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On the Cult of Compliments

The more I think about it, the less I'm in favor of the whole thing where we get excited that random strangers tell us through impersonal means that we're beautiful, smart, talented, etc.
I know it feels nice to be complimented, but doesn't this just burn up our limited reserve of social boost and leave us needing ever increasing amounts of feedback to get that same feeling? Wouldn't that ultimately cause us to feel less from the rightly earned compliments we get for actually being beautiful or demonstrating talent?
I mean, years ago, one favorite on Deviant Art would have me gushing for days. Today, regretably, it makes me feel like an abject failure. The difference though is obvious; when I started, I couldn't get any favorites. As such, getting any meant something important. Today I know that even if I do a (comparably) bad job, someone will +fav it. Some of that is superior networking, some of it is increased skill. But what it means is that the internalized value of a +fav has diminished due to it's abundance.

From that then it seems to me that if 100 strangers tell you you're amazing without an associable cause for the compliment, when you actually get around to doing something amazing, at great personal expense, the effect of that compliment will be diminished, and you will not feel rewarded for or compelled to repeat that accomplishment. You can get a similar feeling from simply doing nothing and letting people tell you that you're great for no good reason; so why bother to do hard things at all?

There's a flip side to this of course. Everyone starts somewhere, and without some postitive feedback, the odds are good that they will probably end in the same place; so there's some intrinsic merit to providing some easy compliments early in a project. But to dole them out as generic vines or tweets independent of effort... Well... I think that's a great way to actually discourage folks.
So I've been doing a lot of thinking on the matter of what it means to "be a good friend". Everyone says they want to be a good friend, and many people will jump to saying that they are. But what does that really mean?

Let's run a quick thought experiment; let's imagine our perfect friend. What are their defining traits in this abstract context?

For me, when I imagine my ideal friend, they're someone I can play games with when I feel like being social, someone who knows I like to plan ahead and respects that if I've bothered to make plans, it's important to me. I imagine someone who doesn't get upset that I don't call them a lot, and isn't upset that I'm not super excited about them calling me a lot either sometimes. I imagine someone who doesn't mind listening to me rant, and won't get mad about the fact that I rant about the same personal issue for a month straight.

So then it follows that if I want to be a good friend, I would have to have all of those traits. But that's not even remotely true. Half of those things would drive me batty. Thoughts like "get over your shit" and "I stopped caring 6 months ago" would run through my head CONSTANTLY. I would likely begin avoiding myself and just kinda leave them to deal with whatever it is, becasue I clearly can't help them, and talking it out isn't being any more productive.

This leads me to the conclusion that I'm not really a very good friend at all, and worse, there's no way I'd want to become that good friend. Spending time trying to be that person would be rediculously draining. I might be able to fake it for about 6 months, but after that I'd be totally and completely done with myself.

But this lends itself to some further questions: am I unique in this view? Are there people who are like that, and maybe even enjoy doing that? If the answer is no, then it's possible that although I can't be the "perfect friend", I'm being a good enough friend. If there are, then I need to ask how I can be a good friend by slicing out a chunk of the friend pie that I'm good at and enjoy, and focus on being "that friend." You know, "the guy who isn't a great friend, but he's great for X".

At the end of the day, you are nothing more than an accessory to other people's stories, just as they are to you, but with that knowledge in hand, you can strive to do your best to be that accessory and earn the right to have other people in your life as well.

On the Matter of Mojo

I've got to figure out how to get my mojo back. This idling thing is easy, but unproductive and unsustainable. I mean, it logically follows that I should ask for help and find things that excite me.

But other people have been my bane. I've tried setting up multiple (free!) photoshoots to get the creative juices flowing and get the cheaters high from the like rush, but everyone canceled. I've tried to get my roommate to help me hammer out ideas, but he immediately put a barrier in the way of doing that. I've tried talking about my lack of motivation and folks go “yup, it can be like that.” (or my dad launches unsolicited into a rant on how his lack of motivation is because he’s needed around the house, which I'm sure is about his own insecurities on the same issue)

All in all it has left me feeling remarkably isolated on top of the economic worries. Meeting some new folks in Overwatch has helped offset that, but being motivated to play Overwatch isn't productive either. I need to find a group of people motivated to do productive things like a professional association or something.

That said, in reality this whole mojo thing is older than this work project. For that matter it is related to why I left my old job in the first place. Despite making more money, the reality was that I haven’t felt ‘successful’ since late 2013. Though that’s not really a big surprise; I haven't done a project I'd call successful since then. People stopped coming to my shoots and the weather made it impossible anyway. I couldn't be successful at work because all I was doing was relaying bugs. Hell, I started trying to learn the guitar recently and almost was starting to get somewhere, and then I hurt myself.

I think what needs to happen is that I need to build momentum. I need to set some really simple goals that I'm comfortable I can succeed at and be proud of, and move forward from there. Since my usual support network hasn't been terribly helpful (they're largely un/underemployed folks anyway which says a lot) I should pick a few things I can do by myself to meet before I go back to trying to use other people.


On Social Media and Microblogging

I haven't decided how to handle microblogging. I've typed up dozens of posts just to discard them because I doubt it's appropriate for people to hear every little mildly interesting thought that goes through my head. I considered just making a private journal, but something about that seemed unsatisfactory. It's like under the hood I feel that it's important that these thoughts not only be expressed, but also that they be heard.
Hell, I've tried to delete this post (and did delete several different alternates for this paragraph) more than a few times. What do people normally do with these kinds of thoughts? Is it what makes up the bulk of small talk with familiar friends? Do people normally just keep it to themselves and deal with the lack of fulfillment that comes from that? Am I wrong and the 800 posts about the color of socks are actually both normal and appreciated even though I can't really appreciate them and people make jokes about posting pictures of lunches?
I feel like normal people would have an intuitive answer to this question and probably wouldn't have even thought about it. However, having to engineer the logic behind what most people find intuitive the way that my brain seems to require, it seems like the answer that society says is correct mismatches with it's behavior. In many cases, a person may call someone's post about their lunch a shitpost, but it usually doesn't take much searching to find a similar post by them.
This means that what people want is for small thoughts to go unspoken, but at the same time they want to speak their own small thoughts freely and are offended by people who say they shouldn't. Double standards like this are common in society by my experience, but it makes choosing how to behave complicated.
Should I do as others say I should, spending a lot of time just letting things of only mild consequence go unsaid, or should I do as they do, and express those thoughts.
Originally my metric on the matter was whether I felt that a particular thought would warrant response and discussion. However, thanks to my own Socratic approach to discussion, most things worth discussing go without any discussion. And more than that, when my resolve fails and I post things I think are trivial and beyond discussion, they seem to generate a large degree of response.
That may also be a matter of personal risk too, now that I think about it. If we imagine people want to interact with me, then you have to ask which carries more risk: responding to a complex matter without sounding like a moron and making a fool of yourself, or responding to a post about lunch with something of equal quality like "yummy!" or "I ate there once, they food is good!"
Part of my earlier comprehension about what it means to participate in friendship suggested that people do genuinely like knowing what's going on, even if it's just small stuff. That would imply that the trivial posts are important, (as long as it's important to me, they would want to hear about it, even if they don't participate.) But since that contradicts with the "don't post about dumb things" concept, it's not immediately clear what the bar is for "postable".
The one thing I can be sure of is that not posting the trivial things that excite me is unfufilling, so there's a strong compulsion to post them. And anyone who's had the (mis?)fortune of spending a lot of time with me knows that I'm prone to randomly sputter out a sentence about what I'm thinking about only to immediately clam up after realizing that that's probably not directly interesting to the people around me, which I'm told is super annoying, suggesting that people are interested in where that sentence was supposed to go, even if it ultimately turns out that they couldn't care less.
Even in that context it seems the obvious question is still the same. Even I can agree that a leading sentence like that would be super annoying, so is the right answer not to speak at all, or to launch into the conversation full on, no matter how tangential or trivial seeming. In practice it's really the same line of thinking. The only difference is that when I make that post on a microblogging site, the "clam up" is just simply erasing the post before it's made, so it's like I never said it in the first place.
In real life I can't do that, but though it's really annoying, the one sentence "topic sputter" satisfies the "I have to say the thought" aspect of the matter, where as deleting the post does not.
*sigh* Socializing is hard stuff. Not that you needed me to tell you that, or that every post on this journal going back almost a decade isn't on that very topic (or the topic of not being a waste of a human life.)


Katawa Shoujo

Well, I'm 4 out of 5 paths in. I'm kinda glad I chose to do them in Shizune->Emi->Rin->Hanako->Lilly order. Why? Well, Shizune is the kind of girl I've always wanted to whisk me off my feet, and is generally pretty easy to deal with. Emi's indomitable upbeat demeanor makes it nearly impossible to really ever get down about things. As such, they're light, fluffy discussions that quickly drew me into the game.

Rin and Hanako, however, were a different story. Had I started with either of them, I would not have continued this game at all. Not because they're badly told stories. Far from it. But because they both hit so close to home.

From what I hear, however, Lilly is a much more traditional romance path, and should be fairly lighthearted. As such, I'm excited to get back on the positive life outlooks train and finish up on her arc.

That said, I've put my thoughts about why I had trouble with Rin and Hanako below the cut, in case you're not the spoilers type.

Read more...Collapse )


On the Matter of Direction

Hello again Live Journal. Been another long gap. A lot has changed in the specifics, but frustratingly, the overal scope of life is unchanged.

As always, I'm here to talk about something that's been troubling me. You see, years ago I had a direction and a purpose. I knew what my plans where, where I was going, what I was doing. Go to school so I can get a good job. Then either make a ton of money as an engineer so I could retire early and do nothing but fun things like inventing and video games, or use the wealth the wealth from the good job to woo a young lady, get married, have kids, and explore the adventure of being a parent. However, that whole plan iss pretty much kaput. In the intervening time, engineer salaries have become terrible so retiring early meant 60, not 35, and when I pivoted to the secondary objective, it became clear I was unsuited. To that end, you here would know far more about the pivoted efforts than any. I have fought tooth and claw against myself in terms of trying to do the "woo a young lady" step and found myself to be an impenetrable barrier to advancement.

So here I stand. I've pretty much given up on trying to get married, accepting that having made it to 32 and not gotten passed the "awkward high schooler" phase of interpersonal relationships it's pretty safe to say that I'm going to die in the same condition. I don't believe in talent, but I do believe in personal limits. Olympic atheletes don't run infinity miles an hour; for that matter, the average housecat can outrun the current world champion sprinters. This means that we are bounded, whether it's by the limits of our collective experience, by our body's physical limits, or any of a number of other constraints. I'm grudgingly coming to accept that I've hit mine; that I will never feel like an integral part of any social group (regardless of the people in the group's opinion) and that I will never feel "close" to people. Hell, I have trouble giving my closest friends birthday presents; it all feels so unnecessary and pointless. Yet I know that for me it's very exciting to receive birthday presents, even terrible ones.

In the end, the only thing I feel at all when giving someone a birthday present is satisfaction that today, at least, I managed to motivate myself enough to play societies games enough to seem at least quasi-normal. No sense of empathetic joy with the person who received it, no feeling that this has bonded us closer. Just a tick in one of the thousands of checkboxes on the list of "things normal people do".

Does everyone else feel this same kind of antipathy? Am I really a psychopath? I mean I feel a million times more enthusiastic when my program compiles correctly than I do when my friends get married. Or when they say they're having a baby. Or when they get a new job. And I always feel more upset about not feeling bad when someone tells me bad things happen to them than I ever feel about the things they're telling me. You uncle commited suicide? That's a bummer, but what I really wish is that I could bring myself to help rather than spending the next week feeling like I should have done more but not actually doing anything.

The worst is that there are quite a few people at this point that I think might consider (or have considered) me a good friend, that, in retrospect, I'm far happier if they don't say anything to me, and if they do talk, I genuinely wish they'd shut up far more than I want to spend time with them.

I don't know about that last one. That is probably a seperate issue that suggests I'm calling people "friends" that aren't.

Maybe that's wrong, actually. Maybe that's actually the same issue. Antipathy for people who I'd really just wish would shut up is probably the correct response. Maybe I need to be more careful with who I call a "friend". Just because I see them a lot and don't think they're a bad person doesn't mean I have to consider them a friend. Similarly, even if they latch on and call me a friend, I'm not really obligated to reciprocate. It's a double edged sword, of course. Nothing says that the people I want to think of as friends have any obligation to think of me the same way either.

I don't know. If I measure my friends based on who I'd go out of my way to bring a present to on their birthday, the number of folks starts getting REALLY small. Like 10, tops, including family, most of whom I'd just as soon ignore. And if I measure based on who I've actually done that for in practice, rather than just who counts on paper, the number is smaller still.

Anyway, this is all a distraction really. Long story short, I can't really bring myself to care about most people, and the few I do care about I mismanage so badly that I wonder how much time they spend worrying up front about how much energy dealing with me is going to cost. Ultimately this means that there's no way that I'm going to be sucessful at relationships.

But back on topic, this means I'm currently adrift in life. My original dreams are dead in the water. Retiring early, (truly early, not this joke where you retire after you've gotten your AARP card and complain about two flights of stairs being bad on your knees,) is also not really feasabile. So now what? I've launched myself kinda haphazardly at a project where I start a business I promised I'd never do with about 5 more months of cash and unsurprisingly my spirit for the project is essentially non-existant.

Ya, I can fail out of this project, go back to working for some company for half the money I need to accomplish any of my goals, but then what? Where does this go? What's the point?

I really don't know.

And it's been wearing on me for about a year now; right about the time I realized that my backup plan was probably a bust. Not just a "really hard to acheive goal" but a genuine impossibility. Arguably, despite all of my claims to the contrary, that may be fundamentally why I left my last job. I don't know though. All of the comments I made at the time are undeniably true. Even the boss who said I was wrong about the company didn't argue my points, they argued my conclusion about what they meant in the long term, and even then, only that he felt they were more likely to detect and correct the problem than I did.

But by itself, that's really just conjecture.

In any case, it's time for me to invest in me a bit in the more direct sense. I've setup a plan that will let me get some things that need to be dealt with in a timely manner, and then I plan to take a few days off to collect myself, and then I plan to launch into a period of discovery, for myself, my tiny, budding company, and my goals.

Hopefully that will give me a chance to find my fighting spirit again rather than toiling against a clock ticking towards an equally pointless job search. If I'm honest, that's the one thing I want to be sure of; if I fail at this business thing, I want it to be because I put everything I had into it and failed; not because I didn't even know why I was doing it, and as such, did nothing. Hell, let's say I decide this isn't the right thing for me. I want to properly do nothing, not sit here pretending to work like I would in an office to impress a non-existent boss. If I'm going to take this as a sabbatical, I'm going to right and properly do those things that I wanted to do but work was in the way.


Okay, I'll admit it; I'm afraid. No, not afraid; terrified. Every step I've taken so far in my professional life has been obvious. Go to school. Get a degree. Get the job recommended to me by my dean. Each step was straightforward and simple. I knew what I could do, how to do it, how I would feed myself, etc.

But I'm breaking that chain. The nice, tailored life I set out to build for myself is being thrown out the window and I'm striking off on my own. Why? Because nothing felt right anymore. I was disenfranchised with the company I was working for. The School, Job, Wife, Kids plan was thrown to the wind because of, well, everything I've ever written here on LiveJournal. I wanted to move forward in my life, not just stagnate like I was.

And I thought I could be smart about it. I had been planning for a while for things to go upside down. The writing has been on the wall for months and I had planned accordingly. When I finally decided it was time, I turned in 3 months notice to give them good time to get things squared away. I talked with my parents about my last resort backup plan. I started making sure I saved every last penny I had to make this work.

Yet here I am, up at 1:30 in the morning, unable to sleep and sweating bullets because I'm not sure if I've done what's necessary to have continuous health care coverage. I'm worrying that all of my talents and ideas are useless to the public and no one will pay me for them. I'm deeply concerned that my marketing skill, when it stops being arm-chair speculation and textbook regurgitation, won't be even REMOTELY good enough to feed myself, let alone have enough money to truly take on some genuinely risky projects.

Everyone I've talked to so far has spoken to me like I'm some kind of planning savant, and if that's true, then the one thing I can say for certain is that my analysis of my plans suggest that I'm taking on an incalculable risk, and all I'm doing presently is trying to put crumple zones, seat belts, and air bags on a car that I'm about to drive in a Nascar race. All of that won't help me win the race, it'll just lower the risk of being mortally wounded when I inevitably put it into the wall because I'm not a racecar driver.

I was hoping that as I got closer to the actual date, my deep fears would start to move away, and I'd start to feel the energy of the project. And to some extent I have felt the energy. It's not enough to overwhelm the anchor-weight of repeated days of terrible customers, and I still can't bring myself to do much after work, but that's not as important as the fact that my fears haven't ebbed at all. If anything, the uncertainty around the simple logistics have worked to strengthen every nagging concern 100x over.

The old cliche, "don't quit your day job", when speaking to most artist rings louder and louder with each passing day. Sturgeon's law says that 90% of all things that are made are crap, and the amount of arrogance I have to have to think I'm in that 10% in a field I have no formal education in is just laughable.

But the one thing I can be sure of that hasn't wavered is my resolve. I'm losing sleep over the details, but I'm tired of failing at trying. The original middle-class checklist, School, Job, Wife, Kids  was derailed because I was afraid to try. Well, I'm a HELL of a lot less afraid of business than I am of intimacy, and by god I plan to try with all of my might. There will be bumps, but I need to not be afraid to call in favors. I WILL call HR tomorrow and I WILL get this issue with the health insurance worked out. I WILL get to the SBA and I WILL give this the best damned try I can. Ya, my car may wreck and I may be left crippled, but which mattered more, the guy on the track who just lost by default, or the fan in the stand who once dreamed of racing but gave up?

It won't be easy. I expect a lot more sleepless nights. Hopefully the health insurance thing will be easy. Hopefully the initial Patreon run will give me some nice offset that will help take the initial burden off, even $100/mo would be a good step forward. Not enough overall, mind you, but more than enough to get the confidence to start moving forward.

In any case, it's time to give sleep a second go.


Nov. 12th, 2015

So more than a year ago I (largely) cut ties with Facebook. I didn’t do this because they were a crazy mega-corp selling my information to the highest bidder, or because in my day people got by without their Facebooks or their Tinders. I left because I found that the combination of FOMO, seeing everyone’s achievements, and and seeing everyone’s failures was causing me substantial mental harm.

However, in our modern, connected society, and especially within my particular social circles, not being connected to Facebook has had a substantial adverse influence on my social well-being. In that same interval, the number of conversations that have started with some assumption that I know what’s happening in people’s lives, in spite of them not having spoken with me since the last con, is astounding. Of it’s own right I would normally consider that a good thing; it means that we don’t have to make small talk, and there’s exciting news to discuss. However, in practice each of those events comes across very negatively; like they’re hurt I didn’t know about it despite me not having a way to know.

I know some of it is exacerbated by the fact that I appear on Facebook. My posts to Tumblr, Twitter, and the Camera Ninjas all end up on people’s feeds, and it can give the impression that I’m active there, but in reality, I’m making an active effort to stop myself from exploring Facebook. It’s not that I don’t want to know what’s happening with my friends, but getting bombarded daily with the best and worst of everything happening to everyone was crippling. You can’t go 5 minutes on Facebook without being reminded how ineffectual you are, how privileged you are, or how much fun everyone else is having without you. I had to do something about it.

So this begs a practical question. I want to be better about socializing. I have to be better at networking if I want to not starve in the upcoming changes. But the question is: how?

I think a big part of answering that question is going to be in skills development. When I think about my long range plans, I think about how much time I want to spend on skills development and all the cool things I can make. But I need to be more than that. I need to think about who I can work with, and how I'm going to maintain those relationships. I'm planning to set aside some time to work on managing the grunt work of my business, but I need to set aside the time to manage the relationships in both my personal life and my professional life. I need to budget time for "doing lunch." I'm not really a "doing lunch" kind of guy, but I think it's high past time I consider becoming that guy. I don't hate doing lunch, it's just that when I've got work to do, it's easy to see the extra time and effort to get the logistics worked up and the break from my regime as a hazard.

Heck, it might be a good time to work on that in and of itself. I work desperately to cram everything together so that every action has it's time and place, and that everything is cordoned off into it's appropriate little bucket. This really shows in my handling of games and game nights. You want my attention; book it at a fixed time. I will build it into the schedule, and it will be a thing. Want me out for drinks? Put it on my books 2 weeks in advance and it'll work.

It's not like I have any real schedule beyond these kinds of things. Maybe I'm using it as an adaptation mechanism? Maybe it's because the last 27 or so years of my life have had to be regimented in order to meet demands. But I think it's high time I work on being spontaneous. I turned down taco night because I was afraid to break the regime. I didn't deal with this work thing because I was afraid of unsettling my status quo. Time to stop being afraid and allow myself to grab some of these opportunities.

I'm not saying I should through caution and planning to the wind, but I shouldn't be afraid to reschedule something. I should know my priorities and do what it takes to pursue them. Hanging out with cool people is more important to me than making a number bigger in a video game, and I should live my life as though I mean that, rather than just using video games to hide from my life when I can't figure out what to do.

I know this is all bluster right now. I have nothing actionable here, and any change you can't start right now is just a bunch of hot air, but hopefully this resolve will stay with me and help push me forward. Doesn't fix my Facebook question directly, but if I take the time to invest in my relationships, the fact that I didn't hear about it on Facebook won't matter; they'll have told me about it themselves! 


Sep. 13th, 2015

Not gonna lie, I was kinda hoping the radical changes I'd made would have beat some of this ennui into submission, and for 6 months I was pretty sure it had. However, here we are. It's been 2 weeks and I STILL keep landing at "heck with all of this, I'm not even gonna bother" with just about every human relationship I have.
Not that it’s wholly unjustified; people getting mad because I tried to empathize with them, people giving me trouble for the way I speak, people acting like jerks to each other, people ignoring me when I talk about the things I’m passionate about, etc.
But each of these is minor in a practical sense. No one was ever really mad at me, no one’s deliberately ignoring me (I hope. It’s unhealthy to assume otherwise,) etc. But that’s what being in this state is like; regardless of the actual state of things, I find myself lingering on the things that make dealing with people, and NOT dealing with people, hard.
It leaves me with this thought that my life would be easier if I just didn’t bother with all of these people and just focused my effort on the things I love like I used to. Worse, back then I didn’t have these kinds of problems so it can be easy to forget that I had a whole host of other issues. Ya, no problems with feeling isolated or ignored, but that’s because I wanted nothing more than to have nothing to do with anyone. All I wanted to do was learn new programming languages, APIs, and architectures. To hell with my friends (all two of them), my family, my coworkers. You want me to bathe? Too bad, I've got code to write. You want me to wear clothes that are at least in decent shape? Why, who, that I care about, cares two shits about what I'm wearing? Oh wait, the only ones I care about is me and my computer, and my computer doesn't even have a camera.
At it's worst, I weighed 315 lbs, wore the same pair of shoes so long that I walked the sole off, and couldn't remember the names of people I'd been interacting with daily for over three years. But it's tempting to go back because it was easy. I never felt anything but elation and frustration, and the latter was almost exclusively the purview of when other people got involved.
But with that said it's clear that just flipping the table and walking is the wrong answer. However, then what is the right one? I don't think any more radical changes are the right answer.  What is, however, is a much more challenging question. One I don't think I'll be able to answer till this wave of ennui passes and I'm more prone to think rationally.


Wanna know what this idiot just got reminded of? When someone asks you why you think something on any matter dependant on your opinion of them personally, NEVER TELL THEM!

> But then what do you say Jim?

"Man! What's with this weather?"
"I'm sorry, I just kinda feel that way, you know?"
"MY HAIR IS ON FIRE!" *run away screaming*

Seriously, ALL of these are an improvement over the consequences of saying, "In my experience, I don't think you're especially effective at the kind of tasks required here, so let's approach this from another angle that lowers this project's dependancy on your weak points to subsequently improve it's chances of success."

> But Jim! Without that kind of rational dialog, how do you ever resolve disputes or do any kind of even semi-rational planning?

You wait for everyone to leave and then pull our your reserve of Jack and Coke and drink until you can't remember the festering hate in your heart any more, or it stops beating. Either one really solves the problem. If you aren't rich enough to afford a lethal amount of alcohol, you just let it fester in the back of your mind until the very thought of interacting with the person makes you want to gouge their eyes out and you end up screaming at them at random when they haven't said anything.

And there I've explained every stupid idiotic social group my little 5 year experiment encountered.