signs up for a drug trial — a late stage of a new Augmented Reality program for treating depression. It’s a “Depression Buddy” — I’m almost definitely going to change the name in the next draft — a little avatar that has access to your heart rate, brain activity, etc., and can hear your sub-vocalization. It’s there to give helpful tips on the day-to-day management of depression. “Just because she said that doesn’t mean she hates you,” “If you have just ice cream for dinner you’ll feel like crap tomorrow,” “You haven’t had any water today,” stuff like that. It learns over time, and responds to her preferences and needs.

I’m not sure where I want the story to go. Traditionally, there ought to be a conflict. I don’t want to write a “Medicine is bad” story, so I’m not going to write the app as a horrible failure. But there’re questions of dependency, of the need for time alone, of jealousy with real people in her life. Then, there are questions of ethics: do she and the developers have ideological differences that might cause the app to undermine her identity? When the trial’s over, how do they monetize it? Are they going to sell adspace in her head?

Maybe the story won’t emerge quite correctly for a few drafts.

But anyway, that’s where I’m at, writing-wise.

Oct 16

I forgot to blog yesterday

This isn’t today’s post. Just letting y’all know I’m not dead.

Oct 14

Heuristics break down

I reblogged a post on Tumblr a few minutes ago. The OP appears to have deleted the original post, so I’ll just quote the text:

political beliefs: if it upset rich people then it’s good

Now, that’s obviously hyperbolic. There are almost definitely political positions that the majority of wealthy people would agree with, but that are nonetheless not horrible. 1

It reminded me of a bit from one of Cory Doctorow’s talks, The Coming War on General Computation, in which he explains that lawmakers can normally write sensible legislation about things they aren’t intimately familiar with because they follow heuristics. Among those heuristics are: general-purpose things are simple, like wheels, and cannot be easily regulated; complex things are special-purpose, like cars, and they can be governed by more specific regulation.

That heuristic breaks down when it comes to computers, because they’re incredibly complex, but are fundamentally general-purpose. That breakdown leads to lawmakers writing bad laws about computers.

And there are a huge number of heuristics that people use every day to get through basically every part of life. Just so far today, I employed these heuristics:

  • A scheduled online meeting to discuss a software update is going to contain obvious information, so I don’t have to pay close attention
  • Four or five small objects, purchased at Walmart, are unlikely to cost enough to make me overdraw my bank account
  • Tylenol will probably relieve the horrible pain in my neck from sleeping on stiff and poorly angled pillows
  • Bloggers I follow who are reblogging information about Ferguson are generally trustworthy, and I can count on them to either (a.) not reblog any false information, or (b.) quickly and clearly point out their mistake to mitigate the spread of that false information, if it turns out they made a mistake

Any of those things could have been wrong. But they’re all most likely right, and if I had tried to get through my morning without making any of those assumptions, I would (a.) be hungry and exhausted, because I had neither bought food nor caffeine pills this morning, (b.) have missed the phone meeting altogether, and (c.) not know any new information about Ferguson, because (d.) I’d be in the hospital making sure my neck wasn’t broken and slowly leaking spinal fluid into my muscle tissue or something.

We all have to make assumptions to get through life. The important thing, I think, is being aware that almost-all-or-all of our decision making is based on heuristics, and being prepared for the possibility that, at any moment, we could be dealing with a situation where our heuristics are breaking down.

One of the ways to tell if your heuristics are breaking down is to take notice of the consequences of your actions and see if they look different from how you would have expected them to look. My card wasn’t rejected this morning, so I’m pretty sure the purchase went okay.2 I did attend the online meeting, had the shared-screen window open and kept the phone by my ear, so if any information struck me as unfamiliar I could tune back in. I check Tumblr pretty often, so I should see any posts about false info being spread on Ferguson — although evaluating my level of trust for bloggers is an ongoing project that lasts as long as I follow them.

As for the heuristic at the top of the post, I’m generally sceptical of political views espoused by the very wealthy, but I’ll be open to commentary by other political folks, in whom I have more trust, in case they’re saying “Wait, this person’s actually not full of shit.”

Generally speaking, just saying to me “Are you sure your heuristics apply in this situation?” is a good way to get me to stop and think harder before proceeding in a conversation.

I want to dig deeper on this topic — it’s in orbit of an idea about political views that I haven’t quite figured out how to express yet — but for now I’m going to stop it here.

  1. I mean, we’re unlikely to notice them, because if something is (a.) not terrible and (b.) something rich people want, it’s just going to happen and everyone will assume it’s the way it’s always been.
  2. I’m going to check my bank balance after I finish this post because I’ve made myself nervous, but that’s beside the point.

Oct 13

The extension didn’t work

I gave myself an extra week to work on the third Solarpunk story, “Water,” and I didn’t use it. I am still pretty close to exactly as behind on that story today as I was when I wrote the previous extension post.

I’m not really sure what to do with this, actually. I’m not going to beat myself up about it, because a big part of the reason I didn’t work on it was because I’ve been feeling a lot of stress and anxiety lately, so I’m pretty sure worrying about the fact I didn’t do a thing I didn’t do isn’t going to get me anywhere good. But I don’t know if I should just let myself off the hook for it, either.

I’ve been letting myself off the hook for a lot lately, and I think that’s probably a good thing because I used to beat the emotional shit out of myself all the time and it represents a pretty big psychological progress point that I don’t do that quite so often anymore. But there has to come a point eventually where I’ve gone too far in that direction. The more slack I give myself, the more time I spend playing Minecraft, and the dimmer my hope for the future I really want for myself becomes. (Again: to a point. Pushing myself as hard as I did when I was 19 is more likely to push me into an institution or a grave than into a book deal.)

The extension was an experiment in slack, and now that it hasn’t worked, I don’t know where to go, with regards to that story set. Should I drop it? Having lost the thread, I feel a great barrier to picking it up again and I think there are other stories I could start more easily. I would like to let Solarpunk cook in my head a little longer before I try and write another story. The first two didn’t have the genre baked in quite with the intensity I had hoped.

Or should I force myself back in? Writing’s not just about being inspired. Sometimes it’s work, and I’ve heard at least half of my favorite writers say that some of their favorite works have been the chunks of projects that they were forcing themselves through, and figured at the time they were just going to throw away. It’s my understanding that you can’t tell in the moment what’s good and what’s bad. And I don’t want to lose the thread on Solarpunk altogether, which could happen.

In the spirit of indeterminacy, I don’t really know how to end this post, either. So… er, fun tip for American chromebook users: if you leave your keyboard set to US International mode and you’re having trouble with your apostrophe key, that’s something the mode does. Switch it back to plain US and that key will work the way you expect it to, again. And question for international keyboard users: what’s the deal with the way the apostrophe was behaving?

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