08-31-13 - I epic fail at life

I've always wanted to be a person who focused on quality of life rather than money or career. I always thought that if I wound up having good relationships, good sex, good friendships, lots of exercise and adventures, that it would be totally fine if I was broke, if I had no measurable "success".

(I suppose this was all a counter-reaction to my early life when I was deeply focused on "success"; not financially, but in the intellectual world; I wanted to do physics and discover a new law, or something like that that was a real achievement, to do something concrete and measurable with my intellect that the world could see and praise me for. Once I gave up on that and became disillusioned with that whole ambition I started prioritizing "life" instead.)

Pursuant to QOL, I specifically chose not to take higher paying jobs at places that I thought were kind of soul crushing, like wall street or google; I chose not to pursue the executive path when that was an option to me; I chose not to do various startups that I knew would consume my life.

Those would have been fine choices if I had actually pursued QOL. But I didn't. I just worked. Doing jobs that were supposedly less stressful or more rewarding and would allow me more time and energy to focus on the things that mattered - I still just worked.

I've wound up not doing any work that is either very exciting, very significant, or very lucrative. I've also wound up not really making my life better, putting the time in to working on myself and establishing new better patterns of living.

I still have absolutely no clue how I fit into this horrible world, what I should be doing with myself, or what I'm going to do for the rest of my life. I still wake up every morning feeling like I'm about to spend my day in a way that is not what I really should be doing with myself. I suppose I'm somewhat less desperate and depressed about that fact than when I was younger, but I think that's just the sweet apathy and surrender of old age. I am more at peace, which is good, but it's the peace of giving up.

Of course, that said, like most of these issues where I'm being hard on myself, I'm still better than 99% of you. I see all these people around me living pathetic unfulfilled lives, not doing anything positive with themselves at all, just basically ticking off the days until they die, and they can't even admit to themselves that they want something more.

ADD : I don't mean that I haven't chosen jobs that were interesting; but it's on a level of being mildly pleasant. It's not deeply satisfying. And of course I do put life first in little small ways on a regular basis, but not in the big way that I really need.

It would have been so much better if I would have just gone all out and done crazy hard work at something I really believed in, and not even tried to have a life during that time. (because work and life has never really worked out for me). And then at another time I should have just stopped working and really focused on making my life better. Instead I half-assed both all the time and didn't really do either.

ADD : All my life I've looked around and seen these pathetic men living generic suburban lives; go to work, dress like a shlub, don't speak up, don't do much, don't stand out, don't pursue any big pleasures or do anything interesting. I thought, god how awful, how boring, how cowardly. And here I am.

08-29-13 - Baby baby baby

I backed our car into our stroller last week. I felt like a real dad.

Baby is starting to entertain herself more. She's learning to grab at things, so we can put some objects in front of her and she'll flail her zombie-like arms at them for a while. She concentrates so hard, trying to get her hands to do what she wants. Thank god for small bits of relief. It's so damn exhausting playing with her. The first ten minutes are great fun, but then it just keeps going, and going, and going.

My sister is visiting with her toddler-age kids. Holy shit what a handful they are. On the one hand, I prefer playing in the yard and such activities over constantly walking baby around, but on the other hand they are just so chaotic. The standard idea that you take the kids to the park to "tire them out" seems counterproductive to me; we ran around for hours (or rather they ran around and I sat and watched) and I got tired out, and they were just ready for more destruction.

Baby laughed out loud for the first time recently. Sometimes she's just so happy, it's like impossible not feel good, even when you're exhausted and pissed off. Sometimes when she sees me she bursts into this huge smile and is so happy that her limbs just shoot out, and that delays my suicide plans for another day.

I diminished my child for the first time recently. Surely not the last time. I really don't want to do that.

We went to this party for new parents (a sort of masochistic exercise in awkwardness) in PEPS. Baby Bloom was just doing her usual routine, standing and proto-walking and waving her arms around, being super alert. Seeing the other babies made me aware how unusual she is; they all just chill out and sit in their parents arms with a glazed look on their eyes; BB is constantly active needing stimulation, almost never calm. Anyway, the other asshole parents see BB walking and interacting and they get all competitive, they start standing up their wobbly babies or putting them on the tummy and saying "my baby is almost crawling" blah blah. Jesus christ you assholes, the babies are not competing, they are innocent, they're just being themselves, don't put your fucking low self esteem issues on your child already.

(I'm as uptight as the next person, but one thing I have never tolerated is adults putting their shit onto children. Both the parents and 3rd parties. For example castigating them when they aren't doing anything wrong. Like if you set up a picnic in a park and some kids run around disturb you and you're like "fucking kids" , WTF you're in a park, it's a perfectly valid place for kids to go nuts, you are scum. A few months ago we stopped at some road-side place, and there was a line for the bathroom because a young kid was going and taking a long time, and some asshole adult was complaining about how long he was talking; jesus christ the kid is barely potty trained, you should be stabbed in the nuts.)

So anyway, with the new parents getting all intimidated by BB, I just reflexively diminished her. I spit out something like "oh, it's just instinct, she doesn't know what she's doing [talking about her walking]; and she's just terrible at tummy time" and "oh, it's really a curse, she just never chills out and sits still", trying to downplay her amazingness. It's just automatic for me to do that; I've been diminishing myself for most of my life, trying to fit in, not seem too cocky, pretending that I don't actually know everything about everything and that I'm not better at almost everything than almost everyone.

Well fuck, I don't want to do that to my child. I've been trying very actively from the beginning to not push her to learn anything, to not measure her progress or know where she is developmentally or where she's supposed to be. I just want her to be herself and do what she can do without feeling judged about it. But she's amazing and if you're intimidated by that you can go commiserate with the other losers who will inevitably team up against us and put us down behind our back to make themselves feel better.

(and the whole idea that your baby should be precocious and advanced is so retarded. Let the baby take its time learning things and experience each phase of life. Walking or talking early or whatever it is they're obsessed about is not going to make your child happier or more successful. As someone who progressed through everything in life very quickly let me tell you, it's not an advantage.)

In other news...

I love having a crying baby. When she's really bawling, I like to take her out in the yard or take her on a walk. I feel none of that mortification that I'm disturbing anyone, that I have to hide my baby away. I mean, I wouldn't take her to a fancy restaurant or a movie (wtf are some of your parents thinking?), but around the neighborhood, hell yeah I get to make some noise for once and I don't feel bad about it at all. I've been listening to your fucking lawnmowers, weed-whackers, pressure washers, constant home-improving, car alarms because you're too fucking incompetent to get in your own vehicle without setting it off, car locks that go beep or honk, unmuffled motorcycles, cell phone conversations outdoors, fucking bluetooth conversations in restaurants and elevators. All you fuckers can listen to my crying baby now. She's just being a natural baby, it's nothing to be ashamed of. Suck it.

Our homestead is pretty high maintenance; between the chickens, the cats, the big yard, the aging house, there's several hours of work to do every day. Before baby it was kind of fun. You've got to do something with your day, it's nice to just walk around the home and do some chores, I was enjoying it. Now that baby is here it seems like a huge fucking pain in the ass and a terrible situation. I have no hours to spare and no energy for the homestead maintenance, so instead of being a pleasant way to spend the twilight hours it has become another "todo" that I have to rush to get done and cram in between RAD work and baby work.

I'm in serious danger of becoming Dicky Boss about baby. Sometimes I'll work all day, then go into the house in the evening and find baby crying, and I swoop in to "do things better". What a Dicky Boss. Dicky Boss is totally uninvolved in the day to day operation of the company; they're off directing the construction of their Zen-style retreat using company money. But Dicky Boss loves to show up randomly and get in everyone's business and randomize them. You can't ever appear to be resting when DB comes around. It's classic in the restaurant business; a smart restaurant employee knows there are crazy rushes at certain times, so part of your job is actually to rest between those rushes so that you will be fresh. But oh, no, not when DB shows up, "what am I paying you for? go fill the ketchups". One of the classic stupid moves of DB is to be overly perfectionistic. They'll see something that's not perfect and tell someone to fix it. (and then they'll complain to their peers about how nobody at the company has the sense to just do things right, that they have to personally show up to point things out). In fact all they did was make people waste time on some unimportant detail that took time away from more important things. A smart worker knows that you can't perfect everything, so it's actually good practice to not worry too much about everything. In fact at many companies I worked at (particularly 3rd party game companies when the publisher decides to pay a visit), we would be so prone to DB randomization that we would completely hide what we were really working on and show them some earlier level that we had already polished so that they couldn't get their mits into anything too important. It was all a bit like when a Soviet Apparatchik would pay a visit to a coal mine, we'd grab a bunch of rocks and paint them black, put up some movie-set false building fronts to make everything look better. Anyway. Some imperfection is actually correct. You can't be busting your ass constantly. Those of us prone to Dicky Bossness need to just let the workers do their work. (*)

(* = on the other hand, being a Dicky Boss does make people work harder. It's a lot like the way that nagging and just generally being a pain in the ass does (sadly) work. Your employees might hate you, but they will do what it takes to placate you, just to make you shut up and go away. Whereas if you are nice and chill and let them work the way they want to, they will in fact slack off and do shittier work. For example if you hire some home-improvement contractor guys, you will in fact get better work if you are in their face every day monitoring what they're doing. Sad Facts of Life : being dicky is in fact rewarded.)

I'm also in danger of using job work to avoid family work. That's something that I always swore I would never do; I guess because my dad did it, and I've seen so many other dads that I've worked with do it, and I always thought it was so sleazy. But it's hard to resist. When you're at the office you know you could go home and have to deal with a crying baby and help clean and everything else, or you could just hang out at the office a little longer "working". Of course you do. The home office is a mixed blessing in this respect; on the one hand it means I'm at home so I can help out and I haven't completely fled the scene; on the other hand it makes it really easy to just pop out to the home office for some "work" when I can't handle the baby work any more. I've got to be strong and resist this.

08-24-13 - I miss (some things about) being single

Well, no actually I don't miss it at all. And it's not that I miss fucking around or having my freedom or any of that cliche crap; I love my wife and love being with her every day. In fact oddly what I miss about being single is that it's so very awful.

When I was single I hated it so much that I was very motivated to not be single any more. That motivation was a force that has no equal in my life. It would make me do things that are almost incomprehinsible to me now, like approach strangers on the street, or go to social events where I knew noone and actually mingle and meet people. I hate that stuff so very much and it takes a huge force of will to put me into the mindset where I can do it, that only the sheer desperation of needing to not be single any more could make me do it.

I also realized at some point in my life that the best way to make yourself attractive as a single man is not to do the retarded things that most people do (work out, buy new clothes, buy cars, lol) - it's to have a good life. If you meet a girl and she comes into your life and you're doing exciting things and hanging with friends and you know the secret spots and are a regular at the cool places, that's a life she wants to be a part of. If you meet a girl and you don't know anyone fun and you stay home all the time and are generally a loser, of course she doesn't want to be in that life.

So that would make me try to have the life that I thought I should when I was single. I would try to hang out with friends, go out more, be involved in the community and what the hip kids are doing and talking about and all that.

The weird thing is I hate all that stuff and think it's so vapid and pointless, and as soon as I don't have to do it any more I want to stop doing it, but I think I am more happy when I'm doing them.

(maybe that happiness was an illusion though; it could just be because it's unusual for me, if I actually lived like that long term the happiness would go away; it could also just be the shallow happiness of social approval, feeling like you're doing what you're supposed to be doing in society; "oh yes I am being so successful at living, look at me, what a good job I'm doing"; I suppose most happiness comes from feeling that you are doing something that leads you towards a better life, it's not actually that you like those activities better)

To some extent it's that human happiness is based on a differential. So if you are basically content, then you will be unhappy because things aren't getting better. But if you are deeply miserable (eg. single) then there will be lots of moments where you think things are getting better ("I met someone great! maybe it will work out with her!" or just "I have cool friends and hobbies! I'm so desirable now, great life will be mine!") that give you hope and that makes you happy.

There are some other odd things I miss. Like being single gives you motivation to work out, shower, brush your teeth, dress well. When you're not single all those things just feel like chores, there's no reward for them, there's no positive feedback. You have to just do them because they're obligatory, and that's just wearying.

(I don't understand people who are married and still trying so hard to impress society; your self-esteem must be just awful. You see these couples that are dressing all hip and following all the trends, riding their kids around on their bike and making their sustainable home with reclaimed furniture; oh la di da we're all so impressed at how trendy you are; no we're not, your need to fit in and get approval is pathetic. That's what you do when you're in your twenties and trying to get laid, not when you're married and old. You wear sweat pants now.)

I miss the added value. There are so many things in life that are just not that great, and really not worth doing without the possibility of meeting someone. Certainly things like going out to bars and clubs, but even just walking around the city, going out to restaurants, going to coffee shops. If you're just doing it for what they sell, WTF are you thinking, it's awful, what a waste of time and money. It's only if you can flirt a bit, possibly meet someone, that makes it worth going out to public places. Even if it's only one in a hundred times, that little bit of added value pushes it over the edge from "not worth doing" to "hell I guess I have to get out of the house and meet people somehow".

I miss the way that when I was single I would try to make myself a better person, so that if I did meet someone special I would be good enough for them. I would try to be nicer and more open and more friendly and all those things that are hard for me. It was rewarding, and I liked who I was, but it's also just so exhausting that I can't keep it up without that motivation.

A very typical case is music. I used to spend lots of time following new music, local bands, checking out new things, going to shows. Part of it was because I liked music, but a lot of it when you're young is because music is a kind of identity, it's a lot like clothing, it's a way of showing your personality to the world, it's a way of defining your social group. Knowing the right bands gives you "cool cred". (I get the impression this is not quite so much the case with today's youth as it was in my generation, where grunge vs slowcore vs punk vs new wave was the most important aspect of defining the social cliques). Once you get older you realize that's all so incredibly retarded and shallow, so you stop making all that effort to impress other people. But I do miss being up on new music and listening to new things and so on.

I guess in some ways it's similar to the times in my life that I've decided I need to cut out all the simple pleasures that I believe are quite harmful to me (computers, TV, alcohol). If you forbid yourself from those things, then when you get to the end of the work day you're faced with this interminable evening and the quandary of WTF DO I DO !? You become so miserable that you get crazed and motivated to really do something new with your life, get out of the house, try something fun. It's so awful, but probably actually better for me.

08-16-13 - PM

Is the type of person who will shake your hand
And look deep into your eyes
And be all nice and friendly with you
Just so they can learn about your weaknesses
To use them against you.

A producer is the type of person who, when one person on the team does something that's vaguely against policy (but is fucking irrelevant so they should really just do nothing), rather than just talk to that person about directly and nicely, will send out an email to the entire team saying "Just a friendly reminder about our company policy, blah blah blah".

08-16-13 - Daily Misanthropy

Ugh. I know I would be so much happier if I would stop hating everyone in the world every day. I really hate to go to that dark place in my mind, it's very unpleasant for me, but I just don't see how I can not go there when I go out in the world and see the way that humans are. I'm not even talking about the deeply selfish rotten things that people do on a daily basis (like voting Republican). I'm talking about just the way people act in normal life every day.

Walking baby around the neighborhood, there are cars not stopping for the stroller. There are people walking dogs who let their dogs come right up to the stroller; WTF you asshole keep your fucking animal away from my child. There are people who have gone to work and left their dog in the yard to bark at the neighborhood all day, and people with their dogs running around off-leash who yell "stay!" and the dog completely ignores them and they laugh "ha ha he never does listen".

There are people at the grocery store leaving their cart in the middle of the aisle, people who push my cart from the edge of the aisle into the middle and then just leave it there without saying anything. There are people who pull out into the intersection and block traffic when there's a pedestrian crossing. You're all just so rotten, how can I not hate you?

The only solution I've found is just to not go out in the world. Or to go out only in very careful ways where I am more likely to be around decent human beings.

Lately I've been taking the light rail into the city once a week for a physical therapy appointment. It reminds me that I miss the city; it's fun to do something "urban". I love being on the crowded streets, walking around seeing all the people, how kids dress these days, the little random interactions. I love that little bit of exercise from walking places and short bike rides. It's nice to move outside of a car.

But the light rail makes me so depressed every time I ride it.

There are always a ton of people sitting in the double seats who put their purse or whatever in the seat next to them, or sit on the outside of the two seats. You fucking assholes. You're scum, you should just be immediately shot in the head for that. There's no excuse. You are intentionally preying on the fact that you know most people are such pussies that they won't ask you to move over, and for that you should die.

(I know there's a very popular "realist" attitude in the nerd community these days; that if the world lets me get away with this, I should do it. Fuck you.)

And then there are all the people who stand, looking at the seat wistfully, and don't do anything. WTF is wrong with you? All you have to do is ask them to move and they will. Don't let them get away with it! Fucking take that seat, you're so pathetic! I don't sentence you to death, but I do banish you to Pussy Island where you can hang out with all the other meek people not ever saying anything you want to each other.

And then there's me, sitting there feeling loathing for the previous two groups, getting myself all angry and depressed over nothing. Perhaps I'm the worst of the three. Sometimes I will ask someone to scoot over so that I can sit down, not because I actually want to sit there, but just because that fucker is not going to get away with it on my watch! How pathetic that my behavior is based on policing the world and not what I actually want.

08-15-13 - Mistaken Missing

I find myself recently often thinking wistfully of this time in my past.

One summer I spent in Texas - I guess it was actually after I quit grad school, after I came back to Austin to work at Eclipse and then quit Eclipse because they were going under - it was the first time in my life as an adult that I had nothing to do. Every summer in college I worked a computer job; I made enough money in those summers to pay my way through the college year (I generally lived on about $20k a year, which seemed like plenty to me at the time). In hindsight I wish I'd taken those summers off to do something other than work, but anyway.

So that summer for the first time in my life I had no job and no school. It was a hot Texas summer as always. Some days I would ride my bike over to Zilker and swim in the cold springs a bit. Most days I would just go up the road to the little local neighborhood pool. (Austin, like many cities in the US, has a great network of public pools built back in the ancient days when our government actually did good for its populace). I would lay in the sun, swim a bit, lay in the sun some more, read some books. In my memory I can feel the pressure of the sun on my skin; the beads of sweat slowly forming, getting bigger and bigger and then suddenly running down my side. My company at the pool was typically a gaggle of chattering moms; they would sit on the hillside and watch their kids swim and I would lay a little ways off.

In my memory there's a great feeling of repose. That there's nothing to do in this life, no reason to get up, so just lay there. There's a great stillness, heavy summer air, slowly slipping into the water like a crocodile.

But that's not right at all. I was actually deeply depressed at the time. I was aimless and alone; my mind was frantic, going in circles all the time; what do I do with my life? my god where do I go from here? I hate my friends, I have no women in my life, I hate who I am as a person, I'm completely isolated, I kind of hate software jobs, I guess I'm not going to do physics, good god I need to do something to shake this up, I need to make a big change but I don't know what, I need to stop lying around all day.

But in my memory I block out all of that and I only see the moments of lying around, feeling like there's nothing else to do in the world, and it feels sweet. I guess I'm stressed out at the moment and feel like there's way too much that I need to be doing all the time.

08-01-13 - Self

Listen up, Self, we need to have a difficult conversation. I know this will be hard to hear, but if we're going to get along for the next 50 years, we've got to get this out in the open. I've got a lot of problems with my relationship with you; I'd like to get along with you, you're me, but it's been hard for me for a while. I'm going to tell you some bad things about you, and I want you to try not to get offended and hurt and just close off about it, please try to listen and respect my feelings, for us.

You treat everyone like a child. You're always condescending and pedantic, you're constantly teaching. You think you're so damn smart and you have so much to teach everyone. It's hard for you to even engage with people in any other way. It's particularly embarassing for you when you go off on a lecture about things you really are quite wrong about. It also is connected to the next one -

You're terrified of being seen to be wrong. You have this image of yourself as being so right all the time and everyone respecting you for it (they don't), that you hate to have that bubble burst. It makes you really stiff and tense all the time. If you would just be more humble and not act so sure all the time, maybe it wouldn't be such a big deal when you're wrong about something, you could just brush it off.

You never really listen. You have your own pre-conceived ideas and you're so set on them. You pop into the conversation to share your "wisdom" and then you shut down and don't really pay attention when other people are talking. If you would listen for once you might find that other people are saying interesting things. Your life might be better if you opened up to what others had to contribute. Maybe you could learn something.

You've created a very safe little isolated life for yourself. You don't put yourself in any situations where you might be uncomfortable. You don't push yourself to get better, to try new things, to meet new people. You lie to yourself and tell you that the things you have are the only things you want, that the life you don't have that other people have is shit.

You're incredibly hypocritical about money. You act like you aren't motivated by it, but really why would you have your career path if it wasn't a major factor to you? You act like you're so moral, like you're staunchly anti-patent, but in reality if someone offered you a huge pile of cash to patent something, you would take it. And then you would make up some reasons why it was okay.

You're extremely inflexible. You're basically just not fun. If someone else wants to do something beautiful and fun, you're likely to shut it down, waa I don't want to do that, hmm not now I don't feel good, oh that's not very good is it. What a bummer you are. Of course nobody wants to invite you to do fun things; you're a bummer!

You get along poorly with anyone you consider a peer or competition. In a group of adults and children, you're way more open with the children. I suppose it's that your ego is so fragile, you don't like to be around anyone who could challenge you, or anyone whose opinion matters to you, because it might not be good and then your fragile illusion would come crashing down. All adult males you can't really open up to or be natural.

You're not really emotionally honest with anyone in your life. Maybe your wife, a little bit, but that's it. All your other interactions are completely superficial and phony.

You're much nicer to hot women than you are to any other adult. It's completely obvious to any observer and pretty tacky. What's so sad about it is that you're not really even flirting; your base level of niceness is so low that when you ratchet it up for pretty girls you just get to a normal level of niceness. You really should be that nice to everyone all the time.

You've done okay in your life, but not through any initiative or boldness; you've never gone after your dreams or taken any risks. You preach about being responsible and providing for your family and blah blah, but those are really just excuses because you're afraid to really change your job or try something adventurous.