Sunday, July 09, 2006

A few thoughts for the wee hours on a weekend

I haven't put any new posts here for a while because I've been spending time sorting through pictures and putting them up on my Picasa Web Albums site. If you want to know what I'm up to, look there. I have more to say than pictures, but alas, I haven't found much time to write lately, not to mention that I haven't wanted to publicly write a lot of what I've been thinking. As Robert Sheckley said, sometimes to get yourself to write a story, you must not think you're writing the story, but just a simulation, something that doesn't have to be perfect or even close to right. It turns out that the simulation is often very close to the real thing, but the psychological value of telling yourself that this in not the real thing gets you past the pressure or terror of the blank page staring back at you. And so it is that I'm here sitting at my computer at 1:30am on a Saturday night, writing something, rather than nothing.

Last night I saw Pirates of The Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. It made me nauseous. I'm not kidding.

I put a bottle and a half of spray paint on my old car today in an effort to cover the effects of 15 years in the Arizona sun. I couldn't help but feel, while I was doing it, that it was vaguely unethical, like I was trying to pass my beat up little student car off as a car that looked okay. But I don't really think it's unethical - maybe I should have done it while I was using the car; maybe I'd have kept it longer. But I really love my beamer. It's easy to love that car. It's easy to feel like it loves me.

The Mazda was a tool to me. Xanadu is more like a pet, a toy, and a servant. Maybe that's why she got a name, and my other car never did.

(Shauna, if you're reading this, skip this next paragraph. I promise it's nothing you want to hear.)

I feel lately like a lot of people are trying to talk me into living in the city. There's a balance here I want to keep. I don't want to live in a small town way out in the boonies. I'm not into that whole small-town spying thing (you can call it friendliness or concern if you like; it's all in the perception). But nor do I like cities. I like cute little down-town areas, like Redmond or Kirkland or Palo Alto. I wouldn't even mind living in the little down town areas, but I don't feel any need to; I really love driving (or better, biking) to work through redwoods. And I kind of like having big cities (like Seattle or San Francisco) nearby, like half an hour to an hour's drive away. But I really actively don't want to live in the big city. I don't understand the desire to. When I drive into Seattle, I quickly start feeling like I want to kill something. It's dirty and crowded and I don't feel safe. The buildings are moldy and falling apart and full of too many people jammed too close together. I feel like I'm going to get mugged or beat up or worse or something will get stolen from me. The streets are narrow and badly arranged and the cars are parked so densely I can't see to make turns and nearly get hit. There's no safe places to ride a bike. There aren't enough trees or waterways or clear views of mountains (although Seattle does pretty well on the water part). There are too many people doing too many stupid things. Driving around at night I see drunk people wandering in the streets. I just want to stay far away from all that. At least this is what I observe in Seattle. Pike Place and Pioneer Square are cool, but what I've seen of the rest of the city seems pretty unredeeming. I'd probably feel the same way about parts of San Fran too if it didn't have such magical status in my mind (and even still I don't really want to walk through most of it alone at night). And I hate commuting. So living in the city would be a negative in every respect for me. Please stop trying to talk me into it. I don't understand you, you don't understand me, and there's really nothing we can do to get past this, since we just have different axioms. So let's just not bring it up at all.

A lot of people seem to want what I'd call a neat little life. Grow up, go to school to get a postgrad degree, get a good stable job, get married, have kids, and generally turn into your parents. I would die like this. I want nothing to do with it. I want nothing to do with kids (really, don't argue; someday maybe I'll do long post on why, but for now trust me that basically no part of it appeals to me, and I mean this in quite an extended sense, and there's no way to rationally talk me into it). These days I'm even questioning this model of people going around in pairs (this is probably part of why I've been single by choice for over a year; there are other reasons, but as I've said, I've been thinking a lot of things I haven't wanted to post publicly). So what do I want, if not this neat little life? Adventure. Excitement. Doing something big. I want lots of friends. I want to start a company. I want to see the world. I want to fix its problems. I want to help those poor downtrodden disrespected mutilated women in Africa and the Middle East. I want to help smart kids not feel like outcasts in school. Heck, I want to overhaul the whole education system. I want to make teaching one of the best-paying and most-respected professions. I want school to be available to everyone and for it to enable them to be more fully actualized in what they really want to do. I want girls to be able to discover their love of technology. I want for gender not to be a hard line. I want happiness to be taken as a more important measure of a country's success than its material well-being. I want to climb through caves and jump off cliffs and go places just because I haven't been there. I want to build big pieces of art and set them on fire. I want to put on a gender-reversed Phantom of the Opera and play the Phantom-ess myself. I want to build a trebuchet. I want to go to Burning Man every year for as long as it's good. I want to run out in the middle of the street at night to take pictures of the huge orange moon setting over the city. I want to bike across New Zealand. I want to go to parties where everybody laughs at jokes about log files and cross-compilers without feeling either smug or ashamed, or really anything but just relishing life. I want to have fascinating conversations about how fake money is and why we find things beautiful. I want to go to the places I've heard stories about and meet the characters in the books I've read. I want to feel like there's nothing wrong with telling my own stories. I want to sing and learn to play piano and still be able to do the splits when I'm eighty. I want to run on a glorious golden beach looking onto pristine blue water - and eat really good steak when I'm done. I want to hike through Waipi'o Valley and up Mauna Loa and splash in the puddles of Hilo rain. I want to constantly be a sponge for information, to always learn more about all the amazing things that are out there in the world and in people's minds. I want to do things spontaneously - 'let's go to San Diego - right now!' - 'I wonder where this trail goes? Let's find out.' I want to go out driving or riding or walking and stop or go wherever the mood strikes me. This is what I call living - really living, so I don't feel like I'm missing something. Having a neat little job and house and family just doesn't do this for me. Maybe this will change when I'm older. Or maybe it won't.

All that stuff I just wrote brings up another thing I've been thinking a lot about lately: I have a lot of highly conflicting internal states. I'm an introvert, but I love people. I'm really ambitious, but also have this awful lazy streak (working on this is the biggest thing I've been focusing on for the last few months).

Sometimes people say it's selfish not to have kids. Funny, to me it seems more selfish to take up more of the world's resources making copies of your own genes and spending all your time for nearly 20 years taking care of at most a handful of people instead of putting your creative energy toward helping the millions of people already out there who need nuturing, who are desperate for help and hope. You can disagree, of course. But it won't change my mind.

There, that wasn't such a bad simulation of a blog entry, was it?


Anonymous tomplatt said...

sounds great to me

7/10/2006 2:08 AM  
Blogger Piaw Na said...

I remember reading somewhere (it sounds vaguely stephen covey-ish) that it takes more greatness of heart to love one person completely than it does to save thousands of people. In many ways, it's a much harder job, I think, so I would not dismiss it out of hand.

In any case, modern society is full of CEOs, activists, and saints who work hard for large groups of people (be it shareholders, the environment, or their congregation) but don't have time for their family or friends because they are so darn busy. It scares me that these are the people who are most able to have children, and lots of them.

7/16/2006 9:16 PM  
Blogger Mike Machenry said...

I found your blog while looking for references to XKCD and trebuchet. It's pretty cool. I think you should build a trebuchet. It's really fun. I built one recently and it's a blast to play catch with. I don't suppose you made it out to the XKCD meetup did you? Buring man sounds like so much fun. I really should go next year.

9/26/2007 12:17 PM  

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