I’m having trouble being happy. So far, 2007 hasn’t been very fulfilling or satisfying.
A lot of stuff is different this year than it has been in other years. The most obvious thing is that I’m not in school. That could have a lot to do with it. I feel my brain settling into its patterns, optimizing for my lifestyle and minimizing its energy usage. This never happened in school; I always felt like by brain was exercising and stretching, and now it’s sitting on its lazy ass in front of the game programming TV. I’ve hardly been doing any math; I haven’t come any closer to my goal of understanding the independence of CH from ZF.
But I’m afraid of going back to school. There is too much bullshit there. I want to learn, I want to work hard and stretch my brain, but I don’t want to fuck with that awful thing called homework which deprives me of relaxation every hour of the week. I’m not enjoying working at NetDevil very much, but I am really enjoying the working model—go into work, do stuff, come home, relax and sleep. It beats school: go to school, listen to stuff, come home, work, maybe sleep. I don’t want to mess with intro to voice class teachers who have meaningless expectations. At work, I can argue with my lead programmer and the director about the benefits of doing a task, so I don’t get caught doing meaningless stuff. I can’t do that with a teacher.
I want to go to school and take a bunch of linguistics and math classes, and that’s it. And I want to take two difficult, interesting classes at a time, so I don’t have to juggle intro to voice bullshit while I’m actually learning.
Or if I don’t go back to school, I don’t think I want to be a game programmer anymore. Certainly not a $6,000,000 game programmer anymore, but perhaps not one at all. Games are not interested in correctness; all they care about is “working”. But I care a lot about correctness. I get off on solving problems completely, not mostly. I think I want to work in compilers. Compilers really care about correctness, and I think that’s why I really like them. If you add an optimization to a compiler, you’d better be damn sure that the optimized code is always equivalent to the original code, otherwise you throw out your optimization.
One thing I am really getting satisfaction from right now is music. I love my improv band. I want to practice with them three days a week and then go improvising around Boulder. I’m getting a lot better at my instrument, especially when Charlie isn’t there (I think that’s my biggest problem with Charlie in this band; it’s not that he isn’t adding to the music, it’s that I don’t have to work as hard when he’s around, so my technique is not improving). Another path I think I would be content with is to stop working and stop school, and go music full-on. There is, of course, the money problem if I go that route.
But something else has changed in 2007, and I’m beginning to think that it has had a big impact. My relationship with Karlin changed from “soul mate” to “good friend”. I can no longer think of her as someone who will always be there for me. The stuffed poodle she gave me in 2001 isn’t working anymore, it’s just a stuffed animal now. I’m getting lonely.
A friend of Namaste and mine, Jenn, came over last night. The three of us went for a long walk and sat in the grass and talked and all that good stuff. But that reminded me that I need somebody to cuddle with; it was really hard to restrain myself from touching her hand or something. Yes, she’s quite beautiful, but I’m not usually tempted so (like Jude :-). I think that’s reflecting more of my emotional state at the moment than any particular attraction towards her. (Well, that’s not entirely true. I could write a whole post about the subtleties and complexities of that bear. But I’ll save that for another time, probably never.)
I get the feeling that this is an inflection point in my life, and that the changes in January and February were just the beginning. I keep thinking that August is the pivot, where I will make the decision about what to do next. But experience has shown me that when such tension starts building for something to change, it manifests itself much more quickly than we plan. If I start feeling like I’m eventually going to have to quit NetDevil, I wouldn’t be surprised if I got fired tomorrow.
Okay, I just took the bus back from Karlin’s house, and I wanted to post before the high wears off.
It’s totally stupid to be sad about this. I mean, sure, someday she’ll dump me. I’ll have plenty of time to be sad then.
She makes me feel wonderful now. I am really lucky to have someone like that. Who cares about the future; worrying about it takes attention away from the present. I had forgotten that I am really enjoying the present.
We make deep eye-contact a lot. During dinner, she pulled one of those “oh crap, he looked up, I’d better look back down” moves. She walked with me back to the bus stop, about ten minutes through the cold (that means a lot coming from her). Love, schmuv. It’s just a word. She really likes me, and we have a powerful connection. It’s totally stupid to be sad about this.
In case you couldn’t tell by my whole slew of Karlin posts recently, I’ve been feeling generally sad (and my recent compositions, since I only tend to compose when I’m unhappy somehow). This is because sometime toward the end of last summer, I realized that I was in love with her. I wrote her a love letter as she left for college, and she responded to me with kind words that felt a little… empty. Gradually it dawned on me that she didn’t love me in return, at least not in the same way. I confirmed that during an explicit conversation a little while ago. This whole christmas break I have been distressed, lonely, and emotional as a result.
So, what do I mean “I realized that I was in love with her”? I didn’t fall in love with her. Whenever I am sad, lonely, upset, angry, worried, etc. etc., when I spend time with Karlin I feel okay. Okay, better than okay. I feel peaceful, cenetered, complete (without holes; i.e. the opposite of holy). This is true even when the sadness, etc. stems from her. Indeed, when I get home, sometimes the feeling reverts, but while I am with her, it isn’t there. Cuddling on the couch watching some movie with her is as close to utopia as I have ever experienced. When she touches my hand or puts her head on my shoulder, I feel the most marvelous sensation, like a drug I have never tried. The latter is fairly typical stuff for most girls I date, I suppose, but keep in mind that I have known her and been friends with her for six years! That is much longer than such charges usually last. It makes me believe that this one is permanent.
Also, I am completely accepting of her (this wasn’t formerly the case, but has been for the last year or two), which is an indication to that this is a healthy relationship. Occasionally she bugs me or does something I don’t like, but I just tell her and she is receptive, and it isn’t a problem anymore. She is not infallible, but I’m never bothered when she decides anything, as long as I know she has put thought into it (this may just be because she has excellent judgement). I am okay (and I don’t just say this or put up with it, I actually mean it doesn’t bother me) with her dating or having sex with other people. So at this point, we have an extremely rare combination, because I typically am the jealous type.
This was all true at the beginning of last summer. Around then, she and a bunch of my friends went to a comedy show, and I said something about “my girlfriend”, referring to Karlin. When we got back, Namaste said “you still call her your girlfriend?”. I responded with uneasiness, and concluded that it was just a convenient label. That’s kind of how I felt: she’s a girl, she’s a good friend, I guess I’m just used to that label. That spring (before said summer), I dated a girl and told her about Karlin, that she was a good friend of mine and that I like cuddling with her and such, and that it didn’t mean that I had romantic feelings for her (i.e. assuring her that if that comes up, not to worry about it).
Over the summer, as I spent time with Karlin, I began noticing explicitly the things in the second and third paragraphs here. Sometime at the end, I put it all together: “this is what it means for me to be in love with someone.” It’s not romantic infatuation, but it’s not love like a sister either. It is less sexual than the former, and more charged than the latter, and somehow more divine than both. “This is the person that I would be willing to spend the rest of my life with,” I thought. This realization came with a fantastic feeling of happiness.
By our conversations, I think she feels all or most of the symptoms I have described in the second and third paragraphs. But in some way, she doesn’t feel the aforementioned divinity. And it is possible (in the most optimistic and implausible way) that she simply has not realized it as I hadn’t at the beginning of last summer. But what I feel is more likely is that her feeling for me is much more love like a brother (but incestuously :-). That is to say, unlike I with her, she would not be content in life without some other, more serious partner.
After having been through this series of term definition many times, I feel much better than I did when her letter’s emptiness first hit me. It’s clear to me now that I’m not just “the most together person who likes her back”. At first when I explained this to myself, I thought all the pain would go away (and it did in a cover-it-up kind of way for a day or two). I understand her position, and I am important to her, so isn’t that all I can ask for? I believe in the Turing Test theory of relationships, where you should never worry about how your partner feels, just how they act. Doesn’t that mean that I have nothing to be upset about, that I have no way of differentiating between her kind of love and my kind of love?
The answer is no. I can differentiate. When she finds her more serious partner, whether she says so or not, I will be put on the back burner, a suddenly minor part of her life, and I will be heartbroken. And that explains my pain right now.
Homer: How can the only thing I’ve ever been sure about in my life be wrong?
Marge: I don’t know, but it is.
 I do not consider Karlin a serious partner per se; it’s simply that, because of her, I feel no necessity for a serious partner.
Karlin and I were talking today, and she mentioned that I need to be better at delayed gratification; i.e. I need a better work ethic; i.e. I need to be better at doing stuff that I don’t enjoy. She finds that quality admirable. I agreed with her at the time, but giving it more thought, I realize that I don’t agree. A certain skill in delayed gratification is powerful (Namaste might disagree for pure philosophical reasons), but as a life philosophy it is dangerous.
Allow me to demonstrate with an example: Joe, a typical American, goes to college because he knows that it will pay off with a good, high-paying job in the future. Even though to Joe, college is a lot of unrewarding, pointless work, he perseveres and finishes. He graduates and goes to get a good job, but he is a lowly engineer, and he would like to be management because it is easier and pays better. So he works hard, doing a job which he finds unrewarding, because he knows that it will pay off with a promotion in the future. Ad infinitum….
Now let’s bring it back to me. I don’t find college to be a lot of unrewarding, pointless work, and I am not going to college in order to get a high-paying job in the future. I am going to college because I want to know why the continuum hypothesis is independent of set theory, and I want to understand the Riemann hypothesis! Every math class I take brings me closer to those goals, and more importantly, I enjoy learning about it (not an admirable quality to Karlin). So I am enjoying myself and bringing myself closer to my goals at the same time: that is perpetual gratification, so I am not very good at delayed gratification.
At the end of last semester, I was feeling fatigued, so I figure if I went in the spring, I would start the semester feeling that way and it would just go downhill from there. I would do poorly and not enjoy myself. Instead, I decided to take a break in order to focus on music. A goal of mine is to become a well-known, accomplished musician. And I will enjoy focusing on music so intently to boot. Again, that is perpetual gratification, not delayed.
So what is the admirable quality again? Doing something you don’t enjoy in order to get closer to a future goal as opposed to doing something you do enjoy in order to get closer to a future goal? Okay, I feel better. Such hard-working delayed gratification bullshit is just some misguided ideal image into which I don’t fit, not any real personal flaw of mine.
I think it really comes down to a world view issue. If you train yourself all your life to work hard and put up with bullshit in order to achieve something in the future, what happens when you finally achieve that thing? All you know is how to work hard and put up with bullshit in order to achieve something, so that’s what you do. And at the end of your life, you realize that your whole life was spent putting up with bullshit. I’d rather do something I enjoy for my whole life.
As a somewhat optimistic take on last week’s Looking Forward, I’m finding that external factors are failing to motivate me anymore. I’m spending about as much time in all the topics of my classes as my professors would expect, but I’m not spending it in the way my professors are “requiring”. Instead, I am spending time doing the things in those topics that are important to me.
For example: in my voice class, I am spending three (or more) hours per week practicing, instead of writing bullshit reports. In my physics education seminar, I am spending more time with students than is required, instead of doing some of the assigned homework. In my math modeling class, I am doing math modeling in the games I am working on, instead of repeating the well-researched tomography technique. (And in Linguistics and Foundations, I am doing the work that is required, because that stuff is cool)
This makes me feel a lot better about myself, and a lot worse about how school operates. I don’t think that I would stop learning, or even slow down, if I stopped going to school. But what I would be giving up is the environment: as misfit as the system is to me, the professors know their stuff, and sharing their knowledge is really what I enjoy about the environment. So I should rephrase that sentence as “… or even slow down if i stopped taking classes.”. I don’t know what would satisfy me. An apprentice to a professor?
Oh, don’t take this to mean that I will stop taking classes. One of the things that is important to me is to finish my master’s degree. Finishing things is one of the skills I want to develop.
I also have a big problem with the constant juggling that is required from my classes. I am interested in all my classes, but having to worry about proving a lemma to the incompleteness theorem (so, so cool) at the same time as doing an education research project at the same time as putting together a tomography presentation is very stressful. I am not a multitasker.
That was just a brain dump.
This post is a personal entry—more like a journal entry than a blogging. I don’t have a personal journal, but I keep backups of this blog so I figure it would be a good place to put it. Of course anyone is welcome to read it, but my regular readers (it seems I do have a few, which pleases me) might not find it that interesting or relevant.
I consider myself an optimist. Whatever happens, I look at it as if it were the right thing, and that the future is something to look forward to.
And yet, I believe November the second is a more tradgic date for the United States than September the eleventh or December the seventh. The things that Cheney will do to this country in the next four years will be greater in magnitude than anything in the 20th century and unmatched by anything in the 21st century. I don’t care about Bush—he’s an idiot.
But here’s my optimistic perspective. I haven’t had to try to take on this perspective: it is inherent in my nature.
As cheney runs the national deficit so high as to make the government powerless, Bush decieves the American people that the war in Iraq is good for the economy. But you can’t decieve people forever. When the economy crashes and the government becomes a corporation, the people will know. Americans will not be opressed—not conciously.
And I believe that this is the time, whenever it comes, that capitalism in its whole crashes to the ground. There are many theorists who believe that we’re overdue for a social change, and I can see the breakdown of capitalism all around me.
And whatever comes after that, that is what I look forward to. I don’t know what it is, and there’s a good chance it will not be pretty, but I look forward to seeing what it is. That is the role that I’m taking now. I’m choosing to stay in the country and to watch what happens.
On the plus side, no great composer has lived without hardship. If I’m ever to be a great composer, I’ve got to start suffering somehow. :-)
I just put up my manifestation cards for this year. I did this for the first time last year on my birthday, and they’ve been wonderful. I’ll explain what manifestation cards are, and then I’ll describe a few of mine.
This is an original idea (in that I didn’t get it from anybody else, not that nobody has done it before) in which I identify aspects of myself that I would like to grow, write them down on 3×5 notecards and post them up next to my bed, so they stare me in the face if I’m lying idly in bed. I see them before I go to sleep every night. Even though I ignore them, they go in my brain subliminally.
Here are some of the principles I use when I’m creating them:
- They’re not supposed to be perfect. I don’t throw one away because it’s not written perfectly or because I taped it up a little slanted. Their content is the important thing, and keeping them around in light of their imperfections is symbolic of that.
- They can be about anything: things I want to do, things I want to be, things I want to have. But I can’t have too many of them. Identify what’s important and put those up. Again, not necessarily most important, but just things to remind me where I’m going every night.
Last year was about improving my behavior, mostly. I had things like “Plan & Go: Think things through only as much as necessary”, because I would tend to get so caught up in planning how something was going to happen that it wouldn’t ever happen. “Finish”, “Spend Time with Friends”, “Spend Time with Nature”. And those have worked really well (except the last one, I really haven’t done that too much). I consider myself a much stronger person since I put these up last year.
Two of particular note last year: “Become well known in the Perl community”, perhaps the most specific one, worked the best of any of them. Arguably that was where I was headed anyway, but putting it up as a manifestation just helped accentuate that that was where I wanted to be.
Also “Financial Freedom: Have enough money not to worry about it”. This represents the principle I have about money, which will be reiterated in this year’s manifestations. It’s important in order to survive, but gathering as much money as possible is not the important thing in life. I like to have enough so that it doesn’t matter at all. If you get too little or too much, it starts to consume your life (as long as you haven’t put up a manifestation against it :-)
So, this year’s:
- Compose More; Meet Other Composers.
- Keep Learning.
- Uphold my Responsibilities.
- Kick School’s Ass.
- Honor the Perl Community.
- Keep my Friends.
- Money is Plentiful but Remains Unimportant.
The first two are about continuing to do what I love to do. In light of all the new things I’m manifesting in myself, I must remember to keep my passions.
The third through fifth are about being strong in character. I’ve worked hard to get where I am, and now it’s time to stay where I am in a noble way. Now would be a terrible time to squander that which I manifested last year out of laziness or selfishness. They’re kind of a reiteration of last year’s manifestations, making sure I don’t forget what I’ve learned.
The sixth is similar to that. It’s another reinforcement, as I’ve never been very good at losing friends, but it’s making sure that I don’t start to consider myself “high and mighty” or some such. My ego does tend to run away at times, and I let it, because I think it’s healthy, but I have to make sure that it doesn’t go so far as to hurt myself or others.
Finally, the last one I’ve already talked about. It basically says “the same thing as last year, but more money.” One has to continue one’s third love, Poker, somehow. :-)
It’s been a while. Here’s an update.
I just got back from a week long trip to Portland, OR, at the O’Reilly Open Source Convention (OSCON). It was quite a lot of fun; I met some interesting people and some very interesting people. I did my presentation, then went on to sign up and flake out of a poker game, and had dinner with some famous people.
First off, my presentation went over really well. Everybody laughed at both of my jokes, and I got exactly enough questions to fill up the extra ten minutes at the end. I had someone come up afterward and say it was “the most entertaining session at this conference that wasn’t done by Damian Conway.” Knowing Damian, this is indeed quite a compliment.
After that, I had signed up for a poker game that Thursday. I was waiting for some fresh meat, and I also wanted to find out if I’m actually good, or if I’ve just mastered my local group and will die in foreign circumstances. But I didn’t end up playing, because that same night I got an offer to go out to dinner with the Perl 6 crew: Larry Wall, Damian Conway, etc. Sorry, I like Poker, but not enough to turn down dinner with them. It was fun explaining why I couldn’t play to the poker folks, too :-).
During the weekend, I attended the Perl 6 design meetings which were by far the best part of the trip. All the people on the design team are wicked smart, and it was a great honor conversing with them and determining the fate of the next Perl. Patrick, the Perl 6 pumpking, and I are to design the regular expression engine for Perl 6. This is an interesting turn of fates, as I’ve been pummelling perl6-internals with ignored design revisions ever since the introduction of rx.ops. Now I get to call the shots :-).
Finally, on Monday I went with Larry and Gloria Wall to the Japanese garden and the Rose garden. That was fun, and Larry had plenty of interesting Japanese cultural and language tidbits (he’s studying Japanese).
IPC had the first meeting in likely two months tonight. I’ve basically lost interest in the project, but I’m sticking around on account of being the chief architect of the project. It would be rude (and socially stupid) to abandon the project after setting up such a complex game engine, leaving them with only half an idea what they’re doing. I’m adopting the strategy of letting them do the programming, and being there for design advice and explanations of the patterns I used. I want this project to go somewhere, because my team does, but I’m not terribly interested in where it’s going anymore.
Glop and the Fighting Game
As those of you who followed the development of Glop may know, it was all inspired by an idea for a fighting game. I haven’t written about this connection before, but this is how it happened. I wanted to write a fighting game that required mastery: that required thinking, planning, and observing to play well. I sat down to write it, noticed what a damn pain it was to set up a game engine, and then started Glop to make it easier (the fact that it’s been much harder to write Glop than that simple engine was expected; I balanced the trade-offs and figured I’d praise myself the next time I got a cool idea).
Tonight I had a revelation about that game (which I haven’t started yet). We were playing Soul Calibur II, perhaps the best fighting game ever created. It had all these elements, but it wasn’t what I was looking for. You could whack somebody in the head with your sword, and they’d lose 5% of their life. I want to whack someone in the head with a sword and have them die—immediately. Like Bushido Blade. But a game like Bushido Blade or Soul Calibur would end up with twenty rounds lasting five minutes with that kind of scale—also not what I want.
So I thought: what if the game was in slow motion? That’s precisely what I want. It allows enough time to see what the opponent is doing and come up with a brilliant counter attack. The game won’t be a button-masher like so many fighting games are. The game will be as if in a turn based game (but you’d have to think much more quickly). Two experienced players may battle it out for thirty hits, and the winner will be the one who finds a way to block the opponent’s attack, incapacitate his weapon and his defences, and get the blow in. The knockout move. One mistake against a master and you’re dead instantly. That’s what I want. I don’t know whether it’s a selling idea, because of the learning curve, but it’s the game I want. And that’s the game that I’m going to make.
I just watched Castle in The Sky, only the second Mayazaki film I’ve seen. The storyline was very Final Fantasyesque, and the music was top notch (to be expected from Hisaishi). The movie itself would have been excellent, once you get past of the blantancies of anime, if it weren’t for the all-around happy ending. The climax was bittersweet, and I don’t know why he had to turn it around and make it Hollywood happy. But it’s a great movie nonetheless, if you’re in to anime epics.
My Glop talk isn’t coming along as quickly as I’d like it to. I have the main points outlined, but none of the details are there yet, and I ought to really get cranking if I want a chance to practice before I speak. Glop itself is pretty neat so far, though. I feel like I’m back in the days of QBasic’s “what if I…” graphical programming, except it’s a lot faster.
Oh, and I’m now officially on the Perl 6 design team. I’m proud, though I’m not sure this changes anything. I didn’t get selected as pumpking, but that’s okay—more time for school (I was worried about that).