Lots of sad, dark thoughts on Serial (definitely spoilers)

Mike Rugnetta did not address the aspects of Serial that I had guessed he was going to. Instead, he talked about the nature of subjectivity and objectivity and the law, and saved a discussion of the same re: journalism for next week.

So, unfortunately, I don't have the jumping-off point I was hoping for -- it would have really helped to have someone smarter than me get the ball rolling on this one.

Serial doesn't resolve. That's a really stressful quality it has. It's a story about a person possibly-wrongfully in prison, it's an exploration of the circumstances surrounding his case. It started airing while the investigation was ongoing. Resource-laden people who believe he's innocent became involved in the case during the series. Sarah Koenig can't possibly have known that it wouldn't have resolved. She says so a number of times: she expected to catch a break. She expected the case to be solvable.

Mike takes the time to remind the audience that Serial is real, but in case you didn't watch the video: Serial is real. It's actually a story about a real person who is currently in prison, about a real teenage girl who was actually murdered in 1999. The ambiguities and conflicts were not artfully constructed and balanced to be just-barely-uncrackable. It's real. Adnan Syed is really in prison. Hae Min Lee is actually dead.

I'm going to keep trying, but I can't think of a better way to say what I'm trying to say. It's real. It really happened in 1999. For Adnan and his family, it really is still happening now. It's real. It's real.

In the closest he comes to talking about what I thought he was going to talk about, Mike calls the end of Serial Kafkaesque. It reminded me of something I once saw Christopher Hitchens say in an interview, about a story he was writing about Soviet Russia.

He had been smuggled into the country and was in the basement with his hosts, and he was going to be the first person to write a news story there without calling it Kafkaesque. But on his first night there, the secret police burst in and arrested everybody. He said, "They make you do it."

The idea stuck with me. That that's what a Kafkaesque real world would have to be like: if it were anything short of cartoonishly, surreally, randomly, capriciously oppressive, it wouldn't really be the kind of world Kafka described. And that's what still makes me sick to think about: that Kafka's world was the real world. That he wasn't exaggerating or making it up. It was real. It was real.

Would it be unfair or over-dramatic to say that Adnan Syed woke up one day in 1999 to discover that he'd turned into an insect? If he's innocent. Or that he's performing an extraordinary feat of starvation? If he's guilty.

The United States is second on Wikipedia's list of countries by incarceration rate. And next to our number, 707 per 100,000, is a note that leads to a section explaining all the different kinds of prisoners the United States leaves out of that count. Those are real numbers.

In a 2012 study people who watched certain major TV news sources performed worse on questions about international affairs than people who watched no news at all. After NPR (the people who make Serial) the next best performance came from people who get all their news from a parody news show on a comedy channel. That was a real study.

As jobs that require only a high school education become harder to find, and the minimum wage lags behind inflation by about a third and behind the cost of living by about half, the cost of attending college has increased at a rate that exceeds inflation for at least three decades. Those are real statistics.

My first thought about Serial was "Oh, isn't it cool that we're getting culturally used to hearing stories with a lot of ambiguity?" But that line of thinking ignores one huge, important detail: It's real. It's real. It's real.

On being an asshole on the internet for a good cause

I have a Google Keep account. I'm pretty sure that everyone does, but almost nobody uses them. I use mine all the time. It's mostly like a diary -- I've even got entries in it that start "Dear diary." The vast majority of posts are short story or vlog ideas. (I swear I'm gonna start vlogging some day.) The next most common type of item is assorted useful notes, like my license plate number or how much money I owe various people.

Then, after that, are the rants.

I have at least five or six rants in my Keep account. They generally address points that are very important to me. The most recent one was about punching-up vs. punching-down humor and the idea of an 'equal-opportunity offender.'

The reason these rants are tucked away in my Google Keep folder is that they're really, sardonically mean. They display Reddit-level carelessness for the humanity of their audience. The one about public housing stars a protagonist called Assface. The one about equal opportunity offenders describes a subject (referred to in the second person) walking around a hospital punching everyone, and then describes the outcome of their violence.

I think they're generally pretty good metaphors. As a writer, I'm proud of them.

But as a human being and a citizen of the world and the internet, I don't think they should ever see the light of day.

Because despite the fact that elaborately vulgar extended metaphors are an extremely popular mode of communication on the internet, I don't think they're actually very helpful. They're fun to write. They're a pleasant way to vent. And I can see the motivation for directing them openly at someone you disagree with on a visceral moral level.

But it's completely unhelpful, potentially triggering, and a generally shitty way to act on the internet, and I think it has a lot less to do with being an asshole for a good cause than it does with making the writer feel good about making other people feel shitty.

(By the way, I've been pretty pissed off lately, so that's part of the reason my blog's been kind of uninspired: the really good writing is cruel and awful and will never be posted here or anywhere else in public.)

New year thoughts or whatever

On this day last year I was writing about the way freedom of travel interacts with political freedom. I guess it is, then, technically, slightly poignant that my plans tonight revolve around getting a ride from a friend due to car troubles. I have been experiencing a whole new kind of burnout near the end of this year. It's softer, more tolerable. Like slightly burnt potatoes. Still edible, maybe sometimes even still good. But somewhere in there, everything tastes a little bit like ash.

It reminds me of the way my parents talk about the inevitability of misery in every path of life. And since my parents have been reliably wrong about every kind of life advice they've ever offered, that realization reassures me that this burnout shall pass.

In which case, I'm taking it as a good thing. To still be more-or-less functional during a period of exceptional stress and exhaustion is a huge step up from where I've been at any other time in my life.

I'm looking forward to the new year.

(video: supposedtobes by Ze Frank.)

bus travel

I am currently on a bus, which followed a trip on a different bus. In between them was 30 minutes of slightly anxious waiting as I wondered about the possibility of having failed to understand how bus schedules work. I am very pro public transportation, as I am sure has come up here before. But I'm not actually super good at it? Like, I'd probably be better at it if I did it more often, and I would do it more often if it were around more.

As it stands, every time I use public transportation, a third of me is constantly wondering whether I'm going to screw something up and hold everyone else up while I struggle to fix it.

On the other hand, I'm not the one driving, and I love being not the one driving.

Naps are weird

Okay, well, sleep is weird. Bodies are weird. Energy is weird. I took a nap about an hour ago, by which I mean I was lounging on the couch reading Tumblr posts and my eyes started to sag and I didn't fight it. I drifted into sleep or something sleep-like, and I weighed in my head the odds that I was going to wake up again before midnight, and the consequences of falling asleep. I would miss my blog post today. I would fail to take my pills. I would sleep in my clothes, and in poor posture, so I would wake up stiff and in pain tomorrow. I would fail to turn the living room light off, so Violet (Caitlin's hedgehog) wouldn't feel safe to come out and run on her wheel and eat food tonight.

Fortunately, it was only 9, and I thought it was pretty likely that I was going to wake up. I hadn't dismissed all of my phone's alerts, so that would go off within 15 minutes, and my new watch buzzes every 5, reminding me that I still have to think about getting up.

And I went back on the computer eventually, and still felt groggy and fuzzy but my eyes stopped slipping shut, and I woke up enough to read some complicated posts, and I woke up enough to write this post, and I'm awake enough now to take my pills and get ready to sleep and shut the light off.

Good night.

Finals, complex thoughts and brain-fry

I think the most frustrating thing about finals is that (a.) my brain feels like a pile of autumn leaves that has been laboriously sorted by exact shade, then randomized by some asshole with a leaf blower, and (b.) I'm engaging with a lot of complex, interesting ideas -- things I'd love to devote a fair amount of time and attention to, and write a well-constructed and communicative blog post. But I can't. See above: leaf blower.

Over The Garden Wall -- a procrastination

This entry is coming to you at just shy of midnight because I'm starting writing it at 11:30, and I'm starting writing at 11:30 because I just binge-watched the 10 episodes of Over the Garden Wall[1. Which, every time I have typed, I have almost spelled "Guardian," because that just seems more like a word that belongs in media titles right now I guess?] -- and, honestly, I'm a little disappointed. Not in the show -- which was great -- but in the fact that I have basically nothing I want to say about it. Not before I've had some time to think about it, anyway. I was told that I should try to watch it the first time through without any kind of analytic effort, so that might have something to do with it. I'm not sure if it's (VAGUE THEMATIC SPOILER) something to do with Wirt's romantic life, and some heart-wrenchingly familiar teenage experiences, or if it's just because I'm fried from finals. (Definitely didn't have an essay I should have been writing during the two hours I spent watching this series. Nope. Nuh-uh.)

So unfortunately, having invested a couple hours into something I expected to turn out a decent blog post, I'm left with this vague and slithery mess. But it's almost midnight and I don't have another skip day until February. So, here's 250 words on the fact that I don't have anything interesting to say about Over the Garden Wall.[2. Which I am now misspelling as 'guardan' because my brain is dead.]

Renovating damaged psychological terrain

I've been listening to the first Gorillaz album lately. I listened to the Gorillaz a lot in high school. Mainly, I listened to the first album on a loop, over and over again, while I played Neverwinter Nights. I did that for hours and hours and hours. And for a very, very long time after that, listening to that album brought back nothing but vivid images from the game, and a nostalgic sense of the way I felt around that time. Which wasn't great -- it was during the part of my life where I spent most of my free time alone playing video games.[1. NOTE: I don't think spending a lot of time alone playing video games is automatically bad. I'm saying that, for me, it reflected a lot of loneliness.]

I picked it up again because I heard they might be getting together for a third album, and I've been pleasantly surprised -- the experience has changed. It still reminds me of the game, and the way I felt back then, but that's just part of the atmosphere, not the whole thing. I'm enjoying it a lot.

This is good news for me! Both because I like the album a lot and I'm glad I can enjoy it again, and because it seems that I've gotten to a place in my life where I can start revisiting painful chunks of my past and disentangling the actual pain from the experiences that happened to be adjacent. It means I can start enjoying things I used to like again, and possibly make the whole world a generally less scary and unpleasant place by unraveling the mass of cultural references that remind me of how shitty my childhood was.

I don't think I'm quite ready to jump into stuff like unpacking all my embarrassment surrounding my performance in Sweeney Todd, but there are some video games I think I want to play again.

Okay, so maybe I was wrong about music

I wrote a couple weeks ago about the self-destructive tendency of listening to sad music when I'm sad, arguing that my relationship to sad music is probably unhealthy. As many of you may realize, I am not a psychologist. My guess, based on nothing but personal suspicion, appears to be contradicted in The Paradox of Music-Evoked Sadness: An Online Survey, a study by Liila Taruffi and Stefan Koelsch, as reported on Boing Boing by Dan Ruderman in the recent post We listen to sad music to feel nostalgic:

[...] The researchers found that [...] emotional stability is negatively correlated with enjoying sad music when the listener is sad. That is, emotionally stable listeners tend not to turn to sad music when they are experiencing sadness, and they likely regulate their mood during sadness by listening to happier music.

The authors additionally conclude that there are several implications of their results for music therapy, including the possible beneficial effect of sad music for regulating emotion in less stable individuals.

Emphasis mine.

Literally up until the last sentence of the post, I figured it was pretty much arguing in favor of my point: that listening to sad music when you're sad is often a kind of self-destructive behavior. But, apparently, the researchers feel that the relationship that emotionally unstable people have to sad music is potentially beneficial -- which makes me feel a lot better about all the OK GO and Bluetones I've been listening to in the last week or so.

uuugghghhhh

I'm having car trouble -- the back lights on my car don't work, so it's not safe to drive at night. You may be able to tell by the timestamp that it's 6:30 in the morning here -- right now, I'm sitting at home, waiting for the sun to rise enough that I can go to work. I would try and get some work done from home, but I left the notebook that contains all the notes I could use for home-work at the moment on my desk at work. I still feel very, very sick. I wish I could call out. I wish I lived in a country with a healthcare system that allowed me to easily go and see a doctor when I'm sick. I wish my ability to survive financially wasn't dependent on doing an adequate number of hours of work per week,[1. Note: I don't actually have access to the cultural status that allows me to survive financially given an adequate quantity of work; I'm permanently below that line, and working to mitigate the amount of harm that does me.] so that I could afford to take a lighter day or not work seven days a week. I wish I had better medicine, better food. I wish I got more sleep, on a better mattress. I wish I didn't wake up with back pain every time I sleep here.

I'm not going anywhere with this. I just want blogging to be done for the day/week.

Happy halloween.

:(

I am more than usually upset today that the United States government does not have a basic income, well-organized subsidized housing, minimum wage that keeps up with the living wage, or really any institutionally established notion that the responsibility of a government is to act in the interests of the citizens it governs. Actually, I'm more than usually upset about a lot of things today -- my car, my personal life, the English language, surprisingly not the new layout of the Tumblr dashboard, but I think that's just because I've run all out of pissed off before I can even get to that. Mainly I'm pissed off because I am feeling very unwell, and I think I probably have the flu. (I've been wanting to joke about it being ebola all day but I haven't been around anyone who (a.) would definitely not think that was actually a credible fear, and (b.) definitely wouldn't see it as an opportunity to make racist jokes about Africa.)

There's a lot that's not going well for me right now, and I've been wanting all day to ask someone for advice, for what I can do to make things better. But I can't, because it would be pointless, because the reality is that I know all the things I can do to make things better, and I'm doing them, but they're pretty much all more likely than not to fail, and a fair number of them are likely to cause actual setbacks instead of just zero gain as failure conditions.

Being sick makes me feel extremely hopeless. And lonely. And frustrated. And, apparently, causes muscle pain.

Knife, lighter, book, notebook, cell phone

I had an assignment for Anthropology today that I really enjoyed doing, and I want to post the result. (And not just because I can't think of anything else to blog about, although that is part of it.) The assignment was to imagine that I was going to an island where I would meet the native people, but I had no pre-existing information about them at all. I don't know anything about their culture, background, level of technology or language.

I get to bring (along with, like, stuff to survive) exactly five items with which to communicate who I am as a person. They have to be things I can carry, and I am supposed to use them to create a picture of my identity.

These are my choices:

Items 1 and 2: A pocket knife and lighter. These are to demonstrate that I am capable of using tools to interact with and alter my environment, and that I am at least better than completely incompetent when it comes to pursuing my own survival.

Item 3: a publication of some sort, ideally one I'm published in. If they have a written language, I figure there's a good chance they'll recognize the text as a form of written language, even if they don't understand it. If they don't have a written language, reading aloud from it and pointing to where I'm reading from ought to convey that the squiggles represent meaningful noises, at least.

Item 4: A pen or pencil and notebook. (I feel like these should count together as a unit.) These are to demonstrate that I write, not just carry around written things. I have no idea whether they would find that meaningful, because I have no idea what they prioritize about a person's identity, but I live in a culture where what you do for a living is the most important thing about you, so it's not hard for me to identify 'who I am' as a writer. (Besides, my next best core qualities after arts are mental illness, and I feel like a bottle of antidepressants don't have quite the same visibly communicative power.)

Item 5: a current-gen smartphone that gets good signal wherever I'm going to be. Fingers crossed that Google Translate can pick up the language the natives speak from a speech sample, and then I can just google for a phrase book. But if not, well, my relationship to technology is important to me, and the blade and fire are evocative of the most basic form of that but the smartphone represents the most sophisticated manifestation that I use routinely.

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.

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. 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.]

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'm going to check my bank balance after I finish this post because I've made myself nervous, but that's beside the point.] 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.

Why listening to music is like sweating (and depression has metaphorically auto-immune disease-like symptoms)

This is a partially formed thought, and I'm going to do my best right now to get it down somewhat clearly but I want to emphasize that I'm still working through this metaphor. I think that one of the major functions of art, and maybe music in particular, is to serve as an emotional regulator.

Like -- I know that art makes people feel emotions. That's pretty close to being something everyone agrees about in a field with basically no common definitions. And I know that everybody or nearly everybody makes decisions about what art to consume based on how they want to feel. I think it could be useful to understand that function as an emotional regulation mechanism, the way sweating is a physiological regulation mechanism.

I've been thinking about this because I recently saw a post on Tumblr, suggesting having a set of personal playlists set up in advance, for a bunch of different purposes: getting pumped up, calming down, focusing, etc., and I started to think about the fact that a lot of my own musical choices seem, to some extent, counter-productive.

Like, I listened to the Smiths a lot in high school. That was probably a bad idea altogether, but in particular one of the lines that still haunts me gets stuck in my head all the time is:

"I know I'm unlovable, / You don't have to tell me, because / Message received, loud and clear, loud and clear."

I can't remember what song that's from and I'm not going to look it up.

Here are some other chunks of songs that get stuck in my head all the time:

"I fell off the sidelines, long ago / I have no occupation, I'm just wasted for the weekend scene / so don't ask me out, don't make me try / 'Cause I'm just gonna let you, / I'm just gonna let you down"

"Betty, it's so hard to relate / to the whole human race, / I don't know where to begin, / I don't know where to begin / If we could both find a way / to do the things that we say, / we might not sit in our rooms / and waste our daydreams away."

I don't think sad songs, or depressing or nihilistic songs, are necessarily bad. I mean, they make up a lot of my favorite music. But they definitely help reinforce and reproduce a kind of headspace that isn't always necessarily healthy.

If music is a semi-conscious self-regulatory system, then there can be a kind of self-destructive behavior in listening to depressing songs when you're already depressed. Not all the time -- there's a lot of good that can come from it. Knowing other people have been through or are going through what you're going through makes a huge difference. So does acquiring a language with which to think about your experience, and being validated in the realness and legitimacy of your feelings.

But it's also possible to use those same tools to keep yourself in a place that you are actually capable of working your way out of. In a way I'm having trouble articulating, it's like your musical tastes can manifest as an auto-immune disease against your emotional well-being.

I've written before about being kind of no good at music -- I was always too embarrassed to admit to liking anything musical in high school, for fear of being accused of being a hipster or a goth or an emo or too mainstream or too fringe or just liking things because my friends like them or just liking things for attention. (Basically I was terrified of people noticing me because I couldn't imagine it being a good thing.)

One of the consequences of that, I think, is that I have no intuitive sense of how to use music as a system of emotional self-regulation. Sometimes I decide I want to listen to music, and I put on an album, and I end up making myself sick with worry and anxiety and fear. I remind myself of all those feelings of being unlovable, useless, unconscionably unmotivated and small.

And I've tried to build playlists to get me out of that space, but every time I do I just seem to discover that even bigger segments of the music I like have incredibly sad and upsetting themes that I just hadn't noticed in contrast to the even sadder, more upsetting music I listen to when I'm not trying to cheer myself up.

So, I don't have any music to get pumped up or calmed down, and I just use a sound generating app to block out the rest of the world when I need to focus. (It's got like six different kinds of rain tracks, city noises, wind chimes and an oscillating fan playing. I paid for the Plus version of the app.)

I'm giving myself an extension

Ok so the solarpunk stories are harder than I thought. More accurately I'm unhappy with how the Fire story came out, and I'm not very far along in Water, so I'm giving myself another week to work on it. Reasons for this include, but are not limited to:

  • I forgot that I had a production night for my school newspaper today, and so am going to have approximately zero extra time today
  • A magazine deadline is coming up at work, so I have a lot of time I need to pour into writing that I'm paid for, which needs to take a higher priority than the writing I'm not paid for
  • I accidentally an entire day's worth of Minecraft: Crash Landing

This extension is an experiment in my effort to figure out ways to reduce pressure on myself when I need it, without entirely dropping projects like my writing. This is important because, while I do sometimes need to free up the time I would otherwise be spending on things like writing fiction or reading books, I tend to feel horrible about myself when I'm not doing those things.

Time passing speed

It's almost weekend again. I feel like it just started being not-weekend. I feel like time has started cycling, for me, faster and faster lately, on the scale of weeks. 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.

But it's still really unsettling to notice. It's a reminder that my life has an unknown, finite duration, and that whatever I accomplish during it is just the total accumulated weight of the stuff I get done each passing week.

I really wish, sometimes, that I had volume control knobs on all my feelings. Turn up optimism a little, and confidence, turn down ennui and dread and nostalgia.

I made a mistake

I played video games! For way! too long! tonight! How long ago did I promise not to do a post that was just me saying I can't do a post for two months?

August 27? Damn. Oh well.

I've been playing Minecraft: Crash Landing. You already know that, if you've been following the blog. I need to go to bed in order to get up early, so I'm not going to link to any more old posts, now that I'm certain I won't be getting a night off out of it.

The thing about video games is, while I'm playing I can sort of pretend that the rest of the world to which I owe some amount of responsibility basically just isn't there. That felt good tonight, because tomorrow I have to get up at about 8 a.m. to make it to Reading at about 9 a.m., and I'm beginning to develop a mild hatred for Reading, solely on the basis of how far away it is. (That's offset by the fact that there are lots of delightful people in Reading, who are generally the reason I'm there at all.)

I hate driving. I'm not sure how recently that's come up here, either. But I really, really do. The first thing I would do as emperor of the world is install comprehensive public transportation systems, so the weird minority of people who like and are good at driving can do it for a living, and the rest of us can get on with our lives.

Of course, this would all be much better if, as I had planned, I had just gone to bed early. But instead, I put it off to play video games, because that made me feel better about the world as a whole, temporarily, to detrimental effect after the fact.

So, I guess, goodnight.

Existential adulthood

So I'm kind of freaking out right now because [reasons]. I've [method of attempted resolution], but got voicemail.[1. I'm not sure whether it would actually matter, talking about what's wrong in as vague a way as I had before I decided to cut them. But I'm anxious, and I'd prefer to err on the side of not doing things that will make me more anxious.] To try and calm down, I grabbed a pen and started writing this list:

Things that make me feel in control of my life

  • Scheduled blog posts
  • Completing well-defined work tasks
  • Taking my pills on time
  • Drinking plenty of water
  • Reading books regularly
  • Doing my homework
  • Being showered and shaved
  • Brushing my teeth

(There are more, including some I thought of while I was typing that, but I'm being faithful to the content of the notebook.)

Sometimes, I think about the fact that, according to pop culture and my own experience, children and teenagers simply cannot be compelled to take these kinds of self-care tasks seriously. Thinking about them in the context of feeling in control, it seems to me to make a lot of sense. When I was a kid, I never felt like there was any hope of feeling in control of my life. And, all those things above, all the things I could be doing that might have constituted positive control over my experience of the world, were undermined. Authority figures like my parents and school administrators (not teachers, they were awesome) were constantly attempting to co-opt autonomously constructive behavior and make it about their success and control, not mine.

Like -- I realize that's a juvenile way of thinking about control, but that doesn't make the experience not real, and it doesn't make it reasonable for people with power over kids to try to make them feel like they've lost some sort of contest when they engage in healthy behavior.

Anyway, regardless of the anxiety, I'm glad I've made my way to a place in life where taking care of myself doesn't feel like a kind of self-destruction.

Getting a website for my federally-approved identity

I registered a domain for my federally-approved name today, and I've run into a web design dilemma I've never had to face before: how do I actually want to present myself to the internet as a professional person?

I mean, like, here it's easy, because I know I want to present myself pretty close to as-I-am: writing about stuff I care about, with my real name, and fun and exciting backgrounds made of paisley. But what goes on the website that's just going to have, like, links to the news stories I've done? Instructions on contacting me for freelance editing? What goes on the website that I wouldn't mind my relatives checking?

I spent most of the afternoon today struggling with the color scheme.

I started by going for "I am a willing cog in the capitalist machine, and would like to sell you my intellectual labor so you can profit off it," but I ended up with a design that looked like caution-tape.

After that I went for "I am a soft and cuddly person whose political views by no means condemn half of what you stand for," but I ended up using too many shades of peach and it looked like a website promoting locally-sourced organic sorbet.

Attempt number three was "I am a generic informational website," but I got like 10 minutes into that one before getting frustrated and giving up.

It's hard to think about how I want to appear professionally without feeling the glow of an imaginary neon sign that says "Your personality is inappropriate for the workplace," so I don't know how to work it out so that my fed-approved name website gives an authentic picture of me, without being, y'know, my Tumblr.

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