Monthly Archives: March 2014

Run Run Run, As Competently As You Can

One thing I like about old-school video games is how demanding they are. Now, to me that doesn’t mean the same thing as “hard,” although many of them are also that. Old-school games, especially platformers, can be unforgiving, requiring pixel-perfect timing and execution. But there’s something about that level of intensity that appeals to me. The fact that these games demand so much of my attention means that I can actually focus in on the task at hand, instead of my mind flitting every which way as it usually does. These games demand much, but the return is worth it.

Why do I bring this up? Well, at the risk of sounding like a crotchety old gamer, they don’t make many games like they used to any more. Save points, quick reloads, and generally less challenging level design have seemed to take over most of the medium. Don’t get me wrong, I can see why: I definitely don’t have the free time to dedicate to mastering a game like I did when I was younger. But part of me still yearns for that challenge.

Luckily, I’ve been playing BIT.TRIP Presents… Runner 2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien.

Yes, I know that’s a mouthful of a title, but bear with me. Runner 2 is a platformer, but with a strong rhythm component. Your character automatically moves from left to right, and it’s your job to jump, duck, kick, and otherwise dodge obstacles while collecting as many piles of gold as you can. It requires precision timing, as one wrong move will send you plummeting back to the start of the level.

This may not sound very complicated, but it does a good job of scratching that “old-school demanding” itch of mine. When you fail (and you will fail), the game lets you quickly try again, and the obstacles are in the same location every time. So as time goes on you will inevitably improve, if through nothing else than rote memorization and muscle memory. I’ve been playing it on my laptop with an Xbox 360 controller, and while the d-pad still sucks, it feels true to the experience in a way that using a keyboard probably wouldn’t.

Runner 2 isn’t completely without issues for me, however. It doesn’t seem to like my computer much, and after a level or two I’ll start to experience horrendous lag spikes. On a platformer that relies on such precision timing, this is more than a minor inconvenience. Luckily the problem is fixed by restarting the game (or just alt-tabbing back and forth), but it’s annoying to be reminded that my computer is getting up in years.

The other issue I have is more personal: because it takes so much concentration, I can only play Runner 2 for so long before my reflexes start betraying me. When I start mis-timing jumps repeatedly, or ducking when I’m supposed to kick, I know that it’s time to take a break. After this next level, of course…

So if you’re looking for an old-school fix and aren’t too rhythmically inept, I can heartily recommend Runner 2. It’s available on most platforms, although I may have an extra PC copy floating around if you’d like to try it out.

Man, This Soapbox Is Getting A Lot Of Use

I was having another discussion recently about the Science vs. Creationism debate. I was trying to sketch out the broad positions, describe my stance, when I was asked a simple question:


Why does it matter if some people “believe” in evolution, while others believe that the earth was created 6,000 years ago? What effect does it have on our day to day life? Why can’t we all just get along?

Why, you ask?

Because 46% of Americans believe that God created humans in their present form thousands of years ago.

Because these people are degrading our public schools by insisting their junk theories be taught as fact.

Because teaching religion in public schools is unconstitutional and illegal.

Because teaching creationism discourages critical thinking and promotes an unscientific worldview.

Because these people are making our laws and shaping our future, either through direct legislation or through voting.

Because these selfsame anti-science people are the ones denying anthropogenic climate change.

Because religious politicians and corporations are seeking to deny basic human rights to half of the nation’s population.

Because these people are lying to women about their healthcare options.

Because these people are wrong.

THAT is why this discussion matters. Because for far too long we have been silent, thereby letting these evil philosophies worm their way into national discourse. And it is killing us. True, we may not convince the people on the other side of the “debate,” and that makes me sad. But others may see or hear these conversations, people who are more open to changing their minds. I have to hope eventually they will. Otherwise, we may have to wait for the conservative sticks-in-the-mud to die of old age, hoping they don’t screw things up too much on their way out.

Because these are important issues.

Because we have good reason to be angry.

Because all that is required for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing.

Science Is Right, You Are Wrong

I pride myself on being fairly level-headed and rational. I really do. But every once in a while I’ll come across something that is just so very wrong that I can’t help myself. Whenever that happens, another iota of my innocence and faith in humanity shrivels up and dies.

Recently, I was involved in a discussion online about science and religion. Someone was trying to make the point that science requires just as much faith as religion. This is wrong, as the findings of science are true regardless of whether or not one believes in them. In fact, faith, by definition, requires the lack of proof.

But that’s a post in and of itself. What struck me the most about this conversation was the sheer ignorance on display in regards to basic scientific concepts. For instance: scientific theory. For most lay people, a theory is an idea of how things work that may or may not be true. But for a scientist, nothing could be farther from the truth. A scientific theory is “a comprehensive explanation of some aspect of nature that is supported by a vast body of evidence” (according to the National Academy of Sciences). After all, gravity is “only a theory.” Evolution is “only a theory.” But you don’t see people worrying about falling up into the sky when the go outside, do you?

Which brings me to another point: this person had such a poor understanding of science and evolution, I wasn’t sure where to even start. Most of these comments came in response to this article, and I’d like to take a bit of space to attempt to respond to them here. Plus, since this is my blog after all, I feel less of an urge to be properly diplomatic. Passionate arguments ahead!

1. The Universal Genetic Code: Could this not also be evidence of a single designer? I mean, the spark plugs from one type of car often work in an entirely different type of car. This doesn’t mean they both evolved from a skateboard.

This shows a staggering ignorance of how evolution actually works. Modern organisms did not evolve from other modern organisms; they both diverged from a common ancestor many years ago.

2. The Fossil Record: The fossil record proves nothing. Fossils prove nothing. When we find a fossilized skeleton, all we know is that something died there. We cannot conclusively prove that the organism had any offspring or that the offspring eventually turned into an entirely different form of organism. Furthermore, the fossil record and the geologic column are an exercise in circular reasoning: they use the fossils to date the rocks and the rocks to date the fossils. Given that kind of criteria, how can we know that what we’re looking at when we look at the fossil record is in any way chronological?

This is the one that had me figuratively frothing at the mouth. Clearly this person could not be reasoned with or engaged in anything resembling rational debate. But let’s attempt some refutation anyway. Here we see an example of the “you weren’t there, so you can’t know” fallacy. That’s the beauty of science: it lets us make models of less observable phenomena through more observable ones. There are also many ways of estimating the dates of the fossil record that don’t rely on relative observations. Also, individuals don’t evolve; populations do.

Oh, and you know what makes a better example in circular reasoning? The Bible: “The Bible is true because it says it is true.”

3. Genetic Commonalities: Francis Collins, the head of the human genome project wrote, “This evidence alone does not, of course, prove a common ancestor.” So…

The fact that we have eyes, mice have eyes, frogs have eyes, dinosaurs had eyes, and whales have eyes in no way proves that we all came from inanimate slime on a rock somewhere. Again, similarities in function might just as easily suggest a common designer as opposed to a common ancestor.

The beliefs of one individual do not necessarily reflect the overarching scientific consensus. In fact, there was quite a bit of concern in the scientific community regarding Collins’ tenure as Director of the National Institutes of Health. So… what?

Genetic commonalities go much further than lots of organisms having eyes. It is a provable scientific fact that we share large percentages of our genome with other species. This is NOT about similarities in function, this is about identical portions of DNA that are present across related organisms.

Besides, you weren’t there, so how can you KNOW dinosaurs had eyes?!? </sarcasm>

4. Common Traits in Embryos: Haeckl confessed and was found guilty of fraud more than 100 years ago now and still the “biogenetic law” persists. Ontogeny does not repeat phylogeny.

So this may not be the best example, I will admit, as it can be easily refuted. But as quoted from Wikipedia, “embryos do undergo a period where their morphology is strongly shaped by their phylogenetic position, rather than selective pressures.” The next statements are more interesting, anyway.

5. Bacterial Resistance to Antibiotics: Variation within a bacterial kind in no way proves that the bacteria is forming into some kind of new organism. Mutation and natural selection only lead to losses of genetic information and changes in subsequent generations of organisms because of genetic information already present is demonstrably not macro-evolution. For evolution to occur, new information must be introduced and this has never been observed.

First of all, kind? What the heck is a “kind?” If it’s being used in the biblical sense, then hoo boy are you under-informed. First of all, mutation and natural selection do not “always lead to losses of genetic information.” There are many ways mutation can occur, from transcription errors resulting in the modification or duplication of a gene, to random fluctuation caused by exposure to radiation. Secondly, the only difference between “macro-evolution” and what I’m guessing you’d call “micro-evolution” is the time scale. Macroevolution is merely microevolution on a geologically compounded scale.

Also, your assertion that the introduction of new information has never been observed is false. I would point you in the direction of this experiment, where an isolated population of E. coli bacteria evolved the ability to digest citric acid.

Despite all the times you said, “We don’t know” you still arrive at the conclusion that evolution “is a fact”. This, if I may be so bold, constitutes faith. You are believing in the reliability of something you yourself admit you cannot empirically know. Hence, why religious people who may not subscribe to the so-called absolute authority of science are quick to point out that the naturalists among us are just as faith-based as the rest of us (to answer ____’s point earlier.) This is not a bad thing, but it levels the playing field a bit in regards to all the claims we throw at each other.

Faith: strong or unshakeable belief in something, esp. without proof or evidence; belief that is not based on proof (; firm belief in something for which there is no proof (Merriam-Webster).

By its definition faith precludes proof. When we say “we don’t know,” we mean that it is impossible to know anything with 100% certainty. That being said, however, we can know something in such detail that we reduce the uncertainty to a functionally negligible amount. That’s the thing about science: it lets us make objective predictions based on things we can observe to help explain the unknown or unobservable. Those of us who have “subscribe[d] to the so-called absolute authority of science” have generally done so after observing the evidence available to us, thinking critically about it, and trying to fit it into existing paradigms. If it fits, great! If not, then the paradigm needs to change. Faith, on the other hand, is required due to the lack of evidence and is preserved through ignorance.

And, to add one more observation: even if the modes of abiogenesis were reproduced in a lab, it still doesn’t prove that abiogenesis is how life came to be (a 1 in more than 10-to-the-80,000th-power of a chance, I’m given to understand). If we were to somehow reproduce evolution in a lab and demonstrate how the event might have occurred in the past, this experiment would in no way prove if, in fact, the event did actually occur in history. Proving that it could happen does not prove that it did. And furthermore, aren’t we also simply proving that if evolution were to occur, it would require an intelligent agent to drive it? When it comes to the science of origins, then, I maintain that all the science in the world will never be sufficient to definitively tell us exactly what took place. It is simply beyond the bounds of science’s abilities to demonstrate. The entire realm of origins is one positioned squarely in the arena of faith: and, contrary to what some of us here seem to believe, faith is not by definition blind or uniformed.

So what you’re saying is you won’t accept proof that doesn’t fit your already-held beliefs if/when it becomes available. This is more of the “You weren’t there, thus can’t know” tripe. Clearly no body of knowledge can shake your faith. At least science is capable of admitting when it’s wrong.

You mention the astronomical chances of abiogenesis; do you realize how likely that still makes it? The scale of the universe, both temporal and spatial, is beyond anything humans are used to fathoming. I’d be curious to see where your 1-in-1080,000 figure came from, by the way. It seems like you’re throwing big numbers out in an attempt to overwhelm.

* * *

So there you have it: my response that I deemed too catty and impolitic to post anywhere but my personal blog. It also marks the introduction of an image that, much like the Drama Llama, may make additional appearances (for better or worse):

The Stupid, It Burns by Plognark

by Plognark

Also, watch Cosmos.

*steps off soapbox*

Revising Expectations

It’s funny how your goals change.

When I finished my Master’s degree in 2012, I was excited. I had finally stuck with an educational goal from start to finish, something that I felt I had been lacking since changing majors in undergrad. I was ready to go out into the world and find a job in the industry, using the specialized knowledge I had earned through no small investment of time and money. Looking into the future, I figured I could be a licensed architect by the time I was 30.

These days, I’d be just as happy if I managed to escape my dead-end retail job by that age.

Yes, it’s going to be one of those posts. I’ll try not to come off as too “poor me,” but the development of my pragmatism has not been an easy one for me. Sure, no plan survives contact with reality; but that doesn’t make it hurt any less.

I have always been fairly idealistic. I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt. I tend to believe that things will work out alright in the end. By viewing the world through this lens, I often project simple, pure motives onto people and things. After all, it wouldn’t cross my mind to be duplicitous, so why should it cross someone else’s?

Reality, of course, often has different ideas. People can be more dishonest or manipulative than I give them credit for. Sometimes the vagaries of random chance leave you holding the short end of the stick, through no fault of your own. For someone who grasps for the basic good of things, these facts can be hard to internalize. After all, when something goes wrong, is it due to the aforementioned random chance or through some mistake you made? If someone complains about something you did or said, are they looking to merely create drama, or did you commit some major social faux-pas?

But I digress. Let’s get back to expectations.

Throughout the years, I have tried to be better about lowering my expectations. Far too often I’ve had my lofty plans, my hopes and dreams, dashed upon the harsh, unyielding rocks of reality. This inevitably begins to take its toll: the closer you fly to the sun, the further and harder you will fall. I’m starting to realize that high expectations, more often that not, merely set me up for disappointment. That’s not to say that I’m always doom-and-gloom about everything, or that I don’t enjoy things in life. I still hope, I just try to keep it tempered by a certain amount of realism.

Maybe this is just part of growing up. Maybe this is what it feels like to have the last vestiges of chilhood innocence depart. It’s not a good feeling, let me tell you. But I can’t help but hope (heh) that it is for the best, in the long run. Maybe a certain level of psychological resilience is needed to survive in our world, like a callous that protect’s a worker’s hands from the tools of their trade.

Where am I going with this? I don’t know. Maybe it’s just me looking at my life and not seeing what I expected to. Maybe it’s me feeling trapped in a job that steals my social time and joie-de-vie from me. Maybe it’s me just feeling particularly sleep-deprived and maudlin. Maybe it’s me having an epiphany. I don’t know. I’m not sure where I expected this entry to go when I started it. But maybe that’s the point I’m trying to make: by keeping your expectations low (or loosely defined), you have a greater chance of meeting them. See? I can do hopeful and uplifting, kinda…

Retail still sucks, though.

The Gems Haunt My Dreams

You’ve played Tetris, right? I sure hope so, because while it’s not the game I want to talk about today, it is integral to the point I want to make. If you haven’t played it, you are dead to me here’s a link. Go ahead, I’ll wait. This blog post will still be here in a day or two.

So, you know that feeling you get when you play Tetris too much, and you start seeing falling tetronimoes even when you close you’re eyes? Well, I’ve found another game that has a very similar effect, and it’s kinda taking over every spare waking moment: Puzzle Quest 2.

What is Puzzle Quest, you may ask? Well, it’s a fantasy RPG, kinda. It’s also a match-3 puzzle game, kinda. It’s a turn-based strategy, kinda. In other words, it’s a weird, unique gamethat has somehow convinced me to take out my Nintendo DS for the first time in a while, and made it really hard to put it down/sleep/be productive.

Here’s how it works: You have a character, one of a selection of fantasy gaming archetypes. You have a board of gems, in a variety of different colors. Matching three of the same color and removes them from the board, à la Bejeweled (no link this time; I’d like someone to be able to finish this post some time this week). This gets you a certain number of points, which are added to a mana pool based on the colors matched. Once you get a certain amount of mana points, you can spend them to perform special attacks and do damage. Because oh yeah: you’re playing against the computer. Did I forget to mention that?

Anyway, these simple additions to the basic “Match Three” formula add a surprising amount of depth. The biggest differences I’ve noticed is that it adds a deeper layer of strategy to the game; sometimes the biggest combo isn’t always the best move if it’s not the color you need. Also, playing against an opponent makes it really hard to set up chains of moves and plan out moves ahead in any sort of manner. Just set up a nice five-piece combo? Too bad, it’s the end of your turn! Now the enemy is going to steal that mana! And it just started a chain reaction that got them five more turns in a row! MWAHAHA!!!1!

Oh yeah, that’s one thing that annoys me: seemingly infinite “extra turns” for the enemy. I have no problem when they happen for me, of course. But to see the goblin rake in mana it can’t even use and take away what seems like half my health bar in the process is aggravating. But I love it when I do it to them…

Anyway, I’m a hypocrite. Let’s move on.

I haven’t gotten very far in the game yet, but it is nothing if not intriguing. If you like Match 3’s, like Hexic or Bejeweled, but want something with a little more variety, I can heartily recommend it. And what’s great about playing it on the DS, is you can pick it up for a few minutes of play time and not feel bad when your time is up. Because you know you’ll be back.

Oh, yes.

You’ll be back.

Well Don’t I Feel Like A Right Twit

Something came up after last week’s fencing practice that is still bothering me. I’m going to try and talk about this as politely as possible, without mentioning names and such. Everyone involved had valid points, but I’m going to try to give my perspective.

Apparently someone was in town visiting for the week, and was able to make it out to fencing practice. While there, they were apparently largely ignored by the other fencers there, and thus made to feel unwelcome. And the sad part is, I can see where they were coming from with their complaints, and don’t really have anything to say to make it better. I too have been in a situation where I felt like an outsider, and it can be terrifying to stay there, let alone approach and attempt to integrate into what may already seem like a well-knit group.


While it won’t erase past events, I’d like to try to give some perspective from the other side, that of the “hardcore regular” crowd. A lot of us are ourselves painfully shy; we have issues approaching unfamiliar people at the best of times, and that practice night was not the best of times. I know I myself wasn’t feeling that excited to be there, as were a few others. It was the first practice after a whirlwind week of war after event after war for a lot of people, so attendance was low, and the people there were likely already exhausted. As such, I imagine a lot of us (at least myself) just wanted a relatively low-key night to see and catch up with friends. I had had a busy and tiring day at work, which only exacerbated my malaise. I ended up only fighting one person that night, but otherwise had a good time talking with people.

It also really bothered me that people who weren’t even there commented on how there was “no excuse” for lack of courtesy. To me it felt dismissive of one side, not even considering that there might have been extrenuating circumstances. Now don’t get me wrong: I’m am NOT trying to imply in any way that the original person’s comments or feelings were not valid. I guess what bothers me most is they very well might be right on the money.

The group of people I hang out with have in the past had a reputation for being standoffish, so issues like this are a bit sensitive. Could we have been more welcoming? Yes, probably. But as a group of largely introverts, that can be tough for us on the best of days. And last practice was defintely not that. It makes me sad that I might have in any way contributed to someone feeling left out; being something of a social outcast myself, I know that pain all too well.

I know (or at least hope) the comments about that practice weren’t directed at me personally. But I can’t help but take them slightly personally, as I’m sure there was something I could have done at the time to make it better. And if there’s anything I’m good at, it’s beating myself up over “I should have…” But it sounds like it ended up a perfect storm of neglect, awkwardness, and not feeling social.

Oh well.

EDIT: I just realized I went through all that without apologizing about my role in the incident.  Anyway, I’m sorry.  I truly am.

Windmills On The Web

The Internet is really, really great. There’s tons of interesting stuff out there. I love to read what people have to say. I even (very) occasionally say some things of my own. But I’m primarily a lurker. I like to see what people have to say, and the conversations, both civil and otherwise, those comments can elicit. Besides, I hate arguing on the Internet.

And yet…

And yet, every once in a while I just can’t help myself and have to chime in. Now, I will admit that there are certain advantages to debating (if we’re being generous) and arguing (if we’re being cynical) online versus in person. The biggest one for me is that I can generally take my time, formulating points and supporting evidence with a thoroughness that can’t be matched when put on the spot. Plus, the interconnectedness of things online lets one easily cite sources and provide further reading.

Of course, one tends to lose some of the subtleties of face-to-face communication in a text-based medium. So I try to compensate by using what advantages writing gives to my fullest. I’ll think my words through carefully, finding links and references to support my points. I try to be clear, calm, and logical as much as I can.

The problem comes when the other side doesn’t feel like doing the same.

But I try. I try to stay civil. I try to frame my responses in ways that respond to the points the other person makes, not them personally. I try to look at their sources and references objectively, on their own merits. I ask for clarification, giving them a chance to elaborate on their point in case I’ve misconstrued something that was merely poorly stated. I really do try…

But sometimes, the stupid just burns too much.

Part of that seems to be people’s tendency towards brevity when it comes to online communication when it comes to commenting. It can be really hard to make a carefully worded, nuanced point in a paragraph or two, especially on something as ephemeral as Facebook. Generally, I avoid such attempts at conversation for just that reason. But like I said, every once in a while I wade in, some small part of me convinced that this time it’d be different. That this time I’ll be able to have a good debate, or make my point in such a way that they come to see the error of their ways.

But of course, I am inevitably disappointed.

I don’t know why I bother. I know I should just let it go, but once I put my two cents in I feel obligated to defend my point. Thus begins a cycle of research, writing, revision, and posting. But that can only go on for so long before I start to feel myself being dragged down to my opponent’s level. In theory I know that no one is going to convince someone to change truly deep-seated beliefs with logic and supporting evidence.

But I keep trying.

We Are Star Stuff

Hey, have you guys heard about the new Cosmos? The sequel to the original Carl Sagan PBS special, but this time hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson and airing on Fox of all places? No? Well then what are you doing reading random blog posts? Go watch it now! I’ll wait.

Now I’ll admit I never watched the original series, as it was a little bit before my time. But the idea was one I can totally get behind: making science and astronomy accessible for the masses. And who doesn’t love Carl Sagan?

In that sense, the new series is a worth successor. Tyson does a good job explaining the mind-boggling scale of space and time. Although I have to wonder if I’m the true target audience. After all, there hasn’t been much presented so far that I have not been exposed to some time in the past. But then again, I suppose I’m not the “typical” average TV viewer: I’ve had training in physics and astronomy, and it’s been a passion of mine for as long as I can remember. One of my greatest regrets is that I never got to see a Space Shuttle launch.

So if I’m not learning anything new, am I watching the show for anything more than the pretty visuals? Yes, actually. I absolutely love how unapologetic they are about science. The second episode, “Some of the Things That Molecules Do,” touched on the role evolution has played in the history of our planet, both through natural and artificial selection. In this day and age, when creationism is still sadly being trotted out as “science,” it’s quite refreshing to hear someone on a major network say “The theory of evolution, like the theory of gravity, is a scientific fact.”

And it saddens me that science is still so misunderstood and denigrated, even in the 21st century. We’re seriously still debating this? Maybe the producers were on to something when they defended their choice to air the new Cosmos on Fox, saying that (for better or for worse) the kinds of people that needed to see Cosmos weren’t the kinds to watch PBS.

So why do I watch Cosmos? Because it gives me hope, promising a more rational and scientifically-minded world. It illustrates that learning can be fun and enjoyable. It reminds us that even though we may be extremely small and insignificant on the grand scale of things, we are still a way for the universe to know itself.

And that, in all senses of the word, is awesome.


I have a confession to make. I’m not that good at self-discipline or self-motivation. In fact, I think it’s safe to say I suck at it. And of course, I feel guilty about this.

You wouldn’t think it to look at my background from the outside. I’ve pretty much always been a good student, completing assignments on time and receiving good grades. I’ve done martial arts (in some form or another) for a little over twenty years. I post daily on my blog. Heck, I finished a graduate degree! You’d think if nothing else did that would take some modicum of drive.

But from inside my head, the perspective is a little different.

It’s true that I did well in school. But I regularly left assignments until the last minute, rushing to get them into something resembling a presentable state. I got through grad school because it became a habit (that, and I wanted to succeed just to spite some of the professors). When I write a blog post, I often put it off until my girlfriend is on her way home from work, since that adds a time constraint. And while I did git my black belt, martial arts also became habitual, and whatever deep lessons and core values about perseverance and self-control didn’t seem to take.

Basically, I suck at doing anything without an externally-imposed deadline. I can tell myself, “Alright, we’ll get home from work, take a few minutes to check email and decompress. Then we’ll write so we can have the rest of the afternoon!” But inevitably I check Facebook. Then Tumblr. Then some of the blogs I read. Maybe a quick dip in a video game or two. Next thing I know, it’s almost 4h30 and the afternoon has been completely wasted.

And it’s not just writing. I could want to brush up on Drupal, or re-teach myself HTML and CSS. Or finish up my taxes. Or do the dishes. Or clean up my office. Or send out a few resumes. Inevitably, my achievements fall woefully short of my expectations.

Why is this? I don’t know. I look back, especially at my martial arts training, and wonder. Why can’t I motivate myself? Why can’t I be productive without a hard, fast deadline? What’s wrong with me?

Boy, that last question is more than a little loaded, isn’t it?

There is one thing I’m good at, apparently: internalizing expectations and a bunch of “Shoulds,” then beating myself up when Reality has its harsh way with me.

I’m trying to accept that who I am is who I am, no matter what other, seductive internal voices might say. And sometimes I even pull it off. But the sneaky things about internal voices is that, even if they aren’t yours, cloak themselves in your own identity. Using your own voice against you. Saying things like “You’re not good enough” and “Your motivation is bad, and you should feel bad!” And inevitably, you start to believe them.

I’ve tried to fight the voices. But no one’s making me do it. And that’s the hardest of all.


On this blog, I write about pretty much whatever strikes my fancy. And people read my words. Now that’s a weird enough feeling in and of itself, but I’ve noticed something else, as well. The fact that I know people read what I write, and that people I know read what I write, affects what I write. I’m not sure if this is good or bad, let alone if I could stop doing so even if I tried.

I am, by nature, an appeaser. I want people to be happy. I don’t want to rock the boat. When a potential conflict rears its head, I’m more likely to step aside at personal cost than to make an issue of things. I know this. It’s just part of who I am.

But I also know that people tend to present themselves differently to different people. We all wear masks, and I am no different. By definition, those masks aren’t a true indicator of who we really are. For instance: someone may present themselves in a calm and professional manner while at work, but on the weekends dress up in medieval armor and beat their friends with sticks (a completely random example, by the way). Obviously they’re not going to show up to work in armor, and they’re (hopefully) not going to attend an SCA event in a three-piece suit.

Here is where my tendency to appease and my habit of wearing social masks come into conflict. I have both friends and family that read this blog. Now, I know for a fact that I present myself differently to my family than I do to my friends, almost by necessity. I have grown and changed as a person since I moved out on my own, but my family will inevitably build their mental model of me based on who I was when I was younger. Just as I do with them. Normally, this isn’t that much of an issue, but sometimes the changes can be more drastic than not.

Like I said, I tend to want to make people happy and not make a scene. As such, I’ve had a tendency over the years to keep my opinions to myself. It’s often easier that way; I don’t exactly have what I’d call a forceful personality. But over recent years I’ve gotten used to being able to express my own opinions, not in the least because my self-selected circle of friends shares a large number (but not all) of them.

So I find myself with a slight conflict of interest. Do I present myself as who I feel that I am, full stop, damn the consequences? Or do I put on a mask and temper my opinions, continuing in my habit of keeping things smoothed over?

I’d honestly like to be able to do the former, but it would take some willpower to break years of habit and reflex. Like I said, I really don’t want to offend people. But at the same time, I don’t want to present myself under false pretenses. Wearing a mask is such an ingrained reflex that I’m not sure I could take it off completely even if I tried. To say nothing of whether or not that’s even a good idea. After all, polite society requires at least some level of deception.

I’m not asking for advice. I’m merely thinking aloud. I feel like I’ve taken the first steps in peeling away the mask, especially in my more philosophically-oriented posts. And it is definitely easier to do so in this written environment than face-to-face: I have time to think and plan out the best way to communicate what I’m trying to say. To say nothing of the fact that, in the end, this blog is my space. I should be free to do whatever I please.

Either way, thanks for reading. Here’s hoping my writings don’t make family holidays too “interesting.”