goldkin: goldkin tsa whuh (tsa whuh)
Tonight, I lost $2.35 on the streets of San Francisco to what was likely a professional busker.* Surprisingly, I do not regret the transaction at all; as below, it gave me the opportunity to analyze my own social vulnerabilities while paying a professional for his experience.

While returning from a late meal at 11:25PM, a lanky fellow in his late twenties or early thirties approached me wearing a heavy backpack, clean denim jeans, and a dark T-shirt. He initially asked me for bus fare, claiming that he was a lost college student, and repeatedly stating that it wasn't for drug money as he "wasn't a druggie." Despite his plea, I declined his initial request on impulse.

At this point, he thanked me for my time and left in the direction of the route 36 bus that had just appeared on Third and Market, which had just stopped on its northeasternly journey. It was empty, sans the bus driver, and he started to politely tap on the door to hail the driver without sparing a single look back towards me. It was at this point that I decided his story had a chance of being genuine; after all, he had taken many of the right steps to confirm his story and had maintained consistency after being greylisted. At this point, I figured that the cost of a potential miss at philanthropy on my psychological state was higher than the cost of his bus fare, and if I were wrong, it would still make for an excellent story.

After money changed hands, he gave me additional routing information. As the story went, he wished to take "the 30" bus to his house in Monteca, repeatedly stating that he had only been here for 7 days and didn't know any of the routes. Neither did I, but a quick search on Google confirmed the route was correct and had a timetable one block away to take him where he needed to go. At this point, I was given a profuse showing of relief and an impromptu hug (hey, this is San Francisco), and he quickly departed. I smelled no odor of any drugs on him, so at that point, I assumed he was probably clean.

In fact, I would have been completely convinced his story was genuine, until he hailed a pickup truck and could loudly be heard giving his thanks to the driver from across the intersection, plausibly for the same story.

Did I get ripped off? Probably. But it was worth it, to analyze exactly what social engineering was required to trigger compassion over the possibility of physical loss. Either way, he got paid for his trouble, and I left the transaction wiser than before.

* I initially reported $2.25, but I'd forgotten that a dime had slipped into my grasp in my rapid grab for pocket change.
goldkin: i has book (goldkin bookly)
Did you know that I've started to play Magic: The Gathering again after an 18-year hiatus? It's true!*

Saving the long conversation for a short sound bite: it's amazing to me that a fantasy card game I played in grade school became a worldwide institution for adults. And now, as something of a self-taught computer scientist, the idea of a combinatorics-based strategy game with a legal computational model makes for fascinating study, which back then, my then-9-year-old self could only begin to fathom.

I wish I'd had the opportunity to study Magic in the interim. It would have been just the clue I needed that, maybe, this whole computer science thing might be right for me.


* Some restrictions apply. Duals of the Planeswalkers doesn't quite count, especially when you play two games and shelve it again for a year.
goldkin: i has book (goldkin bookly)
While not as revelatory as my last post, I've quietly been making changes to my reading habits to better suit my time and needs as I crawl back into the working world. One of these changes, re-adopting my hitherto forgotten Kindle 2, was one of the best decisions I've made in recent years.

Tersely, there are three reasons why I've returned to using my Kindle 2 as a main reading device: organization, ease of accessing syndicated reading like newspapers, and text-to-speech when my eyeballs are focused elsewhere.

My Kindle 2 saw no love for the past year and a half, as I tinkered with newer technologies to adjust to a kleptomaniacal pattern of picking up and reading new books. The evident problem, though, became finding and finishing what became a worryingly large backlog of books and media that I'd started on a whim, put down, and never quite got back to because it would rapidly get piled ten books deep in sales and promoted "free" books the next evening.

This isn't a problem for me with physical media. When I buy books printed from dead trees, I naturally organize them into book stacks by category, adding the newest thing to the top of each stack as space allows. Occasionally, I will dig into one of these stacks -- by popping all books off the top to reveal the target one, taking the desired book, and replacing the remainder -- but again, no big deal. Each category in my mind maxes out at one to two dozen books in my backlog, so forming these physical pylons to my luxury reading isn't that ominous a proposition.

Interestingly, my Kindle 2 supported this reading model well in digital form, which made me quite happy. Its display model has a setting that pushes elements accessed or purchased most recently to the top of each stack, recurring forward as new items are purchased and read. It also supports folders that ascribe to this model, allowing for multiple, distinct virtual book stacks. As a bonus, books could be added to multiple folders if there was ever indecision as to which stack they should live within.

This works extremely well for me. Foregoing the discussion on why stacks work better than queues in this scenario, the organizational control of folders with a naturally ordered pattern in time and virtual space made for easy flow and low-stress management of what I was reading at any given time.

In addition to proactive organization, any new reading material that I have serialized for me -- for example, newspapers, Calibre feeds, and items from Instapaper -- would naturally appear at the top of my home screen with a clear label defining it as new. This made reading in my mornings especially easy: turn on my Kindle, wait for its screen to (briefly) refresh, then proceed to read the Seattle Times and "The Daily Nibble", my custom selection of RSS sources rolled into a tidy little personal newspaper.

Bizarrely, this organizational layer did not repeat itself in the Kindle Fire or Kindle Apps for iOS or Android. Those applications use different organizational models (and in my opinion, not for the better), balanced with good features that support rapid browsing of books-at-a-glance. The Fire's Carousel is a cute model reminiscent of Apple's take on the same, with favorites and enqueued reading placed just below the One True Stack, but it just doesn't work for any sane reading plan threaded through multiple topics or subjects of interest. The Kindle Apps eschew folders and stacks entirely, instead assuming that the reader immediately knows what they wish to read and can select it from the contents of their device or their entire library, which is always a chore when I just want to resume reading where I left off. And both of these models live within devices that are inherently noisy ("Play this game! Read this email! Hey! Hey! Listen!"), such that uninterrupted reading and flitting between books is not elevated especially well.

And then there is Kindle text-to-speech, this wonderful invention that allows me to listen to books while I spend my time whittling away at household chores or driving around Seattle.* Research indicates this is actually provided by Nuance technologies, and hearsay indicates... only for e-ink devices. So, even though I have this wonderful Kindle Fire that should be able to dictate books to me, and despite the fact that the TTS service can be clearly seen living as a background task on the device... no reading function exists. Thus, another point in my Kindle 2's favor.

I admit frustration that Amazon, in a rush to make new features available and sell all of the ebooks (all of them), has forgone some of the fundaments that make reading so enjoyable for me. I believe there's lots of opportunity here for Amazon's competitors to catch up... and if they do, I will have no regrets switching allegiances.**

* Piped through my car stereo, such that I'm not inhibiting my ability to drive or breaking any state laws.

** Subject to DRM restrictions and license portability, which is still the elephant in the room for digital media.
goldkin: i has book (Default)
Yesterday, my significant other made one of the most difficult decisions in his life by coming out to 155 of his friends and family. This is the first time he's told them that he's transgender, and it marks his first week of chemical therapy.

I'm quite proud of him. It's taken him several years to come to this decision, and now that he has, I will do everything I can to support him through his transition. It also means, pragmatically speaking, that I've gone from a heterosexual relationship to a homosexual one without switching partners, and I surprisingly have no problem with this. If my family questions me on my decision to stay at his side, I will simply tell them that I choose to support love in all of its forms and that I support my mate in his decision.

I think it's pretty amazing that we live in a world where, upon discovering whom we are on the inside, we can choose to become that person. It jives very well with my sense of the body as an avatar of self-expression and a manifestation of inner being, and I will continue to support efforts to make it easier, less dangerous, and more socially acceptable to make this type of decision.

(Of course, I'm very much a transhumanist by trade... but I suppose that goes with the territory.)
goldkin: goldkin tranquil (goldkin tranquil)
One of the most interesting things about being otherkin is, alongside therians and similar groups, we're among the few that can substantively explain what it's like to be more than human. While our condition is one firmly rooted within the human experience, it also transcends beyond, letting loves and experiences we'd otherwise not express help define whom we are.

I'm not sure why that seems fundamentally broken to some people. When you strip out all of the mysticism, woo, and notions of past lives and prior existences from the equation, what you're left with is this group of people interested in simulating how they wish they could be. It's quirky, it's weird, and in many cases it's outright kinky, but it says as much about the capabilities of humanity as it does about the attempts to transcend it. We're just a group that, given half the chance, might want to shed the mantle of humanity entirely.

I'm not sure why I feel the need to express that. I think a lot of it has to do with this "is otherkin/is not otherkin" dichotomy, where people still aren't certain who is "genuine enough" to receive consideration for their beliefs. And, in the midst of the very real possibility of being wrong about all of this past-life woo, it's good to have a solid base that defines that which I am.

I guess I don't feel shame for being otherkin, even if everything I believe about myself were unequivocally proven wrong. In my minds eye, it remains the person whom I wish to be. Through simulations, it remains the person whom experiences have led me to be. And in that sense, it ceases to be this past-rooted thing, instead becoming that whom I am.

But, unrelated to all of this, let's stop to celebrate the small victories. And, for all of you in the states: I hope you had a happy and safe 4th of July.
goldkin: i has book (goldkin bookly)
For the past month and a half, I've been listening to lectures from The Great Courses as an experiment passed down through my family. My father is an avid customer of theirs of six or seven years now, and I only just now decided to invest in their merchandise for the first time after one of their brochures mistakenly showed up in my mailbox addressed to him.

I've really been liking the experience so far. Each lecture series is divided into a set of audio or video lectures of 30-45 minutes apiece, usually in an even number of installments priced at around $5-10 per lecture. This is, however, rarely the going rate. The Teaching Company is entirely up front about the fact that the sales price -- typically, 70% off -- is the actual price they expect customers to pay for any given lecture series. Furthermore, RetailMeNot keeps a running catalog of their additional promotions that push the price even lower. So, it's common for me to get a 24-lecture course with an anchor cost of, say, $129.95, for $19.95 after sales and additional deals.

What's notable is how much better the lectures are than what you find on iTunes U or large swathes of MIT OpenCourseWare. This isn't to say that the content or discipline areas are notably different. Rather, the attention paid to detail, teaching excellence, and production values are much higher, and the result is a much more enjoyable experience that I can absorb very quickly.

The reasons for this is are interesting. Unlike free teaching initiatives that put their course content out there for the world to see (and in many cases, as an afterthought), The Great Courses selects only for professors that have established reputations in teaching excellence instead of just strength of publications. They then invite these professors to craft courses built solely for individual learners interested in surveying the material, or for those learners whom want a deeper understanding of their desired subject areas, focusing on the lecture content instead of their courses' homework and project components. This injects an element that many of the lectures I've listened to from other sources have trouble conveying -- genuine passion and intrigue for the material -- that might otherwise get filtered out or fail to make it to students due to the rigors of repetition and research priorities.

I find that, while this isn't a replacement for the research and structured lesson plans of a good course found in Coursera, Udacity, OpenCourseWare, MITx, or any of the other initiatives to make online learning accessible, that it fills the need for the introductory stages of learning to enjoy new subjects of study. I find that to be uniquely valuable, amidst the increasing degrees of noise and uncertainty in where and how to study.

For, they're not just teaching me new information that I didn't know previously, but rather, how to value and love the study of it as well. This ensures that as a self-learner, I will be more proactive and empowered to tackle the material in deeper research, and I believe that makes all the difference.

*

May. 5th, 2012 09:54 am
goldkin: goldkin tranquil (goldkin tranquil)
Reflecting on my past several posts and the past several years of my life, I'm discovering that I've become alarmingly ego-centric in ways that aren't healthy.

This isn't especially surprising; business classes, social isolation, and the drama of emphasizing myself as the most correct person in the room (in many cases, this was warranted; in many more, it was not) have all led to this boorish attitude towards life that revolves around measurable personal achievement. This isn't how I want to be, and I've emotionally and spiritually exhausted myself by beating myself up over it instead of taking the right steps to fix it, because I simply don't know which those are.

Helpful in this process have been my readings of Tricycle magazine and its related paraphernalia. For example, I subscribe to their Daily Dharma feed and, surprisingly, have read it nearly every single day for two years now. It hasn't been helpful because I'm a Buddhist, mind you (my worldview is much too eclectic for that), but because it offers advice on emphasizing love and compassion, which I feel are qualities I am flatly terrible at expressing. It's also offered advice in working with de-emphasizing the ego as the sole driving force in my life.

I need help, though. Not necessarily from a psychologist (as these matters live at the level of high-functioning actualization with a large subjective and philosophical component), but from people whom understand this process at a fundamental level. I've considered taking more of my now-extremely-limited vacation time off work to visit one of the local Buddhist retreats, because I feel it would greatly help me. This isn't a be-all or an end-all, though, and more help is definitely desired.

Do any of you have experience in the area of dismantling ego-centrism that you feel might be valuable here? Crisp, specific advice with links would be the most help.
goldkin: i has book (Default)
I think I'll just leave this here (posted out of order for effect):


  • 10:45 <@root> You: While we haven't yet solved the singularity for human
    lifespan, we sure have for the persistence of memory. I'm surprised no one's noticed.
goldkin: a nice cup of tea (a nice cup of tea)
... is something I simply want to exist.

I'm thinking of the standard imagery and card flow from Rider-Waite (with a few toss-ins), but with mathematical formulae instead of other subjects or people. I see this in my mind's eye rendered anywhere from beautifully to terrifyingly, in austere plain text, with the selected equation, font-face, positioning, flow, text color, and facing-side chroma giving each card its implied mood, imagery, and character. The card stock would be something cheap and unpretentious, as close as possible to Bicycle glossy rounded-edge without actually being so. The back would simply display an integral symbol, with a light blue fringe drawing the eye, cool tone towards flat black-on-white, into the center.

Am I crazy for wanting this? I would certainly buy it. This might be the kind of thing that would make a good weekend project, in any event.

(Also on my geeky todo list: buying one of these.)
goldkin: umm... what I mean to say is... *CRASH* (umm... what I mean to say is... *CRASH*)
To play a bit of follow-up, I actually went ahead and replied to the email from Zig Zag Productions. The response I received made me about as uncomfortable as the initial pitch, but it went far to clearing up my questions as to why they're doing what they are.

In short, I've been assured that it's going to be something of an open soap-box documentary, letting otherkin speak out to the general community. Given my earlier reservations about the choice of media, the company, and the inherent need for profitability, I flag this as "a sincere production of dubious intent" that I would not advise participation in at this time.*

(Because I respect their contact representative's privacy, I won't be copy-pasting his follow-up email here. Despite email's open, insecure nature, that wouldn't be terribly fair of me.)


More interestingly: someone in the community (whom I follow on Twitter) is putting together their own documentary, as a grassroots thing with open submission and a more transparent editing process. Some of you had expressed interest in similar ideas in the comments of my previous post. Would you mind helping Arudem out?

http://arudem.tumblr.com/post/17988887733/an-otherkin-documentary

---
* As a note of interest, one of the ideas discussed with me was a segment about bringing otherkin from the UK to meet their US counterparts. Certain people in my audience will find this very amusing indeed. In the interests of being coy and protecting the innocent, I'll simply state that I've done this at least twice now.
goldkin: goldkin tsa whuh (tsa whuh)
This post is a signal boost for others that may have been included in Zig Zag Productions' latest email campaign for their documentary on otherkin. As others have mentioned, I advise caution, given their choice of affiliates and contact methods (for, among other things, the current Whitney Houston documentary).

Of course, we've heard about this before, and the current email states the production is now for "a documentary for a UK television channel following the lives of Otherkin." The timing and this change of phrasing implies they've lost the Animal Planet bid for this production. Which seems reasonable, honestly -- I don't expect our lives to be that strikingly different from your preferred average Joe, except for what goes on on the inside and what folks like [livejournal.com profile] lupabitch went out of their way to document.

I'm considering giving them the benefit of the doubt at this point, throwing them a bone by linking [livejournal.com profile] waywind's terrific Otherkin Timeline and asking for a list of questions that can be anonymously addressed to the community. I'm dubious on their current call to speak to people over the telephone and document me for fairly obvious reasons of personal and professional security, but I'm not above giving them something to talk about in aggregate, as a judge of character in how seriously involved they actually are one year later.

We'll see. For now, I'm mostly documenting my thoughts for others, on the off chance they're helpful.
goldkin: umm... what I mean to say is... *CRASH* (umm... what I mean to say is... *CRASH*)
Code: http://pastebin.com/s5bkVEuV

For the longest time, I'd been hurting for a good, topic-based organization scheme for all of the feeds I consume in Google Reader. This may be useful to anyone that has this same problem with their own RSS reader, so I figured I'd publish this for the Greater Good™.


My problem is: I consume (not necessarily read) over 500 RSS-syndicated articles a day. Because of this, I need a good, fast indexing scheme that tells me exactly what the most common topics happen to be so I can organize my time effectively. I have less time for obscure things, though if I'm targeting those to give myself a rest from the tedium of daily news, I'd like to be able to see them at a glance, too.

Doing this on a source-by-source basis falls apart when common issues (like SOPA) transcend sources that might otherwise contain very focused content. So, I needed a good organizational scheme that was topic-oriented, source-agnostic, and binned all content by its most common keywords and key phrases. Further, it needed to target what the articles are actually saying, instead of what the articles think they're saying (via, say, tagging the article).


The easiest organizational scheme I could think of was to present feeds similar to new posts in an Internet forum. So, I did. Technical babbling follows on how the algorithm does that.

Because titles usually contain the most relevant content for a particular item, each article's title receives its own topic category automatically, according to very simple rules for word and phrase relevancy. "Relevancy" is determined by how often words and phrases appear in the title, subtracted by how often each component word appears in the message body of all articles. In other words, very simple, quorum-based voting, emphasizing well-organized articles that put their most relevant information in the title and save all of their flavor text for the body.

End technobabble.


What I've found is this simple scheme works surprisingly well. It allows me to take my complete collection of feeds and articles and extract, at a glance, the most relevant ones that I should be reading. And I like that; it gives me good, high level insight that I can use to cut out much of the noise in favor of juicy, juicy signal. And it's so useful that I'm left to wonder why more RSS readers don't do this effectively, in idiomatic, simple, and well-organized ways.

So, as a grassroots effort at improving everyone's online reading experience, I figured I'd just release the code. It's pretty technical, for those that don't like playing with Python code and bending it to their will.

But for everyone who do: would you share this, improve it, and get it submitted to applications that should be using exactly this sort of organizational scheme? I'd greatly appreciate it, if only for the joy of knowing I helped make this little place we call the Internet that much easier to work with.
goldkin: A goldkin squishie? By Jirlae? Here? Surely, you jest! (goldkin squishie awake)
When I am done with my current commission, I will be divesting of my time in 3D art and design. It's as simple as that. Its reasoning, less so.


For the longest time, I had wished for a future where graphical representations of self would reign supreme. By this, I mean the full monty, augmented reality, rawr-I'm-a-dragon sort or existence in which we'd blend ourselves with our technology and discover just how far the rabbit hole goes. I call this an embracing of "complex media": anything that primarily and actively requires user immersion to understand the message. Videogames fall into this category, for example.

In hindsight, I don't see that as anything approaching unrealistic, and certainly not by modern technology... but it's just not what was ultimately successful and practical as the primary mode of expression for ideas and the culture of the Internet. That view would learn to understand and embrace human laziness, and, slowly, I've come to respect that.

A large part of this is the pain of specification. The idea of defining a world exactly, right down to its dimensions, behaviors, and microscopic layers, is simply tedious to do in complex graphical form. Spoken and written language, and to a lesser extent image and video content, seem to be much faster methods of conveyance for a much larger audience of people. This is precisely because of the lossy and simulative qualities available to the human mind, which enables it to grasp concepts quickly and easily from asynchronous, targeted culture than something that's always on and just sort of running in the background.

What works for complex media, then, is repeatability. Complex media is much better at capturing a certain shared qualia of the setting, packaging it up, and repeat-broadcasting it memetically throughout society. This is why videogames and Pixar-like immersive animations are as popular as they are -- they're able to document large swathes of culture and share them quickly, effectively, and in elegant ways that text media, graphical slide shows, and YouTube poop can only offer glimpses of. They can be unabashedly and knowingly epic. That has value.

But, at the same time, they're difficult to prototype in and outright expensive to work with. While complex media makes polished, organic use of the brain's spatial cortex when presented, their creation and delivery is often ploddingly slow. And, almost bitingly ironically, it just seems that the written word and these small bits of culture strewn about are better at conveying abstract concepts and elements of expression than simulations and ARGs, which I'd originally tinkered with. Well enough, I suppose.

Over time, I've sort of migrated from the repeatability camp over to the prototyping one. I like new experiences. I like sharing my ideas quickly, then flitting off on a whim to new ones. And I find it more healthy for me to try believing in six impossible ideas before breakfast than focusing on just the one and getting it perfect.


So, I dropped the stale vision that complex media would rule our world. Interestingly, it marked the end of a longstanding ambition for me. That ambition began with a conversation I had in what was then Horizons: Empire of Istaria, with Narse (yes, that Narse) when he was just beginning to futz around with his earliest illustrations.

In that conversation, we hashed out our two separate paths. Argued about, really. His view was that he didn't really know what he'd be doing with his illustrations, but he enjoyed them and his then-abilities, so he continued making them. My position was that I believed these crazy videogames and all-embracing visions of self would slowly become our world, so I would make 3D in order to embrace them. Then, as we slowly fell out of touch with one another (we had many more conversations in the meantime), we went our separate ways.

I became a sensation in Second Life and, slowly, faded into obscurity. He, well... you probably know by now, if you're reading here. Suffice it that one of these things was more popular and more expressive, and I don't believe it was just the porn that did it.*


Rather, I believe it's a simple matter of expressiveness and prior expression. So, I'll be giving up the 3D to see where text and basic drawing take me for a while. As far as hobbies go, I hope it works out.

---
* And I still wish him well, especially in light of recent events, though we haven't talked in nearly 8 years now. I kind of wish I could get ahold of him again in a bizarre showing of camaraderie and friendship. Not because he's become such a spectacularly popular porn artist now, but because he was one of those interesting people I liked to talk to all those years ago.
goldkin: goldkin tranquil (goldkin tranquil)
I believe that people can fundamentally change.


It isn't always rapid. It isn't always rewarding. There are many potential inhibiting factors, including and not limited to: age, chemistry, and environment, that may block desired change. But, at the marriage of impetus and opportunity, I believe that desired change is possible in one's personality and in one's life.

I also believe that change is a constant in our lives. This notion that one's personality, habits, and reality are immutable is simply silly, though it may certainly seem that way. Somewhere behind the scenes, change is always happening, often despite appearances.


Because change is constant, I believe that people try desperately to hold on to the things they believe define them for who and what they are. I believe this is as equally true of experiences as of material goods, and I believe that this collection of experiences is vital to the psyche and the soul, since they both define us and bound the limits of our consciousness.

Further, I believe we cannot keep every experience inside of ourselves. Because of this, we are picky and choosy about those that stay with us. I think that this executive process of picking and choosing defines who we are more than our race, our creed, or any of the preconditions that set us in this life.

Even if we are guided by forces outside of our control, I believe in choice as much as I believe in change.


Thus, I believe that I can take an active role in defining who I am. It may seem simple, but I think it's made all the difference.

Vanity

Jan. 8th, 2012 01:34 pm
goldkin: A goldkin squishie? By Jirlae? Here? Surely, you jest! (goldkin squishie awake)
[livejournal.com profile] lothnomicon linked this yesterday. I simply must share, because while this is another one of those create-your-own-dragon Flash games, its quality is reasonably good.

Image behind the cut )
goldkin: goldkin tranquil (goldkin tranquil)
Of the friends and acquaintances I've made in the past couple years, many, many, many fall into a small set of social circles and gatherings that I'm presently not a part of. I feel a large amount of the sting of being marginalized because of this, of being made into this bizarre but well-worn sort of second-class citizen, because I don't have context, have at best a topical grasp of their interests, and can only relate to what's been openly shared to me by others "in the know".

This saddens me, because each one of them that I'm thinking about is him, her, hir, or xirself awesome, and somebody I'd just like to get to know better. Yet I feel pushed out at most opportunities to do so and just plain overshadowed, unable to hold my own, in the presence of those more capable of walking these shared contexts than me. It's impacted my psyche in such a way that I feel I suffer a chronic lack of information or eloquence when I don't; I'm just being worked out of whatever conversations they happen to be in because I'm not privy to that thing that happened to that guy on that day six months ago.

It feels topical, in that middle-or-high school way of being the only kid without friends at the lunchroom table (and I was very often exactly that child). And yet it isn't, wholly. As a race of natural storytellers and builders of shared experience, these completely frivolous happenings are the stories of our (human) lives, and the cliques simply serve as the guardians of culture and ideas. And so, being inappropriately cliqued to my environment, the best I can do to make up for it is put my ideas into writing and hope they're broadly interesting.


I would at some point like to experience the shared story thing again, though. And while I'd made the faintest of steps towards all of these circles and gathers as early as five to seven years ago (surprise!), my inherent shyness and reluctance to make my presence known has kept me out of them after the initial taste or two.

I won't name names, except for the bigger ones, to protect the innocent. But as an example: a large swath of my life is missing on LiveJournal, and was missed of others', while I spent my time engrossed in building tools for Second Life. I've missed out on WoW too, deliberately. But fortunately, I have a backdoor there: I played Warcraft 3 and the predecessor to WoW's primary class mechanics, Dark Age of Camelot, which itself pulled its system from EverQuest, which itself... well, you get the idea. The point is, I can discuss its lore and mechanics in great detail, because of shared sourcing.

These are topical examples, of course, because my targets are primarily text-driven in the vein of MUCKs, IRC, and a shared roleplay or two. I have more knowledge than most people seem to give me credit for, and indeed more than I have any right to, by keeping an encyclopedic buffer of notes and logs of what I hear that I frequently use to supplant my memory.* But bear with me: Not. Naming. Names.

Phew.


I'd like to get over that shyness and actually reach out to the people I care about. At the same time, I wonder what would happen if I made myself more of the shared tapestry of their lives. It seems outright unfair of me, given my shyness, my needs, and my present emotional instability. But, maybe it would be something interesting.

This train of thought hasn't yet reached its conclusion. I suppose in a way, it's a form of social advertising.

***

Oh, about that "Empowerment Through Writing" in the title: I put that there because damned if it isn't cathartic to write out my thoughts to keep me sane right now. My style of being oblique about the mundane and forthcoming about the patterns is especially cathartic to me, since it localizes happenings and drama into these concise thought bubbles that can be inspected, free of their persons and events, and rooted squarely in ideas and emotional qualia.



* That I keep completely private, locked behind layers of AES encryption. Did I mention I value peoples' privacy, while respecting my right to have a clue about what they're talking about? I'm fairly sure it's one of the things that makes me tick.
goldkin: goldkin tranquil (goldkin tranquil)
At the end of each yearly visit with family, I perform a solemn ritual of leave-taking. It is the time when I mentally and spiritually prepare myself for my goodbyes, pack up my room for another year's hibernation, and spend what few hours remain with family, both human and feline, before saying my farewells.

Each deliverance is harder than the last. For, despite my practiced view of detachment to physical things, the impermanence of my existence and impact on this world settles home when it becomes time to leave. It reminds me that my place is now this continuous walking in and out of the lives of those I care about, and I frankly don't know what to make of it.

Each time, though, I find a little more of myself in the experience. This visit, I found my resolve to confront my family on my mental distress and finally rebuild our lost communication. We still don't see eye-to-eye, but even that small victory, long in coming, is meaningful to me.

And in my first quiet time to reflect since earlier last year, I also found that pithy phrase to define what drives my life: I exist to make this world more elegant and more simple, without sacrifice, by organizing ideas. It seems like such a small thing now, and yet my guiding principles in everything I do, from mathematics to computer science to art and architecture, flow from it. This brings me an increased amount of peace within myself, and next, I shall seek to find why I became this way.

In each leave-taking, there is new sadness. And in each, there is joy in new experience. I do hope 2012 fares well for me. I currently have no plan on what I shall do next, save to be there as the story unfolds.
goldkin: goldkin tranquil (goldkin tranquil)
New Year's Day was spent here quietly. It was filled, for the most part, by whittling away my time improving some of my solutions in SpaceChem and idly petting a purring tabby. This is a gross oversimplification, of course (it leaves out meaningful conversations and miscellaneous games played, including Disney's Where's My Water? and gaming touch-and-go for the semi-annual Steam achievement hunt), but it's how I like to remember these things.

One of the wonders of coming home yearly to see family is seeing how little changes in the intervening time I'm been gone. This leads to sort of a change by degrees -- the whitening hair of my father, the occasional addition or loss of a family feline, the changing topics to suit the current marvels of the given time -- that give each visit its flavor, remind me that time inexorably marches on, and that these visits are precious.


Such stability isn't without its cost, however. My family, while otherwise pleasant and well-meaning, can be outright cruel in their single-mindedness towards my ambitions and goals. While I bask in the familiarity of this place and in its outward-facing effect on my life, I'm also reminded why I chose to leave it for my current residence in Washington State. For me, it's a simple matter of needing to grow free of the stagnant influences of this place in Florida.

Between pleasant dialog, I have been forcefully reminded several times of my parents' vision for my reality. They picture a successful businessman in the vein of the now-late Steve Jobs, ruthlessly and passionately successful at the hands of product niche and insightful design. They would have me give up most of my pursuits as frivolous in favor of finding a successful working wife (not a typo) in a complementary field, continuing the genetic line, and settle down in a quiet corner of Florida that is both sufficiently within my field while being close enough to visit on a weekly basis.

While well-meaning, this extreme expression of ego is the root of many of my psychological problems. Much of my snappishness, reticence, and inability to cope with the changing social whims of others can be traced to my parents' attempts to regulate my behavior and goals, through passive-aggressive feedback loops of social nagging. They go far out of their way to debase my pursuits to uphold their own, and over the course of my life, it has caused me to develop a strong inferiority complex and skewed vision of how others perceive me. It's left me, often, socially paralyzed and depressed.

Before I continue, to the parents reading this: please do better for your children. Your role is to nurture and support them towards what they set their minds to, then step back when they need to figure something out on their own. Be loving, be supportive, be gentle, and be there if things don't exactly go as planned.


To my own issues: I have, through the help of others, moved beyond most of the problems I cited above. Many remain. And I think it's best for my health that I continue on this path of philanthropic science that I've carved out for myself. It isn't much. It certainly won't make me rich. But it's the healthiest life that I know how to live while pursuing what I find interesting.

Being here has reminded me that, for all that I love of this time, this place, and this family, my visits here remain socially toxic. I do what I can to improve what I can, but I'm much healthier as a person when my goals, lifestyle, and habits aren't being constantly judged against an unattainable subjective reality.

So, while I feel glad for the visit, I will be equally glad to soon return.


I feel honored and fortunate to be able to say all this, and I know, against the problems of many, these things are mere trifles. But it's where I am in this life, and I believe, at least in these cases, that it's best to share.

2012

Dec. 31st, 2011 06:11 pm
goldkin: snoooooooww! (snoooooooww!)
I hope you all have a good New Year's. My summary of 2011 can be stated in few words: much was done, much remains to be done, and I've greatly enjoyed the people, places, and projects that have graced my path this past year.

Stay safe this evening. I'm looking forward to seeing you all again in the new year.
goldkin: Another Goldkin squishie? Also by Jirlae? And it's *sleeping*? Bonus! (goldkin squishie sleeping)
The victory fanfare plays. Ditties string in the background, signaling accrued experience, levels gained, and spoils acquired. The lights fade to black as the fanfare abruptly cuts out. From the orchestra pit, the haunting tune of the overworld theme begins to play.

Squaresoft RPGs would be so much more interesting as stage directions.

October 2015

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