How Do You Structure Your Life?

A mannequin's mechanical parts exposed. Seen at La Musée Des Automates, La Rochelle, France.

Man's Mechanics Exposed

How does life become complicated? Why does it happen? How do we fix it?

These questions occur to me once and a while. I’m not always lucid enough to remember just how complex life is — or perhaps I’m blithely unaware of it.

In either case, I think I prefer those times when it does occur to me, because it also highlights my own problematic patterns. And when a problematic pattern is highlighted, you can address it. Its visibility is its weakness, as you can change or slay that which you see.

In this case, there are a couple of patterns that come to mind. First, I have a great desire to learn things. Not quite everything, but certainly a substantial list of things. I’m constantly frustrated by my lack of knowledge of history, or the limits to my scientific understanding. Lumped in with this is the desire to explore those great works of fiction and philosophy that inform our society. Not knowing those means a break in the universe, a separation between the foundations of how the world is and the understanding of how it came to be.

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A Comic to Gnaw At Your Brain: Lovecraft Is Missing

I’m not exactly keeping up on the forefront of all knowledge, or all cool things. In fact, there are too many things to even keep up with the popular ones, let along the more esoteric and odd things.

Hmm.. I don’t blog often enough, given that I feel like, at the moment, I could write and write and write on a totally irrelevant matter, all as a long-winded introduction to a web-comic that I have just devoured (or which just devoured me!): Lovecraft Is Missing.

I am an HP Lovecraft fan, to be sure: his work is evocative, totally odd, bizarre in its perspective, antiquated, difficult to read but easy to appreciate. Lovecraft inspired a large segment of modern horror, and created the notion of cosmic horror, so much as I know. His horror saw the world and all that we know (and can know) about it as just one tiny fragment of a larger cosmos, and that one form of true and devastating horror was the realization that it is not that what you know is wrong, just painfully incomplete, and that vast intelligences have existed for millenia and would regard us as nothing more than servants at best, ingredients at middling, invisibly irrelevant at worst..

The webcomic Lovecraft is Missing evokes this well. It is a tale surrounding Lovecraft and his world, told through characters drawn into the reality his stories portray. It is a delightful period piece rather than some modern re-telling. It is beautiful, horrific, intriguing, multi-layered.

If you like HPL, you’ll like this.

“Coffee with encaf”: meeting up at Dragon*Con

Well, in just a few days, I set out once again for Dragon*Con. It takes me three days to drive down (my own personal Odyssey! No, wait.. that one didn’t go so well..) so I have to leave earlier.

If you don’t know what Dragon*Con is, then.. Well, it’s bigger than I can explain, so just go look for yourself. I went last year, and before it was even over declared that I was going to go back. It’s my Geek Mecca, really..

Well, I’m going again this year, and people have asked me: “Hey, are you doing any sort of meetup, say for that podcast ‘The WEIRD Show’ that you do? Or maybe in promotion of FiXideas.org, or even the (unofficial) Wandering Out Loud podcast?”

My answer has generally been: “Aw, who’d want to come to that?” Or maybe, “I’ll be wandering around the con: if you see me, just come up and say ‘Hi!’.”

Then again, I remember how well that went last year.. I barely had time to hang out with people, because I was hurriedly and frantically running from session to session, and when I had a free moment, i was always in a random place. I barely said three words to Tosus last year, and that seemed really unfair..

So, I’m compelled to do something about that, because there are so many people I’d like to just sit down and have a chat over a coffee with. So, I’m feeling really selfish, and setting up a semi-formal meetup: Sunday at 6pm, at the cafe a short distance away from the podcasting track.

Yes, those are rather vague directions, but hey: I was only at the place once! Looking at the maps provided in the handy-dandy Dragon*Con PDF pocket guide, I see that the 1st floor of the Hilton has a Cafe Express and Le Cafe right there, so that must have been what I was thinking about. So, we meet at the little Cafe Express, and if we balloon to enormous proportions, maybe we’ll take over Le Cafe.

So, I hope to see you there! The original suggestion still holds: if you see me wandering around (I look like my icon — no, *really*!), don’t hesitate to say Hello.

Just be aware that my capacity to remember names is bad at the best of times, but during an overwhelming experience like Dragon*Con, it drop to nearly zero.. I will probably take your picture and get you to say your name/handle/some identifier into a microphone, maybe on video, or something, just to augment my own memory.

Oh, and I’ll have this clipboard of questions, too… 😉

You’re Only As Old As You Feel…

… and I feel old today.

My right ankle has become stiff. It’s an odd thing, probably related to arthritis, but not (I think) related to my ongoing battle against gout. Gout is an unholy pain akin to having small vices attached to your bones and especially your joints, slowly crushing as miniature pixies of absolute doom cackle.

Well, maybe I’m the only one to hear the pixies.

And this time, I don’t hear the pixies.

Writing this leads me to time, and the intersection of time and information. I debated where I might deliver this information: Twitter, blog post, diary entry, muttered explitive, podcast. While each of these have their obvious differences, the one I highlighted in my mind was a combinatin of immediacy and staying time.

A muttered explitive is instant: you utter it, and then it is typically gone and forgotten. It is an outburst of thought or (more likely) raw emotion, unlikely to have any staying time at all unless you unfortunately had this outburst in the presence of witnesses, and particularly those with fragile conceptions of human behaviour.

Twitter, too, is instant, but has staying power for a few hours. There have been casual comments that I’ve made on this many-to-many instant message system which have been read and commented on hours later, at which point it was instant for the recipient. But the tweets I made yesterday have been forgotten by all — including me.

A diary entry is, in a way, instant, but has no staying power at all. It takes but a few minutes to scribble down “I feel like crap today” in a diary, but then it is pretty much gone. I don’t have any real compunction to read any book twice, let alone a book that I’ve written full of immediate thoughts that needed escape. (This is something which makes writing so difficult to me: I hate to review something, up to the point where I discover something new I want to say, or where I really want to approach the description a different way. This is not helping my academic studies either!). So they are written down, expressed more eloquently and extensively than the explitive or the tweet (I hope) and then forgotten.

The blog post is very similar to the diary entry, with less of an instant gratification and some intention (however slim) that it be read by others. But its staying power is variable. A really good blog post gets read frequently, linked to often, and spread throughout the blogosphere, carried on wings of gossip we call “social networking” and “semantic relationship”. It can have enormous staying power, becoming a reference or touchstone for people for whom it is instantly new and fresh, no matter when it was written.

The podcast is similar to the blog but for one pair of significant differences: on the one hand, a blog post can change and mutate over time, not only by the original author amending or corrected or extending his or her ideas, but also from the extensions provided by the discussion by commenters; on the other hand, a blog post is a textual medium, searchable and findable. A podcast does not have that, unless it’s full text is supplied somewhere (or at least the key phrases) and that really turns it into a blog post. Granted, podcast episodes are arguably easier to create than blog posts, just because most find it easier to speak rather than write (not necessarily in crowds, but among friends).

So, I chose a blog post. Why? A tweet is instant gratification, but it does not allow space to muse. (Although a tweet will be generated from this blog post anyway..) An uttered explitive happened anyway, almost involuntarily, but didn’t truly feel satisfying — no matter how many repetitions and variations I seemed to have tried. An audio blog was possible, but that requires an infrastructure that I haven’t yet set up. A diary suffers a similar fate, as I do not yet have a suitable book to write in (all the books I have are suitable for pocket-sized sudden notes).

I’ve heard the notion repeated numerous times that it takes a million words of crap before getting to the real proper writing. Thank you for participating in my training! 😉

But my ankle still feels like crap.