amanda_lodden: (Default)
Friday's note about assumptions was supposed to be a two-parter, but I got distracted by a massive backache and just didn't feel like writing anything at all (I still don't, but after a while I get bored with sitting around and whining).

An assumption is really just a conclusion we come to based on our prior experiences. We all do it, all the time. You have to, because there's no way you could process and research every piece of scant information that comes your way. Just imagine what it would take to drive to the grocery store-- you'd have to make well-informed decisions about every single car on the road, without proceeding until you know FOR CERTAIN what they're going to do. It's much easier to assume that the other cars do not want to pull into your driveway, that they'll continue going when they have the right of way, that they will stop at stop signs and red lights, and that they will signal if they intend to do something other than go straight.

Whoops. There's a problem in our assumptions right there, isn't there? How many times have you seen someone turn or merge without signaling? I'm guessing you've seen it a lot, a guess I make based on my own past experiences with people not signaling and with people complaining about people not signaling. So we make a complicated set of assumptions about people who are slowing down or who have moved into a right-turn-only lane, to cope with our past experiences teaching us that not everyone will continue to go forward.

Those past experiences don't even have to be our own. We tell our children stories about kids who were abducted by strangers, though we were never abducted ourselves. We read news stories and internalize them, subtly changing our behavior because of them. Have you ever had your house or car broken into? If you answered no: do you lock your doors anyway?

It's not a bad thing to learn from others. You can't possibly make every mistake there is to be made all by yourself, and some mistakes are fatal, so you'd have to choose only one of those mistakes to make. And then at the end of it, you'd still be dead. All in all, it's probably better to make some assumptions based on things that have happened to other people.

Let's turn our attention to a recent media debacle: Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Gates is a Harvard professor who was arrested, either for breaking into his own home, for being obnoxious, or for being black, depending on who you ask. By now, you know how to use search engines[*] for yourself, and searching for "Henry Louis Gates Jr" will give you plenty of results. Plus, I don't really care about the facts of the case, as I plan to speculate wildly on it and then use my speculation to point out alternate possibilities and places where various people made assumptions that may or may not have been true. Thus, I'm only going to use the police report itself and my own opinions and speculations.

Should I point out one more time that these are my own speculations, about something I did not witness firsthand, or have I already said it enough to get the message that this is my wild guess, based on nothing but my own speculations, which are built on my own assumptions? Should I mention that I don't know a damned thing about Gates except what I've read on the web, and that I don't much care if my assumptions are right or wrong so much as I care whether or not I can make my point about assumptions?

Seriously. I don't want responses about Gates's case. I don't care.

Now then, about Gates.

He was arrested because someone called in a report of a possible break-in. Already, we're working on secondhand information, because the cop himself didn't see anything that made him suspicious of a break-in. Here's our first and second assumption: the cop had to assume that the caller really did see something. The caller had to assume that what she saw was suspicious.

Neither of these are bad things. By the accounts, what the witness saw was a man who took an inordinately long time fooling around with the door to a house, and then wedging his shoulder against the door as if to force entry. I know that if I saw the same thing, I'd call the police, and that if someone were to see a person doing that to my front door, I'd want them to call the police. I'd want the police to take them seriously, and to come out and investigate.

As it turns out, the witness's assumption was wrong. The man fooling with the lock and then pushing hard against the door was not breaking and entering, but was the homeowner having trouble with his key.

Incorrect assumptions CAN be sorted out civilly. The officer might have calmly asked to see Gate's ID. Gates might have calmly handed over his ID, and politely inquired why the officer wanted to see it. The officer might have calmly explained that a witness called in a report, and the police department is obligated to check the situation out when a witness calls in a report, even if the report is based on false assumptions. Gates might have tempered his annoyance over someone calling in a report with a realization that having to force your own door open does look a little suspicious.

That didn't happen. Exactly where it failed to happen is up for debate. According to the police report, Gates hit the roof as soon as the police officer identified himself. However, it's worth noting that the police report is written by the police officer, who has a vested interest in not writing reports that make him look like an asshole, and it was written after the incident was over rather than as it was happening, which means it is based in part on the officer's recollection of his behavior.

Based on what I know (from past experiences of my own, from past experiences of others, and from stories read/watched/forced down my throat-- never assume that fiction doesn't have a say in your opinions), police officers who are investigating a crime walk into the situation assuming that everyone is guilty. It's all well and good that we take an "innocent until proven guilty" stance, but that applies to punishment, not to suspicion. It's the police officer's job to figure out what's going on and whether anyone is committing a crime, and they can't do that if they walk in assuming everyone present is just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Building on that assumption means that I assume that the police officer went in demanding to know who Gates was and what business he had in that house.

On the flip side, I assume that Gates wasn't having the best of days, based on the mere fact that he had to force his way into his own home. The door sticking might not be that big of a deal on the face of it, but I'm a homeowner, and I know that nearly every time I encounter something wrong with my house, my reaction is along the lines of "Damn it, another thing that needs to be fixed." I also know that my reaction gets stronger if it's something that has happened often, but intermittently (like a door sticking only on humid days)-- if it's not constant, it's got a lower chance of being fixed right away, so when it happens again it serves as a fresh reminder of YetAnotherThingThatMustBeDone(tm). So I can sympathize with Gates a little, snapping at a police officer who is accusing him of doing something wrong, when he's not actually doing anything wrong and is already having a bad day.

But here's the question: which one of them played the race card first? From the way this has escalated, it's easy to assume that the other followed suit at some point, but... was it as the police report claims, that Gates immediately assumed he was being targeted because of his race rather than his behavior? Or did the police officer react more strongly to the presence of a black man than he has in similar situations with white suspects? Has the police officer ever investigated a burglary before? Maybe he was recently taken off a desk job and was nervous over being a first-responder in a potentially hostile situation.

We don't know. We don't know if Gates has been targeted because of his race in the past (which would reinforce his assumptions that others will target him because of his race in the future). We don't know if the arresting officer is actually racist; there's plenty of evidence to suggest that he might not be.

We may not know, but that hasn't stopped bloggers from citing racism in Gates' arrest. It hasn't stopped Gates' colleagues from openly wondering if the same thing would have happened if Gates had been white. It hasn't stopped political officials from commenting on it, and it hasn't stopped bloggers from reacting to the comments from the political officials. It hasn't stopped friends of mine from condemning the arresting officer for arresting Gates for B&E-- even though what Gates was actually arrested for was disorderly conduct, after shouting at the police officer about how racist the officer was. Maybe Gates accused the officer unfairly. Maybe he didn't. Maybe Gates' accusations weren't meant for the officer at all, but rather for the witness. Could it have been that the witness was racist, and called in her report just because Gates was black?

What assumptions have you made about Gates, now that we're this far into the discussion? What assumptions have you made about me? What assumptions do you think I've made about Gates? What assumptions do you think I've made about you?

More importantly: what assumptions do you make, day in and day out, about the people you interact with? Do you assume that they're there to annoy and harass you, or do you assume that they're there to protect you? Do you assume they have your interests at heart, or do you assume that they care only for their own interests? No matter what you assume, you could be wrong.


* I'd have said "Google" here instead, but I know that a certain Microsoft employee could have pointed out that you could just as easily use "Bing". I don't really care one way or the other. I like Google, but I'm not going to push my opinion on others.
amanda_lodden: (Default)
Friday's note about assumptions was supposed to be a two-parter, but I got distracted by a massive backache and just didn't feel like writing anything at all (I still don't, but after a while I get bored with sitting around and whining).

An assumption is really just a conclusion we come to based on our prior experiences. We all do it, all the time. You have to, because there's no way you could process and research every piece of scant information that comes your way. Just imagine what it would take to drive to the grocery store-- you'd have to make well-informed decisions about every single car on the road, without proceeding until you know FOR CERTAIN what they're going to do. It's much easier to assume that the other cars do not want to pull into your driveway, that they'll continue going when they have the right of way, that they will stop at stop signs and red lights, and that they will signal if they intend to do something other than go straight.

Whoops. There's a problem in our assumptions right there, isn't there? How many times have you seen someone turn or merge without signaling? I'm guessing you've seen it a lot, a guess I make based on my own past experiences with people not signaling and with people complaining about people not signaling. So we make a complicated set of assumptions about people who are slowing down or who have moved into a right-turn-only lane, to cope with our past experiences teaching us that not everyone will continue to go forward.

Those past experiences don't even have to be our own. We tell our children stories about kids who were abducted by strangers, though we were never abducted ourselves. We read news stories and internalize them, subtly changing our behavior because of them. Have you ever had your house or car broken into? If you answered no: do you lock your doors anyway?

It's not a bad thing to learn from others. You can't possibly make every mistake there is to be made all by yourself, and some mistakes are fatal, so you'd have to choose only one of those mistakes to make. And then at the end of it, you'd still be dead. All in all, it's probably better to make some assumptions based on things that have happened to other people.

Let's turn our attention to a recent media debacle: Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Gates is a Harvard professor who was arrested, either for breaking into his own home, for being obnoxious, or for being black, depending on who you ask. By now, you know how to use search engines[*] for yourself, and searching for "Henry Louis Gates Jr" will give you plenty of results. Plus, I don't really care about the facts of the case, as I plan to speculate wildly on it and then use my speculation to point out alternate possibilities and places where various people made assumptions that may or may not have been true. Thus, I'm only going to use the police report itself and my own opinions and speculations.

Should I point out one more time that these are my own speculations, about something I did not witness firsthand, or have I already said it enough to get the message that this is my wild guess, based on nothing but my own speculations, which are built on my own assumptions? Should I mention that I don't know a damned thing about Gates except what I've read on the web, and that I don't much care if my assumptions are right or wrong so much as I care whether or not I can make my point about assumptions?

Seriously. I don't want responses about Gates's case. I don't care.

Now then, about Gates.

He was arrested because someone called in a report of a possible break-in. Already, we're working on secondhand information, because the cop himself didn't see anything that made him suspicious of a break-in. Here's our first and second assumption: the cop had to assume that the caller really did see something. The caller had to assume that what she saw was suspicious.

Neither of these are bad things. By the accounts, what the witness saw was a man who took an inordinately long time fooling around with the door to a house, and then wedging his shoulder against the door as if to force entry. I know that if I saw the same thing, I'd call the police, and that if someone were to see a person doing that to my front door, I'd want them to call the police. I'd want the police to take them seriously, and to come out and investigate.

As it turns out, the witness's assumption was wrong. The man fooling with the lock and then pushing hard against the door was not breaking and entering, but was the homeowner having trouble with his key.

Incorrect assumptions CAN be sorted out civilly. The officer might have calmly asked to see Gate's ID. Gates might have calmly handed over his ID, and politely inquired why the officer wanted to see it. The officer might have calmly explained that a witness called in a report, and the police department is obligated to check the situation out when a witness calls in a report, even if the report is based on false assumptions. Gates might have tempered his annoyance over someone calling in a report with a realization that having to force your own door open does look a little suspicious.

That didn't happen. Exactly where it failed to happen is up for debate. According to the police report, Gates hit the roof as soon as the police officer identified himself. However, it's worth noting that the police report is written by the police officer, who has a vested interest in not writing reports that make him look like an asshole, and it was written after the incident was over rather than as it was happening, which means it is based in part on the officer's recollection of his behavior.

Based on what I know (from past experiences of my own, from past experiences of others, and from stories read/watched/forced down my throat-- never assume that fiction doesn't have a say in your opinions), police officers who are investigating a crime walk into the situation assuming that everyone is guilty. It's all well and good that we take an "innocent until proven guilty" stance, but that applies to punishment, not to suspicion. It's the police officer's job to figure out what's going on and whether anyone is committing a crime, and they can't do that if they walk in assuming everyone present is just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Building on that assumption means that I assume that the police officer went in demanding to know who Gates was and what business he had in that house.

On the flip side, I assume that Gates wasn't having the best of days, based on the mere fact that he had to force his way into his own home. The door sticking might not be that big of a deal on the face of it, but I'm a homeowner, and I know that nearly every time I encounter something wrong with my house, my reaction is along the lines of "Damn it, another thing that needs to be fixed." I also know that my reaction gets stronger if it's something that has happened often, but intermittently (like a door sticking only on humid days)-- if it's not constant, it's got a lower chance of being fixed right away, so when it happens again it serves as a fresh reminder of YetAnotherThingThatMustBeDone(tm). So I can sympathize with Gates a little, snapping at a police officer who is accusing him of doing something wrong, when he's not actually doing anything wrong and is already having a bad day.

But here's the question: which one of them played the race card first? From the way this has escalated, it's easy to assume that the other followed suit at some point, but... was it as the police report claims, that Gates immediately assumed he was being targeted because of his race rather than his behavior? Or did the police officer react more strongly to the presence of a black man than he has in similar situations with white suspects? Has the police officer ever investigated a burglary before? Maybe he was recently taken off a desk job and was nervous over being a first-responder in a potentially hostile situation.

We don't know. We don't know if Gates has been targeted because of his race in the past (which would reinforce his assumptions that others will target him because of his race in the future). We don't know if the arresting officer is actually racist; there's plenty of evidence to suggest that he might not be.

We may not know, but that hasn't stopped bloggers from citing racism in Gates' arrest. It hasn't stopped Gates' colleagues from openly wondering if the same thing would have happened if Gates had been white. It hasn't stopped political officials from commenting on it, and it hasn't stopped bloggers from reacting to the comments from the political officials. It hasn't stopped friends of mine from condemning the arresting officer for arresting Gates for B&E-- even though what Gates was actually arrested for was disorderly conduct, after shouting at the police officer about how racist the officer was. Maybe Gates accused the officer unfairly. Maybe he didn't. Maybe Gates' accusations weren't meant for the officer at all, but rather for the witness. Could it have been that the witness was racist, and called in her report just because Gates was black?

What assumptions have you made about Gates, now that we're this far into the discussion? What assumptions have you made about me? What assumptions do you think I've made about Gates? What assumptions do you think I've made about you?

More importantly: what assumptions do you make, day in and day out, about the people you interact with? Do you assume that they're there to annoy and harass you, or do you assume that they're there to protect you? Do you assume they have your interests at heart, or do you assume that they care only for their own interests? No matter what you assume, you could be wrong.


* I'd have said "Google" here instead, but I know that a certain Microsoft employee could have pointed out that you could just as easily use "Bing". I don't really care one way or the other. I like Google, but I'm not going to push my opinion on others.
amanda_lodden: (Hammer Time)
I bet you thought that entry about badges was a stand-alone one, didn't you?

In fact, I brought it up because it's a nice lead-in to the next thing I wanted to talk about. I feel obligated to warn potential readers that I have a stack of these sorts of posts queuing up, each one dependent upon a point made in the prior one. If you're going to run away, best to do it early and save yourself some rambling.

City of Heroes has badges. City of Heroes has a LOT of badges, in fact (688 at last count, not including the ones only available to villains). The problem is, some of those badges are for being logged in at the right time (notably, for each anniversary of the game's launch). It's physically impossible for me to ever get the first-anniversary badge, because I didn't start playing until a few months after that. My oldest character, and coincidentally my favorite, is a defender-- which makes it within the realm of possibility to get the healing badges, but very difficult to get a lot of the others. And for the sake of my sanity, I have made a firm rule that ONLY my main character will be going after badges. 688 is hard enough. 688 times roughly 12 characters is more than a lifetime.

So, I started looking for loopholes. John has an account on CoH as well, which he very rarely uses. To get those "kill a player-controlled villain" badges, I could either enter the player-vs-player areas with a character not terribly suited for PvP combat, controlled by a player not terribly suited for PvP combat (namely, me) and hope for the best... or I could create a villain on John's account, and then have it docilely stand around while my main character killed it with excruciating slowness.

Guess which I picked? I also have characters created for the express purpose of standing around getting hit while my main character heals them (usually left running overnight while I go to sleep), and for the express purpose of teaming with my main character and going off to run missions that she can't do solo.

I've done similar things with other games. I'm addicted to Mafia Wars on Facebook, which has "collections". You can only play so much at a time... on one account. I started the second account not because of the collections but because the size of one's mafia makes a big difference in how long one survives in fights. The way most people get around it is to join groups of other Mafia Warsplayers, but adding people to your mafia requires adding them as a friend on FB, and I use FB to keep up with other, actual friends. So I started the second FB account with the intent of moving my Mafia Wars playing to that account, where I could add people as friends willy-nilly without having it affect my ability to keep up with people I care about. But then I discovered that two accounts playing means twice as much collecting! (You can gift items back and forth; if I had to worry about getting two sets of items I wouldn't bother). I ended up hacking into John's account and playing MW as him as well (seriously, sweetheart, better passwords are not your enemy). [This will become important in later posts, as one of the people John has as a FB friend is heavily involved in state politics, and often (by which I mean pretty much always) holds opinions opposite to my own. Saul's updates, and the comments from his supporters, scare me.]

Feel free to point and laugh at me, I'll wait. Feel free to arrange an intervention, I'll do my best to justify it. But here's the thing:

I'm not alone.

There is ALWAYS someone who looks at a system and finds ways around it. You know who they are:


It's the person who goes to the grocery store and stocks up on the "limit 2 per person" loss-leader items by purchasing up to the limit, taking that set out to the car, and then coming back to do it again with a different cashier.

It's the person who finagles disability payments out of a minor injury.

It's the person who obtains controlled substances by complaining of pain to multiple doctors.

It's the person who knows they've gone too far into debt to sustain their lifestyle, and opts to milk every dime they can out of their credit cards before declaring bankruptcy.

It's the major manufacturing company that bans writing down problems.


Wait, what's that last one?

My addiction to badges, achievements and virtual collectibles is laughable, in the grand scheme of things. But a friend of mine who works for that major manufacturing company told me of a new policy at work that has me downright frightened: since people can get hurt if there are flaws in their product, and hurt people can sue, there is to be no paper trail documenting ANY knowledge of flaws, suspected flaws, or potential problems. If you have a concern about a quality-control or engineering aspect, you are to go to your manager and tell them verbally. Putting it in writing is grounds for termination. (What your manager is supposed to do with it is unknown.)

So, the system that's in place to ensure culpability and responsibility is being gamed. "We're legally required to keep all documentation, including electronic documentation? Fine, then we'll make sure that there's nothing damning in the documentation. Then later, when we're sued, your auditors can pore over our documents all they like, but they won't find any evidence that we knew about the problem beforehand."

Every system is put into place for a reason. The difference in whether a loophole is benign or not is in whether you're subverting the intent behind putting the system into place. For badge-collecting in City of Heroes, the developers end up getting two subscription fees, so they don't really care. It's not a violation of their Terms of Service in the slightest. There is no downside to other players if I have more badges, nor does it make my character much more powerful (and thus unbalancing). For Mafia Wars, some of the limits are about resource management: each player takes a certain amount of bandwidth, a certain amount of CPU time, etc, and those resources cost the developers money that they don't recoup from the free game. You can increase your play-time by paying for "Godfather points", which I have done-- not out of desperation to play more but out of a desire to support a game that I enjoy. (And if I could pay for the collection items that I am missing, I would do so. Happily.) For the rest...

The question is always who you hurt with your actions, regardless of whether "the rules" allow for your actions or not.
amanda_lodden: (Hammer Time)
I bet you thought that entry about badges was a stand-alone one, didn't you?

In fact, I brought it up because it's a nice lead-in to the next thing I wanted to talk about. I feel obligated to warn potential readers that I have a stack of these sorts of posts queuing up, each one dependent upon a point made in the prior one. If you're going to run away, best to do it early and save yourself some rambling.

City of Heroes has badges. City of Heroes has a LOT of badges, in fact (688 at last count, not including the ones only available to villains). The problem is, some of those badges are for being logged in at the right time (notably, for each anniversary of the game's launch). It's physically impossible for me to ever get the first-anniversary badge, because I didn't start playing until a few months after that. My oldest character, and coincidentally my favorite, is a defender-- which makes it within the realm of possibility to get the healing badges, but very difficult to get a lot of the others. And for the sake of my sanity, I have made a firm rule that ONLY my main character will be going after badges. 688 is hard enough. 688 times roughly 12 characters is more than a lifetime.

So, I started looking for loopholes. John has an account on CoH as well, which he very rarely uses. To get those "kill a player-controlled villain" badges, I could either enter the player-vs-player areas with a character not terribly suited for PvP combat, controlled by a player not terribly suited for PvP combat (namely, me) and hope for the best... or I could create a villain on John's account, and then have it docilely stand around while my main character killed it with excruciating slowness.

Guess which I picked? I also have characters created for the express purpose of standing around getting hit while my main character heals them (usually left running overnight while I go to sleep), and for the express purpose of teaming with my main character and going off to run missions that she can't do solo.

I've done similar things with other games. I'm addicted to Mafia Wars on Facebook, which has "collections". You can only play so much at a time... on one account. I started the second account not because of the collections but because the size of one's mafia makes a big difference in how long one survives in fights. The way most people get around it is to join groups of other Mafia Warsplayers, but adding people to your mafia requires adding them as a friend on FB, and I use FB to keep up with other, actual friends. So I started the second FB account with the intent of moving my Mafia Wars playing to that account, where I could add people as friends willy-nilly without having it affect my ability to keep up with people I care about. But then I discovered that two accounts playing means twice as much collecting! (You can gift items back and forth; if I had to worry about getting two sets of items I wouldn't bother). I ended up hacking into John's account and playing MW as him as well (seriously, sweetheart, better passwords are not your enemy). [This will become important in later posts, as one of the people John has as a FB friend is heavily involved in state politics, and often (by which I mean pretty much always) holds opinions opposite to my own. Saul's updates, and the comments from his supporters, scare me.]

Feel free to point and laugh at me, I'll wait. Feel free to arrange an intervention, I'll do my best to justify it. But here's the thing:

I'm not alone.

There is ALWAYS someone who looks at a system and finds ways around it. You know who they are:


It's the person who goes to the grocery store and stocks up on the "limit 2 per person" loss-leader items by purchasing up to the limit, taking that set out to the car, and then coming back to do it again with a different cashier.

It's the person who finagles disability payments out of a minor injury.

It's the person who obtains controlled substances by complaining of pain to multiple doctors.

It's the person who knows they've gone too far into debt to sustain their lifestyle, and opts to milk every dime they can out of their credit cards before declaring bankruptcy.

It's the major manufacturing company that bans writing down problems.


Wait, what's that last one?

My addiction to badges, achievements and virtual collectibles is laughable, in the grand scheme of things. But a friend of mine who works for that major manufacturing company told me of a new policy at work that has me downright frightened: since people can get hurt if there are flaws in their product, and hurt people can sue, there is to be no paper trail documenting ANY knowledge of flaws, suspected flaws, or potential problems. If you have a concern about a quality-control or engineering aspect, you are to go to your manager and tell them verbally. Putting it in writing is grounds for termination. (What your manager is supposed to do with it is unknown.)

So, the system that's in place to ensure culpability and responsibility is being gamed. "We're legally required to keep all documentation, including electronic documentation? Fine, then we'll make sure that there's nothing damning in the documentation. Then later, when we're sued, your auditors can pore over our documents all they like, but they won't find any evidence that we knew about the problem beforehand."

Every system is put into place for a reason. The difference in whether a loophole is benign or not is in whether you're subverting the intent behind putting the system into place. For badge-collecting in City of Heroes, the developers end up getting two subscription fees, so they don't really care. It's not a violation of their Terms of Service in the slightest. There is no downside to other players if I have more badges, nor does it make my character much more powerful (and thus unbalancing). For Mafia Wars, some of the limits are about resource management: each player takes a certain amount of bandwidth, a certain amount of CPU time, etc, and those resources cost the developers money that they don't recoup from the free game. You can increase your play-time by paying for "Godfather points", which I have done-- not out of desperation to play more but out of a desire to support a game that I enjoy. (And if I could pay for the collection items that I am missing, I would do so. Happily.) For the rest...

The question is always who you hurt with your actions, regardless of whether "the rules" allow for your actions or not.

Word meme

Jun. 25th, 2009 07:54 pm
amanda_lodden: (Default)
Recently, friends have started posting a meme that involves asking for words, and getting five words that the person you asked thinks of when they think of you. Variations on the theme are giving that person five words (instead of getting the words from them), etc. You're then supposed to comment on the words that have been used to describe you.

That's all well and good, but it strikes me that I already HAVE a handful of words that have been used to describe me and have stuck with me over time. So instead of asking people for words to describe me so that I can comment on them, I think it's high time I commented on some of the things y'all have already said.

Classy

The night I met my father, my cousin John asked me if I planned to introduce myself. I responded that it would be rude not to. He nodded and said that he figured I wouldn't snub my father because I "had more class than that."

Sometimes I don't, but sometimes when I'm tempted to be overly bitchy, the phrase "I have more class than that" echos through my head, and tips the scales.

Cute
This came up in a conversation in which a friend was going to ask one of his friends about something on my behalf. The specific comment was "it doesn't hurt that you're cute", implying that the friend-of-a-friend would be more inclined to share information because of it.

I'm... I'm... I'm what now? I don't really know what to make of "cute", because it's just not a word I hear relative to myself. I have lots and lots of good qualities, some of which are even physical, but I've been "the fat kid" since I was three. This is the only instance I've ever been called cute without feeling like I was being buttered up for a favor. It made me feel extra-special because it wasn't intended to make me feel special at all.

Open-hearted
I don't save greeting cards as a rule. The exception to that is from when a friend was in a crafting phase and was making hand-made cards. I didn't save it because it was hand-made, but because of what she wrote inside of it: "Happy Birthday to two of the most open-hearted people I know." (It was a joint card for John and I.)



For the record, the point of this is not to beg people for words to describe myself, or to try to sidestep the meme (though, as fair warning, I probably will). It's this: I doubt very much that any of the three people who used those words remember doing so. To them, it was just an offhand comment. But it mattered to me, and continues to matter to me. Chances are, you've said something that touched another person without realizing it.

Words matter, but they matter most often when they don't really matter at all.

Word meme

Jun. 25th, 2009 07:54 pm
amanda_lodden: (Default)
Recently, friends have started posting a meme that involves asking for words, and getting five words that the person you asked thinks of when they think of you. Variations on the theme are giving that person five words (instead of getting the words from them), etc. You're then supposed to comment on the words that have been used to describe you.

That's all well and good, but it strikes me that I already HAVE a handful of words that have been used to describe me and have stuck with me over time. So instead of asking people for words to describe me so that I can comment on them, I think it's high time I commented on some of the things y'all have already said.

Classy

The night I met my father, my cousin John asked me if I planned to introduce myself. I responded that it would be rude not to. He nodded and said that he figured I wouldn't snub my father because I "had more class than that."

Sometimes I don't, but sometimes when I'm tempted to be overly bitchy, the phrase "I have more class than that" echos through my head, and tips the scales.

Cute
This came up in a conversation in which a friend was going to ask one of his friends about something on my behalf. The specific comment was "it doesn't hurt that you're cute", implying that the friend-of-a-friend would be more inclined to share information because of it.

I'm... I'm... I'm what now? I don't really know what to make of "cute", because it's just not a word I hear relative to myself. I have lots and lots of good qualities, some of which are even physical, but I've been "the fat kid" since I was three. This is the only instance I've ever been called cute without feeling like I was being buttered up for a favor. It made me feel extra-special because it wasn't intended to make me feel special at all.

Open-hearted
I don't save greeting cards as a rule. The exception to that is from when a friend was in a crafting phase and was making hand-made cards. I didn't save it because it was hand-made, but because of what she wrote inside of it: "Happy Birthday to two of the most open-hearted people I know." (It was a joint card for John and I.)



For the record, the point of this is not to beg people for words to describe myself, or to try to sidestep the meme (though, as fair warning, I probably will). It's this: I doubt very much that any of the three people who used those words remember doing so. To them, it was just an offhand comment. But it mattered to me, and continues to matter to me. Chances are, you've said something that touched another person without realizing it.

Words matter, but they matter most often when they don't really matter at all.
amanda_lodden: (Default)
Today is a very scattered day. I can't say that I'm happy about that-- since my usual Monday stuff is cancelled for Halloween and we don't get any trick-or-treaters, I was kinda looking forward to hanging around the office tonight and getting stuff done, and thus far the "getting stuff done" part hasn't been happening. Instead, snippets of lots of different, unrelated things keep coming to me. Currently a lot of the snippets are things I'd like to write about before I lose the thought(s). So hopefully writing for a while will calm those demons and let me get back to what I ought to be doing.

The weekend was eventful, and not just for the events. A conversation with Shane sparked the realization that no one tells him about his good qualities. So I did, in a rather lengthy email. I expected the effect it had on him, but I was unprepared for the effect it had on me. Writing it forced me to focus on just Shane for a little bit (although "focus" is probably the wrong word, since I started writing it on Saturday and stopped in order to go on a hayride... with Shane, among other people. It's a little disconcerting to be in the middle of writing how wonderful someone is when they're sitting right next to you. I felt like I ought to just stop writing and SAY it, but there were other people around and I decided it would probably make him feel awkward. Even though the other people probably would have just joined in and come up with more great things about him.) I didn't finish it until Sunday. The thing is, I didn't really finish it, I just ran out of things I could put into words. Most of the strong memories I have are short snapshots of a few seconds or a single conversation (or just a single line out of a conversation), but they wrap up a lot of emotions in them. (This is true of most everyone, not just Shane). I can't even find the words to describe them to myself, much less find enough words to string them together into something coherent.

Afterward I started to think about how little we tell *anyone* how much we like/respect/admire them, and how many people there are who mean more to me than they know. And suddenly I want to write a lot of those letters. (And at the same time, I don't, because I know that many of the people will react to such a letter with suspicion, and I will spend far too much time explaining why I wrote them in the first place. Which just made me realize that I left "trusting" out of the note to Shane. I like that he just accepts my various insanities without making me explain them. And "trustworthy", because I like not having to hide my various insanities from him, too.)

Did I mention scattered? Yeah, just checking.

I'm torn about the previous entry, the letter to the people who live in my house. Right now my house is actually quite clean, since Bill's party didn't destroy it (it could use a good vacuuming, though). And he took the garbage out without having to be nagged. And the dining room table was cleared off again on Sunday (which is very unusual; I thought for sure that I was going to end up doing the usual "throw it all in a box and dump it in Bill's room" next week). So it seems overly bitchy to send it out right now, when most of the points on it have been handled. I've had fleeting rants that would qualify as "Tenth", but I've lost them by the time I got someplace where I could write. I find that frustrating, because I can remember that there WAS a "Tenth", and that means that I know without a doubt that there's more in my life that's bugging me. I just can't put my finger on it.

I ache. I hate fall. My foot hurts too, because I didn't wrap it yesterday. I figured I wouldn't need to, since I was home all day and didn't even run around the house much. Apparently going up and down the stairs for the couple loads of laundry was enough to piss it off. Live and learn.

I'm biting my nails again. I'm not sure why; I actually feel more stable emotionally, physically AND financially than I have in a long time. I didn't start biting them again until after the big financial crises had passed. Little nagging things usually result in one or two fingernails being sacrificed (sometimes repeatedly); right now only three of my nails have escaped the mass slaughter. WTF?

Yesterday was good. I did some coding, and managed to stay focused on it enough that I feel like I made real progress. And it was progress on some of the pages that really need to be done-- I keep wanting to improve some of the pages so that they work better than they do now, but what I really really need to do is get the pages I haven't touched yet into the beta version with the same functionality that they have now, so that I can put the beta version into production and actually USE the pages that I've already made improvements to.

Saturday I came back to B's party after the hayride. I got to see Mia (who has finally gotten to where she can talk about something other than her pregnancy once in a while, thank goodness). Somewhere along the lines someone (and I don't think it was Mia) wondered why people who don't get scared at haunted houses bother to go to them. Damned good question. Personally, I go for the company, though I usually phrase that as "I go to laugh at [insert most-scared-person in our group here]" (in reality, I go to see everyone, not just to laugh, but I don't feel a need to admit that publicly). As a side note, it's interesting to note the differences between Shane's clogging groups-- Friday night there were 7 of us, and we drove mostly-separately to the event, but it seemed like there was more conversation between us all while we were standing in line and going through the attractions. Going out for food afterwards was treated as a given rather than a "should we?", even though more cars means more confusion and planning in order to make it happen. Two more people joined us at the restaurant, adding to the planning headaches, but no one ever thought of not doing it. In contrast, on Saturday 4 of us met up at one person's house and then drove together to pick up the other two (who then drove separately and we followed, which kinda makes me wonder why we didn't just get directions ourselves, but sure). There was conversation while we were standing in line, and I'll assume that the difference in the tone was just me, since I don't dance with the group on Saturday. However, when we were done, we just split up, and the four of us went back to where we met up. Even though we all agreed that the hayride was a lot shorter than we expected, doing something else afterward was never even brought up.

Where was I before the long side note? Oh yeah, the question of why people who don't get scared go to haunted houses. That got me thinking about fear in general, and why certain people don't get scared. At one point Helen described me as "brave", and I know that's very much not the case-- I have plenty of fears, they just don't include people with lots of face paint and entirely too high insurance liabilities. But Saturday I watched one pre-teen girl who screamed at every little thing, and it was pretty obvious that she was scared mostly because she really wanted to be scared.

Some insight was gleaned from a mailing list, where a friend posted this link:
http://www.nytimes.com/2005/10/25/health/psychology/25essa.html (free login required). NY Times takes their articles down after a while, but the gist of it is that people tend to get frightened of far-off diseases, because it's easier to be scared of something that you're unlikely to ever really get than it is to face the things that are already wrong with you. The key paragraphs, in my opinion:

But the avian flu - now there's a health scare a person can sink his teeth into. So scary and yet, somehow, so pleasantly distant. So thrilling, so chilling, and yet, at the same time, so not here, not now, not yet. All in all, a completely satisfying health care fear experience. Unlike his actual illness [established earlier in the article as emphysema, and the patient smokes and refuses to quit].

Scary movies give children nightmares. Scary health news gives adults the extraordinary ability to ignore the immediate in favor of the distant, to escape from the real (and the really scary) into a far easier kind of fear.

So in essence, people seek out scary-but-fake things like haunted houses to escape their real fears. Okay, I can buy that. Except that by that reasoning, I should be screaming my head off at haunted houses. There's gotta be more to it than that.

And that's what got me thinking about the nature of fear. From here on out (or at least until the next side-track; I did mention the "scattered" thing, right?), this is strictly my opinion and not backed up by any sort of scientific fact. But my ego prevents me from couching it all in "in my opinion"s and "I think"s, so I'm stating it as fact anyway.

There are three kinds of fears:

1. Fake fears. Anything that you're afraid of that you know can't really hurt you. There are the "escape" fears, the things you're afraid of so that you can forget what you're *really* afraid of. Haunted houses fall in here. So does anything that might likely happen but the negative effects are easily mitigated-- there's a pretty good chance that at some point in my life my car will be damaged while in a parking lot, but I have insurance so the potential for pain is limited to a little bit of hassle while it gets fixed.

2. Motivating fears. Most of us ultimately go to work because we're afraid of starving to death, or having our house or car re-possessed. Personally, I keep getting out of bed because I'm afraid of having the business go under and having everyone else starve or lose their homes because of my failure. When we're really sick, we go to the doctor in large part because we're afraid it won't get better on its own. These fears are good to have, because they keep us going when we know we ought to but we just don't want to.

3. Crippling fears. These are the fears that prevent you from living your life to the fullest. Motivating fears that are taken to ridiculous extremes become crippling fears-- it's great that you go to work because you're afraid of losing your job, but not so great if you go to work for 18 hours a day every day. Some of them are a variation of "I'm afraid I'll get hurt", and some "I'm afraid I'll get hurt" fears are actually motivating-- you don't step out in front of a bus because you're afraid you'll get hurt, and that's generally a pretty good thing. On the other hand, if you refuse to walk up a well-worn path to a scenic viewpoint with a guard rail because you're afraid you'll fall to your doom, it's crippling-- the likelihood of you actually getting hurt is pretty slim, whereas you're guaranteed to miss out on an awesome view. Many crippling fears boil down to "I'm afraid I'll look like an idiot"-- "I couldn't possibly get up and sing at the karaoke bar, I might sing off-key," or "I can't dance, I don't know the steps," or "Wear white after Labor Day, are you mad?" or the worst of all: "I can't express my opinion, someone might disagree with me."

The thing is, when we're using fake fears to escape from real fears, it's almost always the crippling fears that we're escaping from. And the crippling fears are just as fake-- once you accept that the company your friends are paying good money to in order to jump out of a plane couldn't stay in business if their customers died, skydiving becomes less scary. And who cares what other people think of your singing? The people who love you will love you anyway, and the other people in the bar you'll probably never see again anyway. As Marsha likes to say, "Live outside your box." (Which is why I find it ironic that Marsha was one of the most-scared ones at the haunted house.)

I suspect that had I started going to haunted houses five years ago instead of two, I might have been scared. But in the last couple years I've started to shed a lot of my crippling fears, mostly because I've acquired so many motivating fears that I just can't dredge up the energy to support the crippling ones any more. Sure, I *could* get worked up over how bad my body looks and how I don't want to show it to anyone, but after a while it's just easier to say "Fuck it" and jump in the pool naked. And once you've done it and the world didn't end, it becomes that much easier to say "Fuck it" the next time.

So there ya go, you've gotten my treatise on fear. Don't you feel special now? And now back to our regularly scheduled side-track....

I'm thinking of putting some of my old emails up on livejournal, since I discovered that you can backdate entries. I don't know why, but I feel like some of my best writing has been in email. No, I take that back, I do know why, it's because I don't really write much outside of email. (I've done more paper journal entries as props for live games than I have as actual journal entries. And yes, I do have a deadtree journal-- it has one whole entry in it.) Before the days of blogging, I had various email lists of friends. I still do have one of them, although the number of "journaling" emails dropped substantially after half the people on it got livejournal accounts. I remember back in college we had an informal list (i.e., a bunch of addresses in the Cc field that we all just used "Reply All" on), on which we'd ask questions out of a very nifty book called, rather appropriately, _The Book of Questions_. I got a lot of milage out of that book-- I originally bought it because one of my writing classes required me to keep a journal, and after struggling for a week to make one entry I realized there was no way in hell I was going to turn in a real journal for some stranger to critique. So instead I asked one question from the book, and then answered it as my "journal entry". And when the class was over, I still had the book. The questions were designed to be thought-provoking, and somewhere along the lines some friends and I decided it would be cool to turn it into an email discussion group. I don't have any of those emails any more, and that makes me rather sad because they were far more interesting than the usual "I feel like I ought to send email to keep in touch but I really don't have anything to say" drivel that I tend to get (and, in fairness, send) nowadays.

I should see if I still have that book. It might be interesting to ask some of the questions on livejournal, or if there's actual interest, in another email group.

Where was I? (pause to re-read) Oh yeah, old emails. Anyway, I have thousands of old emails that I need to sort through. Most of them are crap (the upside of keeping a copy of all your sent email is that you have a complete record of everything you sent. The downside is that you have a complete record of everything you sent, including the pointless stuff), but every once in a while I run across something that sparks a memory, or I find particularly touching, or is just really well written, and I want to keep those. But I'm tired of having a bazillion email folders that I can't find anything in. Plus, it was written as an email, which means it was written for an audience (sometimes just an audience of one, but an audience nonetheless). Perhaps it's just my ego, but if I have something that I think was well-written and designed for an audience, it ought to have an audience, dammit. Er, as long as it's not overly personal. There are still limits.
amanda_lodden: (Default)
Today is a very scattered day. I can't say that I'm happy about that-- since my usual Monday stuff is cancelled for Halloween and we don't get any trick-or-treaters, I was kinda looking forward to hanging around the office tonight and getting stuff done, and thus far the "getting stuff done" part hasn't been happening. Instead, snippets of lots of different, unrelated things keep coming to me. Currently a lot of the snippets are things I'd like to write about before I lose the thought(s). So hopefully writing for a while will calm those demons and let me get back to what I ought to be doing.

The weekend was eventful, and not just for the events. A conversation with Shane sparked the realization that no one tells him about his good qualities. So I did, in a rather lengthy email. I expected the effect it had on him, but I was unprepared for the effect it had on me. Writing it forced me to focus on just Shane for a little bit (although "focus" is probably the wrong word, since I started writing it on Saturday and stopped in order to go on a hayride... with Shane, among other people. It's a little disconcerting to be in the middle of writing how wonderful someone is when they're sitting right next to you. I felt like I ought to just stop writing and SAY it, but there were other people around and I decided it would probably make him feel awkward. Even though the other people probably would have just joined in and come up with more great things about him.) I didn't finish it until Sunday. The thing is, I didn't really finish it, I just ran out of things I could put into words. Most of the strong memories I have are short snapshots of a few seconds or a single conversation (or just a single line out of a conversation), but they wrap up a lot of emotions in them. (This is true of most everyone, not just Shane). I can't even find the words to describe them to myself, much less find enough words to string them together into something coherent.

Afterward I started to think about how little we tell *anyone* how much we like/respect/admire them, and how many people there are who mean more to me than they know. And suddenly I want to write a lot of those letters. (And at the same time, I don't, because I know that many of the people will react to such a letter with suspicion, and I will spend far too much time explaining why I wrote them in the first place. Which just made me realize that I left "trusting" out of the note to Shane. I like that he just accepts my various insanities without making me explain them. And "trustworthy", because I like not having to hide my various insanities from him, too.)

Did I mention scattered? Yeah, just checking.

I'm torn about the previous entry, the letter to the people who live in my house. Right now my house is actually quite clean, since Bill's party didn't destroy it (it could use a good vacuuming, though). And he took the garbage out without having to be nagged. And the dining room table was cleared off again on Sunday (which is very unusual; I thought for sure that I was going to end up doing the usual "throw it all in a box and dump it in Bill's room" next week). So it seems overly bitchy to send it out right now, when most of the points on it have been handled. I've had fleeting rants that would qualify as "Tenth", but I've lost them by the time I got someplace where I could write. I find that frustrating, because I can remember that there WAS a "Tenth", and that means that I know without a doubt that there's more in my life that's bugging me. I just can't put my finger on it.

I ache. I hate fall. My foot hurts too, because I didn't wrap it yesterday. I figured I wouldn't need to, since I was home all day and didn't even run around the house much. Apparently going up and down the stairs for the couple loads of laundry was enough to piss it off. Live and learn.

I'm biting my nails again. I'm not sure why; I actually feel more stable emotionally, physically AND financially than I have in a long time. I didn't start biting them again until after the big financial crises had passed. Little nagging things usually result in one or two fingernails being sacrificed (sometimes repeatedly); right now only three of my nails have escaped the mass slaughter. WTF?

Yesterday was good. I did some coding, and managed to stay focused on it enough that I feel like I made real progress. And it was progress on some of the pages that really need to be done-- I keep wanting to improve some of the pages so that they work better than they do now, but what I really really need to do is get the pages I haven't touched yet into the beta version with the same functionality that they have now, so that I can put the beta version into production and actually USE the pages that I've already made improvements to.

Saturday I came back to B's party after the hayride. I got to see Mia (who has finally gotten to where she can talk about something other than her pregnancy once in a while, thank goodness). Somewhere along the lines someone (and I don't think it was Mia) wondered why people who don't get scared at haunted houses bother to go to them. Damned good question. Personally, I go for the company, though I usually phrase that as "I go to laugh at [insert most-scared-person in our group here]" (in reality, I go to see everyone, not just to laugh, but I don't feel a need to admit that publicly). As a side note, it's interesting to note the differences between Shane's clogging groups-- Friday night there were 7 of us, and we drove mostly-separately to the event, but it seemed like there was more conversation between us all while we were standing in line and going through the attractions. Going out for food afterwards was treated as a given rather than a "should we?", even though more cars means more confusion and planning in order to make it happen. Two more people joined us at the restaurant, adding to the planning headaches, but no one ever thought of not doing it. In contrast, on Saturday 4 of us met up at one person's house and then drove together to pick up the other two (who then drove separately and we followed, which kinda makes me wonder why we didn't just get directions ourselves, but sure). There was conversation while we were standing in line, and I'll assume that the difference in the tone was just me, since I don't dance with the group on Saturday. However, when we were done, we just split up, and the four of us went back to where we met up. Even though we all agreed that the hayride was a lot shorter than we expected, doing something else afterward was never even brought up.

Where was I before the long side note? Oh yeah, the question of why people who don't get scared go to haunted houses. That got me thinking about fear in general, and why certain people don't get scared. At one point Helen described me as "brave", and I know that's very much not the case-- I have plenty of fears, they just don't include people with lots of face paint and entirely too high insurance liabilities. But Saturday I watched one pre-teen girl who screamed at every little thing, and it was pretty obvious that she was scared mostly because she really wanted to be scared.

Some insight was gleaned from a mailing list, where a friend posted this link:
http://www.nytimes.com/2005/10/25/health/psychology/25essa.html (free login required). NY Times takes their articles down after a while, but the gist of it is that people tend to get frightened of far-off diseases, because it's easier to be scared of something that you're unlikely to ever really get than it is to face the things that are already wrong with you. The key paragraphs, in my opinion:

But the avian flu - now there's a health scare a person can sink his teeth into. So scary and yet, somehow, so pleasantly distant. So thrilling, so chilling, and yet, at the same time, so not here, not now, not yet. All in all, a completely satisfying health care fear experience. Unlike his actual illness [established earlier in the article as emphysema, and the patient smokes and refuses to quit].

Scary movies give children nightmares. Scary health news gives adults the extraordinary ability to ignore the immediate in favor of the distant, to escape from the real (and the really scary) into a far easier kind of fear.

So in essence, people seek out scary-but-fake things like haunted houses to escape their real fears. Okay, I can buy that. Except that by that reasoning, I should be screaming my head off at haunted houses. There's gotta be more to it than that.

And that's what got me thinking about the nature of fear. From here on out (or at least until the next side-track; I did mention the "scattered" thing, right?), this is strictly my opinion and not backed up by any sort of scientific fact. But my ego prevents me from couching it all in "in my opinion"s and "I think"s, so I'm stating it as fact anyway.

There are three kinds of fears:

1. Fake fears. Anything that you're afraid of that you know can't really hurt you. There are the "escape" fears, the things you're afraid of so that you can forget what you're *really* afraid of. Haunted houses fall in here. So does anything that might likely happen but the negative effects are easily mitigated-- there's a pretty good chance that at some point in my life my car will be damaged while in a parking lot, but I have insurance so the potential for pain is limited to a little bit of hassle while it gets fixed.

2. Motivating fears. Most of us ultimately go to work because we're afraid of starving to death, or having our house or car re-possessed. Personally, I keep getting out of bed because I'm afraid of having the business go under and having everyone else starve or lose their homes because of my failure. When we're really sick, we go to the doctor in large part because we're afraid it won't get better on its own. These fears are good to have, because they keep us going when we know we ought to but we just don't want to.

3. Crippling fears. These are the fears that prevent you from living your life to the fullest. Motivating fears that are taken to ridiculous extremes become crippling fears-- it's great that you go to work because you're afraid of losing your job, but not so great if you go to work for 18 hours a day every day. Some of them are a variation of "I'm afraid I'll get hurt", and some "I'm afraid I'll get hurt" fears are actually motivating-- you don't step out in front of a bus because you're afraid you'll get hurt, and that's generally a pretty good thing. On the other hand, if you refuse to walk up a well-worn path to a scenic viewpoint with a guard rail because you're afraid you'll fall to your doom, it's crippling-- the likelihood of you actually getting hurt is pretty slim, whereas you're guaranteed to miss out on an awesome view. Many crippling fears boil down to "I'm afraid I'll look like an idiot"-- "I couldn't possibly get up and sing at the karaoke bar, I might sing off-key," or "I can't dance, I don't know the steps," or "Wear white after Labor Day, are you mad?" or the worst of all: "I can't express my opinion, someone might disagree with me."

The thing is, when we're using fake fears to escape from real fears, it's almost always the crippling fears that we're escaping from. And the crippling fears are just as fake-- once you accept that the company your friends are paying good money to in order to jump out of a plane couldn't stay in business if their customers died, skydiving becomes less scary. And who cares what other people think of your singing? The people who love you will love you anyway, and the other people in the bar you'll probably never see again anyway. As Marsha likes to say, "Live outside your box." (Which is why I find it ironic that Marsha was one of the most-scared ones at the haunted house.)

I suspect that had I started going to haunted houses five years ago instead of two, I might have been scared. But in the last couple years I've started to shed a lot of my crippling fears, mostly because I've acquired so many motivating fears that I just can't dredge up the energy to support the crippling ones any more. Sure, I *could* get worked up over how bad my body looks and how I don't want to show it to anyone, but after a while it's just easier to say "Fuck it" and jump in the pool naked. And once you've done it and the world didn't end, it becomes that much easier to say "Fuck it" the next time.

So there ya go, you've gotten my treatise on fear. Don't you feel special now? And now back to our regularly scheduled side-track....

I'm thinking of putting some of my old emails up on livejournal, since I discovered that you can backdate entries. I don't know why, but I feel like some of my best writing has been in email. No, I take that back, I do know why, it's because I don't really write much outside of email. (I've done more paper journal entries as props for live games than I have as actual journal entries. And yes, I do have a deadtree journal-- it has one whole entry in it.) Before the days of blogging, I had various email lists of friends. I still do have one of them, although the number of "journaling" emails dropped substantially after half the people on it got livejournal accounts. I remember back in college we had an informal list (i.e., a bunch of addresses in the Cc field that we all just used "Reply All" on), on which we'd ask questions out of a very nifty book called, rather appropriately, _The Book of Questions_. I got a lot of milage out of that book-- I originally bought it because one of my writing classes required me to keep a journal, and after struggling for a week to make one entry I realized there was no way in hell I was going to turn in a real journal for some stranger to critique. So instead I asked one question from the book, and then answered it as my "journal entry". And when the class was over, I still had the book. The questions were designed to be thought-provoking, and somewhere along the lines some friends and I decided it would be cool to turn it into an email discussion group. I don't have any of those emails any more, and that makes me rather sad because they were far more interesting than the usual "I feel like I ought to send email to keep in touch but I really don't have anything to say" drivel that I tend to get (and, in fairness, send) nowadays.

I should see if I still have that book. It might be interesting to ask some of the questions on livejournal, or if there's actual interest, in another email group.

Where was I? (pause to re-read) Oh yeah, old emails. Anyway, I have thousands of old emails that I need to sort through. Most of them are crap (the upside of keeping a copy of all your sent email is that you have a complete record of everything you sent. The downside is that you have a complete record of everything you sent, including the pointless stuff), but every once in a while I run across something that sparks a memory, or I find particularly touching, or is just really well written, and I want to keep those. But I'm tired of having a bazillion email folders that I can't find anything in. Plus, it was written as an email, which means it was written for an audience (sometimes just an audience of one, but an audience nonetheless). Perhaps it's just my ego, but if I have something that I think was well-written and designed for an audience, it ought to have an audience, dammit. Er, as long as it's not overly personal. There are still limits.

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