amanda_lodden: (geek girl)
I am slowly attempting to go through a lot of the digital cruft I've collected and try to answer the question "What did I intend to do with this?". Early skimming indicates that for a fair number of things, the answer is that I had intended to write something about it, or share it, or otherwise put it in a place that others can enjoy or use it as well.

First up: I'm about to delete the email that reminds me about this icon. Before I do that, I should give credit where credit is due by mentioning that I totally stole this icon from [livejournal.com profile] twoofdtm, who has some of the best icons.
amanda_lodden: (geek girl)
I am slowly attempting to go through a lot of the digital cruft I've collected and try to answer the question "What did I intend to do with this?". Early skimming indicates that for a fair number of things, the answer is that I had intended to write something about it, or share it, or otherwise put it in a place that others can enjoy or use it as well.

First up: I'm about to delete the email that reminds me about this icon. Before I do that, I should give credit where credit is due by mentioning that I totally stole this icon from [livejournal.com profile] twoofdtm, who has some of the best icons.
amanda_lodden: (Default)
If there were a decent social-network aggregator that let me get information the way I wanted to get it, I would pay big money for it. Well, not "big" money, in that I wouldn't drop thousands of dollars a month on it, but I'd pay a reasonable monthly fee for it.

When I chose LiveJournal, I did so after testing dozens of blogging sites and discovering that not one of them did exactly what I wanted. LiveJournal came closest to what *I* want. Presumably, the other sites stay in business because they come closest to what other people want.

The problem with this is that any website designed to help people stay in touch and communicate is only as good as the number of people using it. Some of my friends prefer other sites, so I keep up with a couple of Xanga journals and I have a Facebook account and a Plaxo account and probably some others that I've ignored.

That's a lot of places to check. I've dealt with it by ignoring Plaxo entirely (the folks you use the Pulse feature do so through another site, and I get a RSS feed from that), having Xanga send daily emails to me for the journals I read there, and putting Facebook things into a series of RSS feeds and then still having to check it once in a while, because Facebook does not play well with others.

Plus, one of my young cousins claims on Facebook that she doesn't like it much and that MySpace is so much better. At some point, I'm probably going to have to get a MySpace account and figure out how to keep up with *that*, too. I haven't bothered yet because the cousin in question is 13 and every single one of her Facebook status updates has included the phrase "I'm borrrrrrrrrreddddd" with all the extra r's and d's and everything. I do not have high hopes that her MySpace pages have any additional content. But I vaguely recall hearing other people murmuring about their MySpace accounts, and someday the young cousin will grow up and write something with substance, and then there will be one more place for me to try to keep up with.

I'd much rather log into one site once, give it my passwords to all the other sites, and have it look for the things I want, ignore the things I don't (fscking Facebook applications), and put it all in one place for me to look at at my convenience, preferably in a manner where I can delete or mark-as-read from the middle. It's annoying to have to read all of the new entries on my LiveJournal friends page at once because if I skip around I forget which ones are new and which ones aren't. Ditto on status updates, notes, shared links, Xanga entries-- basically, if it stores it in most-recent-first order, it's annoying to me. And I'd rather be able to do that with either specific options or sweeping generalities-- if I add one new friend, I shouldn't have to click on five different things to get their updates too, unless I want their updates to be handled substantially differently from the way everyone else's updates are handled.

Of course, there's the question of how such a site would stay in business, because I do not harbor any illusions about people making such a site out of the kindness of their hearts. I would assume that it would be a business model similar to the social network sites; a free account with a limit on access and supported by advertising, with one or more levels of paid upgrades.

Someone, please, create this site, so I can keep up without spending the entirety of my life doing so.
amanda_lodden: (Default)
If there were a decent social-network aggregator that let me get information the way I wanted to get it, I would pay big money for it. Well, not "big" money, in that I wouldn't drop thousands of dollars a month on it, but I'd pay a reasonable monthly fee for it.

When I chose LiveJournal, I did so after testing dozens of blogging sites and discovering that not one of them did exactly what I wanted. LiveJournal came closest to what *I* want. Presumably, the other sites stay in business because they come closest to what other people want.

The problem with this is that any website designed to help people stay in touch and communicate is only as good as the number of people using it. Some of my friends prefer other sites, so I keep up with a couple of Xanga journals and I have a Facebook account and a Plaxo account and probably some others that I've ignored.

That's a lot of places to check. I've dealt with it by ignoring Plaxo entirely (the folks you use the Pulse feature do so through another site, and I get a RSS feed from that), having Xanga send daily emails to me for the journals I read there, and putting Facebook things into a series of RSS feeds and then still having to check it once in a while, because Facebook does not play well with others.

Plus, one of my young cousins claims on Facebook that she doesn't like it much and that MySpace is so much better. At some point, I'm probably going to have to get a MySpace account and figure out how to keep up with *that*, too. I haven't bothered yet because the cousin in question is 13 and every single one of her Facebook status updates has included the phrase "I'm borrrrrrrrrreddddd" with all the extra r's and d's and everything. I do not have high hopes that her MySpace pages have any additional content. But I vaguely recall hearing other people murmuring about their MySpace accounts, and someday the young cousin will grow up and write something with substance, and then there will be one more place for me to try to keep up with.

I'd much rather log into one site once, give it my passwords to all the other sites, and have it look for the things I want, ignore the things I don't (fscking Facebook applications), and put it all in one place for me to look at at my convenience, preferably in a manner where I can delete or mark-as-read from the middle. It's annoying to have to read all of the new entries on my LiveJournal friends page at once because if I skip around I forget which ones are new and which ones aren't. Ditto on status updates, notes, shared links, Xanga entries-- basically, if it stores it in most-recent-first order, it's annoying to me. And I'd rather be able to do that with either specific options or sweeping generalities-- if I add one new friend, I shouldn't have to click on five different things to get their updates too, unless I want their updates to be handled substantially differently from the way everyone else's updates are handled.

Of course, there's the question of how such a site would stay in business, because I do not harbor any illusions about people making such a site out of the kindness of their hearts. I would assume that it would be a business model similar to the social network sites; a free account with a limit on access and supported by advertising, with one or more levels of paid upgrades.

Someone, please, create this site, so I can keep up without spending the entirety of my life doing so.
amanda_lodden: (Default)
Why are there no blog sites out there that I actually like?

Lots of sites have one or two features that I like, but are missing some major component that I consider critical. My "critical" list includes:

The ability to tag or categorize posts, and then view them by category.

The ability to "subscribe" to a given journal and get emails when something is posted to it. I hate having to remember to check different sites all the time.

The ability to get an email when someone posts a comment on one of my posts.

The ability to get an email when someone posts a comment on someone else's post that I'm interested in. (I.e., the ability to "watch" given topic in someone else's journal.)

The ability to limit who can view certain posts, or certain categories.

LiveJournal comes *so* close. But I despise the way they handle "friends". Why can't I just have a list of my friends, and get emails when some (but not necessarily all) of them post? (If you look at my Friends page, you'll note that a good 75% of the posts are from one person. And while I like her a lot, sometimes it would be nice to be able to find the rest of the posts too.)

I'd happily pay to use a site that had all of the "criticals" covered (LJ wants $20 a year for their premium service, which adds none of the criticals and a bunch of stuff I don't care about in the slightest. I'd pay twice that for a site that did what I wanted.) But I've spent a goodly number of hours looking for one (more time than I care to admit to, really), and it's just not there. The closest is WordPress plus a couple of plugins, but all of the hosting sites that use WordPress don't use plugins. So now I'm looking at the hassle of setting up and maintaining the software. I'm trying to get things OFF my servers, not put more on. And even then-- I have no guarantee that the plugins actually work as expected.

Oh, and one "nice" but not "critical"-- bloxster.net allows you to have multiple journals under one login. I like that; it's like "categories" but on steroids (individual entries can have categories, too. But there's zero mail capability).

Today I am journal-cranky.
amanda_lodden: (Default)
Why are there no blog sites out there that I actually like?

Lots of sites have one or two features that I like, but are missing some major component that I consider critical. My "critical" list includes:

The ability to tag or categorize posts, and then view them by category.

The ability to "subscribe" to a given journal and get emails when something is posted to it. I hate having to remember to check different sites all the time.

The ability to get an email when someone posts a comment on one of my posts.

The ability to get an email when someone posts a comment on someone else's post that I'm interested in. (I.e., the ability to "watch" given topic in someone else's journal.)

The ability to limit who can view certain posts, or certain categories.

LiveJournal comes *so* close. But I despise the way they handle "friends". Why can't I just have a list of my friends, and get emails when some (but not necessarily all) of them post? (If you look at my Friends page, you'll note that a good 75% of the posts are from one person. And while I like her a lot, sometimes it would be nice to be able to find the rest of the posts too.)

I'd happily pay to use a site that had all of the "criticals" covered (LJ wants $20 a year for their premium service, which adds none of the criticals and a bunch of stuff I don't care about in the slightest. I'd pay twice that for a site that did what I wanted.) But I've spent a goodly number of hours looking for one (more time than I care to admit to, really), and it's just not there. The closest is WordPress plus a couple of plugins, but all of the hosting sites that use WordPress don't use plugins. So now I'm looking at the hassle of setting up and maintaining the software. I'm trying to get things OFF my servers, not put more on. And even then-- I have no guarantee that the plugins actually work as expected.

Oh, and one "nice" but not "critical"-- bloxster.net allows you to have multiple journals under one login. I like that; it's like "categories" but on steroids (individual entries can have categories, too. But there's zero mail capability).

Today I am journal-cranky.
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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January 2015

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