I don't post on the weekends - largely because it isn't often I get extended periods of time with Kay, and we had aggressively portioned off the three day bloc as an incredibly low-key kind of anniversary weekend off from outside obligations. We were both in the retail racket when we got married and for the next few years, one of us was working in that milieu so I don't really have to tell you that the weekends were considered somewhat off-limits. We were hoping, eventually, that we wouldn't be and this is the first time in the whole period we've been married that neither of us had to work like a dog over the Memorial weekend. All we really did is clean the house, watch movies, and take walks around the block for three days and it's the most relaxed I'd felt in years, probably.

I'm out of work at the moment. Honestly, it might be that I ought to be looking, but I'm not because if I actually succeeded in getting something in short order, that'd kind of fuck up our living situation and we'd have to scramble to figure out workarounds. I could work a few hours a day pretty easily, probably - I'm thinking 4 is about what I could manage - and still get my other tasks done, but it'd be pretty exhausting. But, what I have been able to do a lot more is catch up on some personal reading since I'm no longer doing extensive research or class reading. I've been recording what stuff I've read since the year began, and I had this kind of far-out hope of maybe reaching a total of 50 books by the time next January rolled around. It seemed pretty foolhardy - there wasn't much of an expectation on my part that I'd hit the mark - so I haven't been worrying about it at all.

Lately, though, my reading list has exploded. Numerically speaking, I've been an unexpected breakaway success. But why? My typical reading for the last two years has either been fiction for grad classes, cyberpunk reading for my thesis, or more typically, lit theory and philosophy. My biggest problems have tended to be that I wasn't sure if I ought to count slim volumes of theory as being books or simply very long essays, and I'd been considering simply making a new category for theory journals and thesis. I'm not really trying to extended my book count artificially, but I'm also not really interested in trying to somehow triangulate a new definition for what counts as a book; it has always seemed pretty obvious to me before.

It was the huge and accidental success of my expanding "Read List" that finally convinced me that there's zero sense in working towards any specific number of books, actually. On Kay's request that I finally read C.S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia books that were a favorite of his from childhood, I've been working my way through a boxed set, and just finished the fourth - Prince Caspian - this morning. They're clearly children's literature but they have the weight of history saying that they are clearly books - individual volumes - and each one is just one specific book. So I read one and dutifully put it on the list, and my count for books read this month has come up to eight, at a point where I'm not working especially hard to read anything at all - just whatever is nearby.

In a similar way, two good friends are starting a podcast for the Animorphs series where they re-read them all and kind of discuss their thoughts on the matter. I'm participating as an avid reader who was Animorphs-adjacent when I was a kid and just never read them to give the opinion of a fresh, critical reader with no nostalgia factor working on me, and I just know that's going to dramatically continue to inflate the volume of books read. Meanwhile, Manning Marable's Malcolm X or Jean-Paul Sartre's Being and Nothingness both also only count as one book. In years where I'm only reading one type of book or I'm reading a hefty mix of books with the occasional light reading filling in gaps, it might not throw off the numbers too much, but this year is clearly a different story. I think it's pretty funny - I'm counting, but I'm not putting any weight on it any more - and I can still use the list to give me a good idea of what it is that I've watched and read over the course of the year, which is a fun exercise. It's actually really freeing, in a way. Trying to build up a list of one kind of media and hit a target number actually had a chilling element on watching movies or pursuing really complex texts even though I didn't give it a lot of personal weight. Quotas work strange effects on the mind, frankly.
I feel like I've had pretty good luck ironing out the basics of my pedagogical goals in relation to composition and rhetoric. I have a syllabus from my previous sections which I think would be ready to go with some minor, but meaningful changes to the curriculum. Having time to think on it and do some reading has been helpful, though I don't think I've hit the point where I've read everything that would be immediately useful to me, so it's an ongoing project - and it likely will be for years to come. It's strange to look at that and feel good about it. I really wasn't in a position either materially or mentally to take 100% of the options available to me while I was a grad student, and most of that has to do with anxiety around a new situation or with my financial stability. I'm traditionally something of a slow learner - or at least I'm slow to get started. Anywhere I'm able to stay and get a firm grip on my situation, I do well in.

Precarious financial states have traditionally been what's been keeping us from doing much that's interesting to talk about, and that issue persists even though we're admittedly doing much better. The unpleasent truth is that we're incredibly backed up on basic repairs and bills so that even though the immediate concerns are taken care of, we have lingering debt that we'll be dealing with for a while, and that eats up all of our spare funds. We've done several projections of where we expect to be the next few months - we're not in a particularly abject state, or anything - and we're not going to have much left over. Recreation is easy, since our hobbies are, like, reading, writing, and cooking. If it's not that, we're like, I don't know, taking walks and shooting photos, and watching movies together. So it's not as though our tastes are expensive, but we're also not going on vacation or anything like that for a while. It makes sense to plan for that in the future because if we overextend, it's possible in theory, but our nerves are very bad about stuff like that. Our luck tends to be particularly bad - I tend to think of luck as something that largely pertains to how much you can rely on others to help you in a tight spot or whether you have the ability to easily account for things that go wrong. Thus, the poor traditionally appear to have awful luck, because they're constantly overextended. "Luck" is when bad things don't affect you. Our margins are incredibly tight, and so when something goes wrong, it's not the kind of irritating but normal thing that happens to everyone - it manifests instead as terrible luck.

So that's why even though things are better, we're still holing up here for a while until things are easier.

But that's the kind of issue that manifests when I'm making lists of fun things to do over the course of the year, too. Like, trying to copy my friend's list of "3X+ Quests before my birthday" thing seems like a great way to give myself a direction after I graduate, which I figured I needed but... frankly, I just don't have the money for a lot of this stuff. We don't really have the time or the money to buy extra stuff to go camping, for example. We don't have the money to cook elaborate dinners for five or more people. We don't have the money (or, more importantly, the time) for a road trip. We don't have the money or space for large glass bottles full of fermenting honey. I already have a direction, but writing up a CV isn't a fun quest and getting hired often feels more like an exhausting trial than a fun "quest," so the stuff I need to do and the stuff I want to do doesn't actually get put on the list. So, without the time incentive, it's just a bucket list - full of cool things, but I literally can't afford to have them take priority over the other things in my life.

The truth is often stranger but more depressing than fiction, but dropping the game I was running and dropping the list of stuff to do has largely been very good for me. These things added a really unnecessary degree of stress for me at a point when I'm trying to let myself concentrate on the work that's important to me and, also, trying to decouple feelings of anxiety and guilt to basic activities like watching a movie or reading for fun. I'm trying to let myself watch one or two TV shows a day and do some recreational reading along with my theory. It's actually been really good for productivity, but that's also this weird thing I'm trying to do - decouple associating every action with if it makes me a better worker for some kind of nebulous, non-existent Other. One thing at a time.
atolnon: (Default)
( May. 23rd, 2017 09:30 am)
I like the idea of fully automated luxury communism in theory, but in practice it tends to be messy, and I generally regard it as “the singularity,” but for leftists.

The communism angle I get, but not everything can or should be automated, and the things that can be automated are not always things that we would even want to exist in the first place. For example, I guess, although I think consumer electronics have a pretty substantial benefit, we certainly don’t need to turn them out in the numbers we do currently. The same is true for almost everything, really. I’m not an aesthetic, but FALC feels very much like a “First World” idea, and the First World really has to learn to rein in its consumption because, frankly, we’re acting like embarrassing children about it.

So, large scale industrial automation might be fine, but I feel like when people get hype about automation, what they’re actually getting excited about is the ability to never have to work again. And, you know, I like that idea in principle, but it’s really not practical. I’m not trotting out some concept of “work to eat,” because I think that we’re clearly to a point where not everyone has to work, and we can probably make it so that anyone who can’t, won’t, or doesn’t want to work probably doesn’t have to. That’s good! But it seems likely that there will always be work of one dimension or another to do, and I think the idea of FALC tend to bury that.

How do we address that some people will inevitably be working, but there won’t be enough work in the sense of production for everyone? First, I think that almost everyone does work all the time, and a great deal of it is disregarded because it’s not “productive,” so that’s something we need to account for. Even if they weren’t, we’re not leaving anyone behind. That’s why increasing automation is so troublesome for capitalism - because it’s increasingly trying to locate a workforce and offload its waste and product (often just another form of waste, to be frank) to and on new markets. That’s my principle objection to the universal wage in, say, America. It would functionally turn the US into a plantation state where many of us passively receive the benefits from the continued exploitation of the third world. While I don’t really buy into something like Settlers, this really would create a material reality where the proletariat (a term I’m finding increasingly less useful) working classes in the US into those who effectively direct shareholders in every system of extraction and oppression in US-corporate colonial states.

The Musks, Bezos, and Zuckerburgs are thinking ahead, and there’s little doubt that they expect to be the new post-industrial god-kings after this late-stage capitalism gambit crumbles, and it’s generally pretty clear what their agenda is. It’s true that capitalism in the form it has taken now can’t last; heavy automation and digitization have taken an incredible toll on who can be “allowed” to work and what can even be effectively sold anymore. Because they’re in a very good position to simply buy out what’s left of the US infrastructure when the time comes, it seems unlikely that there will be anyone to stop them, regardless of how problematic their agenda will actually be.
With the semester coming to a firm close, that's it for degree seeking for a while in this household. It's sort of in the air if either of us will ever intend to go back for any reason, but it's not really consequential to our needs at the moment and, frankly, I don't think either of us want to consider it for at least a little while. We're both very tired.

As always, there's loose ends to clean up, and those ends typically fall into different categories, but it probably suffices to say that Kay's working the financial end of that equation and I'm working hard on the domestic. For a long time, I've subscribed to the notion that just because housework isn't paid doesn't mean it's without value, and it's largely industrial society and the new commodification of capitalism that really kind of creates that notional tendency. That said, at the moment, I am working pretty hard but Kay is working substantially harder - partially because some amount of overtime is mandatory but also because time and a half is too much for Kay to ignore in pursuit of paying off old debts.

This sounds extreme, but it's easier than what we were doing previously, where Kay was attempting to stack a 70 hour work week with two online classes where the teachers literally made no appearances on the forums they said they'd be active on - which left me to read through the coursework and structure a haphazard kind of lecture/study guide/research assistantship along with whatever else I was doing. (Once again, I think it's clear I had the easier job.) I have one minor task left to do that I agreed to and I'm clear on that count. All Kay has, then, is overtime, which is simpler and pays better.

I'm tired so stuff I'd normally do in pen gets typed here instead, but although I'm not really rushing to get into that Summer semester (I was considering it, but Kay made a case for me staying home in the temporary, and I conceded the issue because), I'm kind of rebuilding my syllabus based on how I felt about my first three sections of composition and a rethinking of my pedagogical direction. Not that I want to change course entirely, but that I can maintain a serious degree of rigor while changing my tone, rhetoric, and to a degree, my course load.

On one hand, the actual difficultly level of my course was not something I consider to be especially high, but I do think that my first year writing students were surprised that getting an A was more difficult than they anticipated. I'm not really sure how to take that - I don't really believe getting an A actually should be particularly easy, and not all classes of the same level are difficult in the same way - my largest concern is facilitating growth and maintaining a level of core competency that will at least facilitate a student's progress through their program. 101 seems ripe for me to restructure it towards students understanding their writing goals and audience and be able to differentiate between different writing methods and rudimentary capabilities (email writing is something first-year writers tend to be abysmal at strictly from a technical knowhow standpoint, for example). 102 seems better fitted towards my initial run at basic theory, research, and integration of multiple writing methods to produce a text.

Additionally, and this is difficult so adding this next layer and retaining coherence in the course is an issue, but I tend to believe the writing is an inherently creative enterprise. There is an element of 'art' to it that we generally refer to as style, but in attempting to foster a strong writing style, I see it take a drastic backseat to structure and form - partially because style is hard to judge objectively, and it's already often difficult to make the case to students that composition and rhetoric aren't entirely issues of empty style over objective substance. Threading the needle on this is mostly going to be about how I divide the semester and what kinds of criteria I lay out for the work I'd intend to assign - in composition. I'm in the position of attempting to reverse the curriculum for Creative Writing, making the case that this is a subject that carries over into everyday life more than most people would expect. But, maybe most importantly, I think that if I'm providing the tools and foundation to grow as a writer in either case, than I'm doing the job I'm hired to do. In any case, though, since I have a little time to read up on pedagogical methods, that's what I'll do.
Something happened to me a while ago, which feels like forever, but I think was just late summer of 2015 while I was being rammed through a 500-level pedagogy course trying to train me to teach first year writers in two weeks (which is a whole ‘nother story), and it’s where I was told that my Master’s education was frankly worth a lot less than it used to be, because there are a goodly number of people walking around with an English degree now and, moreover, the degrees that undergraduates are getting are worth even less.

Kind of implicit in that whole thing was the underlying idea that it’s unfortunate that so many people are going to school for their Master’s or Bachelor’s, and that really fucking threw me, because it replicates the logic of capitalism so well and so fucking perniciously.

First, because the numbers tend to bear it out. That’s the gross fucking truth, innit? The more people who have an education similar to yours, the less it’s worth on the market, because it drives supply up. This isn’t always how it works, I guess, but in an environment where English departments are struggling for cash and there are hiring freezes, an increasing reliance on adjuncts or especially poor graduate students (which I now kind of feel basically act as perpetual scabs, even if that’s not strictly the case), and so on, it feels pretty true.

I feel gobsmacked, though, that somehow the education itself doesn’t have value to the student in that the knowledge and capabilities gained are somehow perceived as less useful the more people that have them. This has every effect of reinforcing a kind of knowledge priesthood, first off, and second, I just find it super fucking perverse that we actually feel the desire to prevent others from having an education so that our job prospects would be better. There is, of course, the perpetual irony of needing to have someone to teach to make the job worth having in the first place.

There - there’s an excellent example of how the logic of capitalism absolutely doesn’t drive us to excellence.

I see this logic sometimes applied to certain kinds of intellectual property. I think writers are familiar with this - almost anyone with a basic literacy has at least the rudimentary tools needed in order to write, and so writing is frequently perceived as a pretty valueless “thing.” I’ve seen this applied to digital art, and also digital music - the idea that since anyone (and I know not anyone can functionally do this - we can just say that the barrier to entry is much lower than it used to be) can acquire the tools in order to produce the art or music, or whatever, than the “product” has less “value”. I can’t help but think about how ridiculous this is - the amount of something has no effect on what the thing itself is. Literally the only thing that changes the value of the artefact, whatever it is, is the concept of how much you can sell and that turns every interaction, every knowledge, every skill, and every artefact into a zero-sum product.

Why do we choose to live this way if we don’t need to?
atolnon: (Default)
( May. 17th, 2017 08:52 am)
This one's likely to be long, but not because of any particular problem, just because it's just the results of hashing out a series of thoughts I've been having since I'd seriously thought about undertaking my Master's degree. My thoughts are, in a way, kind of come to completion not with the award ceremony or receiving my degree, but kind of ironically in how I haven't received it in the mail yet and coming at the conclusion of my partner's finishing an Associate's but not yet having gotten the final grades back in yet. For me, it usually seems that even the most major goals or projects end unceremoniously, or else their real endings are marked by something that seems to refute a conventional catharsis.

I didn't have money for my graduation ceremony, so I didn't go, and I genuinely hate that kind of thing anyhow. I didn't have much family in the area and the ceremony for my Bachelor's degree was legitimately one of the most disappointing events in my life. Right now, I'm trying to get my university to mail my diploma to the correct address, as they sent it to one that I had never lived at while simultaneously actually enrolled with them. They want to charge me $13 to print a new one and send it, which seems a little insulting. This is, of course, the end result of all my time, effort, and -the most important element of the equation- money. Money I really didn't (and don't) have. The task, you know, the actual process has ended. The work is done. The essay has met with approval, and I have received at all points the nods and ceremonial ratings that dictate that I should ascend to the ranks of having a degree that thousands and thousands of individuals have before me - neither more or less important than myself, and certainly not special in any meaningful way.

According to the 2012 US Census, about 11% of Americans have a Master's degree of one sort or another. I think how many people you see daily who have one is probably extremely dependant on your location, but you can see there's nothing particularly amazing about it. I have the capacity to go on to a Ph.D, and I was told that I'd be a promising candidate, but that the cost probably wasn't really worth it in this environment. That's true with the Master's as well, I suppose. My goal isn't to be part of a rarified percentage as determined by census data - it was to do something I'd wanted since I was a child. The pursuit of a doctorate isn't out of the question for me, but it's very much a matter of being a personal goal, and I'm unwilling to invest in it in the same way that I was willing to go into the hole for the Master's.

I feel like there's no trouble at this point being as clear in public as I have been with myself and my partner (who I really couldn't, in good conscience, have included in this mess without total honestly about where it would probably lead us materially) - and that is to say that I agree that, financially speaking, going for the Master's degree in English isn't worth it. It's just not. There's no job that I can get with this degree that would pay more than just getting some technical certificates and going into IT. The lowest paying jobs are about on par with a good retail gig, and you don't take retail home with you in the same literal way as you take a bunch of Comp. 102 essays. I could never justify English from the perspective of money alone, and that is the kind of thing that has constantly marked the degree as the kind of thing that the modestly privileged - in terms of class - pursue. I was poor when I started and I am poor now, and both of us in this household gaining employment will push up to the rank of a modest working class household - the kind of income bump that seems like it heralds straight-up paradise to both of us.

This doesn't especially bother me. Or, it does in a systematic way, but it's not as though I'm coming to this in a state of unvarnished shock. I received those exit counseling emails not long after I finished my classes - like, within days. Some probably came in even sooner. I looked at the numbers I owed, since I wasn't able to afford to decline loans, and they're huge. Yes, I have a plan for dealing with it, but let's be honest and I'll tell you that I already knew this. The poor are not supposed to have this education, and everywhere within the structure that I looked, this was indicated. The poor, in theory, are only discussed in theory and not in practice. The professors are in academia, even the less affluent ones. But I will say that there are, among the adjuncts, the working class academics, and that looks to be me, soon. This is what I would refer to as a gathering class consciousness as those with extensive education both practical and theoretical enter into university spaces as workers and not as pure academics - because class issues will also bend one's mind in the service of a practical education, and anything practical is inevitably political.

That is why I entered academia. Because I want to be a writer, and now I am, because I have written. It was always possible for me to grasp some of the tools I needed, but it wasn't not easy to grasp all of them. It was always possible to gain access to some of the spaces I needed provisionally, but with extensive limits. It was possible to spend time to practice, but only in slivers. It was possible to gain access to some of the mentoring, but mostly second hand, at best. It is rarely enough to do it on one's own - I would say that it isn't enough. My colleagues were more blase about the concept of gathering to oneself an intellectual cohort even without academia, but they were also there - so who was more right?

All of this stuff is true for me, and I genuinely feel like I've grown as a person. In order to get my work done, I also had to learn to prioritize and develop better habits. It helped me shake off my funk and develop a new direction for myself. There are doors, small doors, maybe windows, or cracks, or holes, that are open to me that weren't before - that literally could not have been, purely based on the credentials I carry. So that's good, at least. But truly, I consider this one of the best and also most selfish things I've ever done for myself, because none of that was the reason I enrolled. I did it because if I didn't do it now, I never would have and I would have always wondered if I was up to it. I did it because I was less than ten when I told my dad I wanted to go to college and get a degree, and I really don't do these things. I tend to subsume my goals under a deluge of practicality and under the needs of others and, while that's generally good or even virtuous, this was important to me. And I don't care about the rewards or ceremonies hosted by others at all, but the fact that I pulled it off means everything to me.
It's been a hectic last week. There's been a few personal setbacks which caused a tremendous amount of stress, Kay's been working super-overtime lately because a huge amount of last-minute work has come in at the business factory, and we've both been attending to the last of the semester's work load. It's all getting done, but I've had to drop the game I'm running and although that's made it much easier to focus, it's a drag. I'll be honest, though, I think it was a bit of a bust on my end; there was a lot of good work from the players, but I couldn't get the spark to fire for myself. So, gaming is on hiatus for a while for me, and I'm not sure for how long. I've been spending a lot of time depressed, and the gaming schedule has been unexpectedly difficult for me, even going into late Spring. I have a few major writing goals, and maybe I ought to focus on those, since a gaming project takes up a huge amount of mental space. I have to assume that I just wasn't as fully invested as I ought to have been to make things work.

But, you know, classwork is over on Tuesday. The work I'm doing to help will mostly just be over before noon, today. I have some writing I want to do terribly, and this will be the first time in a few years I actually do have the freedom to do that which coincides with an energy level that supports it. Considering being able to write actually excites me, and kind of threatens to lift the anxiety I feel constantly surrounded with, and it actually seems a little too good to be true. If I can write a few small pieces of creative work, I feel like I can really move into a Fall Semester teaching schedule in a really good place. Who knows, after that?

Academically, I think I want to spring board off of some previous work - my thesis, to be specific. I'd been reading some academic work on vaporwave in particular, and I think that the time is ripe for cyberpunk theory that transcends basic musing on bodies and machines or trying to determine what the political axis of the sci-fi of the 80's and 90' (especially since I have an answer I'm using to drive my work). There's some other stuff which probably won't happen but I'll take a stab at, but really shouldn't go into more detail in until I know for sure whether it would or wouldn't fly. And so on, and so on.

I know that most of the stuff I've tried to do hasn't worked out, especially when it comes to writing projects. But you know what? Back in 2005 - 7, I had an idea in my head that I wanted to work out. The work I was doing was entirely without access to academic resources, but the rough outline seemed good. In 2016 and very early 2017, I finished my graduate thesis - an essay ten years in coming. And even now I'm looking at it and thinking, "I can do more of this, better." and so much of that comes down to picking a project and really trying to focus on it. The kind of access to help and resources I have now wasn't something I could easily expect back then, and I wasn't nearly as mentally put-together then, either. So I'm interested to see what I'm able to make happen now.
They say that Edward Crawford, the man in the iconic Ferguson protest image throwing tear gas away from protesters, has been “found dead of self-inflicted gunshot wounds,” according to the headline in the St Louis Post-Dispatch.
Link: http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/protester-featured-in-iconic-ferguson-photo-found-dead-of-self/article_072602fb-99f1-531f-aa1c-b971e8b32566.html

I’ve been trying to step back from directly touching politics for a minute. It’s both hard to step back and it’s hard to address, since I’ve been deeply seized by anxiety lately, and it’s hard to focus on anything. But this really does shake me badly, and at a time when I’m already in rough shape, emotionally.

“Crawford’s death” - it’s hard not to note the passiveness of the headline. I know that this is how a lot of news is written. Suicide often seems to be described as passive, as if it’s just something that happens. That he’d shoot himself to death in his car seems suspicious from the get-go. He’s not the first Ferguson activist or protester to simply die in their car of a gunshot wound. How many people, when you hear that they’ve committed suicide - a difficult act under any circumstances - do so by firearm in their car? So we shake our heads and say, “No, that doesn’t seem right,” but we know that it’s already been ruled a suicide and we know how this will go, and we likewise know that whatever peace had been found in this community since the active protests died down a few years ago won’t last.

I’m deeply worried for my community, I’m worried for the black communities of Ferguson and St Louis, and I’m just so, so sick and depressed.
By the time Friday rolls around, my queue is full of half- and nearly done tasks or minor stuff I've been putting off over the course of the week. I'm usually tired, Kay's usually tired, so I usually feel like I'm dragging my way through the day - but I'm actually not feeling bad today, just lazy. So it's almost 1 PM and I haven't gotten too much done but, to be fair to myself, I've gotten all the important shit done and it's been raining all morning, so mowing the grass is right out.

So, whatever, right?

I'm not done being regular busy, but I'm pretty caught up on the most intense stuff, so now I get to bother with more interesting matters like, uh, what I'm doing in the future. Some of this is house stuff - we're going to Lowe's tomorrow to pick up material for the raised bed garden which is, admittedly, late to the party. I mean, this is purely a time problem, where we literally didn't have either the means or the time for one or both of us to get out and when we did, it was either still the dead of winter or else we were dead broke. I'm less interested in explicitly growing a huge amount of food this year (though I'll be growing some - especially tomatoes and green beans) than I am in simply succeeding in this bit of yard terraforming.

In the past we'd done some experiments, including just tilling the earth in the yard (grueling work, even with just grass) and using untreated wooden slats as walls for a slight raised earth bed. Both were a little successful and the latter was actually pretty successful, but the wood proved to have a limited shelf life and we were forced to tear down the beds. The math on building is really easy, and now that we have an income, the price feels really small - something that was impossible to reckon with in any reasonable way becomes trivially simple with only a small amount of reliable income. If this goes particularly well, I'm hoping to help friends in the areas do their own gardening stuff and sharing produce. All part of my sinister, long term master plan.

I'm in the process of working up a new CV/resume, and thinking up lesson plans for composition, creative writing, and prospective literature roles - the latter being a much looser, conceptually driven project since I haven't had any offers. The first two are far more likely and although I've already taught composition, I'd like to re-work my lesson plans based on my experiences and preferences. Composition needs to spend more time with digital writing and acknowledge a need to build an independent voice and writing process. Creative writing is typically less structured but, frankly, I view both classes as two sides of a single coin. Composition is inherently creative and creative writing is more than just fiction and poetry (though those are as important as ever).

I've also resumed academic note-taking for future projects.
atolnon: (Default)
( Apr. 17th, 2017 12:03 pm)
My dad co-signed for the car, and we've been hanging out over the weekend. Kay and I spent Sunday over at his place, which is starting to look a little rough. My dad will be generous with the needs of someone else, but he won't spend any money on himself and, over time, the house and all of his things have begun to look stained, strained, threadbare, or dilapidated.

This creates an odd phenomenon, because it's the house of my youth and all of the stuff is the same. Same hand towels, same carpet. Same deck, unsurprisingly. Same couches, same chairs, same speakers, same dishes. Same cabinets, tables, and stools. Except over the years they've become as faded and washed out as my memories of the place until the only thing that remains untouched are the plants outside which bloom and flower every spring.

It's trippy, man.

But I don't especially think that holding on to a bunch of stuff that's decaying is really good for the psyche. Kay and I need to get a steam cleaner for the carpet here because as long as we have it, it needs yearly cleaning, and we'll probably drive it over to my dad's place and just clean those carpets there, too. Same thing with a power washer on the sides of the place - it's not that hard, so why not? I have to refinish the deck here, and he offered to help, so why not refinish that deck, too? He spends more time out there.

New towels at Ikea or wherever follow the same philosophy - every time I go over there, I don't want to dry my hands on towels that are falling apart and he's not gonna buy them for himself, so I figure he's helped us a lot and we'll just give him some new ones.

I haven't been able to get over there very often, but I really think that he's getting older and he needs to be kinder to himself. He's not in bad physical shape, but he drinks too much and doesn't engage in any hobby past playing out, which runs until late, anyhow. Maybe coming over more and doing other stuff will help break him out of the funk he's in - doing exactly the same thing every day is bad for you, and I just feel like it's a bad sign when someone's ignoring stuff they used to want to do in favor of watching stale TV and surfing depressing news on the internet. Making the place really legitimately clean again is probably a good step in the right direction.
atolnon: (Default)
( Apr. 12th, 2017 12:34 pm)
People are vanishing from LJ in a hurry - I can't say I'm surprised. I am, myself, cross-posting to the usual place. Maybe it's more appropriate to say that I'm posting there and I'm still cross-posting here. My content isn't likely to run afoul of Russian laws, but who can say? I am prepared for most contingencies.

Small things:

I wanted to start the Metal Gear franchise on the advice of a large percentage of friends, and Kay recommended starting with Twin Snakes. It's a GameCube game and I have a Wii, but when I got the Wii set up, it seems as though there's a problem with the disk intake or reader. Persona 5 just came in, which is a powerful incentive to switch gears and further prolong my engagement with the ol' MG - I might start Persona and wait until Kay's home to do any MG playing. Honestly, I've just postponed any serious video gaming.

The car situation is generally weirder than I like. The salesperson that we've been working with is just... I mean, he's uncomfortable to hang around. I don't like talking to him. He puts my teeth on edge and he's dismissive to Kay even when he's trying to seem pleasant. We're getting pre-approved for financing, my dad'll cosign with us, and we'll buy it on Saturday - it's just that we won't deal with the old salesman anymore. Finally, though, we won't have trouble with vehicles. I'm really glad my Camry's in such good shape despite the accident, and I'm looking forward to being able to drive it again.

It wouldn't have normally been possible for me to make the game session (and therefor run the game at all) today because Kay's got mandatory overtime this week and that's how shit is - but my friend has access to his car this week because break is on, and he'll give me a ride. First, that's rad, and second, now I'll make cookies to bring to the session at his new place.

I'm finishing up with my Norton copy of George Bernard Shaw's plays and essays written about them. I'll admit that I've enjoyed it more than I thought I would and they're relevant in ways I didn't expect them to be even now, but there's something about the writing of the period that always makes the reading something like work. I've had a mind to tackle 50 books this year, and the prognosis doesn't seem super good for that. I'm not making a really directed push for it, because there are other things I need to do (so I don't want to put a top priority on quantity) and because that's a goal I know I'm predisposed to gaming and the length of books is so heavily variable. It's very much a soft goal where if I don't meet it, I'm not like... officially concerned with it. But I'd like to get close to it, if for no other reason than the fact that I've got a huge literary backlog I'd been meaning to get to and for the last two years I've really gotten some good books read - but I've also spent a lot of time reading and re-reading old essays or books and it's gotten stale. The Shaw collection (there's another reason it gets so variable) will make 11 books finished, though.

I saw Logan, and it was definitely worth the price of admission. Feels more like a Western than a super-hero flick which I honestly prefer.

There was something else, but I forget and I have a game to refresh myself on and cookies to make.
Each one of the games I ran got a Radiohead title. For the epilogue, I chose a much deeper cut for the title in Harry Patch (In Memory Of). In order, then, the titles for the games were: Morning Bell, Give Up the Ghost, A Reminder, Jigsaw Falling into Place, Myxomatosis, The Gloaming, (The Sky is Falling In) an alt title, (Your Time is Up), You and Whose Army, and (In Memory of). It makes a small mix album, perfectly accommodating of a few additional tracks for secondary sessions or side-stories surrounding other characters or whatever.

The game was obviously not supposed to last this long - I thought it'd probably be a three-shot and wrapped up in a few days or, at most, over the course of a few weekends. As it is, if you've look at the list of game names, you can see that it wasn't exactly composed of a huge number of individual games or sessions; we probably sat down ten times to play in about five or six years. Two years passed without me running a single game. We'd be in the car and one of us would say, "Man, I want to run/play WoD. Maybe we can do it soon." Grad school was not kind to anything that wasn't grad school, though. I think that's the nature of the beast. Even before that, though, we weren't in a good state for it. There would be several days we had the time, but the subject matter was often very heavy, and we would just pass on it.

Despite that, I've found the sessions I ran with Kay to be absolutely crucial to cementing very important ideas I've had about horror gaming, what I like in systems, what I consider to be good scenes, and what I want out of my own writing. My notes are extensive for how short the game actually was, and they probably would have been impossible to derive for me, this time, without the game being 1-on-1, but now that the game is concluded, they'll serve another purpose. Past that, I really feel like my pacing could have been better, that I could have worked out my issues with mechanics better, and that some elements I was hoping to push were a bust and that the closer I worked directly with the rules for this iteration of the core mechanics, the happier I was with the results of any particular scene.

At this point, for example, I feel strongly that the fight between Kay's character Henry and three cult members outside, in a Kroger parking lot in mid-November, with Henry simply trying to escape and three of these guys rolling damage against the car windows was easily my favorite action/combat scene I've ever run. Maybe my second didn't involve combat whatsoever, but it involved Henry trying to escape an interloper into a house with an innocent bystander in tow, and the results of looking for a weapon inside a house's kitchen and trying to hide from room to room. Both of these scenes were more exciting to me than the eventual dramatic conclusion with the cult leader, and I feel strongly that the reason for that is how interactive and fluid the environment was in these scenarios. Combat and action are dull when it's just rolling dice, and it's exciting and interesting when there's risk, and when there's more demanded of the characters than simple mechanical defeat of an opposition.

The most critical dynamic in horror tabletop gaming, and possibly in all tabletop gaming, is the dynamic between a credible threat to something the character holds dear and character agency. I'm soft when it comes to character survival in itself - especially 1-on-1, I have never felt that the game dynamic would have felt particularly improved by the potential death of the protagonist. I say never only because of the scenarios I've run; I could easily see many situations where PC death is a valid option. In this game, the threats were to bystanders, or what would happen if the antagonists were successful, and in most cases Henry was only important because he was interfering; for most of the game, he could have stopped at any time, but doing so would have meant death or danger for others - just not him. So the stakes themselves were rarely directly critical to Henry's well-being. That frequently posed interesting questions for Kay, then, which was to weigh personal level of involvement and willingness to confront danger versus the well being of others. To this end, there's an understanding between player and storyteller in that we both know that if Henry doesn't bite, the game doesn't really proceed - except that it might if we work together to determine what will happen in the game world and what the ramifications will be when Henry's standing still. In a lot of these cases, then, there's a willingness to involve oneself with the metagame or even understand that there's a metalevel to the game at all.

I postponed the last session (not the epilogue but the combat session) for a really long time just because I have a problem with ending campaigns. I've run a few games - Awakening and Changeling: the Lost - where I was deeply unsatisfied with the final session. I am not especially good at running combat scenes (I'm working on that a lot with the new Exalted games, and I'm not there yet, but I will be) and so I'd do the same thing I've seen done a lot which is to dump a large enemy and maybe some half-thought out smaller enemies at the players without particular regard for the play dynamic. The Mage characters fought a minor archmage. The Changeling characters fought an antagonist who intended to become a member of the Gentry. In both cases, the leadup and the environment were the stars of the show for sure - the Hedge environment was a hit, and the penultimate sessions for Mage did a pretty good job in escalating the tension. In the WoD game, Kay was very happy with the final result and I was still... not as happy.

I feel like the big bad became well developed and appropriately statted in the time it took me to finish the session, but that the fight itself wasn't as dynamic as it could be. It resulted in another roll the dice and mark the damage conflict, which I guess will happen sometimes, but could have been more interesting. This is a matter of having previously written myself into a literal hole, since the conflict took place in a small cave in an offshoot of a steam tunnel. My thoughts on that are, well, you know, sometimes that last conflict shit is a little underwhelming - the actual confrontation is straightforward, it's cathartic - Henry was never supposed to make friends, he was never supposed to just up and confront the cult leader, he was never supposed to just shoot the motherfucker in the exact same way that, inside the narrative of a typical horror flick, he wasn't supposed to burn the magic book and say, "Well, that shit's just too dangerous to be left intact." And he did. The result was that they successfully marched into a dangerous environment, were well-prepared, and just outright solved the problem with no additional casualties. And look, the book explicitly says "did the character learn anything?" and "did the character formulate a plan?" and "did they put themselves into danger heroically?" and he did, so why wouldn't both character and player reap the narrative rewards of that kind of behavior?
atolnon: (Default)
( Apr. 4th, 2017 11:57 am)
Enough happened between Friday and Monday that I genuinely am having trouble narrowing my subject, and I don't really want to get any more verbose on this platform then I already tend to. We had finished the last game where there was any any real conflict for WoD weeks ago, and I had finished writing the Epilogue almost immediately after. So, on Sunday, we concluded the Epilogue, too, which felt good.

Monday Kay had to take off for medical, and also because it was the only day we could really take the car we've been trying to buy on a pre-purchase inspection. It was easily a twelve hour day, and when we got back to the dealership, it was getting pretty close to closing time. We'd picked up the car at about 1 PM and got it back at about 5:30, which was a lot later than planned, but it was a matter of driving across the river and to two mechanics, and back.

The car itself is fine. It's a 2009 Suburu with 130k miles on it, so it's got some wear, but overall it looks good. A pretty fair amount of work had to be done on the engine, there are some minor mechanical problems and the seat belt needs to be replaced, but the service team at the dealership did a good job on the engine. Blue Book value, based on damage, wear, and minor mechanical issues would put it around 8k, which we're ready to pay. 10k out the door. All we really wanted to do when we got back to the dealership is drop it off, let them know we were going to finish acquiring financing, and that we should be up on the weekend to sign off on it, but the salesman wanted to make an ass of himself, and we were obliged to be his audience.

This is a dude who has had every opportunity to sell this car, and has mostly done the opposite. He's worked to obscure information, has actively mislead us about the status of the car,in some cases he's actively lied to us. He's attempted to gaslight Kay first by saying one thing and then saying the opposite, and blaming Kay for misunderstanding, misrepresenting back to him, or just asserting that Kay's making shit up. There have been times when he's simply meandered off without any real explanation. He's claimed he doesn't know the Blue Book value for the car, has claimed he doesn't understand how the turbo works, and that he wasn't aware of the nature of the problems with the engine. So, you know, after all of that he pulls us back into a cubical off the sales floor and it's like... 30 minutes until close. I know he wants to do something with this machine, but he tries to give us the hard sell right on the spot.

Kay's like - we got it back from inspection and here are some diagnosed problems we're concerned about. So, dude says, we've already sunk a lot of money into this car and we're not spending any more than we need to in order to get it saleable in this state. This price, he says, "isn't subject to negotiation." He says, okay, and this is a used car salesman, but he says that "I'm not trying to hard sell you. I'm not trying to say take it or leave it, but here's what we're gonna do." And he writes a price down on a sales sheet of 11,000. "Sign this," he says, "we'll charge you 95.50 in administrative fees and we'll get started." Then he adds the prices together - the paper mentions something that he doesn't say outright - it's a promise to pay.

So, I'm like, wait, stop. "You said that this isn't negotiable, which I understood to mean that you're not willing to pay any more on the repairs, including the seatbelt damage, is that right?" He says that's correct. "But you're saying that if we put 100 down now, the car will for sure be here on Saturday, because we're holding it for the week by starting the purchase." He says that this is not the case - we've started the process of purchasing, but anyone could just walking in with cash, he tells me, and buy it out from under.

Well, there's no point in me putting the money down now, then. "But, I say, you put 11,000 here, straight up. Are you telling me, when you say that there's no negotiating this price, that this price is also non-negotiable at this point?" Yes, he says. There is no discussing the price of eleven thousand dollars for something that's Blue Book 8,000 in fine condition, which is absolutely what this is. I said, "So you said, you're not saying take it or leave it, but it's 11k or bust?" Yes. "So that's take it or leave it." Yes.

So we said we're not deciding the price like that, and we're certainly not promising to pay 11k right this second without securing the funding in any kind of final way - you've got to be insane. And we walked the fuck out of his cubical and went home on the fucking spot. So he can think about that for a day or two, and we'll see if he's unwilling to negotiate next time we talk.
Several years ago, we were t-boned in a residential intersection by someone who wasn't really paying attention, and the impact spun Kay's car around 180 degrees. We were fortunate to escape any kind of injury; it was a pretty low-speed collision, but whiplash is still a real thing. Unfortunately, the car itself was pretty old and it sustained body damage. The insurance company totalled it out, which is a practice I have Opinions on, but can't really be helped. The damage was too much to repair and couldn't be done in installments, but the vehicle was driveable until pretty recently when the ride got too rough for Kay to really feel comfortable with. The frame was rubbing axle or something - I don't know - nobody could really determine what exactly the issue was.

So since January, Kay's been driving my car and I've been unemployed. I don't really mind the title of homemaker, honestly, since it's not as though I'm lounging around. With the pets and Kay's current overtime work schedule combined with college courses, there's very little slack in the schedule and where there is some, it's typically in 30-minute increments in my day. That's with the two of us combined. But since the job's going well, and it's very reliable (finally), we're looking at getting a new car.

Just at the same time as someone rearends my car, too. Once again, there's body damage, but it's not really visible and I'm told it won't render the car undriveable. So I'm fixing the exhaust because I need to, but it's put us in a frustrating bind. I already spoke about that a little, it's just still on my mind, so I guess it's made its way back here. We're both of the same mind that we'd rather repair than buy, even at the same cost, and we'd rather buy used than buy new - for eco reasons, in part, but also for personal and ideological reasons. With a house, I'd always choose to buy an old one and refurbish than buy a new one at the same price. I'll always opt to buy something of higher quality that will last much longer than buy something cheap - unless I'm forced. I'm also personally attached to my car. I tend to drive them until they're impossible to repair. Given the opportunity, we'll repair Kay's old vehicle too, because there's no particularly compelling reason for me not to feel like I should.

Unlike Kay, I do actually have a little time. Like, it tends to be spread out through the day, but it's there, and if I kind of neglect housework for a day or so, things get messy but don't actually fall apart. (That's usually what happens on the Wednesday game night cycle into Thursday, where I spend all day cleaning.) I'm trying to catch up on several years of media backlogs, and my cartoon-loving friends are still all over Kill la Kill, so I'm like... tentatively checking it out. I have a certain amount of weird dislike for Gurren Lagann, which is supposed to be similar, but I'll give it it's due.

The big sticking point seems to be the fan service, which isn't really an issue for me? I know we're all in this phase of feeling obligated to come up with some justification for this stuff, so I see a lot of dude fans shamefacedly offering disclaimers - oh, yeah, well... the fanservice... yes, but there are reasons... it's satire. There's a justification! DESPITE THIS I think you'll like it... try not to judge...

I'm just like, my dude, fella, the women fans of the show don't seem to have the same kinds of hangups. I am not concerned about this. My issue is with pretend-depth, or a show pretending to have something important to say and doing it dully or badly. I didn't dislike Gurren Lagann because Yoko's implausibly hydraulic - I disliked it because I found it to be boring, and no amount of giant machines or anime mammaries is going to change the quality of the writing or pacing. It just didn't hit me at the right stage of my watching development for me to be inspired by it. Whether Kill la Kill watches the same or it doesn't is really up to the franchise itself. I wasn't really pumped by the first episode, but since I'm only watching one a day, giving it 20 minutes of my time to convince me over a week or so isn't really something I mind and at least I'll have an informed opinion.
atolnon: (Default)
( Mar. 28th, 2017 02:59 pm)
My car got rear-ended after someone hydroplaned into the back of it at a low speed and, as a result, Kay and I are being forced to deal with people, which is something I'm never especially excited about. I was thinking about writing, but both of us ended up having to deal with this, and it's forced me to kind of have to be present all day on someone else's mystery schedule.

I have an older car and, if it were any older, I'd switch it to ethanol for it's 21st. It's got over 130,000 miles on it and it's not actually worth any money - which is really weird to me because market value doesn't really seem to have anything to do with how well it drives. It's got some hail damage, but it's a metal body and the damage is easy to repair. It's entirely cosmetic. Other than that, the engine and belts are in great shape. I replaced the tubes a few years ago for a hefty sum. New tires, new brake pads, everything's good. That will not stop them from totaling the machine out, though, because of the damage from a low-speed rear-end collision.

Body damage, according to the adjuster, probably won't render it undriveable, but the damage to the exhaust needs to be repaired first. Total damage bill is estimated at twice the value to the car, so the insurance company just washed their hands of it and said they'd send the check, the miserable bastards. I need the car and I really like it - plus, there's no way we can invest in trying to get two cars yet. We're already trying to replace Kay's. If it'll really be driveable and there's little visible damage, we'll see.
Today's been going fast. The weather has jumped from cold/cool right up to the mid-70's and, like, I enjoy it a lot but it's also got me spacing out pretty badly. Nothing weird - just spring fever. My gut reaction says this is it for winter, and I'm going to get the front yard flower bed for the bees ready now. That is enough for me to be excited about.

I've been trying to get a handle on pacing and writing one game, which I haven't done super well with. Kay genuinely has had no time even to do marginal work on a character either, and I know there's at least one other prospective online player who's too busy to manage. Another is about to go on vacation abroad again (I'm envious, since I can't even take a road trip right now), so it's like, yes, I'll be giving the southeast game a lot of focus, but it's hard to justify trying to squeeze in more planning yet. The northeast game looks like it might be 3/4's, with me skipping an occasional week, but the games are bound to be short since the window of time I can play is really very narrow. Right now the only day that works is Wednesdays, and the only time is between 7 and 9:30 at the latest. 10 PM is not late for most people, but that is right at when I'm crawling into bed. I'm usually dead on my feet by 9:30.

Since the extensive Exalted wiki we were using had to be taken down because the cost got out of hand, I've been using Obsidian Portal, but I've been too lazy (or tired, if you're nice about it) to get the game synopsis up. I like editing wikis and I've done okay on the WoD WIP, so I know I can do this, but it's not especially exciting to re-write old sessions. Considering that I take extensive notes, though, I might as well preserve them because otherwise I totally fuckin' forget what's happened. I see people run this shit on the fly, I don't know how they do that. That looks like magic to me, for real. My WoD game was 9 full games and there's over 50 typed pages. There's no good reason for that, except that I remembered that I didn't do that with my Mage or Changeling games and I can't remember what happened anymore - so that might be reason enough.

I think after the next session this Wednesday, I'll be able to plan more fully for the SE game and the NE game will be more or less moving smoothly. After a while, the players do a lot to take over the direction.
The rhythm I've gotten into is close enough to good that I can work with it. I've done a lot to hit what I consider a productive groove - I go to sleep early, make healthy food, cut seriously back on hard drinking, and so on - but I'm still almost always tired. If the cause is really the weather and the amount of light, then I'm in good shape, because it's hitting mid-March and I expect that after this late chill is over, winter will truly give over to spring.

My replacement for feeling good or being able to instinctively be able to do the things that I want/need to do is just practice and repetition. Despite being home all day, my actual productive window feels pretty narrow, and I do my best to set whatever goals I can and try to hit a small number of tangible goals daily. Journalling - here and elsewhere - is part of that. Building and maintaining a minimum exercise regime is another, but one I've been frozen on for no good reason at all. So, I'll probably just set a really small minimum set of basic stuff (stretching, pushups, situps, curls, etc.) just so that I'm doing anything at all.

My phone and social media are blowing up strangely which is absolutely cutting into my ability to focus, so I'm cutting this short, today.
It seems like I only have time, these days, to meet with friends for a few hours at a time when I see them. But, I have to be honest, I'm glad I'm able to see them at all. I had thought that I'd have more time after my thesis was complete, but my domestic workload's pretty steep and my ability to drive anywhere is curtailed. I've seen some friends and family for the first time since October or even earlier, and those meetings have been kind of the equivalent of poking my head in for a moment to say, Hello, yes, I'm still alive and I haven't forgotten you, but I don't think my schedule will ever stop being incredibly messy. I hope you're doing well!

I'm trying to run an Exalted game, which has been much more difficult than I anticipated. Wednesday is the only available day, and I had been making those sessions weekly for playing, but I'd always come back incredibly tired. Drinking at all is a problem during those sessions, since they're usually very short, and I easily risk getting drunk if I don't keep a close eye on my consumption. The exhaustion's a worse danger, usually. Kay usually can't sleep while I'm out, so Wednesday ends up being a super late night for both of us, and we both get up at 5, so I have to confess a need to limit weeknight sessions to a much earlier hour until my schedule changes in any meaningful way.

Kay's working a lot of overtime in conjunction with finishing an Associate's degree. None of this creates an especially optimal climate for normal hangout times. Everyone's a night owl and I usually go to bed at 9:30 or 10:00 these days.

I'm trying to reach out in other ways. I keep trying to write letters, which I do with only modest success, but still. I owe another set of letters out, but sometimes it's just easier to call. I think my grandparents are in that set - so I called them up, which I do every other month or so. I think I last spoke to them in early January. I talked to my grandfather, who I don't usually actually speak with, and he's doing this anniversary thing in upstate New York which, frankly, is tough. Kay's not really going to have time off, yet, because there's still a new hire time-off freeze. It'd cost a lot of money we really need for debts and repairs. But... they've given us a lot of money over the years, so the dollar bill concerns really feel flat. Anyhow, I missed my grandmother the first time so she had to call me back.

So, I mean, you read the title. I feel like you see how this is probably going to go.

Back in January, we didn't talk politics at all. This is a policy I tend to have with anyone Boomer or older unless I know better. Like, two aging farm-owners in upstate New York are unlikely to have really similar values. My grandmother, I know, is one of those ol' white people racists who once, when I was a young child, evinced an opinion against mixed race marriages on account of white people and black people being different biological races. Not, she said, that she's racist! "Black people are equal," she said, "just that we should get intermarried."

So, you know, there's background to this. And I don't see them very often, and for my birthday and Christmas they send me hundreds of dollars - and I'm in my 30's, so there's really zero obligation for this. If it wasn't for this, we'd have gone hungry and the phones would get shut off and... I don't honestly want to think about it. But my grandmother's called me up, and she's gone Full Trump. Like, the whole nine. And that's disconcerting, because back in November, she liked Carson to win and doesn't trust Sanders (because Socialism - not realizing that I, a Communist, live amongst you), and didn't like Trump's rhetoric.

And now, like, it's Build The Wall, and It's Not OUR America Anymore, (as if it were ever My America, as if I want it to myself), These Are Murderers and Rapists, Have You Even Seen Dearborn?! It Doesn't Look Like America!, Thank God We're Getting Rid of ObamaCare!, and so on.

I'm on the phone having a low-key panic attack that would follow me around for the rest of the evening. I tried to explain - we have the most Syrian and Bosnian immigrants in America where I live, and they've been nothing but a great addition to our city, I tried to explain. The ACA let Kay get a biopsy we'd never be able to afford, it helped me see a doctor which I hadn't done in over 12 years previously! The wall wouldn't even help! Trump is a complete crook and rapist! Brushed off or decried as Fake News. Like, the propaganda machine has done its work but good, I can tell you that it works quick.

What's most chilling is how willfully apocalyptic the stories are. We're Not Sure If We're Going to Make it Before They Rise Up, she told me. We May Not Survive The Coming Years. They'll Come For Us, First. She said.

I sighed heavily. I have to go, I said. I have to make dinner before Kay gets home. She really doesn't know, and it makes me sad in some ways, and relieved in others - the things people tell you when they don't realize that you're not Us. You're Them. Not because you want to be, but because your own family won't listen and couldn't possibly believe you - they refuse to believe in peace because they are legitimately deafened by their own call to war.
atolnon: (Default)
( Feb. 13th, 2017 10:35 am)
There's a lot of stuff that I'm still slogging through that I had kind of hoped to have wrapped up by now. Anxiety has made is difficult to focus on any one thing for months, maybe even for the past few years. I have to think back on the kind of pace I've tended to set for myself, where a professor would assign a hundred pages of reading for a week - which my brain doesn't, at this point, parse as any kind of overabundance of reading, but it adds up.

There has always been an overabundance of shit to tackle.

So, when mid-January hit (making this almost a month since I finally submitted my thesis), I figured there'd be nothing on the other side of that and I'd rapidly pick up a similar pace with personal reading and projects. The real situation's more complicated - it's been "the thing" I've been writing about here this whole time - that there's simultaneously no real pressure imposed by deadlines or institutions and a huge backlog of stuff I want to do that's been left totally untouched for two years that I want to tackle all of, right away.

The result's a mental log-jam. No pressure from the river, too many things trying to be processed at once. A game to play. A book to read. An essay to check. A game to write. If you try to do it all at once, a little gets done, day by day, but not a lot on any one given thing and it feels like I'm spinning my wheels. But I'm not entirely unproductive. All at once, a lot will get done, and then I'll be taking on each project one at a time. Already I'm better at focusing. It's honestly weird to look at grad school, where I felt very focused, and still see all the ways that I was wrenched back and forth from one project to the next. Professionally, that might still be as good as it gets, frankly. In terms of personal life, though, you know, I just try to cultivate patience from one moment to the next and do only one thing at a time.

I believe that people can multitask effectively, but studies have shown that it still results in decreased productivity. For me, it makes me a nervous wreck.

I'm coming to the end of the Kafka. I don't wonder if he didn't suffer similarly. His works have a dreamlike quality that, to the degree that I've read them, I feel like their unfinished nature results in an inherently non platonic nature that possess a kind of internal, symbolic logic that doesn't translate with much fidelity to a waking experience. In the post-script, the book mentions Camus's statement that "the whole of Kafka's art consists in compelling the reader to re-read him." Much like trying to remember a dream and interpret it on waking, the thing itself might be nonsense (or there might be a sense to it but) the compulsion is almost a kind of free-association. The lack of an ending is a boon for most of these works; you cannot conclude them effectively, because we hope that a conclusion ties things together. Even works like "The Judgement," seem to dissolve into the air or else float down the stream to a place we cannot see from where we stand on the bridge.
atolnon: (Default)
( Feb. 3rd, 2017 02:53 pm)
Things have been weirdly hectic over here, but for reasons that become understandable once you've got a good idea of what drives our daily life and what tends to influence our schedules. Not bad - just busy. Not as productive as I'd like, but still going pretty well.

Finally wrote the Epilogue session for WoD. We've played the last boss game, and closed that out, but the epilogue is really where all the satisfying conclusions come into play.

I think I made a big mistake in trying to run the conclusion game during my last sprint to finish my thesis. But the thesis went well and Kay liked the game, so it was still a success! I feel very good about this epilogue session then. 
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