Jan. 18th, 2017 11:37 am
jack: (Default)
I've kicked this idea around before as a possibility, but I've been thinking more about it since.

People have a great tendency to expect to find underlying truths. Introverts and extroverts are *really* like this underneath. Men and women have blah blah bullshit different brains. Etc.

But my idea of introversion is almost the reverse. I speculate that it's best understood as a catch-all for people who are less social for whatever reason. Two axes I think of (I don't know if this makes sense for other people) is "how much you NEED interaction with other people" and "how EASY you find interaction with other people".

And some of that is who you are, and some of that is circumstance: lots of external factors can make socialising easier or harder, which forms a self-reinforcing feedback loop in how easy you find it. This would predict that some people who aren't that interested, some people who naturally find it difficult, and some people who are prevented by circumstance, are similar in many ways.

And it also ties into the "extroverts gain energy from interaction, introverts spend energy on it" idea which many people endorse. In my way of thinking, that's more of a consequence than a root cause, that you need it a certain amount, and it takes a certain amount of effort to do, and if it refreshes you more than it costs, it leaves you net positive on energy and if it's the other way round, you need a reserve of energy to spend on it.

For instance, I notice with Liv and I, when we're interacting with each other, we need quite similar amounts of time. We can spend a *lot* of time just interacting, but we both need a certain, not that large, amount of time having a break from it too. But it seems to me, Liv is like that with *more* people. Whereas the number of people I can interact with basically indefinitely is quite small.

So my theory is, some people don't *need* that much social interaction, whether or not they find it easy when they need to do it. And other people find it difficult to varying degrees, but act quite similarly when they're with people they *can* interact easily with, but vary in how often they are.

But I don't know if that sounds like it applies to other people, or just how it helped me to think of it.
jack: (Default)
A recent conversation about Defence against the Dark arts teachers made me realise I use "evil" in two different ways. Sometimes I mean, "doing something bad on purpose". Sometimes I mean, "doing harm to other people". The greatest harm is often done by people who are indifferent to it. But people who maliciously hurt others are awful is a special way.

A couple of the professors were very indifferent-evil. They didn't set out to hurt people, but they didn't see any of the awful things they did to people. Others were malicious-evil, they were killing people all over the place.

And of course, it's more complicated by that. Most people who cause harm by inattention SHOULD notice, and exist somewhere on a scale from "I'm 8 and I haven't broken away from the worldview I'm immersed in" to "I'm really really really wilfully ignorant, and I must be actively avoiding thinking about this."

But insofar as it's helpful to be able to think about bad things, it's useful to realise that they often overlap, but when I say "very evil" I might mean one of two different things.
jack: (Default)
I have conflicting impulses to argue with people's premises vs arguing with the conclusions. If their conclusions seem really wrong, I immediately have an impulse to explain why I think that's wrong (which is sometimes useful, even if often asking for more detail on why they think that is usually more constructive).

Conversely, if I'm less emotionally involved, my instinct is to work forward step-by-step from premises we agree with, completely discounting any conclusions until I can understand every step towards them.

What I'm now realising is that both of those are useful at different times (different to what my instincts tell me). It's futile arguing with conclusions which rest on significantly different premises.

But OTOH, often people hone and refine their argument when their conclusion seems insufficient, in that we may arrive at the same conclusion from different routes, having refined our premises such that they seem different, but might actually fulfil similar purposes from different perspectives.

So it's worth judiciously switching back and forth to check which seems most constructive for a particular subject.
jack: (Default)
I sometimes think of things I enjoy doing, just like things I need to be able to do, as skills. Not that the main enjoyment of reading a book is the challenge, but I think *some* of it is. I enjoy reading books where I DO have to work to follow what's going on, even though I enjoy that less often than I enjoy reading books that aren't as hard work.

But that partly means, I'm always slowly getting bored with the sort of books I used to like. Because if you can read the first few pages and say, "right, I bet the tough protagonist talks like an asshole but actually always does the right thing and the female lead flirts with him for some reason and the morally ambiguous manipulators switch sides several times but end up essentially working with the protagonist in the climax even if he doesn't like it", and all that happens, the only bits I'm really experiencing are the bits that *don't* fit into that mold.

And it also means, reading books in a different genre can be *difficult*, I need to consciously practice in order to follow when much more of the book is new to me. But rewarding, because a bit of practice can open up a lot of other books.

And it also means, "how much do you like this book" can vary a lot, "it's good, but only if you're familiar with that sort of thing" or "it's good, but you may have read it all before", can be the norm, not the exception.
jack: (Default)
There's a bit of my brain that thinks "Oh no, you won't be able to do it". But I've only slowly noticed it almost ALWAYS thinks that. Whenever a project at work "just doesn't work", I think "oh no, it will take forever to figure out". Whenever it relies on something that someone else has done, I think "I won't be able to figure it out and I'll look stupid if I ask". Whenever there's a bug in my code that's not immediately obvious, I think "I've no idea where to start". It thinks phoning someone will be stressful. It thinks every time tread on someone's toe or say something thoughtless, that people are going to hate me for months.

But that's basically never true. Ever.

The optimum amount of time to spend doing things which turn out to have been a mistake is "less than all the time, but more than never". If I just excised that bit of my brain, I'd probably be right more often!

But I always feel, "well, this time it MIGHT be true, and I have to be ready for the fact that It's Irretrievably Screwed Up", I can't just ignore that completely.

Feeding my brain a steady diet of "oh, it turned out to be ok" definitely helped, but it requires noticing the problem in advance, which is difficult -- every time feels like it's different this time.

ETA: And obviously, I just noticed, I take the time to post about the things I'm still frustrated by. All the things I've got massively better at, I just feel guilty I didn't earlier...
jack: (Default)
Nakedtoes recently described to me something Chris Hadfield said, that he described people's places in an organisation as an extremely loose approximations: Ones, who contributed a lot; Zeros who were mostly treading water; and Minus Ones who sucked more effort than they produced.

And he said, he found it easy to aim to be a One and almost always end up as a Minus One due to trying too hard and making the wrong mistakes. But if you aim to just do your job reliably, aim to be a Zero, you are much more likely to end up functioning as a One.

I wasn't sure at the time, but that resonated a lot with me. I think I've always suffered from smart-at-school syndrome, that I expect to be exceptional, but find it hard to see my worth if I'm not exceptional. So I'm constantly trying to do things exceptionally, to revamp all the procedures at once, and introduce all the things I think are necessary, and find the amazing magic bullet for a situation -- and that leads to me getting really stressed because every time an idea is shot down it's really hard to say "oh yes, you're right, this idea that I consider a fundamental necessity is stupid and not worth it" and even harder when you'd tied your self worth to being "the guy who introduced distributed source control" or whatever. And I find it hard to motivate myself to do just an ok reliable job, because I find it hard to believe that if I do that, I'm worthwhile, and find it hard to believe I _can_ do that (partly a self-fulfilling prophecy, because I tend to procrastinate a lot on things that don't seem important).

But if I tell myself that just doing the mundane stuff reliably and well will contribute to overall success of the organisation and myself, it gets a lot easier to do, it seems to help. And maybe I shouldn't need to do that, but it seems to help...
jack: (Default)
Jack's Brain: It's been nice for weeks, lets go to the library without bothering to take my coat.
Jack: No! You don't live in a theoretical mathematical utopia now. You can't predict everything. It's English Spring, it can rain AT ANY TIME whether you expect it to or not. Take a coat!
Jack's Brain: But we never lived in a theoretical mathematical utopia...
Jack's Body: EXACTLY! TAKE! A! COAT!
jack: (Default)
Good question, and I don't really have a good answer, I'd like brainstorming it with ghoti more, but at this point in December, I have to start saying if I haven't got to it yet, I probably won't get to it.

To me, "counter-culture" suggests "subculture you wish could be mainstream culture" and foible suggests "loveable weakness". And I really hope I've some personality traits in the overlap, but I can't think of any!

Most of my social group are massively progressive (usually socially, and often economically) and I agree with all of that, but it's really just "agreeing with people I think are right", I don't think it really counts as counter-cultural nor a foible.

And I have other opinions and traits which are most people don't share. I'm vegetarian, and I do think that's right (or some approximation to that, I'm not sure ethically farmed meat is unethical), but that's not really a foible, it's a principled decision, even if I'm wrong about it. And I have lots of grammar quirks, but they're not really counter-cultural.

I brainstormed this with Liv, and she suggested that I'm more law-abiding. And I agree, I am, and sometimes that's an amusing personality quirk. But I think "being too conformist" is the opposite of counter-cultural, and also, is actually a really big personality defect: it somewhat helps me following rules when they matter (eg. I rarely deliberately compromise ethical opinions, even though I'm rarely faced with a stark choice), but it's a massive risk of me following rules which don't really exist, or are harmful, or are useless, and would be better ignored.

The best I can think of is an inherited weakness for old-school socialism and singing the red flag. Which I don't think is polite to do in public, because it's been so co-opted by Stalinist USSR :( But I'm nostalgic for a remembrance of the idea of a complete cultural revolution, imposing fairness on society as a whole without regard to existing structures or national borders (even though I think it's often a disaster to try to do that rather than supporting successive improvements).
jack: (Default)
When I was talking about prompts I used the word "spirituality", and simont asked what I meant by it, and I realised that what I really wanted was to spill the religion post onto another day.

Last post, I think I described what I didn't believe about religion. Basically, "anything supernatural".

However, I've recently been feeling that there's something I want to explore but I'm not quite sure what. Partly that I know more people who believe in God, but in total have beliefs really similar to mine, and I want to understand that. And partly that I've been thinking in terms of spiritual health, not in terms of a supernatural spirit, but in terms of "being aware of myself" and "giving up being scared of things I'm scared to try" and of "actually doing things I always felt I should do" and generally becoming healthier as a whole mind. And basically everything that is (I think) part of the mind, but in how the mind itself works or doesn't work, not in how it represents facts.
jack: (Default)
This is something I've been introspecting a lot about recently, it's interesting to try to distil the latest thoughts down into written form. I've deliberately shot for the moon, on the theory that it's useful to have reference points on either side of the right answer, and build up from what's plausible and down from what's ideal, rather than only assume that you must take baby steps forward and never reach. But I'm ashamed if that makes me sound really arrogant :(

1. Hard things

Trying to synthesise what I enjoy doing and am good at, I think I like doing hard things that work. Both learning new hard things, and putting into practice hard things I've already learned. Probably slightly more to towards the practical than pure academic research, but in that direction compared to most jobs. I like understanding hard things, and putting that understanding into action.

Which all fits programming very well, yay! Other ways programming is well suited to me is that I don't like flying without an undo, and I don't like nebulous things where it's not clear if they worked or not, and you get those in programming, but lots of programming is about avoiding them.

I like building complicated systems, and then looking and them working and saying "wow".

This doesn't have to be programming. If there's a surplus of good programmers, and a dearth of good managers, entrepreneurs, UI designers, economists, politicians, artists... I could maybe do some of those things, which do involve hard, accurate thought and building systems that work. The thing I am best at and enjoy doing isn't automatically actually in demand! But on balance, I hope that actually the best programmers are sufficiently in demand that it's a worthwhile contribution to society (both in terms of contribution I make, and what I might expect to get in return).

My fantasies are still embarrassingly adolescent-mathmo, of people saying "we just couldn't figure it out, and then Jack thought very hard, and then explained it to us and now it's fixed, yay!"

And not necessarily alone, I'd like to lead creating a larger system than I can manage myself, but ideally if the work is primarily in technical design, not in communication overheads and management.

2. Making something that perpetuates

This kind of blended through from the previous point, but is different. I'm not sure how much it's something everyone would like but isn't arrogant enough to hope for, and how much it's just me. But I always want the idea of looking at something worthwhile and saying "I did that". And ideally that would go on being worthwhile when I'm not there doing it any more!

I want to make something awesome, not just do worthwhile things that get absorbed.

3. Worthwhile

Worthwhile, both in the sense of having a measurable impact, and in being socially worthwhile. I probably can't hit both of those poles 100%, but I'd like it if I could. Currently I think I'm making software which is useful, and not actively anti-social, which is generally a plus to society, but I the more my work is immediately needed (by anyone) and makes a real positive difference to people's lives, the more I would like it (although I've not really expected to be able to do that without giving up #1, unless I do it in a completely different way).

4. Respect

I'm embarrassed to call this out specifically, but it would be nice if other people recognised the other points, and generally had an attitude of "thank goodness Jack's doing this, yay" not "ugh, more Jack".

And ideally about multiple different things, not just "here's a black box with Jack in where we throw equations and coffee in and get answers out, but we refuse to discuss whether those are the RIGHT equations, or we're working towards the right goals". Like, maybe I could work with other people who are competent at other things, but are able to explain them enough in broad outlines that I can trust them, and know where they interface to my areas of expertise, and occasionally make constructive suggestions based on my work.

Like, fame would be nice but not necessary, but it would be nice if when I told people what I'd done they said "wow, thank you" not "boring" or "why bother".

I'm embarrassed to list this because it feels like I shouldn't care, and that it's not something you're entitled to ask for, just to get or not. But this is list of things I'd like, not necessarily things I deserve.

5. Financial security

Talking it over with Liv, I don't want more money in the short term, my lifestyle has mostly reached a level I feel sufficient. I only want a larger salary because it represents respect and job security: that people should pay you what you're worth, and if they don't, and there's no specific reason for that, even if it's not bad for it's own sake, it's a pointed reminder that you don't have as much control over your own life as you aspired to...

And, linked to the previous point, respect from friends and peers, not just employers, which shouldn't depend on money, but I feel like everyone always assumes I'm a loser because I don't have anything obvious holding me back, I don't have an obvious disability, I don't have a family, I didn't deliberately make a trade-off to do something I thought was worthwhile, and yet, I'm not wildly financially successful :(

However, there are ways earning lots of money would make a lot of difference, not in terms of getting a better lifestyle, but in terms of preventing it getting worse. Enough of a cushion that if I lost my job, I wouldn't need to worry at all, or that if I decided that I'd rather spend two years developing some piece of software I thought was worthwhile without being beholden to investors, I just could. Enough that if some other disaster happens, to me personally or my financial situation, I can ride it out. Enough that I don't need to worry about my lifestyle when I need to retire, or if my parents need a lot of support as they get older. Enough that if Liv needed help I could give it.

And lots of small ways that a superfluity of money would not enable me to be decadent, but would make lots of things easier. Maybe I'd like to spend a month every spring or summer working from the med coast. Maybe I'd like to spend six months living in a completely different country to see what it's like. To split my time between Cambridge and Keele however I liked, or to be able to stay somewhere else for a week working from home without worrying about arranging accommodation, negotiating leave, etc. I'd like to not waste time on all the little things that waste time every week, if I could just buy my way out of them. Money can't be immortality -- but it can buy more life, by removing time spent waiting for buses, wrestling with bureaucracies, fixing problems, etc, etc.

6. Good process

It would be nice to work somewhere with a clear shared understanding of what we're trying to achieve, and measuring success working towards that. Including a clear sense of achievement and progress; clear decisions about what we're doing and not doing, not just assuming that everyone that some things will never be finished; that we'll be realistic about important goals and have stretch goals and actually MEET them, not always have too-ambitious goals that we fail every single time.

I work so so so much better when I've got something to work towards, not swimming in shared and unshared assumptions...

Moving from the general to the specific, from a software point of view, it would be nice to have all the obvious good practice:

* requirements
* unit tests and release tests
* coding standards
* clear procedure for committing, building, releasing
* nightly builds, fast builds
* agile-ish (but not too scrum-y)
* clear process for bug database
* as much communication as needed (hopefully daily), but not endless rehashing
* etc, etc

7. Low but not zero hectic-ness

I hate sudden disasters, especially ones that everyone thinks, or I feel, are my fault, because I didn't have enough control over how much advance planning to do. (That doesn't mean, I think everything should be polished until it's perfect, it means there should be a positive decision on how much to prioritise perfection and reliability, and if that's underchanged, we should budget for future problems coming to light, not just treat them as bolt-from-the-blue "oh look, Johnny McWeDidn'tAllowHimToTestOrTellHimTheRequirements fucked up again,")

But I do like a certain amount of handling real-time response, when I have the freedom to anticipate it and assign priorities, because I like the satisfaction of doing it well and not panicing :)

So, ideally, not big one-shot events which succeed or fail, nor constant fire-fighting, but maybe rapid and flexible release cycles? I'm not certain of what I DO want, but I'm certain of what I DON'T want :)


If I put that together into a little story, how might it go? Someone comes to me and says "I was talking to a mutual friend and I plan to do [socially constructive thing], but in order to do that, we need to do [hard things] and it seems like your experience and ability to learn new things rapidly would be perfect. I've a lot of experience with [field] and with hiring good people, but not with building software. I'm thinking of several other good people, but I'd like your input on them. Can you handle a small team of committed techies? No problem if you think someone else would lead better."

"We don't have infinite money, but we have resources to tap for anything that seems important, and we don't want to scrimp on day-to-day comforts for the team. Most of the time you should probably work from Cambridge, but you'd have to travel occasionally and you can arrange it however you like. You'd have [some fancy job title] and a [serious salary], plus a significant stake in the success of the organisation."

"The code should probably be open source, because it might be useful in other fields even though the real advantage in what we're doing is the people not the code base. Is there anything else you think I should know?"

I also note, I'm mostly agnostic whether the organisation is a new department in large company, a start-up, a non-profit, or something else -- I think any of those can fit the role of "doing something worthwhile".
jack: (Default)
It's common for people into maths to also be into music. But it never really happened for me. In fact, I like music, but still haven't got into any music in a major way, unlike almost everyone else in the world, which I'll talk about more in a later post.

I've heard descriptions of how maths and music go together for some people, but for me, they seem to trip completely different parts of my brain. Maths is a process of free-associating possible approaches; tracking each through methodically until it reaches some sort of conclusion, and repeating until you've got somewhere. Music trips my emotions. I can imagine how a sort of pattern-spotting could apply to both[1], but I find it hard to see music like that, I'm barely beyond "I like it but I don't know why" and "I don't like it but I don't know why".

I am somewhat interested in pop explanations of music theory when it's explained in terms of frequencies and "this is why these notes go together and why these notes don't go together". But I find it impossible to grok explanations that involve learning a bunch of terminology according to how various things were discovered. I need things laid out with "these concepts are fixed because physics, these are cultural, these are an artifact of the notation system, these are basically the same but slightly different, etc" :)

I do feel a cultural affinity for the sort of music which mathematicians stereotypically often like, though, even if my actual exposure to it is small :)


[1] Come to think of it, that's an interesting observation about maths, that one foundation of actually doing maths, rather than applying previous maths, is generalising between different things that are similar in some way that's hard to explain. This proof and this other proof are the same, but one has 3 and one has 5 -- can I replace 3 with "any odd number" or "any prime number"? The method of solving this integral and that integral are very similar -- can I generalise to a method which works on any related integral? Category theory is this tendency on steroids.

But I don't know if this is something that really good mathematicians are much better at, or just something that you need a minimum amount of.
jack: (Default)
ewx asked about my distinctive writing and speaking style. I was flattered
people noticed. Unfortunately, I don't really have any idea -- it's like
having an accent or dialect, to me, I just sound normal, and everyone else
sounds normal too! :)

I guess I assumed I was much like everyone else I knew: prone to pedantry
and grammatical flourishes, maybe more so, but not otherwise an outlier :)
But I asked several close friends, and they separately agreed I DID have a
distinctive writing and speaking style. But I didn't get much closer to
describing it.

Thinking about it more, I said grammatical flourishes, but I think I tend
to do that _more_. I tend to be very precise in numbering things, and
having subclauses, which even if they ramble on, I will always be very
definite that I _intended_ to finish up the main sentence with a last verb
or preposition. And ramble on too much trying to enumerate things, and
going meta and meta-er, to the extent of trying to overgeneralise, and
completely failing to say the thing I was actually trying to say. And I
tend to a sort of deadpan sarcasm, aiming for it being so plausible you
might _very nearly_ think I meant it (which often goes badly if you're
talking to a diverse audience, or mis-estimate how well people know what
I'm likely to believe).

But, basically... I'm not really sure. You tell me -- what is my
distinctive style? :)
jack: (jewish)
I feel I often cycle through a pattern something like:

1. I'm living with the status quo "ok", despite living with a number of bad habits of thought (either my problems, or not noticing bad situations, eg. see previous locked post etc, etc).
2. I have a little bit of success, look to the longer term, notice what I've been putting up with.
3. I go into an introspective spiral, annoyed at all the things I've been doing wrong, get all wibbly, and often blame myself for not having noticed and dealt with it earlier.
4. I resolve a lot of problems, and resume a slightly happier more efficient status quo

That means, when I get all wibbly, it might mean things have got worse, but it almost always actually means, I've just poked my nose up above my comfort-zone parapet of coping strategies to try to tackle some of the problems directly.

Like, in the previous post, I could cope fine with stressful situations by just accepting that problems came up every three months and would be stressful for a bit and then go away, but understanding it will (hopefully) remove a lot of that stress, as I know what to fix and what just to ignore.

However, I'm only now noticing this is a pattern I fall into, and wondering (i) could I have noticed earlier and (ii) can I reduce the angst-wibble in step #3 to make the process more efficient and be less annoying/worrying for my friends.

And for that matter, (iii) can I embrace the cycle, and not just wait for success+stress to trigger it, but deliberately try to have a certain amount of introspection per month (but not more, or it just goes angsty, and not less, or it all gets stored up and bursts out in this cycle)?
jack: (Default)
I used to tag posts about LJ "meta", but I had no way to tag posts which were about "meta" itself. I could have used "meta-meta", but then, well, that enters an infinite recursion of paradox...

In what ways are facebook more attractive than DW/LJ? Either better or more addictive. I agree with all the reasons facebook is bad (that it hides what you want to see in favour of things that will get more advertising, that they obscure the privacy model, that they inconsistently enforce real names policy and let abusive things pass but ban anything vaguely detrimental to advertisers, etc) And why many of us like LJ,DW, because I love long-form posts. But I suspect that I end up using it because it's convenient in some ways, not *just* because of the network effect.

Off the top of my head:

* Easy to do many things
* Easy to "share" other people's statuses
* Easy to post short updates and have *some* (albeit bad) comment threads on them
* Easy to post albums of pictures
* Easy to see weddings, births, etc from distant friends
* That simply everyone is on there

What else?
jack: (Default)
Souls in scifi

I always like fantasy about the nature of the soul or the nature of gods. I think it's because I'm drawn to the idea of a primal sort of understanding of people, one of the greatest mysteries. But to me, it means I'm drawn to things vaguely reminiscent of a popular conception of old academic theology, people making massive strides into the nature of reality by pure reason, and embracing towering arguments about some theological point, whether or not they're any good, or what's good about them is actually something else.

I like the same thing in science fiction. In Anathem, I love the idea of concents where intellectual pursuits are encouraged all day (even if I don't think it's a good idea per se). And I love the idea that human brains are build on some sort of quantum trick (even though I think it's complete hokum). I'm drawn to that sort of thing and resentful when -- inevitably -- it turns out not to be as insightful as it looks, because you can't easily overturn the nature of reality in one book.

Likewise, I like "real" science fiction, which seriously explores some unusual premises (physics or otherwise) -- sometimes I can read pages and pages of just worldbuilding. And the same in fantasy which is harder to do, but worlds with consistent metaphysics about what makes gods tick, etc, I can't get enough.

Wish fulfilment

But what's bugging me is -- how much is that harmless wish fulfilment, and how much is it dangerous wish fulfilment? Some wish fulfilment is harmless because it talks about something that would be nice whether or not we can get it. Some wish fulfilment is good because it inculcates in us an idea of what our life or society should be like, from the small (I wish I had a lovely friend) to the large (I wish we had a techno-utopia).

Some wish-fulfilment is harmless in moderation, but dangerous in surfeit. Books like Atlas Shrugged or Ender's Game are valuable for their intended audience (small business owners in USSR and intelligent bullied children) to say "you don't have to give in to them, you can be awesome". But can be very dangerous in the hands of people who are already prone to being powerful selfish and narcissistic, and find in the book an excuse why stealing from the rest of humanity is actually a moral thing to do.

Some wish-fulfilment is harmless but can be addictive. Which is where I think my "understand the world" urge falls. Some authors actually say interesting things about our minds (Greg Egan, Ted Chiang). But many more capture that moment of "Aha! I understand!" without giving any actual understanding. Which is fine in fiction, but I'm not sure how much it's a good thing in itself, and how much it's a trick.

And whether the same can apply in real life -- I am drawn to people who claim to show me how to understand everything, but am also cynical, because I know most such people are misled, but I don't WANT to be cynical, but it's preferable to the alternative, or is it?
jack: (Default)
In many fantasy books, there's a moment where the villain tempts the hero with an illusion or a trick, offering the hero some great reward. Lots of money. Join the villain and be their second in command. Have someone you love resurrected. Retire quietly and the villain won't bother you.

But they almost all have something in common: it's something the hero can't actually believe. If the hero was the sort of person who wanted to be rich and famous, they wouldn't normally be the hero. If it's something the hero genuinely wants, it's something it's clear the villain could and would easily renege on.

Much rarer is tricking the hero by offering the sort of mistake they DO tend to make. Offering them the chance for an ill-thought-out rescue mission. Offering them the chance to be all self-sacrificial on behalf of someone else.

I realised my brain does the same thing. I'm rarely tempted by "here's a naughty opportunity to steal a bunch of success". I'm not desperate enough for it, and even if it's offered, I think "oh, it probably won't work, that sort of thing doesn't happen to me".

But even when I'm on the lookout for mistakes, I'm suckered again and again when my brain says something like "oh, don't talk to them, they probably don't want to talk to you, they're just being polite" or "you should half-kill yourself staying up finishing the thing someone SAID they needed you to do, even though you actually know it was a misunderstanding" or "oh, don't bother taking advantage of good luck, you probably don't deserve it".

(To be fair, I do also make the mistake of thinking too often that "thinking very hard" is better than "trying it and seeing what happens".)
jack: (Default)
I think I realised why I don't naturally get on with statistics as much as you'd expect.

I think it's because in statistics it's more likely that you'll do a bunch of calculation, and at the end, it's not obvious to everyone that you got it right. I'm not sufficiently confident that I've done all the hard stuff right, I still like the external validation of it being obvious.
jack: (Default)

This post describes a productivity vs anxiety graph as a bell curve: no anxiety and you don't work on something at all; too much and you're too terrified to start.

What I take away is that if someone isn't doing something you think they should, the right answer isn't always "come up with more and more and more reasons why they should". If their problem was "they couldn't be bothered", that will help. But if the problem is "they're paralysed by terror", making it MORE urgent will make it HARDER to start, not easier.

I feel, when I'm procrastinating, I'm often in the "paralysed" state. And I feel people should be entitled to say "get on and do it" to me, but that if they want to help, it would be more useful to start by asking "do you want more urgency or more reassurance" and provide whichever I ask for.

Contrariwise, if it's something I've promised to do, and someone's dependant on that, it's my responsibility to manage my internal emotional state, not theirs, and I can't expect someone at work etc to automatically accommodate me. But I've tried to get better at recognising the problem, and asking for what I need, rather than just assuming that what I need isn't obvious, I'm wrong for needing it.
jack: (Default)
I feel like I've succeeded in getting good at handling new complicated situations without entering a negative spiral. Yay me!

Unfortunately, it feels like everything I *used* to be stressed about over the last ten years are still scattered about my brain like landmines, and whenever I walk into one, I'm suddenly equally stressed, partly from long experience of expecting it to be doom, and partly from guilt at not having handled it better in the past. And the number *is* being steadily reduced as they become irrelevant or I prove they're not a problem. But each one requires a lot of tiptoeing around gently defusing it bit by bit by dealing with the practical problems and learning that "it's not so bad" and letting the negative emotions dissipate before it actually goes away.

I also feel like I've been doing a lot of introspecting recently, which has been pretty successful, but means I don't have anything to talk about in person or on LJ except "here's a bunch of complicated emotional stuff", which isn't very engaging.

But I resolved to blog three times a week about whatever I was doing at the moment, on the theory that writing high-flown interesting essays was unlikely to happen, but it was still a valuable way of keeping people involved in my life if I just talked about things I was doing without having to have a new and original thought for every post. And this is what I was thinking about today.