date: May 3rd, 2015

posted under: matt's life, observations + conclusions + beliefs

caution, contains: , , , ,

here, and not here too

man, another week where I’ve got something scheduled for every single night – dinner, dinner, kickball, dinner, dinner, party… I have a theory about what’s happening here: Now that I’m working exclusively from home, I don’t necessarily have to ‘face’ interacting with other people (at work) every day – which leaves me with a level of like ‘social bandwidth’ that I’m unaccustomed to; and since most of my friends seem to be on a fairly ‘normal’ 9-5 work schedule, the only time *they’re* available to hang out is after-hours, aka the evening.

But I’m starting to suspect that I’m going a little mad with power here – I’m taking this unexpected windfall and overextending myself a little, in much the same way that someone who won the lottery might buy themselves into debt because they’re not really used to having that much money available to them. I haven’t really been budgeting my time properly – and it’s been a thrill to sort of recklessly spend my time hanging out with other people, I won’t lie, but I’m kind of at the point now where I’m tired of that brand of recklessness. At least for a little while.

I also think that my attempt to focus on scheduling and being better about making and keeping commitments is working against me in an unanticipated manner as well – because blank spots on my calendar are kind of looking like empty space to be filled, when in reality anything with no even scheduled is ‘me time’ that I’m going to missing out on if I choose to spend that time with another person who is not me.

I can always tell people “no,” but like I said, it’s been thrilling not to – to agree to things unreservedly. I just don’t feel like it’s working out – especially recently, I’ve been getting a lot out of just being on my own.

So that’s what I think I’m going to do, in the near future – be on my own more. Less schedules. Less hanging around. Maybe go out and hang out in nature a bit more, away from everyone else.

It isn’t a state I’m really happy to find myself in, but at least I’ve got plenty of ideas about how to deal with it.

date: April 30th, 2015

posted under: matt's life, things to think about

caution, contains: , , , , ,

What If?

It’s interesting how much ‘what if’ keeps me moving forward, and ‘what if’ holds me back – what if bad, what if good, what if wrong, what if right, what if risk, what if safe – I wonder, if I somehow managed to get rid of ‘what if’ altogether, what would that be like? would that be blissful ignorance?

I don’t like the idea of myself as the kind of person who would find comfort in that brand of bliss. A lot of my self respect is bound up in the ideal of myself as the sadomasochist who chooses pain as exploration in pursuit of self-improvement – tempered by the ideal of what is useful, or reasonable, as far as pain is concerned. Stress is pain, to me, and in the wake of scrabbling to build a stress-free existence, I periodically find myself with an excess of tolerance for stress, a desire to engage in that which I know to be dangerous, with full knowledge that I can afford to take that risk, I can take that hit, because I’m strong enough – in the Batman sense, because I can take it – because now that I’ve found this bastion of security, I’m safe to venture outside and take those risks, in full knowledge and little fear of consequences.

I’m not desperate for anything, and I think that’s my advantage. I’m comfortable and confident. Any damages I sustain are well within my ability to recover from – I believe in myself, because I’ve been given no reason not to.

But I wonder. What hurts and harms run so deep that I won’t be able to heal? Is there some detail I’ve missed in my past, with bearing on my present, and therefore on my future?

Run, little lizard, run – chase your tail or die in the sun.

What if, what if, what if.

Is ‘I am good now’ good enough? Is ‘I will be good’ good enough? Is ‘I am not good enough’ good enough? Because what if I just forget about all forward motion, what if I dig in and sit still and just let it go, that suspicion that there’s something missing, that there’s something else out there? is that… the polar opposite of blissful ignorance? what is that, some kind of self-righteous paranoia?

The only true value I know comes from truth – from facts, from solid reasoning, from structural systems that stand apart from emotion and intuition and feeling – the storied domain of the head, versus the heart. “Passion Rules Ration,” maybe, but what if I can be better than that?

Given an existence, given a person independent of people, in the case of the individual, what mental shortfall originates unhappiness? And what am I doing, to subvert that and remain so comfortably satisfied? Is there some essential aspect of myself, that takes risks and puts me in danger, and I suppress for the sake of my overall well-being – and at the same time, deny myself the opportunity to find another aspect of happiness beyond the one I currently enjoy? What if there is a happiness beyond what I feel now? What if, what if, what if?

What if satisfaction, what if comfort, what if enlightenment – what if downfall, what if unravel, what if loss of self-respect?

Or, maybe worse, what if worst fears realized, and life after?

What if, what if, what if.

date: December 28th, 2014

posted under: matt's life, observations + conclusions + beliefs, society + culture, things to think about

caution, contains:

that’s a shame

so I had a thought -

one source of friction between me and quite possibly well-meaning people is my general aversion to shame – in particular, and in fairly characteristic response for me, the kind of shame that other people apply to you in response to your refusal to conform. there’s a huge difference between the shame that I generate on my own, in response to my own mistakes or misjudgements or what have you – and the shame that outside forces attempt to impose on me.

I’m super suspicious of people who tell me to feel one way or another – whether positive or negative – because I see it as emotional manipulation, whether it’s meant charitably or not. I prefer to feel the way I feel, and I trust myself to react honestly to things that happen, without needing to be hustled into reacting in a more culturally acceptable way. I figure that if people are trying to make me feel bad, it’s because they’re predicting that my reaction to that bad feeling will benefit them – but not necessarily me, which of course begs the question, why should I play into that scheme? And if they’re trying to make me feel good, that might look better on the surface, but what are they trying to get out of me by putting me in a better mood? Again, how does it help me, especially considering I’m usually in a pretty fair mood, I think.

I like being neutral a lot more than being happy or sad, I think. Happy feels good when it happens, sad feels bad, but either way, it’s kind of a loss of emotional control, and while I can enjoy it or lament it whichever way that pendulum happens to swing, it’s not… real, I guess, to me, because of how transient it is. I can’t rely on being happy or sad to do anything for me, because those things are temporary. Being neutral, just being ‘okay’ is such an easier thing to rely on. That’s nice and default, that’s a dependable foundation for me to face the world from, you know?

So maybe unfairly, if people try to shame me into acting a certain way, even if they have good intentions – or if they try to flatter me into acting a certain way, contrariwise – I don’t really appreciate it that much. I wonder if that’s kind of a weird way that I kind of miss out on a connection with the world that other people take for granted – but I see it sort of as willingness to abstain from the highest highs in exchange for sidestepping the lowest lows.

An Exclusive Lexicon

One important fact about our culture, and maybe humanity in general: we like to put ourselves and each other in groups. There are rules for who gets to be in what group, there are ways you can tell who is in what group, there are qualifiers for what counts as really being in one group or another, and there are debates about who is and who should be in whatever group – even discussions about whether a particular group is even legitimate group.

All of this annoys me.

So imagine how I feel about groups that make up their own language. It’s a normal thing, I know, it’s a natural thing – developers do it, gays do it, guys do it, twenty-somethings do it, all the things that I am do it… I do it. But I’m liking it less and less. I don’t necessarily have anything against neologisms – ‘mashup’ is a great word, as is – oh, hey – ‘blog.’ Some I’m not a big fan of, though: ‘slut-shaming,’ ‘mansplaining,’ ‘friend-zone,’ ‘beta,’ et cetera. Those examples are already hinting at what’s got me so mad today, of course: they’re all gender-related social justice (not even sure if that’s the right term) words. Some words I like or dislike based on a tough-to-define aesthetic quality that’s probably mostly in my own head, but I’m not talking about any particular word here, I’m talking about the use of these special words themselves: excluding the un-initiated from an ostensibly important conversation.

Lately I’ve been running up against this wall of new words every time I decide to take a deeper look into something that seems important, gender stuff in particular. I wander into heated discussions, and there are all these terms flying around:

  • check your privilege
  • trigger warning
  • rape culture
  • mansplaining
  • victim-blaming
  • shaming
  • trans*
  • allies
  • neckbeard
  • basement-dweller
  • white-knighting
  • tone-policing
  • men’s rights
  • gender-policing
  • cis

… and so on. And here’s what bothers me about all of these things: they each describe a particular definable thing, so it’s not like they’re lies. Privilege is a thing that exists, trans* is a convenient way to generally reference, well… all that stuff… and there are absolutely white knights posting in threads right now. But when you make up a new name for something, use it extensively and enthusiastically within your group, to the point where a neophyte has to break out a dictionary to properly decode what you’re talking about… it’s a problem.

It’s got to be a problem. It’s a way to use a position of power to shut out someone who isn’t familiar with your particular vernacular. That isn’t how you keep your communication accessible. It’s presumptive – that the other person you’re arguing with understands all these specific terms you’re using, defines them the same way you do, and is okay with them. It’s argument from an arbitrarily powerful position: yes, you’d be glad to discuss this, but the other party is going to have to read up a bit first. It’s entitlement, the idea that you are somehow more well-versed in the vernacular and therefore your argument is more powerful. It’s a way to exclude people from the discussion.

I feel discouraged when I run into this sort of thing. It’s hard for me to get around all the words. (or would that be ‘the wordz?’ can I coin a new neologism?)  I’m not entirely sure if this is a reasonable way for me to feel though. Am I entitled to be let into a discussion about a heavy and extremely volatile subject I may have vanishing personal investment in? The sort of subjects that inspire pages of vitriol, both offensive and defensive? Can I just waltz right into the middle of all that and say, “why aren’t you using normal words?” The thing is, it’s hard for me to relate to, like a lot of things are hard for me to relate to. I often make a concerted effort to use vocabulary that’s inclusive, that’s accessible and precise, not jargon-laden, especially when I’m around people who aren’t a part of the community that spawns that jargon. I’m not going to describe something in programmer terms to a non-programmer, even if it’s a programming problem – because I know not everyone is a programmer.

Despite my issues with issue, all these words keep surfacing in my brain. Mansplaining. Mansplaining! That one is getting to the point where it’s a joke to me, now – my evaluation of how seriously I should take the person using it immediately goes down a notch at each instance I encounter, and that’s not even fair to them – again, they might be making an excellent argument with an insightful point, but I just can’t get past those wordz. (definitely coining that.) And again, I’ve got to ask myself: so what? Why should they avoid using words that put you off? They’re preaching to the choir, they don’t need to hear what you have to say. They don’t need to care about what you think, or about whether or not you understand what they’re saying.

Well okay. That’s fair. But that doesn’t mean I’m not rolling my eyes all over the place every time I hear someone complain about being ‘friend-zoned.’

date: May 29th, 2012

posted under: matt's life

caution, contains:

Sasquatch: The Triumphant Return

For four years running now, the Sasquatch Music Festival has never been a disappointment. I was there 2008,’09,’10, and I left Sasquatch 2012 about 14 hours ago. Here’s what I remember:

The festival runs from Friday afternoon to Monday at midnight, and Andrew and I had originally planned to roll down Thursday evening to spend the night -- but we second-guessed it, since there was no mention of any Thursday venue access, and we weren’t sure if that included camping. We didn’t want to arrive and be turned away to spend the night in my car.

So we jumped in my car around noon on Friday, and I swung us up towards Washington, about 260 miles to the Gorge Ampitheatre. Roughly half way (120 miles, e.g. a little less than two hours) down the road, we jumped the Columbia river and left behind Oregon’s delicious drinking water and arbitrarily slow highway speed limits. We stopped at the Maryhill Stonhenge War Memorial for a snack and a stretch, then soldiered on for another three hours or so until we were nearly at our destination. We made good time, if I do say so myself, thanks to my strategy of driving as fast as I could without flying off the road -- but using passing as an excuse to do so, and making sure to ease up whenever it looked like a speed trap was coming up. This actually ended up working out well, when I was probably doing 80 or 85 getting around a semi-truck, and a state police car hidden back behind some rocks ignored me.


And then we hit The Line. There’s a single entrance to the venue, but it’s at a ‘T’ junction in a long country road -- you can either get off the freeway early and drive up, or you can get off one exit later and drive down. The former was packed, and so (as we were to soon discover) was the latter. So we idled along for a mile or so, accompanied by hundreds of other people doing the same thing. It was a nice day though, and tunes were bumpin’, so it wasn’t terrible. We weren’t going to miss any music we couldn’t live without.

Finally, we made our way to the end of the line and got shepherded into our parking / camping spot. We said hello to a bunch of tiny little insects, which were ecstatic about us being there.

After we threw together our campsite, we geared up and headed into the event itself -- it was, of course, stuffed with people.

(this pic is just of the hill seating for the main stage -- this is maybe half the total people on a day when the biggest stage wasn’t packed.)

On Friday we saw:

  • Santigold (did not disapoint)
  • Girl Talk (best mashups ever)
  • Pretty Lights (good electronic music, most glowsticks ever)

… let’s give you a little taste of that, shall we? to start with, some shitty HDR: that really doesn’t do the Gorge any kind of justice. You can see for miles and miles.

What is a Girl Talk show like? It’s a little like this:

… and that’s pretty much one of my favorite things.

Friday night’s finale was Pretty Lights -- the show featured (wait for it)

… lots of pretty lights. Now, you can’t really get a good feeling for the sheer volume of glowsticks on the dancefloor here, so I’ve prepared a visual aid.

See what I’m talking about? We’re talking, like, buckets of glowsticks. It was kind of mind-boggling.

Afterwards, we trekked back to the campsite (which turned out to be only a quick 10-minute walk, rather than the grueling hike I’d undergone in previous years -- camping in the overflow parking lot had its ups and downs.)

We took stock of the food we’d brought with us, and concluded that we simply did not have enough bread -- we’d have to ration it from here on out, single-slice sandwiches (or open-faced, as I personally prefer) in order to continue efficiently using up sandwich fillings.

We also met our neighbors -- some Canadians, some fellow US people. We were all North Americans together. They were pretty cool as far as temporary camping neighbors at a music festival go.

Next morning, we were visited by the event staff, who informed us that we were camping in a ‘dry’ campground (a bit of an unintended joke, considering there was no running water available) and that they didn’t want to find any evidence of alcohol consumption. There was careful wording on this imperative, and the message was clear: you can drink as much as you want, just don’t let me catch you doing it. Therefore ‘apple juice:’

(mmm, look at the foamy head on that nice belgian… uh… apple juice.)

Luckily, along with the beverage enforcers inside the event itself, we found another more likable group:

On Saturday, we saw:

  • Pete Holmes (funny comedian guy -- impression of what it’s like to a kid versus an adult is great.)
  • Star Fucker (cool electro rock)
  • Rob Delaney (another funny comedian guy -- managed to make sex and scat jokes into something I wasn’t annoyed by, which is impressive.)
  • Portlandia (as in, the show -- but less funny, unfortunately.)
  • Childish Gambino (Donald Glover’s not-entirely-comedic hip hop project -- he’s a smart guy, and this is some smart rappin’.)
  • The Helio Sequence (wins the ‘happiest drummer in existence’ award.)
  • Metric (pretty okay music stuff, don’t remember a lot about this one)
  • The Shins (I don’t listen to a lot of their music, but this was a pretty solid show)
  • Jack White (a man who loves his music.)
  • The Roots (more men who love their music. Also, award for best sousaphone player.)

Here’s some pics of various stages around the venue:

Here’s a fairly boring picture of Portlandia -- an uninteresting pic for a lamentably uninteresting performance.

Maybe the show just doesn’t work so well in a live format, I don’t know. We said “hi” Fred Armisen outside the venue earlier though. So I guess that was cool.

Childish Gambino was pretty cool. Donald Glover is a smart, talented guy, and it’s a lot of fun watching him perform -- he looked like he was having a blast as well. It’s weird, seeing him in comedic roles constantly, I’m almost not sure how to approach his music -- still. Fun despite the dissonance.

The Helio Sequence was, as usual, a fantastic show. I can’t get enough of those guys. I think I want to hang out with them. Or maybe I want to watch them and Ryan have a drum-off. Is that a weird thing to fantasize about? Moving on.

Jack White was just awesome. White Stripes and Raconteurs songs were present, as well as other original stuff -- Jack loves his music, man. Just watching him play, or watching him talk about playing, is fascinating. He puts on a hell of a performance.

Andrew was more into The Roots than I was as far as the music goes, but I think we were on the same page as far as enthusiasm and skill went -- these guys are pretty badass. I can’t see just like sitting down and listening to their music, but I’d probably watch them play again.

Saturday night we headed back to camp, hung out with the neighbors some more, had another chat with beverage enforcement about the implications of camping in the alcohol-free-zone that was the overflow parking field… and slipped away into dreamland.

At like 9 AM Sunday the next morning I was rudely awakened by the sun. I was being cooked alive in my tent. Further sleep was impossible -- but luckily, the metal my car is made out of was sufficiently opaque to block out the radiation, and I managed to nap a bit until Andrew was up and we started revving ourselves up to wander into the show for the day. Sunburn had already set in, mostly on my face, and I ran out of sunscreen. My solution was to craft a new look for myself based on look simultaneously awesome and haggard-as-fuck:

Sun can’t burn me if I cover myself up with sunglasses and bandannas, see? Also, I used to wear bandannas a lot at one point in highschool -- so this was kinda fun. I kind of want to get some more now.

So, Sunday’s shows were:

  • Beardyman (the best live remix beatboxing madness I’ve ever seen)
  • Blind Pilot (pretty okay music, don’t remember much about it)
  • Tycho (sweet laid-back electronica)
  • The Head & The Heart (cool music. havne’t listened to it much yet but I’ve liked everything I’ve heard so far.)
  • Little Dragon (gooooooood stuff.)
  • James Murphy (of LCD Soundsystem fame, doing a DJ set of a bunch of crazy shit all mixed up and ready for dancing.)
  • Feed Me (with Teeth!) (heavy dancey electronica, dipping in and out of dubstep.)

Sunday felt like when we finally hit our stride, planning-wise -- we had the right snacks and drinks with us at the right times, exercised the hell out of our re-entry privileges, and wandered from show to show without missing anything. I was exhausted at the end of the night.

Beardyman was just fantastic. I was completely blown away by how good this guy is at what he does. I can’t come up with a succinct definition of what he does, so here’s a video:

… I’m not sure if you can tell what’s happening here, but he’s making dance music, live, on the fly, using only samples he’s making himself, sequencing and tweaking in real-time as we watch. It’s crazy. And he’s having so much fun too. It’s basically watching someone make music.

I was a little concerned that Tycho might end up being too quiet to really work as a performance, but it turned out to be a nice relaxing point of the day.

The Head & The Heart and Little Dragon were both great. I don’t listen to a lot of either, but they were good music to listen to.

James Murphy’s DJ set was where I did the most dancing -- so much that I was pretty sore afterwards. But the important part is: during the show, I was standing next to a half dozen guys, about my age, who decked themselves out in standard ‘old geezer’ attire: glasses, shirt, pants worn high up aroudn the stomach and suspendered, complete with canes -- and they were dancing with all the pretty ladies. Pretty solid strategy, gentlemen. One guy was unabashedly bumping and grinding with some girl -- while pretending to studiously read a book, balancing with his cane. It was kind of unbelievable.

Finally, we went and saw what I’m going to keep calling ‘the teeth thing’ -- Feed Me (with Teeth!) definitely followed Deadmau5′ lead, with an iconic monster smiley face set backdrop with lighting effects, while the artist himself stood back in the shadows and did his thing.

I was wiped out at that point -- and a little disgruntled over losing my admission bracelet in the James Murphy fracas. So we headed back to the campsite -- where we found that our neighbors were partying it up, this being their last night. It really didn’t take long at all before this happened:

The man in the dinosaur suit grabbed the hat, declared himself ‘The Captain,’ climbed up on top of his car, and declared that he was commandeering the good ship SS Blackout. Well done, sir.

Luckily for my peace-of-mind, I propositioned a fellow citizen of the united states (who happened to be dressed up in a complete pikachu costume, which had somehow survived a wrestling match with the dino above unscathed) -- and received his un-needed entry bracelet, saving me from having to explain my way into the event the next day.

By the time we’d knocked off to sleep, the party wasn’t even close to stopping next door -- I think we were up to 6 or 7 visits from the vent staff at that point. Kick us out, they said, we dare you, we’re leaving tomorrow anyway, and we’re too drunk to drive out now as it is.

So I woke up the next morning, baking in the tent, stumbled like a zombie to the car, and proceeded to pass the fuck back out again. In doing so I missed another opportunity to finally introduce myself to the neighbors on the other side of our camp, but there was nothing more important at that moment then going somewhere not sunny and resuming sleep.

Finally, Andrew and I got our shit together for our Monday experience, which would include:

  • Grouplove (great stuff)
  • Gary Clarke Jr. (talented guitar player with an impressively large and persistent fan contingent)
  • Feist (great stuff, this woman can really sing.)
  • Silversun Pickups (not my favorite, but not in any way bad. Another very talented group of people.)
  • Tenacious D (masters of their craft)
  • Beck (extremely cool -- like literally, it was freezing)

It was another beautiful day -- we’d procured additional sunscreen, knocking our chances of developing melanoma down a bit.

Feist was just as awesome as I expected her to be. She really does have a good voice -- like, very very good vocal control. She can slip between strong pure tones, to more broken-sounding stuff, to almost shouty stuff, and stay on-track the whole time.

The sunset was, as usual…

Tenacious D was gratifying. Kyle and Jack continue to be very good at what they do, and I continue to observe their act with interest. They were hitting all the right notes -- I swear, I turned to Andrew and remarked that I’d like to here their ‘Kielbasa Sausage’ track, and what should they break into within minutes? Yeah.

Finally, Beck wrapped things up nice and tight. It was really cold at that point, I’d made a tactical error on my choice of shoes and lack of lower-body base-layer -- but we shivered our way through a show that started out a little slow but spun up into a very nice finale. He played all the old favorites, but luckily for me, there was plenty of Guero and Modern Guilt -era offerings as well. Finally, for the last song, he brought Tenacious D back onto the stage, and played us all out. I’m pretty sure by the end of the night his fingers were so numb he couldn’t get the fingerings on the guitar right anymore -- he kept missing lines and glancing down at what he was doing. But it was cool. We were all pretty cold. It was a good place to end things.

So we journeyed back to our campsite along with a mob of other tired-but-happy concert-goers, warming up a bit as we got moving, jumped into the intrepid Taurus, and… hmmm, battery too weak to start the car. Awesome.

Luckily our remaining neighbors showed up and jumped us in a super nice friendly way -- and with that, we were on the road home. We managed to roll into a gas station and get like the last few drops of gas they had (the guy at the counter said they’d gone through like 4000 gallons in the last few hours, all from Sasquatch escapees) -- then resolutely stuck to the speed limit all the way back to Portland. This came in handy when I saw the old blue lights start up behind me, pulled over, and then got told by a very nice police officer that I was actually not speeding, that it was the other guy on the road, and I was good to go. Ohhh that’s a good thing to hear.

I managed to get back across the border to Oregon after a couple hours, get out for stretch, then power back to Portland -- no idea when we got home, I was pretty fucking exhausted at that point -- we tossed the junk from the car into the garage, I tossed myself into the shower and then into bed, and now here I am.

All Sasquatched out. Home at last. Good place to be.

date: February 12th, 2012

posted under: matt's life, society + culture, technology + design, things to think about

caution, contains:

minors are sacred, otherwise everything is permitted

Here’s something interesting to talk about:

We have very few rules here on reddit; no spamming, no cheating, no personal info, nothing illegal, and no interfering the site’s functions. Today we are adding another rule: No suggestive or sexual content featuring minors.

- A necessary change in policy

As usual my personal viewpoint on suggestive/sexual content featuring minors is out of step with my culture’s: I’m okay with it, as an extension of my general dislike of arbitrary age limitations, positive sexual experiences when I was a teenager, and mistrust of ‘think of the children!’-style reasoning. I mean I’m not exactly wild about it, and I’m certainly not okay with actual abuse / molestation stuff, but what, a 17-year-old isn’t responsible enough to post a naked pic of themselves, but an 18-year-old is? pff.

That said, I don’t really feel very strongly about Reddit’s decision. Maybe I’m not so passionate about advocating for minor’s ability to explore their sexuality and express it without adult repression? But it’s a thing I think is a good idea, right?

Maybe it’s because it’s not exactly a productive thing – like, it’s just sharing media and commenting on it. Seems like you could do that on a chan or booru site easily enough, and I guess reddit is open-source for that matter. It’d suck migrating existing content (including media, comments, and users) to the new site though. (I wonder if the subreddits being banned had any warning? I’m guessing not.) A subreddit discussing age of consent and abuse and whatever would be a pretty legit thing, I’d be pissed if they took that down just for discussing the subject, but if it’s just a bunch of pictures… yeah.

Business-wise, it’s a sound decision: allowing depictions of underaged subjects with the intent to sexually arouse (oh man this is the perfect opportunity to use ‘titillating’ isn’t it?) is pretty bad PR these days. It’s one of those cases where it doesn’t matter what’s right or what’s true – it’s what people think that will kill you. And the trouble of taking a stand on the issue, educating people, and trying to have any sort of reasonable conversation on such an emotional topic is really an unreasonable amount of effort for a pretty minimal return. So I can’t really blame them.

Hmm, maybe this wasn’t as interesting as I thought, not sure what else there is to talk about.

date: February 11th, 2012

posted under: matt's life, observations + conclusions + beliefs, society + culture, things to think about

caution, contains:

precious metal rules

So I’m reading through this manga ‘IS‘ about intersex people – I can’t imagine what it’d be like to go through that, but something kind of hit me while reading it: status quo advocates that you observe the world around you and change yourself to fit in; but it’s far better to observe yourself and then change the world around you until you fit.

“Easy for you to say,” mutters that voice in the back of my head, “as an affluent white male, whose only legitimate claim to minority status is becoming more accepted every day. You’ve got it easy.”

Sometimes I wish I didn’t know anything about privilege – these days most of my second-guessing comes from thoughts along those lines. It’s a good sign, of course; if I understand myself to the point where my subconscious / unconscious feelings are the only things left unmapped, I’m probably doing pretty good.

I guess that still leaves me with the question: is it easy for me, as a gay guy, to say that rather than changing yourself to make the world more comfortable with you, you should change the world so you feel more comfortable? Does that even require any effort on my part?

Probably the more pertinent question is: does it matter whether it’s easy or not – is it right? Is that cop-out reasoning? It seems absolutist, doesn’t it?

If survival is the tantamount biological imperative, what’s the social equivalent? Is social ‘survival’ more important than any of my ideals?

Practical answer must be ‘yes,’ right? The practical answer is that you do what you can, for as long as you can. That’s got an appealing mix of resignation and pride, doesn’t it?

This probably all requires some more thought on my part. I’m not sure how deeply I want to delve into all this at the moment.

date: February 8th, 2012

posted under: matt's life

caution, contains:

killing time while waiting for the other shoe to drop

oh hey there mortality blog.

things have been going awfully well lately. work is good, which means I have enough money to do whatever I want – which is great, obviously. and while I’m doing whatever I want, I’m not even being completely lazy about it – I’m being productive, I’m getting things done, there are plans not only put into motion but followed through on.

which of course makes me a little suspicious. maybe things are going… too well. what’s the catch? how long do I have to wait for the results to come back?

I don’t think I’ll ever reach a point in my life where I’ll be able to live without anticipating that happening. I don’t even think that’s a reasonable thing to wish for. It’s completely unrealistic. I don’t think I’d ever even considered it before this second.

naturally, the tradeoff is literally to die for. oh hey look at that reference I just made.

so if this is the last year of my life (2012, might be, right? well okay no, but if it is) I’m actually pretty okay with where things are headed. I don’t even know if I have any interest in putting forth the effort necessary to make my mark in history – knowing that I’m making a mark in my immediate surrounds and close friends’ and family’s lives is kind of enough for me. that’s probably a lack of something, but it seems like the sort of thing that characterizes matt lohkamp, doesn’t it? this is good enough.

so yeah. it’ll be what, another 3 months before the next post? hold out for that, ladies and gentlemen.

… hey, ps – interesting thing, I have a few more secrets packed into my head than I did this time last year, don’t I? some of my own, some of other people’s. it’s kind of a new sensation, since I generally try to avoid situations where that happens, and yet here we are. I don’t even think it’s a bad thing, just a different thing.

date: November 29th, 2011

posted under: matt's life, observations + conclusions + beliefs, things to think about

caution, contains: , , , ,

this has always been the title of this post

Over the years I’ve liked the concept of ‘belief’ less and less. Implications of religious belief in particular notwithstanding (another thing I’ve come to like less and less) I’m bothered by the idea that anyone would make decisions based not on the world as it is, but on the world as they see it. Which is likely more than a little hypocritical on my part, given what I’m ostensibly fated to write next: I’m almost certain I believe in Hard Determinism.

This isn’t predestination, it’s causal determinism, and it directly opposes the existence of free will. It probably also contradicts quantum stuff, though I’ve got to admit I’m not by any means well-versed in that realm. Here’s what I know:

The substructure of the universe regresses infinitely towards smaller and smaller components. Behind atoms we find electrons, and behind electrons quarks. Each layer unraveled reveals new secrets, but also new mysteries.

- Academician Prokhor Zakharov, “For I Have Tasted the Fruit” (Alpha Centauri, 1999)

So far as I know, this is true. Bigger things are made of smaller things – for that matter, big things are smaller things. I’m me, I’m human, I’m made of cells, which are made of chains of molecules, which are made of atoms stuck together, which are made of all sorts of other stuff – somehow all that stuff sticking together makes me, such as I am.

Now let’s think about pool tables.

A ball in motion on a pool table collides with another ball. The event involves well-known properties of matter, expressed in immaculate mathematical equations. Velocity of moving ball impacts stationary ball, transfers momentum, is left to come to rest while other ball moves in a trajectory determined by first ball’s motion. Every time ball A hits ball B, with those parameters in place, the same effect will result. There isn’t any uncertainty about it. It’d be silly to ‘believe’ that something else would occur. For another relevant quote:

Science replaces private prejudice with public, verifiable evidence.

― Richard Dawkins

Public verifiable evidence is simple enough to acquire in the case of our pool table – set up a robotic arm, place the balls precisely on the table, line up the shot in exactly the same way, and you’ll see the same thing happen over and over again. That’s science. It’s repeatable, it’s predictable, everything is accounted for.

I remember playing the ‘why’ game when I was a kid – keep repeating ‘why’ whenever an adult gives you an explanation, forcing them to delve ever deeper into progressively elementary explanations until they give up in frustration and invoke the ever-popular: ‘just because.’ That’s when the kid wins – when the adult has to admit they don’t know everything, which is of course a childish thing to feel the need to prove. However, it’s relevant to this topic, because it brings up an interesting question – what if the adult didn’t run out of explanations? We could ride that spiral of causality down into infinity.

But the implications. The pool balls always move the same way. Behind each effect we find a cause, and what caused that cause, and what caused that cause, and so on. Every event was precipitated by the conditions that heralded it. This isn’t predestination, as far as I can tell, in fact it can’t be, because god himself would be caught in the line of causes and effects.

This conclusion might sound hauntingly religious, though: everything happens for a reason, everything is fated to happen, everyone has a destiny, reality itself is a self-fulfilling prophecy. But I can’t see it any other way – my very impulse to sit down and write this was itself the product of causes so complex that I can’t conceive them, but their existence seems nearly undeniable. I can’t trace the exact sequence of shots in my own personal game of pool that’s led me to this point, but I know they’re there for me and my 4-dimensional experiences just as they’re there for the pool table and its 2-(maybe 3 if you’re feeing generous)-dimensional outcomes. All effects have causes, proceeded by effects, proceeded by causes, ad infinitum.

This has implications, of course. First of all, free will becomes an illusion. We can’t choose, because the factors that influence our choice are quantifiable, even if we don’t currently posses the means to do so. In our ignorance, we’ve taken inevitability and called it intention, ascribing choice where none exists. Which is of course a lie, because we were never capable of choosing what to call it in the first place.

While this might be the truth, I’ve got to admit that the conclusions I draw from it are somewhat of a cop-out, because it doesn’t change things for us. Morality is obviously completely invalid, as it requires free-will to assign responsibility to people for the choices they make. Try this: If I murder someone, I deserve to be murdered. In reality, if I murder someone I never had a choice; my substructure of the universe was always destined to interact with their substructure of the universe in such a way that the collection of tiny element known on our macro level as human life would cease to exist in that form – e.g. I would kill them. I was always going to kill them. So why punish me for killing them? The answer is so easy that it feels like cheating – because I was always going to be punished.

It sounds childish – in response to repeated ‘why’s, we’re simply replying, “because.” But it’s the right answer. It might not be a particularly useful answer, I suppose, but nothing else seems to make sense to me.

technology makes life too easy

So - Letter From Paris: 28 Days (Without the Internet) by Beth Arnold, in a nutshell:

…this Thursday, Sept. 15, I leave Paris for a remote Greek island. There I’ll submit myself to basic rehab’s 28 days of cleansing from my addiction, of giving my brain and body a much-needed rest. No Googling. No Social Media. No email on any device at all. This exchange of my normal, toxic element for a healthy new natural environment is designed to bring me back into a more direct and complete relationship with myself. I will meditate and exercise every day. I will look for whole and organic foods in order to cook healthy meals. My reading sources will only be in print. If I communicate with someone, I will have to speak with them by telephone. No texting, no Instant Messaging. I will return my life to a human pace.

I read stuff like this and it’s hard for me to see anything but technophobia / naturalistic fallacy, double standards, hypocrisy, and whatever you call reverse chronological snobbery (oh man I love having an excuse to use that term.) Somehow she thinks there’s something different about this era’s technological advancements as opposed to the others, to wit:

unless she’s walking / riding horseback to that island from france (doubtful) she’s going to be taking planes and boats to get there – a few hours on a plane – is that living life at “a human pace?”

her ‘reading sources only in print’ are directly enabled by the web of technology she seems so eager to escape – from inception to production to distribution, everything is streamlined by technology. she’s okay with this, of course, because otherwise she’d have to wait for everything to be done by hand, or else be satisfied with just whatever people are talking about.

and the telephone? really? so back in the good old days they just talked on the telephone instead of this newfangled textin’ and emailin’ – and you know what they were saying a century ago? back in the good old days folks just talked to eachother, or wrote out letters by hand. every era has had thoughts about how things are too easy these days, and back in the good old days everything was more difficult, and they were somehow better off for the inconvenience.

people who think this way annoy me. we’ve got all this cool stuff, which can be used to make our lives so much easier, more comfortable, and enjoyable, and they’re not happy. oh but now things are too easy, they whine. if I were into ad hominems I’d snidely suggest that the problem is with her, not with everyone else, and not with technology. memory serves up ‘anecdotal evidence,’ another relevant relic from college argumentation and research class.

ultimately I see this article as her failing to learn from cypher’s mistake (though I love the irony of cypher eschewing the physical in favour of the virtual, while Beth is doing the opposite.) maybe she’ll really experience “…the emotional, physical, and spiritual journey of our time … the journey from the Internet back to the inner self,” but the fact that she has managed to somehow ‘lose herself’ to the convenience of modern technology makes me question how solid her sense of self was to begin with, and if anything reflects poorly on her own character, not the technology; and I remain unconvinced that this is “the journey that millions of people feel in their hearts they need to take, but haven’t yet been shown the way,” rather than a journey that she feels in her heart she needs to take.