Monthly Archives: August 2013

Messy vs. Dirty

I sit in my office, which is not exactly in the best state of repair at the moment. The clothes pile threatens to metastasize, there is an abandoned LEGO-sorting project near the bookshelves, and there is barely enough space on my desk for my laptop.

It’s a good thing I don’t have to look at it (aside from the desk) while I’m writing.

But on some level, I can still feel the chaos. It is distracting, if for no other reason than the thought “Man, I really need to do something about that” is never far from my conscious mind. When it flares into prominence, I tend to respond with a guilty “Yeah…” before surfing back to Facebook or going downstairs to power up the Xbox 360. Not the best coping mechanism, I will readily admit, especially since there’s a mess with to contend with down there as well. And that’s not saying anything about having to pass through the kitchen.

I definitely have a different tolerance for mess than my immediate family (I plan to discuss the dreaded “Mom Clean” tomorrow), that that’s not to say I never reach my limit. But one thing that makes my view of mess and disorder different than the rest of my family is that I do not see “messy” as the same as “dirty.”

Let’s go into some definitions. Messy, in this case, refers to the level of disorder in a space. It can be a random jumble of loose ends, or an organizational system based on heaps and piles. When clothes get strewn around willy-nilly (after I get home from work) or projects peter out in the middle, things end up messy. Disorder can be distracting, but I seem to be able to cope with it relatively well (up to a point, of course).

Dirty, on the other hand, refers to the level of filth in a space. A kitchen filled with half-eaten rotting food cementing plates together is dirty. A bathroom so horrendous that your friends would rather stop by the truck stop on their way home at two in the morning is dirty. Dirty is an abhorrent state, one to be avoided at all costs.

I think my differences with my family come from the fact that I don’t feel that Messiness and Dirtiness are mutually inclusive. For example: a room with piles of clothes on the floor. Messy or Dirty? For me, it depends: if the clothes are clean, then the room is merely Messy. Old, sweaty fighting undergarments that reek of the blood of your enemies? Definitely Dirty. The Messy piles should likely be cleaned up, but it’s less of a pressing issue, especially if you can find what you need in a reasonable amount of time (“The underwear’s in that pile, and the socks are over here!”).

And I will readily admit that the line between Messy and Dirty can be very fuzzy even at the best of times. In fact, it’s probably not a continuum between Clean, Messy, and Dirty. It’s probably more of a series of perpendicular axes: Ordered/Messy and Clean/Dirty. Things can be Clean and Messy, or Dirty and Messy; these two are not the same, although I’m not sure how one could be Ordered and Dirty.

I strive very hard to make sure I stay on the Messy side of things (despite whatever rotten lies my family has told you). It just means my floors don’t get vacuumed as often as they might.

But I do need to at least make room for a new pile of clean laundry.

Only I Remain

So after fencing practice went well last week, I’ve done a bit more thinking in regards to the Axesperiment. I think that the way I described the reaction to emotions was not quite correct. I would like to try to clarify. I’ll even go back and re-read some of my previous words, much as I despise doing so, just for you! Now if you’ll excuse me, we’re about to get a little philosophical. Maybe even zen.

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Webcomics Part 3: The Lost

So last time I mentioned I might do another list of webcomics, of ones I no longer read. I did some more thinking, and I think it could also be a good way to get some low-brain-effort posts for the weekends. It also doesn’t hurt that I just realized I have now run out of buffer (geez, you take a few days off…). So in what is likely going to be the first (or third, depending on how you’re counting) in a series of several posts, here is a list of webcomics I no longer read or never got around to starting. I’ve tried to give a quick summary blurb about the comic itself, as well as why it’s not in my active roster any more. Some are odd, others embarrassing, but here they are nonetheless.

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Good For The Company

Hopefully you’ve all seen Office Space. If not, you totally should. It’s about a guy’s soul-crushing job at an IT cubicle farm in Silicon Valley during the 90s, and feels almost like a live-action Dilbert series. Peter (the main character) spends most of his day staring at the walls of his pod, waiting for time to pass and trying to avoid as many of his six different bosses as possible. One of these, Lumbergh, is the embodiment of all that is dark and unholy in middle management. He is passive-aggressive, an incessant micromanager, completely without empathy, and spouts corporate talking points and catchphrases like they would ever have a place in normal human conversation.

I really didn’t think people talked like that.

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Parkinson’s Law

Has anyone else noticed that you never seem to accomplish as much as you set out to any given day? Because I sure have. It seems that no matter how much (or little) I get done, there’s something that inevitably gets left out. You’d think I would learn to recalibrate my expectations, but no luck so far. Take my one day off this week for example. I didn’t have much planned, but had a few things I wanted to accomplish:

  • Sleep in
  • Watch American History X (since it has to go back to the library)
  • Catch up on webmaster work
  • Write several blog posts (read: more than one)

As of 3pm, here’s what I had actually done:

  • Slept in (6h45 counts as sleeping in when you usually get up at 4am)
  • Explored a friend’s Minecraft server (and got lost, and died while loaded with iron ore)
  • Finished Deus Ex (take that, Bak’laag!)
  • Listened to a Queen cover album by The Protomen
  • Picked up a component cable for my PS2 (which ended up not working)
  • Picked up needed ingredients for dinner tonight Written one blog post (this one)

I might have time to watch a movie before my girlfriend gets home from work, but that would be at the cost of additional blog posts. And that’s without taking into account longer-term projects, such as working on my armor, doing dishes, or picking up my office. So it goes.

I found this to be the case in grad school as well. No matter how much time I left for a project, I ended up stressing out at the last minute, cramming to get everything done. That’s where I decided that it’s a near-universal rule that projects will always take longer than you expect.

Maybe this is just an issue of misaligned expectations and estimates. If that was the case, one would think that the issue would become less severe as it sustained contact with reality. But I have not found this to be the case. The change in thinking, that is.

I have in the past described myself as a former overachiever, and I imagine that most of my anxiety over this planning issue is tied to that. And since it seems to continue happening, I am striving to not let it stress me out as much. I’m done with school; for the most part, my deadlines are self-imposed, and no one is going to punish me if things don’t get done (with the obvious exception of work, official paperwork, etc.). But this is not an easy thing to wrap my mind around. I’ve spent a good majority of my life in school, and I am used to deadlines and outside motivators. To not have those sometimes makes me feel like I’m spinning my wheels.

But writing out my accomplishments so far for the day does put things into a bit of perspective. I may not have accomplished all that I set out to do, but I did get stuff done. I think there’s probably a lesson there, if one can manage to think outside the box in terms of productivity. And I’m starting to realize that it would be much better for my overall peace of mind if I could hold on to that long view. So yeah, something I would do well to remember.

My office is still a mess, though.

(Title reference)

EDIT: Got to watch American History X.  Heavy.

Preliminary Axesperimental Findings

So I had a chance to work on my mind game at heavy practice last night, and while my previous post on the matter may have edged toward melodramatic, I think I had some success. I have also noticed some differences between how it works in heavy fighting versus fencing that I’d like to discuss.

But first I want to try to clarify what I mean by the “they are meat” mindset. For me, it is a way of reminding myself that during a fight my goal should be to win, not to merely pass the time or make sure the other person feels good about themselves. There is a place for that, don’t get me wrong, but for a long time that has largely been my default setting, and I think it’s working to my detriment right now. The “meat” thing may seem extreme; I will concede that it may be, but sometimes it takes an extreme shift of perspective to move you out of a rut. It is a tool in the bag, one that will hopefully help boost me to the next level.

With that out of the way, let’s talk about how it went last night.

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Catch-22

Imagine if you will: you go back to school for an advanced degree, one which will qualify you for a very specialized type of work. As part of this education, you have the opportunity to receive professional certifications and accreditations which will make you more marketable in the coming job search. You graduate, but fail to find a job in your field, most likely because of forces outside your control. However, your professional credentials require continuing education and upkeep. This requires money that, since you’re not working in your field, you don’t have. You could let the credentials expire, but then it would be even harder to find a job. You need the credentials to find a job in your field, but you can’t afford to keep the credentials without a job in your field.

Sound familiar?

If you’re me it does.

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Just Writing Something

So over the past few days I’m managed to build up a buffer of posts. For instance: yesterdays post was written the day after fencing practice, and this one was written on Sunday. Basically, if a post goes up at noon, you can safely assume it’s been written beforehand. The ones that have gone up around 3 or 4 I wrote that day, after I got home from work.

Having a buffer has been nice; for instance, it let me take Saturday off of writing and go see Elysium with my dad and brother (short review: a timely and good [if not-so-subtle] allegory about class tension). Rather than writing, I spent my down time decompressing and crushing playing video games with my brother. However, having a buffer is not without its downsides.

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Clever girl…

So at fencing practice last week, I tried out some of what I talked about in my previous post on fighting. Today, I’d like to talk about how the experiment (Axesperiment?) went. I noticed at fighter practice, after my knight talked to me, that suppressing emotions wasn’t enough: I ended up thinking “don’t feel for this person” more than I thought about fighting, with predictable results: I didn’t fight nearly as well as I know I can. So at fencing practice the next night, I tried a slightly different approach. Rather than feeling and working on keeping those emotions under control, I worked on not feeling at all. The results were interesting.

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Webcomics I Read (Part 2)

Oh, you thought the last post about webcomics was going to be the only one?  Oh ye of little faith, I have many more ways I waste my time!  What follows is the second half of the list of webcomics I am actively reading.  I will admit, I was surprised by how long it was when actually written out; it kind of coalesced over time, like a katamari picking up stray cats and knickknacks.  I’m even considering a Part 3: [Webcomics] That I Used To Know. Continue reading