pktechgirlbackup: (pktechgirl)
I'm just going to admit this up front: this post was inspired by someone who claimed to never get jealous yelling at me for flirting with someone she didn't even have a right to be territorial over. This annoyed me deeply. I think I'm channeling this into positive philosophical musings, but I'm prepared to hear it's just passive aggressive whining.

G-d willing, none of us are as good as we want to be. That would mean we had stopped striving to become better, and that's pretty much death. This is what is dangerous about making hypocrisy the worst sin: wanting to be better is the first step to becoming better.* I don't want to ban people from talking about being better or wanting better until they've conclusively proven they're better and never going to relapse. That's not the only source of hypocrisy, or even the largest by volume, but I think preserving space to strive is worth putting up with some sanctimony.

So, you're human, you don't want to be bothered by a thing, but you are. What do you do? I think there is real beauty and grace in taking the actions that your best would would, and accepting the discord between that and what your current self wants as growing pains. Unpleasant, but something that will pass and leave good things in is wake. You don't have to hide that pain either, you can acknowledge it, even to the people who are causing it, if you do it right. The script in this particular case is "I feel jealous. I'm not asking you to change your behavior, or feel bad, but please accept that I need to go do self care things now."

But there is also beauty and grace in accepting yourself as you are now, and making the lesser choice, because you're not yet ready to be that big. It doesn't lock in that state forever, it doesn't make you a bad person, and it doesn't make you a hypocrite for not living up to your values. It's loving yourself and accepting that you cannot instantly be everything you want to be. In practice, that could look like "I know I said I don't get jealous but I really don't like watching you flirt with that guy, would you stop on my account?"**

There is ZERO beauty and grace is claiming a virtue, shaming those you don't think sufficiently demonstrate it, faltering when called to demonstrate it, and then taking the shame of that failure out on the witnesses. That is just annoying

*A friend of mine has dedicated this year to the power of cognitive dissonance for that exact reason.
**To be fair, the answer in this specific case would have been "no." Sometimes the mature option is your only option.
pktechgirlbackup: (pktechgirl)
Patton Oswalt wrote a blog post on joke stealing, heckling, and rape jokes, and he makes amazing points on each of them. But what I want to talk about is a little incidental line:
In the exact moment after I’d realized that what Blaine said was true, that I’d cribbed a laugh from someone else’s creativity and inspiration, my ego kicked in. And, I mean, my real ego. Not ego’s sociopathic cousin, hubris, which would have made me defensive, aggressive and ultimately rationalize the theft. No, the good kind of ego, the kind that wanted success and fame and praise on my own merits, no matter how long it took.

About a month ago, I missed a social cue while out with a friend. If he had said "how did you miss something so obvious?", I would have responded "fuck you, I'm amazing. You're stupid and this is all your fault because reasons" (hubris). What he actually said was "it's okay, lot's of normal people don't get that.", and my immediate thought was "fuck you, I'm amazing, I can totally learn to do that." (ego).

In writing this, I realized his statement looks a tiny big neg-y. It didn't feel that way to me at the time, and he's never negged me before or since, so I don't think that's what's going on. But I do think the power of good-ego might be what pick up artists are tapping into with negs: the desire to be our best self and have that self be seen.
pktechgirlbackup: (pktechgirl)
Hobbyfest got slowed down a bit with my SEVERE GUM INFECTION, and will clearly be carried on into 2013. But I managed to get Trapeze in under the wire.

Overall: I'm glad I did it, I plan on doing it a few more times, but it is never going to be a regular hobby. First, it is expensive. s $48 for a two hour class, and for most of that class you're just sitting around, because there's only one trapeze. If you're going to do it, I highly recommend waiting for a groupon and going two days before Christmas, where you can work until your arms fall off.

The scariest part is not the actually flying, because at that point you're just sort of doing it. The ladder you climb is much, much scarier. They attach you to a line for it, and all I could think was "great, so I'm going to break my back instead of cracking my skull. That's much better." then you stand on this tiny, rickety platform, and there's a moment when you have the ladder harness off but don't have the flying harness on yet and all I can think is "YOU DESIGNED THIS WRONG". Then you catch the bar. You're leaning with your center of mass way over the platform, holding something shockingly heavy in your outstretched arms, and the only reason you don't fall is some idiot is holding on to your harness.* Then there is the jumping, which is done on their cues, not yours, which made the whole thing more nervewracking for me.


The good, I guess, is that I got some really cool pictures, and I have some really pleasant muscular exhaustion today. The first time I do anything is often the best, in terms of body response, because I haven't learned how o be lazy about it yet. I find ways to cheat efficiencies shockingly fast. There is something hugely symbolic and powerful about waiting and holding the bar, and I think I have to keep going under I've unwrapped that. Hopefully I can do that in two classes, because that's the discount pack they offered me and I'm not going to pay full price for it.

Trapeze either never gives you time to get in to a flow state or drops you in it immediately and then kicks you out just as fast. That is probably also a good thing to experience.

I was really reluctant to go to trapeze because I thought it was just going to be one long slide of hitting my limitations- I wouldn't be flexible enough or strong enough to do anything. I got talked into going by a friend, who lived up to her promise to relentlessly cheerlead everything I did. This gave me enough space to realize that if I'm angry about not being able to do all of the things in a set, refusing to do any of them is more likely to make me angrier than it is to make me feel good about myself. That lessen was totally worth the $30 the class cost.

*Surprisingly, this doesn't become less stressful if the holder is an attractive member of your gender of choice.
pktechgirlbackup: (Default)
This is a trick I have used with landlords, co-workers, and other assorted types. Say we are debating something, and I am right. I have explained my position, and they have explained theirs, and no one is budging.* They attempt to break the stalemate by repeating their position, loudly and with increasing implications that you are an idiot for disagreeing. You could respond in kind, but if you are female you risk being written off as hysterical, and even if you're male proof by intimidation is just a horrible way to go through life. But if calming stating your point worked, the problem would already be solved.

The trick I have found is to let them yell for as long as they want, saying absolutely nothing. They may talk for a very long time, but eventually they will tire themselves out (often much faster than if you interrupted them, although it won't feel that way at the time). Continue not talking. If you are there in person or on a webcam, look at them, but say nothing.** Eventually they will crack and attempt to solicit you, with something like, "okay?" or "so you're on board?". And you say "No." Depending on the situation, you may elaborate just a bit, with something like "no, for the reasons I've listed." but don't say anything more than that.

The benefits of this are manyfold. First, sometimes the other person will give in just to stop the silence. Second, even if you end at a stalemate, you deescalated the situation without giving anything up. You can come back- in a few seconds or a few days- with new thoughts*** or a letter from your lawyer and you haven't haven't said anything they can use against you, legally or socially. Third, regardless of where the argument ends, you don't leave it with the icky feeling you got bullied into something.

I am trying to think how I would feel if this technique was used on me. I think anything that slows down the pace of emotional arguments is a good thing. And I would like not yell, but if it's bad enough that I'm yelling am maybe not going to take correction very well; a long pause for me to slowly realize what I just did seems like the gentlest possible way to tell me. So this technique even passes the "do unto others test".



*the landlords may well have known I was right and been trying to intimidate me into backing down, but I assume good faith on the part of co-workers. That is the brilliance of this: it works either way.

** I like to think this is when certain co-workers being to realize how stunningly unprofessional they just were.

***I originally discovered this technique when I decided I was going to take as long as I needed to think of my response, and if that led to an awkward silence, so be it. The mindset of "I am thinking" over "I am waiting" may be important to its success, although "my co-worker's unprofessional behavior has literally shocked me into silence" also works.
pktechgirlbackup: (Default)
In honor of my upcoming birthday, here is a list of things I learned since the last one:

Sometimes things that are necessary to protect yourself in one context are harmful in another or even keep you trapped in the original one.

Vulnerability is the path to happiness, in part because once you've admitted something, you no longer hurt yourself in order to hide or deny it.

Don't get mad at your past self for being dumber than your current self. The real problem would be if she was smarter.

Teen Mom is a better show than you would think.

Sometimes making the best of a bad situation still leaves you with an awful situation.

People who actually hate drama will slowly and quietly move away from people who say "I hate drama".

"I'm X" is only a useful sentence if other people will say they are not X.

You're not obligated to like someone, but you're also not obligated to share that dislike to make them a better person. Sometimes glossing over it is the best thing for you, and that's okay.

Labeling actions is more helpful than labeling people.

The solution to succeeding at things is to find a low stakes place to fail over and over.

Dealing with emotions is almost an entirely separate thing from dealing with the problem that caused them.

Some lessons have to be learned the hard way. This doesn't obligate you to feel good about the process when you're in the middle of paying the emotional price and have yet to receive any benefits.

Hugo Schwyzer's issues look more serious every day.

Sometimes people are really good at a thing and then it gets harder or they run out of cope and they stop being good at it. That doesn't mean you were wrong to think they were good at it originally.

A lot of what we (I) think of as "suffering caused by X" isn't caused by X. It's not even caused by the feelings you have in the immediate response to X. It's caused by trying to make yourself not feel them.

Sometimes you give people a second chance and they do the exact same thing you dropped them for in the first place. That doesn't mean you were wrong to give them that chance.

Sometimes the only thing you get from using your words is the certainty that it's not a miscommunication, this person can't or won't meet your needs. That doesn't mean using your words didn't work.

Introversion affects more than we know.

Fewer things in this world are reflections on us than we think.

It is not my job to Fix Things, and I can enforce this in ways other than physically leaving.

Think carefully before rejecting advice you solicited. If you were so good at solving this problem you wouldn't be asking for advice.

Following good rules of thumb does not guarantee good results in any individual case.

Captain Awkward is amazing.

"There's no accounting for people. They're squishy and they don't make sense"
pktechgirlbackup: (Default)
One thing instructors at my martial arts repeat a lot is the idea that how hard they hit us lower belts is controlled by how hard we hit them, because they're just reflecting the energy back. This makes my inner scientist/statistician freak out, because while it is certainly a thing that is happening, it does not account for all of the observed variation. If it's just my energy reflecting back, why do some people hit me so hard relative to others? And why do those same people have a reputation for hitting everyone hard? Yes, expectations can be self-perpetuating, but that is a *lot* of variation to explain. In addition, you will observe local spikes where everyone rates person A as hitting harder than usual or otherwise deviating from their routine, generally because A has had a tough week.

The actual lesson here was (as far as I know) "this is the only you can control, so pretend it's the only thing". This is neither the first nor the last lesson karate has tried to teach me of this form, and it always ends with making little charts in my head about all the things their model is missing. I feel like a pessimist being taught happiness strategies by an optimist, or an introvert being taught socialization by an extrovert*: I intellectually understand why their strategy works and that I would be happier if I followed it, but it is fundamentally incompatible with my personality.

But.

Three weeks ago I had a breakthrough. I went to sparring, and sparred the man we will refer to as Exhibit A, because he is my number one of example of how hitting very softly sometimes still ends with me getting hit very very hard. And one time, vomiting, although other stuff was going on that day. Anyways, he was still doing what he does, but it didn't hurt as much. I sparred him again two weeks later, and it didn't hurt at all. That same class, I acquired a massive bruise on my hamstring. I've had people deliberately go for tendon bruises before, and they *hurt*, and then they hurt more because they get in a bad feedback loop with muscle spasms. And that did in fact happen the next day, but I didn't notice it at all at the time, to the point I don't know who did it.

I got body work done on Thursday, and it was more productive that usual, but that's not the interesting part. On the way out, I hit my toe on a chair. I do this a lot. I'm a consummate toe stubber. But this time I was aware of two things: 1. It didn't hurt, and 2. My hip flexor was stretching. It's like my upper body kept going but my foot stopped as soon as it hit the chair. And all the previous toe stubbings were a result of my tight hip flexors forcing my foot to keep up with my upper body.

My favorite instructor says I'm learning to process the good parts of the experiences in sparring and ignore the bad parts. I don't like that word choice, because I've repressed pain in the past and it has gone *poorly* and I would like the phrasing to reflect the fact that this is something different. But the overall point is quite possibly accurate, and I'm curious to see where it goes.

*fucking extroverts
pktechgirlbackup: (Default)
First, there was learning that I can't change people. Then there was learning that that included teaching other people that they can't change people (i.e. I can't change my friend into someone who doesn't want to change their SO). But now I feel like I'm over the hump on these.

The latest thing I learned was not resisting, in the Buddhist sense of not burning energy trying to deny that something had happened or was happening. I'm not perfect on this. In fact, I suspect there are many more humps to go through. But the current one is not resisting other people's resistance. Or occasionally, not resisting the fact that other people are resisting other people's resistance (observing that is is in fact what allowed me to notice the pattern).

The fact that I only just put together that not trying to change people is a subset of not resisting the universe is probably a sign that there's a lot more to go on both of these.
pktechgirlbackup: (Default)
For the past couple of weeks, there's been a thought bouncing around in my head: There's a remarkable correlation between things I'm bad at as an adult and the things I was allowed to be bad at as a child. But it turns out there's an even better correlation between the things I'm good at as an adult and the things my parents could teach me as a child. My dad even said outright "It would have felt hypocritical to expect you to have good social skills." I'm a pretty big genetic determinist, and there are numerous relevant studies showing that adopted children resemble their birth parents more as they age, but... wait a minute, I just figured something out. But first, the counter-anecdotes.

I have thought of two major talents I had as a child that have gone nowhere in my adulthood: fiction writing, and target shooting. The fiction writing started before I could actually physically write, or read. I dictated stories to my mom. Judging by my teacher's reactions, I was very good at these for my age. I think it was actually a good thing my parents didn't push or formalize my writing, but it meant that it did eventually get more or less dropped in favor of other things. Writing is such a difficult career that I can't say I would have had one, but I definitely would have gone farther with it if I had had someone to teach me writing the way I had my dad to sit over me when I learned algebra. I did eventually reach the point in science where my dad was unable to help me, but that was after years and years of being taught that science was a Thing I Can Do.

I started target shooting was I was 16. Under the theory that it's not bragging because it's relevant to the story but unimportant in real life: I was extremely good at target shooting. I would have had the top honor the junior club gave in a year and a half if mono hadn't eaten up the five months before college (I did get it the next year, but was slowed significantly since I was only shooting when I came home on breaks). Multiple people who had worked with olympic shooters said I had the potential to be one. But the next step would have been attending the empire state games, and the first year the fell on the same day as the SAT IIs, and the next year I had mono and that wasn't happening, and then I was at college. I could take it back up now, but I don't have the time to be as good as I was in high school so what's the point, especially since it's competing for much the same energy as martial arts and I think that's the superior choice. But if I'd been one of those kids whose parents shot, and took them to the range at 6, or even 12, I would have gone pretty far in the sport. I want to give my parents some credit here in that they were incredibly supportive and put a lot of time into taking me to the range so I could practice, but none of us had the time to make up for 8 years of not shooting.

Then we have the one thing I'm good at that my parents never taught me: Computers. Seeing as that's my career, it seems like a pretty big counterargument, but I don't think so. As very young children, computers were my brother's thing. He was a prodigy at manipulating computers' inner workings the same way he was at math. But come 8th grade (homeschooled year) we got a computer, and someone needed to talk to tech support. My dad couldn't do it because he was at work, my mom couldn't do it because she'd get stuck at "go to the start menu", and my brother couldn't do it because it involved talking to people. I wasn't good at it, just the least bad option. But over a few tech support phone calls, computers moved from those things I could play games on if they were working to things that could be learned and controlled. So I'm still left with a pattern of "I'm best at things where someone pushed me over the first hump".

I thought this whole "best at the things I was taught" was going counter to the evidence for genetic determinism, but actually it's not. The specific studies I'm thinking of showed that as adopted children aged, they resembled their adoptive parents less and less and their birth parents more and more- i.e., reflected genetics more than environment. But that's perfectly consistent with what I'm doing- I'm probably getting slightly worse at math ever year, since I never have call to use the last four semesters I took, but I'm consistently getting better at the things my parents couldn't teach me- what we could consider moving towards a truer reflection of my genetic talents.

I'm still working this out, so everyone is encouraged to share their own stories of learning.
pktechgirlbackup: (Default)
So this was going to be my review of Portal 2, but that's going to be pretty quick: great mechanics, puzzles that are fun but not as fun as the first*, dialogue that lacks the memeability of the first but is guaranteed to give you at least one thing you can't stop saying**, and a completely unnecessary explanation for questions NO ONE WAS ASKING. I'd heard the multiplayer did a better job at living up to the fun puzzle hunting feeling of the first, which was a terrible thing to tell me because it meant that both parts of the game labored under the massive expectations generated by the awesomeness of its predecessor, rather than just the single player. It's a good game, but don't pay retail for it. My $30 for a used copy was tolerable, $50 for a new copy is too high, if you can find a portal buddy to wait for a price drop with you do that.

Portal 2 is fundamentally a puzzle game, and playing puzzle games with someone who has already solved them sucks, so you need to pick out a friend ahead of time and promise yourselves to each other. Pick someone you like, because communicating plans is difficult and they will kill you several times. If at all possible, pick someone who's roughly as good as you. My portal buddy B scored well on the "liking each other" and "unlikely to stab each other" metrics, but got stuck once in the entire single player game, compared to probably a dozen times for me. The first 80% of the multiplayer campaign was us walking into a room, him telling me where to put portals before I'd even seen what was happening, and then us suddenly being done. It was pretty much the same experience as playing with someone who'd played it before.

But the last 20% is where it got interesting. The difficulty curve in Portal 2 is pretty good, and suddenly he could no longer just see the answer. And it turns out, he had no backup strategy. Meanwhile, I had built up my figuring things out skills through the single player campaign, leading to conversations like this:

Me: [mechanic] the [mechanic] over there.
B: Why?
Me: I dunno, but it's clearly set up to do that, so let's try it and see what happens.
B: But... then what?
Me: That's a problem for future us.

This didn't reverse the discrepancy by any means, since he had as good a chance as I did at seeing the next move. At best it maybe got to 60/40 in my favor, 50/50 is also plausible. But this portion was a lot more fun, which makes me think that the whole thing would have been a lot more if I'd been playing with someone of equal skill.

Related Anecdote: I am pretty good at math, but my brother is amazing. He took an IQ test in elementary school and scored perfect on the math section. I had to be taught math, he would just see it. But that meant that when he eventually got to math he couldn't just see (and this took till high school, but it did happen), he was screwed. He had no problem solving method beyond looking at the problem and knowing the answer. Meanwhile, I'd been developing my "writing things down" and "intermediate steps" methods for years, and ended up going much farther in math than he did, and with much less frustration.***

I think people or at least Americans tend to conflate initial skill level, rate of learning, and skill level ceiling, and I think it does us a disservice. I know I've flat out given up on some things- remembering names and faces, having some sort of directional sense- that I'm now pretty sure I could improve on if I put effort into it. It's amazing what a difference conceiving of something as learnable makes.


*Note to developers: where is the one patch of portleable wall? is not a puzzle. It's an annoyance.

**For me? Aristotle vs. MASHYSPIKEPLATE. and "I literally don't have the energy to lie to you." For my friend? I'm in space, which I didn't appreciate at the time because I missed the context, but is steadily growing on me.

***Interestingly, B reported the same experience at math as my brother. I really want to insist that he can't have been visualizing things to the extent my brother was, but some of that is that my brother's right-brainness really screwed him in ways B has not suffered from, and it would be unfair if B also had superior math skills.
pktechgirlbackup: (adulthood)
Crystal_pyramid points to bathtub theory. This showed up at an extremely apropos time in my life. It's one of those things that is close enough to an emotional nerve that I need to separate expressing and organizing my thoughts, so this is going to be less organized than I usually strive for. I expect the more useful points to be expanded into their own, more cogent posts at some point, but it's entirely possible I'll get distracted by something shiny between now and then.

Cut for lack of internal editor )

Note for friends who know which nerve this is hitting: I felt the thoughts I had about the essay were general enough and important enough that I wanted to make this a public post. That is not true of the specific issue, so please keep any comments on the general topic and not *cough* in particular.
pktechgirlbackup: (adulthood)
Man, I remember when every time I was having a problem and sought advice for it, it was pretty easy for my friends/parents/mentors to tell me exactly what I'd done wrong and how to fix it or do better next time. Now that I'm less stupid, I go to friends/parents/mentors and hear "yep, you did everything right and it didn't work, here's some crazy last ditch stuff to try." I assume that doing things right has led to a some situations never reaching problem status, but since I can't count those, it feels like all I've done is make my problems harder to solve.
pktechgirlbackup: (Default)
The downside of increasing mindfulness: my imagination was filling in the details on a lot of cheaply shot TV shows.
pktechgirlbackup: (Default)
Taking the racial element out of it entirely, ballet is a terrible career. But I don't care, there are lots of terrible careers. What I mind is children making a decision when they are very small to devote hours a day in pursuit of those careers. It's extra bad when the chances of achieving that job are slim, when those skills won't be applicable anywhere else, and when the pursuit of that career causes physical damage. If kids were pursuing dance- or gymnastics, or sports, or music- because they were enjoying that activity at that moment, without considering their professional future, I'd feel better about it. Ballet seems extra special awful because "When you're working with something like ballet, you're changing the way your body is shaped and how your body grows.", but so does gymnastics, or any male sport where steroids have infiltrated the high school. I think I maybe want to get rid of ballet all together because I can't support something that chews people- children- up like that.*

That said, I went back and read the original interview**, and some stuff got lost in context. "The more people we have auditioning, they can't deny talent." was said directly in response to "What message do you have for other black women or curvy women who want to be classical ballet dancers?", a far cry from my accusation of encouraging young girls to ruin their bodies pursuing a terrible career***. She also seems to be aiming her message and girls and women who have already decided they want to dance but are being steered away from classical ballet. I have the vague sense that ballet is more destructive than modern, but I could easily be wrong on that.

Terrible career it may be, I do think there would be benefits to everyone to having more black ballerinas. It would help change the perception of beauty and class as white things, it would provide a counter to certain stereotypes
And if an adult wanted to take the sacrifices (long hours, physical destruction, low pay) on herself to contribute to those improvements, I would applaud her. What bothers me is the idea of children committing to that sacrifice before they're old enough to understand it.

Bookkeeping: some comments on the last post make me think we're not all on the same page on the costs of ballet. My understanding is that, like girl's gymnastics, ballet takes an incredible toll on the human body. As someone who's suffered from small but overwhelming musculoskeletal issues, I have serious body horror over this. I walk out of sparring with bruises twice a week, fracturing my finger didn't do more than annoy me with potential lifestyle changes, even when it looked like it might be serious, but the idea of deliberately hurting my hip alignment triggers a genuine fight or flight response. I didn't realize till just now how much emotional charge that was giving my analysis. Yay, writing is pulling its weight.

*Ta-Nehisi Coates occasionally has fascinating posts in which you can see his changing attitude towards football. He loves the game, he has a lot of history and connection with the game, but he's questioning whether he can morally watch it, given the toll it takes on the players.

**I know I should always read the primary sources, but I don't, because humans are rambling and humans talking out loud to a question they were just asked are more rambling.

***My defense: I never actually made it about her, she was just a jumping off point. But that might be perceptible to only me.
pktechgirlbackup: (Default)
One of my flaws is overgeneralizing my model of myself to to other people ("but I can read nutritional labels and put the facts in context, so clearly we don't need more intervention"). My modest assessment is that I've made tons of progress on this, but clearly not an infinite about. Take How to Win Friends and Influence People. I dismissed this book because it didn't solve any problems I had, and because I couldn't see a time in my life when it would ever have solved any problem I had. I conceded that it may solve some problems, but just like I did with the doctor-based abuse screening, I dismissed it as having a small gap between "not in a place where they can process this, rendering the book useless" and "at a place where they have already learned this, rendering the book useless". Implied in "small" is the idea that no one ever gets stuck in between those two spots: the book may speed up their traversal, but it doesn't get them anywhere they wouldn't have already gotten. As far as I can tell, this is true for me about most things. Depending on your point of view, that's because once I become capable of fixing a problem I quickly do so, or because I stubbornly refuse to listen to useful advice until I'm ready to hear it.

The fact that HtWFaIP is still in print 70 years later indicates that it's solving some problem for some people. This is true no matter how witty I find the phrase "incompetent extroverts" (and believe me, I find it incredibly witty). I shouldn't have needed squid_314 to point this out to me because my dad said he found it useful in high school, and my dad is Not an extrovert. So this is a fail on my part, and I can only hope that next time I'll remember to focus on defining "who this book would be useful to" in a genuine way rather than in a smugly superior way.
pktechgirlbackup: (Default)
I said a smart thing and I want credit for it to save it for posterity:

me: there's a thing you really want, and that's okay
you may not be able to get it, you may not be willing to pay the price it would require. you're still allowed to want it
pktechgirlbackup: (Default)
For years, doctors told women they did not have cramps while menstruating, it was all their heads. Or they were hysterical, which is hilarious if you know the history of the word. Now people use PMS to dismiss women.

Europeans held themselves to be smarter than Africans, so naturally they were in charge. Until the Asian colonists started scoring better on administrative exams than they did, when suddenly raw intelligence was not enough. Scoring too high was actually a sign that you lacked the necessary will and quick-thinkingness to lead. But not too much. Too much quick-thinkingness, such as that displayed by the Jews, was fine for basketball, but not for important positions.

During slavery, blacks were ridiculed as weak and puny. Once they had access to sufficient food, it turned out they were a few inches taller than the people who were defined as white at the time, and so the white people invented the ape stereotype (I know this is from Ta-Nehisi Coate's blog, but I can't find the link now).

Prejudice finds a way, regardless of facts. Almost regardless of actions- you can make almost anything discriminatory if you try hard enough.

This is what feminists and anti-racism activists mean when they won't tell you what the right thing to do is, you have to just believe what they do and it will work out. I think that approach betrays a certain lack of understanding of how the more left-brained among us learn, but I do at least get what they mean now.
pktechgirlbackup: (Default)
Crystalpyramid's brilliant assessment of my value to underprivileged students when I had no training and no evidence of natural talent deserves more than a foot note. The more I think about it, the more convinced I am that the world would be a better place if people spent less time on whether they should help and more on what they are capable of contributing. It's true when it comes to charity (the money used to send an untrained teenager to build houses in Mexico for a week would do much more good spent on local laborers. There are arguments about the intangible benefits of getting your hands dirty, but I don't find them sufficient in this case), it's true at work (learn to delegate, you'll feel better), and it's true when it comes to interpersonal interaction (like, say, a person on the left side of the Dunning-Kruger hump for mediation skills attempting to patch things up between friends he considers less socially astute than him).
pktechgirlbackup: (Default)
Accountability for accidents in sparring may be the greatest example of systems thinking I have ever seen. Barring something insanely malicious, if someone gets injured, both people are 100% at fault. The person who threw the attack should have controlled it better, and the person who got hit should have blocked or dodged it. If you can't control a particular attack well enough, given the skill and personality of your partner, you should not to throw it. This means that there will be attacks you can throw against higher belts that you cannot use against lower belts, because those attacks are harder to control, and your partner doesn't have the skill necessary to keep themselves safe. Overall, there may be people who are better or worse at control or dodging, but if you agree to spar with them, you are agreeing to compensate for their lack or cope with the consequences.

Which leads me to believe I should attempt to spar upper belts as much as possible, because if I develop any more bruising* my work team is going to call the cops.** I think I've developed a coping strategy, tentatively named "if you're not going to hit them anyway, you might as well fail to do so at a speed that won't injure you," but it might take some time to see results. In the mean time, I plan on consuming industrial quantities of Arnica, vitamin A, and Epsom Salts

*fun fact: blocking, or getting blocked while attacking, hurts way more than just taking the hit, both at the time and later, because it's bone against bone. Plus your attacker will vary where they are hitting, whereas I was blocked by three different people on the exact same spot on my knee and now the bruise is bad enough that I'm limping. As Tony said when I got my belt "You know you're just perpetually injured from here on out, right?"

**Badly bruising myself by falling down the stairs in a fashion that was as spectacular as it was unlikely? Not helping.
pktechgirlbackup: (Default)
So here's what I realized this month: Just because you can get through something with willpower doesn't mean you should. For example, I can keep working even when hungry, or tired, or thirsty, or need to pee. But it uses up willpower. This is a stupid use of a scarce resource when I could accomplish the same thing by getting up and eating. Then the willpower can augment something that would not be helped by food, like getting the last little bit out of myself when exercising.

To carry this further: it's also stupid to set up a system where I need to use willpower to force myself to eat well. I should have healthy snacks at arms reach, and keep the fridge stocked with at least a couple of days of good meals. Yes, I should definitely implement that very soon.
pktechgirlbackup: (Default)
The Gift of Fear gets a lot of praise. This appears to me to be a great of example of a poorly written book about a great idea that does not have a lot of other books competing to explain said great idea, because the book is only so so. For one, it's far too large: the idea itself ("trust instincts") takes less basically no time to explain. But no one will pay $20 for a two word book. I didn't mind that he piled on the anecdotes to stretch out the book: that's a better use than most people put the space to, they were interesting, and occasionally demonstrated a subtlety or trick. What I did mind was his continual insertion of himself into the story, his attempts to make the obvious complicated, and his blindness to the fact that the people he encountered in his work were not a random sample, and the techniques used to protect yourself from them could make the outcome worse when used on a more rational person. Given that, I can't recommend the book. But there were enough good ideas that I feel a twinge of angst over that. So as a personal service from me to you, I'm going to summarize the good ideas in Gift of Fear.

1. TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS. I think the good in this one is self-explanatory, so I'm leaving that as an exercise to the reader. This is good as far as it goes, but I think he fails to understand his limitations. For example, my fear about a stranger walking behind me is highly correlated with how recently I've read a news article on rape, in ways I don't think are reflective of the actual likelihood of said stranger raping me. Constant fear is a cost too, especially considering the actually quite low rates of stranger rape.

2. DON'T PREJUDGE. Unless you're famous, you probably know the person stalking or harassing you. But when asked who they think is stalking them, people will claim no one, because it's just too hard to contemplate accusing someone. I think this might be an internal version of what I talked about with the bus driver: people won't make an accusation, even in their own mind, without enough evidence, and they won't gather the evidence without an accusation. de Becker's work around is to ask his clients "who could have made this threat?" Once they have a list of everyone they possible know, he guides them through coming up with a reason for every single person on the list to have sent the letter. Most reasons are silly, but the fact that reasons are allowed to be silly allows people to come up with real reasons for a few people, and this is very useful. de Becker seems to think that the fact that the list almost always contains the stalker is proof that the method works, I tend to see it as a natural consequence of creating a list of everyone you know with access to stamps.

3. YOUR BRAIN HAS ALREADY MADE THE CONNECTION. When asked to tell the story of their harassment, it's not uncommon for the stories to contain extraneous information about semi-related interpersonal interactions, like "Like I was telling X, I found..." or "Right after lunch with Y, I...". 90% of the time, X or Y is the stalker. de Becker is bad at math, so he doesn't mention how many false positives this method generates, but I've found it to generate a useful rule of thumb anyway: if thinking of A frequently makes me think of unrelated thing B, maybe B is not actually unrelated. This fits right in with my graph-based view of the human brain.

There, I just saved you 400 pages. Although to be fair I only read the first half, so maybe I only saved you 200 pages.

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May 2014

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