Relative Misery: It’s OK to cry if you have no shoes…

I try to keep up on Amanda Palmer’s blog, but in the hustle and bustle of life and all there is to read and enjoy and experience, I’m not wholly consistent. But when a particular post is then recommended by several other people I follow, it hits the “must read” list. Thus was my experience with her latest entry: on recording, marriage, and the problem with first world problems.

In her trademark, ramble-y style of personal anecdotes of the recent past, the far past, the present, and general philosophy, she explores the hidden judgment behind the “first-world problems” tagline, with a basic thesis that:

and OF COURSE the problems of those in the first world are first world problems. if you’re HAVING them, chances are….that’s where you are.

starving people have starving people problems, dying people have dying people problems, overweight people have overweight people problems, white people have white people problems, black people have black people problems, rich people have rich people problems, gay people have gay people problems, straight people have straight people problems….are we detecting a pattern?

everybody’s got them, period.

you can’t measure human suffering with a yardstick. those who try to do it end up vindictive, even when they’re trying to be helpful.

because the minute you start measuring suffering, you invalidate somebody’s suffering…and that just never works. that’s where the whole shit starts getting ugly.

To which I say, a thousand times yes.

I’m going to do that horrible reader/author thing where I remember the idea but not where I got it from, so can’t attribute appropriately (but I will at least say “not mine originally!”), but I remember some author lamenting the proverb “I wept because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet.” The nameless author, who I so dearly wish I could remember, pointed out that, while the proverb is trying to say that you should be happy because it can always be worse, what it’s really saying is that the only person who has a right to complain is the person with the shittiest circumstances. That one person whose circumstances are the most miserable, that ONE person gets to gripe. Everybody else is a bit better off so should be happy with that minor improvement…all the way up the chain of 7 billion people to whoever is the luckiest, most well-off person on Earth.

Channeling Amanda…..fuck that.

Not that we should all be complaining all that time. And yes, it’s good to find happiness where you can. But you know what? Sometimes even the luckiest person has a shit day. And sometimes that lucky person wants to gripe about that shit day. And that person? That lucky, normally totally happy person? They have the freedom to complain without judgement or the need to feel guilty for their complaints.

And there’s a little bit of happiness in that freedom.

Made. Of. Win.

So this is very much a “it’s all about me” post, but I need SOME sort of record of how much today rocked.

  • [insert general "I *still* love my job" info here]
  • I discovered “The Traveling Red Dress,” which is such an amazing project in pride and self-love that I’m 100% going to be taking part and you’ll be sure to hear more about it later.
  • We had a studio photographer in the office taking staid portraits of everybody and then some “prop” shots. My props of choice were my GEEK bookends and my book-worm plate, i.e. so much truth in advertising that I don’t know where to start. And the geek love of the fact that I not only was allowed, but encouraged to wave that geek flag professionally is just so much bliss…
  • I ordered some new glasses (which, if you’re not a regular glasses wearer. probably means little to you, but think about the fact that this is the ONE item that I wear every. single. day. and realize how crucial a decision it can be) that I absolutely love.
  • Ukulele class was all kinds of fun with new techniques, new songs, and further solidification that “Yes, I love (and can play!) this instrument.”
  • My brother informed me that I was vicariously referenced in a Nerdist podcast (1:00:25…when Jonah talks about desecrating some Dave Matthews material…those were my old CDs, which I sent to my brother for just this purpose).

And so many things that just can’t be described, which, all together equal such a nerd-eriffic, geek-love festival that I am filled to the brim with glee and happiness and love and joy. So yes, Happy Valentines to you all!

Staying Power

Ukulele - Creative Commons via http://www.flickr.com/photos/darnQuick initial announcement to start, “I Aten’t Dead.” And while that should be obvious given this post, the fact that I need to acknowledge my nearly month-long absence is appropriate to the post given its topic: determination, will power, or that word-filled non-word…sticktoitiveness.

And if I aten’t dead, I also aten’t got much.

But I’m trying to change that. The blog is one area (which, since NaBloPoMo is seeing mixed results), another is the ukulele. Yep, as mentioned, I am learning how to play the ukulele.

There are myriad reasons why I decided on the ukulele. Things like wanting to have something to share at the impromptu jam sessions of my more musically talented friends, a new-found appreciation of Amanda Palmer and others who have tapped into the uke, but mostly it was the desire for a new skill. I recognize in myself a tendency to find my happy place and coast. This was a chance to push my horizons a tad.

And I’ve stuck to it…enough so that, last night, I bought my own ukulele. I realized that even though the classes end in three weeks, there’s enough online support (Hello Ukulele Underground!) and I’m having enough fun that it’s actually easy to get myself to stick to practicing most nights a week.

Now if only the same could be said for this blog.

Do You Think What You Think You Think?

Creative Commons: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kozumel/Labeled “The Ultimate Philosophical Handbook,” this is definitely an exercise in active reading. Even if you find you don’t, in fact, think what you think you think, this book will (dare I say it) make you think.

The book takes you through a series of exercises to explore your internal logic and beliefs around issues from morality and religion to art and freedom.

One of the main things the book focuses on is whether your framework of thinking about this issues is internally consistent. And while I was pleased to find that I actually am fairly consistent in my own thoughts and beliefs, it was the motions of confirming that which I found most fascinating.

The questions make you really think about beliefs that, in your day-to-day life, are more about gut reactions, and, in doing so, make you feel yourself thinking. It’s a very conscious thought process that makes you hyper-aware of the foundations of a belief system you (most likely) unconsciously built throughout the course of your life.

While I found no shocking surprises about myself, it was still a worthwhile exploration of self as I’m now more consciously aware of thinking the way I think. And, because of how the exercises are built, with their focus on finding logical inconsistencies, I think the revealing power of the book has the possibility of being that much stronger for those who have hidden inconsistencies. Either way, you’ll come out of reading this book knowing yourself better than when you started.

Obligatory New Year’s Post

I’m one of those who has never been much for resolutions. As a friend of mine is quick to note, New Year’s is basically an international day of lying to ourselves.

So, in an attempt to NOT lie to myself, I will start out this day and this year with the following resolutions:

  • I will read books. One year I managed to read 50 in a year, but I’m going to set a slightly lower bar this year and aim for 30.
  • I will knit…a lot. Hence the low-balling of the books number. My goal here is to finish at least 5 WIPs and do one sweater for me.
  • I will attempt to learn an instrument. Dangerously close to real resolution (i.e. lie) territory, but saved by the “attempt to learn.” I’m already signed up for ukulele classes (and yes, I’m blaming Amanda Palmer for that.)
  • I will travel. Already planning a trip to Hawaii w/ some friends. Can. Not. Wait.

There. I have some other half-formed ideas of things I’d like to focus on this year, but a) they’re half-formed and b) they’re edging in to lying territory. So I’ll keep them in mind and endeavor to work toward them, but at least with the above I’m being honest with myself.

May your New Year be honest and good and….well…apocalypse-free, I suppose.

NaBloPoMo FTW!

Calendar by http://www.flickr.com/photos/stewf/Tempted to try to come up with some other acronyms to fit in there, but really, the summation is: It’s the end of November and, would you look at that, I actually made a post a day for the whole month.

So the big question is…what’s next?

I’m planning on continuing…and with a regular schedule. Just not a DAILY regular schedule. The hope is that less post output will lead to more post-by-post quality. We’ll see how it goes.

Trademark ME!

Face in a crowd from http://www.flickr.com/photos/vividbreezeIt’s hard to work in online communications and not trip over the concept of “personal branding.” While the cynic in my gags a bit at the buzzword bingo aspect of the phrase (as we shift the paradigm outside the box etc.), I can also see the value in it in my peers’ actions and online presence.

A brand lets you boil something down into its basic concept. Think about a few brands and what comes to mind? Google —> Search. Facebook —> Social. Ikea —> DIY. Nike —> Sports.

My problem is that I tend to be a generalist, rather than a specialist. But it makes it difficult to find a “brand.” And in the world of online communication, when you have to be available 24/7 and the lines between professional and personal blur. That can be an issue.

I see my colleagues solving it by hyper focusing on a certain aspect of their interests and making that the entirety of their “personal brand.” There’s the woman who is into social networks as tools to celebrate and protect wildlife. Or the guy who does video work for non-profits.

But I keep snagging on that generalist thing. Sure, shallowness is often taken as a bad character trait, but really, instead of taking a focused deep dive into a limited number of topics (think Blue Hole), I’m much happier with a broad, shallow interest in a BUNCH of topics (think the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool).

While I do envy those people who have identified their passion, I love constantly exploring new areas and the variety of things that I encounter. True, this means I’m often on the edges of communities that are tied together by a shared interest, it also means I get to experience a lot of different communities.

Those generalist leanings are why this blog has such varied topics, with limited connections. In fact, the only solid connection they ALL have is me. And maybe that’s the most personal of personal brands…that’s what’s at the end of my brand equation: Me  —> Me.

Spoilers!

The trick to this whole NaBloPoMo (or so I’m finding) is a little planning and mapping out of the things I want to talk about. Because then it comes clear there’s, at least somewhat, and order in which I should talk about them. Otherwise, I risk the dreaded: Spoiler!

Which is actually the point of this particular post, in that, I’ve actually never been adverse to spoilers. It was somewhere in the midst of the Harry Potter craze that it came clear to me why.

I loved the Harry Potter books when they first came out. Read 1-3 multiple times…and then I hit 4. Goblet of Fire, on its own, wasn’t that much of a showstopper. It was a somewhat enjoyable read, if longer than it needed to be. But then time passed and book 5 came along. And while I knew books 1-3 really well, I felt that, before reading book 5, I should go back and re-familiarize myself with Book 4.

Never happened.

Then Book 6 came out, which left me needing to read 4, 5, AND 6. Then Book 7. Suffice it to say, I stopped reading the books when (as evidence seems to suggest) J.K. Rowling’s editors did.

While I was still somewhat curious to know what happened, I wasn’t willing to slog through her overly long telling of it. So I turned to the Internet and actually actively sought out spoilers…at a time when most of Potter fans were avoiding them at all costs.

That’s when I found an article that (though I can’t find it now…Google-fu skills have failed me) still sticks with me today. It was about the spoiler fear in Harry Potter fandom, but also the concept of spoilers as a whole. Basically it boiled down to “If knowing the end can ‘spoil’ the book/movie/show, then the book/movie/show isn’t all that great to begin with, as the journey should matter more than the destination.”

And that’s what it was…in the early Harry Potter books, I was enjoying the journey. But once they become overly long and unedited, my enjoyment of the journey faded and I just wanted to know what happened.

“Are we there yet?”

Compare that to my recent experience with Doctor Who. I knew the fairly massive spoiler of the mid-season cliffhanger* but when I got there…and I clearly knew where we were going…I was still excited and as into the story as if it had been a total surprise. Knowing the spoiler spoiled nothing.

In fact, there’s been recent research showing that, in some cases, spoilers actually enhance one’s enjoyment of a tale.

I don’t always seek out a spoiler, but I’m also not actively avoiding them. And, of course, for the rest of my live, any time I think of them it will be in River Song’s sing-song voice: Spoilers!

*While I don’t mind spoilers, I fully acknowledge that others do…and I’m not quite sure of the statute of limitations on them so, as to not spoil anyone, I’m not going into details.

Nerd/Geek Terminology

http://www.flickr.com/people/pillowhead_designs/Not sure if this qualifies as a geek trait, but I’m all about compartmentalization. And given as the topic will come up (I say, assuming I’ll one day have actual readers), let me quickly address the Nerd vs. Geek conundrum.

I fully fall into the “interchangeable” camp.

I know, I know…there are those out who are very clear on the sharp divide between the two…and usually that divide is the presence (or absence) of social skills. Sorry, but I’m going to side with Chris Hardwick in the interview he did with Chris Anderson (No, not the TED one, the other one) and say we’re taking back the word nerd and giving it just as much power as geek.

I am an unapologetic geek…just as much as I embrace my nerdom. As this great image/quote from John Green states “When people call people nerds, mostly what they’re saying is ‘You like stuff.’ Which is not a good insult at all. Like ‘You are too enthusiastic about the miracle of human consciousness.’”

So yes…I like stuff. In fact, I often geek out about stuff. That is my nerdery….deal.

NaBloPoMo

NaBloPoMo 2011So the impetus for me starting this blog is, at least in part, due to NaNoWriMo and NaBloPoMo (or, for those of you unfamiliar with the terms, National Novel Writing Month and National Blog Posting month).

I’ve flirted with the idea of NaNoWriMo in the past, but have never had a solid enough idea to pursue. This year, I actually have an idea, and I’m really interested in seeing where it could take me…but possibly too interested. I want to do it right…so before I dive in, I want to ensure I can commit to a month of writing. Which, given my inability to ever maintain a blog in the past, is possibly more of a stretch than it should be. The hope is that by setting a 30-day time limit on it, I can get myself to stick with it and then, at the end of the 30 days, it will be such a habit I’ll keep at it (though at somewhat reduced frequency).

And thus a blog (with a daily commitment for a month) was born. Hope springs eternal, right?