pktechgirlbackup: (pktechgirl)
Via Captain Awkward, I would like to present this perfect, succinct definition of Ask vs. Guess culture, which I am going to rename the Ask-Guess Continuum because why have a dichotomy when it could be a continuum?

Given the choice, I think I'd push my culture further towards the ask side. And yet, my immediate response to this article was to list the ways Ask culture is terrible. I think what I'm actually reacting to is the fact that people can be jerks under both systems, and either ask-jerks are more obnoxious, or I've just run into them more recently.

First, there are the people who say (implicitly or explicitly) they are participating in ask culture, but get really mad when they don't get the answer they want. Presumably they would be just as mad about not getting what they want under a guess culture system. Given the guess level of the current system, saying direct nos to these people feels worse than indirectly refusing guessers. This is on my mind recently because there is someone out there who is very angry at me, and phrases it as a reaction to me being rude and uncommunicative, when I in fact very clearly and respectfully communicated something they didn't want to hear. Okay, fine, I communicated it imperfectly but way clearer and more respectfully than they are giving me credit for. And it hurts, knowing that I pushed myself out of my comfort zone a bit, and it was taken so poorly.

Second, there is the issue I talked about here, in which my main thesis was that when you are operating outside a social norm, you incur some extra obligation to engage in smoothing behaviors, even when the norm is stupid. That holds true for ask/guess culture.

Third, no matter how far on the ask continuum you are, there is always information in the asking. Take this letter from Carolyn Hax. A woman asked her fiance if they could shorten a date so she could catch up with a friend. He said yes, but later expressed unhappiness that she had even asked. On first glance, it looks like he expected her to be psychic, which is unfair. But on second, I think he actually had a reasonable point. First, his complain wasn't "I said yes and you believed me", it was "you asked." Hax unpacks how this unfairly places the decision burden this places on him, and it's all true.

But there is also the fact that the asking contains information. She isn't definitely saying she values her friend more than him, but it that is one reasonably possible condition that could lead to that question, and she isn't doing anything to alleviate it. [date proceeds without being questioned] > [Fiance blows off date to talk with friend] > [Fiance honors date, but you know she's rather be talking with her friend] is a valid preference set.

Another angle: asking to reschedule communications potential data on three things:

  1. How much he would enjoy spending that time with her
  2. His perception of how much she enjoys spending time with him
  3. His perception of how much she values his time

Even the most graciously accepted no would only remove questions about #1, leaving #2 or #3 in doubt. Which doesn't mean you can never ask, or never reschedule. But it does mean that if you don't take time to address *all* the issues asking brings up, they're justified in drawing some data and having feelings about it.

More generally, both foot-in-the-door and door-in-the-face techniques are real phenomenon. Asking a question has an effect independent of the answer, and I want to keep that in mind as I personally transition into a more ask-oriented world.
pktechgirlbackup: (pktechgirl)
I am very glad to see people acknowledging and examining social norms, and pushing back when appropriate. Many social norms don't work, or don't work for particular people, or used to work but could be replaced by something better now, and I'm glad we're calling them into question.


The fact that social norms have been used to oppress people for a long time, and that fighting back against those is good, is not carte blanche to pretend they don't exist. Let me give you a few examples.

I had a professor whose "I'm thinking about your interesting question" face was indistinguishable from most people's "I'm in incredible pain" face. He could have tried to conform to the social norm of what an "interested face" looked like, but it probably wouldn't have worked. He could have spent a lot of time lambasting students for not accepting his facial expressions as they were, or just wondering why kids these days were so quiet. What he actually did was announce his pattern in the first day of class, that in fact the more pained he looked the better we should feel about our question. And he lived up to that, and found other ways to demonstrate his appreciation of all questions throughout the class. To me, this is the perfect example of how to be when you don't fit into social norms in ways that are keeping you from getting what you want (in this case, student engagement): acknowledge the norm, explain how you are different and how you hope people will interpret your actions, and go out of your way to affirm people's code-switching efforts.

A PT I saw would be an example of a bad handling of divergence from norms. This PT charges for things other PTs don't. I'm okay with this, and in fact think that the current model of medical business where you charge for face time and only face time is harmful to all parties. I think you can do that without nickle and diming patients or in any way operating in bad faith. But. Given that face-time-only is the predominant model, I think she has an ethical obligation to go very out of her way to warn patients about her policy ahead of time- and that warning them means doing so in ways that are unambiguous in the current climate, where people will assume certain services are included for free unless explicitly told otherwise .

Lastly: I have a friend of a friend who brides herself on keeping good boundaries. Like all people who talk loudly about being good at something, she is terrible at it.* She thinks she is good at boundaries because when someone says a clear, unambiguous no, she doesn't fight it. In some contexts, that would be sufficient. In current American culture, dodging a question five times and displaying avoidant body language is understood to be an unspoken no. Missing/ignoring that is not only rude, it's informative. People are allowed to conclude from her behavior that she is a person who does not hear no, and to make predictions about her future behavior based on data from other people who don't hear no. Such as "she is not safe, and something so rude as a direct rebuke will make her even less safe."

There's a lot of room for debate here on when the aggrieved party is expecting boundary-violator to be psychic and sense the boundary without any clues, and when the boundary violator is refusing to respect "nos" except for those given in very specific formats (which can very easily be used as cover for violating boundaries until the risk of social punishment is sufficiently high). There are people who have sufficiently different zones of comfort that they can't be functional friends, and that doesn't automatically make either of them bad.

ASDers are the obvious example of people who just can't pick up on socially-expected cues, but I don't think you need to fit into an established pattern in order to avoid having your weaknesses viewed as moral flaws. Under my paradigm, the correct thing to do is what my professor did: tell people you miss these cues**, but respecting their boundaries is really important to you, so please tell you as directly as possible. You acknowledge that this is asking them to do some additional work to accommodate you. And then you accept it and thank people when they do so, even when it hurts. You accept a duty to respond well to very direct statements of discomfort beyond what would be expected from others***, because you have removed a set of options from people's toolboxes. You do not insist that they are rude for violating a social contract you have walked away from.

In some ways this is unfair, and I think I might have gone too far. I cherrypicked examples where either the norms were well intentioned, or there was some affirmative moral obligation on the part of the norm-violator to be extra straightforward. Lots of times norms are used to oppress people and it's not fair to say they can only get out of them by doing more work. There's a lot more here to work through.

*She also hates drama.

**As opposed to "these cues are stupid".

***There are limits, of course.
pktechgirlbackup: (pktechgirl)
I'm trying to lead up to a big post on affirmative action, but I keep getting side tracked by other things I need to explain first. So here's my latest one: I think discrimination against women and LGBT people is fundamentally different than racial discrimination.

I ran into someone at a party last week who gave me some really awesome career advice. She didn't know me very well, but then it didn't take much effort from her to be really helpful to me, and most people like feeling helpful. I may never see her again, but then I may never again see the man whose brother I saved from wasting four years at Digipen either, and I still feel good about telling him to direct his brother towards a real CS degree. And there are probably thousands of smaller examples of people I knew socially moving something from unknown to known that have benefited me.

Men probably get more of this. It is mostly men in power, and people especially like to help people who remind them of themselves. But the only thing keeping those men from helping me are their choices and mine. I run into men with power as much as my male friends in similar jobs and social strata, and if those men started evenly distributing their largess, I'm in position to benefit. Similarly, while LGBT people face horribly discrimination, as soon as people stop doing that, the wound will close.

This is substantially less likely to be true if you're black, because black people are significantly more likely to be poor. Even if you're black and have money, most of the people you know and are related to don't. I spent my entire life preparing for four-year undergrad college and then grad school, and while it was stressful as hell, it was also very known. Just considering a different kind of schooling (and funding type) after 8 years in the workforce is scaring me; I can't imagine what it's like doing it at 17 when no one you know has been to college.

There are white people with these difficulties too, of course. I know some of them. Part of me thinks it's not fair to devalue their struggle just because of their skin color, but then I remember that white privilege is a thing, and the fact that it would be unfair to group certain people together as then declare that group worse off in an alternate universe does not have a lot of bearing on what I should do in this universe, where there is systemic discrimination.

Because women and gay people don't come from women and gay people, the impact of discrimination isn't heritable.* And that's before taking into account how much easier it is to get white men to empathize with someone who reminds them of their sister or cool uncle. And thus there will be substantially less overlap in remedy than a naive interpretation would have you believe.

*Fun fact: the way heritability is defined scientifically, sex is not heritable. The difference between heritability and genetic determinability is is important to keep in mind when reading genetics studies.
pktechgirlbackup: (pktechgirl)
The Hardcore History podcast is another one of those things that makes me mad at my childhood history classes. It is full of context and explanations of why people did things/were driven to do things, not just what they did. With the caveat that I don't know enough history to spot subtle lies, the episodes seem rich and insightful. And the author is just so happy and excited to be talking to me. It's like a really interesting friend wanting to share a really interesting book she just read: you might not have been interested in the topic before, but you are now.

The episode I am listening to now* is most proximately about US-Cuba relations circa the 1890s and the Spanish American war, but in order to talk about that properly has to talk about American identity politics and how they were affected by the closing of the frontier, the state of journalism**, naval warfare, the views of the time on war in general, impact of the business community on foreign policy, the Cuban revolution and Spain's response, some of the factors that drove Spain's response... And I'm only 1/3 of the way through. This is not a short podcast.

Here is what strikes me: as the podcast describes it, President McKinley was being driven by two things: fear that Spain (then a fairly weak power) would transfer Cuba (whose location gave it incredible strategic value in war against the United States) to a power that was an actual threat against us (England and Germany being the biggest concerns), and an abhorrence of war after seeing the devastation of the Civil War first hand. Neither of these are bad motives: the abhorrence of war is obviously more universally moral, but I don't think it's ridiculous for the president of a country to worry about expansionist countries with strong militaries gaining an easy foothold near his country. Earlier in the podcast he talks about the US business/economic interests in Cuba, but does not mention them influencing McKinley directly on this issue (although gold-standard wise he was closely allied with the business community, and business interests were influencing the news coverage that influenced popular opinion).

McKinley desperately did not want to have to choose between going to war or letting
a strong power establish a base in Cuba. So he oriented all his actions around preventing it from coming to that. Most obviously by suggesting a limited independence for Cuba, which he hoped would get the rebels to lay down arms while not leaving Cuba free to ally with other powers, but there was also a general policy of "let's wait and see if this solves itself." The problem is that in the meantime, the Spanish were herding Cuban farmers into camps and leaving them to starve or die of yellow fever (the Reconcentrado policy). To be fair, the rebels had extracted resources at the point of a gun from farmers as well, but nothing on that scale. McKinley's wait-and-see policy left these people to wither and die.

As I see it, the problem was that McKinley applied his moral values to one hypothetical choice, saw it would be a difficult one, and directed his efforts to steering conditions away from ever having to make that choice without applying his values to the choices he made as part of that effort. His abhorrence of war was ultimately born of an abhorrence of suffering, something Spain was causing just fine within McKinley's wait-and-see policy. I think this kind of cognitive dissonance causes a lot of the worst decisions in human history: a decent person, seeing that two of their values may soon come into conflict, compromises those same values in order to avoid that choice. And it's not something you can solve by telling people to buck up and be more moral, because that only makes the aversion stronger.

* Fine, the only episode I've listened to.

** Apparently there is always a new mass media driving people to demand intervention in events they previously would have ignored
pktechgirlbackup: (pktechgirl)
Long long ago, Penny Arcade made a comic that included the phrase "raped to sleep by dickwolves." I though the original comic was fine- not safe space appropriate, but not trivializing rape either. To the extent it was a cheap shock-laugh, that was sort of the point of the comic.

Lots of people weren't okay with the comic. Some of them were perfectly respectful about it. I've seen claims that others were not, although I haven't seen direct links to back this up. Penny Arcade responded with a strip that really definitely trivialized rape and dismissed all criticism of them as hysterical. Meanwhile, some of their supporters on twitter were threatening to rape their critics (no direct link for that either, but enjoy the #teamrape hashtag).

Penny Arcade responded with a Team Dickwolves t-shirt. I thought this was annoying when I first heard about it but just now put together that they essentially sold a shirt that said Team Rapist while their followers were threatening to rape people. I think that is the point where they lose the benefit of a doubt. Some time later they pulled the shirt.

3 years later, !Gabe was asked what he regretted most in his time running Pax, and he said something that could have been interpreted as "pulling the dickwolves shirt". Later he posted a clarification on his blog.
So let me start by saying I like the Dickwolves strip. I think it’s a strong comic and I still think the joke is funny. Would we make that strip today? Knowing what we know now and seeing how it hurt people, no. We wouldn’t. But at the time, it seemed pretty benign. With that said I absolutely regret everything we did after that comic. I regret the follow up strip, I regret making the merchandise, I regret pulling the merchandise and I regret being such an asshole on twitter to people who were upset. I don’t think any of those things were good ideas. If we had just stopped with the strip and moved on, the Dickwolf never would have become what it is today. Which is a joke at the expense of rape victims or a symbol of the dismissal of people who have suffered a sexual assault. the comic itself obviously points out the absurd morality of the average MMO where you are actually forced to help some people and ignore others in the same situation. Oddly enough, the first comic by itself is exactly the opposite of what this whole thing has turned into.

What I read from this is that !Gabe genuinely regrets hurting people, and also the tremendous amount of work doing so created for him. He does not understand why people are so upset about this and does not plan on any effort to dp so.

Ta-Nehisi Coates had this to say about white Southerners grappling with the Confederate flag:
If you accept that the Confederacy fought to preserve and expand slavery, then you might begin to understand how the descendants of the enslaved might regard symbols of that era. And you might also begin to understand that "offense" doesn't even begin to cover it. Reading Penthouse while having Christmas dinner with your grandmother is offensive. Donning the symbols of those who fought for right to sell Henry Brown's wife and child is immoral.

Nothing is changed by banishing the Confederate Flag out of a desire to be polite or inoffensive. The Confederate Flag should not die because black people have come to feel a certain way about their country, it should die when white people come to feel a certain way about themselves. It can't be for me. It has to be for you.

This is about how I feel about dickwolves. To the extent people who want a Team Dickwolves t-shirt exist, I want them to wear it so I know who they are. What I want from !Gabe is an understanding of why people found the comic and especially his follow up and really especially the Team Rapist T-shirt so hurtful and so scary. I don't think he gets that he's not the the victim in this situation
pktechgirlbackup: (pktechgirl)
Shorter Hugo Schwyzer: to make up for exploiting past relationships for personal gain, I won't acknowledge the public facts about the breakdown of my current relationship.

Okay, the exact quote is "I wrote too many pieces about my exes that, while accurate as to fact, needlessly exploited private exchanges for page views. So in the spirit of contrition, I won’t write about the breakdown of my marriage to Eira."

Not writing about the details of his divorce is probably a very good decision, for many reasons. But the fact that he's phrasing it as a sacrifice to atone for past misdeeds, as opposed to a generally good idea, or specifically the very literally least he can do for the woman he fucked over and the children he's failed, makes me think he hasn't learned fuck all.

This isn't the first time he's done this. He described writing his college's anti-student-fucking policy as atonement for all his student fucking. That is not how atonement works.

Criticizing Hugo Schwyzer is delicate at this point, because he's very clearly mentally ill, and I don't pick on people with mental illness But sometimes what you're seeing is not the mental illness, but the deepseated personal flaws that a more able person would be able to keep hidden. And those are fair game
pktechgirlbackup: (pktechgirl)
I'm on a recruiting trip for work and have noticed something interesting. To my surprise, the hours of talking with undergrads have not been draining. They've either been outright energizing, or left me with the kind of good tired you get after a good workout. For three hours, I only thought about what I was doing, and that was wonderful. On the other hand, dinner with my co-workers left me wanting to cut my wrists with a spork.

I think I've been misusing the word "drained." Three hours of pitching to sophomores left me drained, but I was really happy I'd done it. I needed to rest afterwords, but I enjoyed the hell out of that rest, like a really good netflix session after weight training. There was no amount of energy that would have made interaction with my co-workers fun. It might have made me less miserable under other circumstances, but honestly, no. They were boring and I wanted to go discuss medieval economics with my boyfriend or creedal vs. non-creedal religions with my friend. Afterwords I needed to recover, not rest. This was like a netflix session while seriously ill- it beats going outside, but I'm still miserable. "Get sick and watch TV" does not sound like an excellent day the way "bike 20 miles and then watch TV" does." Let's call this icky feeling leeched.

Now that I know what good drained feels like, I can see all the interactions I thought were draining but were actually leeching. I thought I could solve those problems by resting more, but I can't. It is time to look at other options. And not just dodging unpleasant things either. No more running, I aim to misbehave.
pktechgirlbackup: (pktechgirl)
In computer networking, there's the concept of a "handshake protocol." You don't just start sending data willy nilly, you send a specific initiation packet and wait for one in return, to establish everyone is prepared to receive and send data. I just realized I wear headphones not to discourage conversation entirely, but to force people to use a handshake procedure. They can't just start talking at me, they have to signal me and wait for me to engage, giving me a few precious seconds to switch gears. It also provides an easy signal for "good, this conversation is over."

At least that's the theory. In practice, people seem to start talking to me even though they can clearly see the headphones, and I enter the conversation one step behind, feeling guilty for "ignoring" them, and resentful for being made to feel guilty. I feel rude putting the plugs back in right away, but not doing so can signal I want to keep talking.

I had a couple of bad run ins with store owners this week. I want to go into their stores and look at things. Getting asked about what I want and shown stuff while they watch feels like pressure. Sometimes to buy it, but sometimes just to have an opinion when I don't.

Now I'm going to depart from abstract pattern and bitch about one person for a minute. My college town has a single comic book store, and the owner is an asshole. He had a real sense of entitlement to our money, and was generally oppositional.

I stopped into the store today, he started talking while I had headphones in. I took one out and said "I'm sorry" in my politest "I genuinely plan on listening" tone. He muttered something about not wanting me to have the headphones in at all something something feeling invisible. Not sure if he was referring to feeling invisible himself or calling out my attempt to be invisible, but my reaction to that was "okay, I'll leave." Which I have mixed feelings about, but there may not be a way to have left that situation feeling perfect.

It was bad enough when the lady at the hand crafted local artisan put a bird on it jewelry store kept trying to engage me, but at least she was pleasant, and she was in a store where a lot of the customers do want to talk. This is a bloody comic book store, and you're bad with people. Me physically walking in to buy something without wasting your time is a bloody gift, because I could have done that cheaper and faster on the internet.

I'm genuinely confused as to how this store is surviving in the age of the internet. The owner makes Bernard Black look like.. I dunno, I don't watch much TV with helpful shopkeeps. There's no such thing as the only game in town now that the internet exists, and most of the town is too young to have any nostalgia for ye olde comic book shoppe. OTOH, the constant influx of new customers may be what shields him- the employees are great people I actually enjoy talking to, and he's not there all the time. Maybe he just hates women
pktechgirlbackup: (pktechgirl)
You'll notice a rather cryptic "Yet" at the end of my last post. At one point the idea of grabbing extrovert privilege for myself would have been anathema. But over the last few weeks there have been several times I felt the feeling I describe as "introverted out", yet really wanted to see specific people. I had to hold myself back because I knew if I went out I would disengage and everyone would be miserable, but that that was an intellectual understanding, not a gut level call for hibernation.

I'm coming to the conclusion that I was not sick of people, I was in sensory overload, and people happen to be highly stimulatory. This would explain why I keep telling people I'm going to relax by playing video games and then spend four hours doing a puzzle, and why I kept "wasting" my bus commute just listening to music instead of efficiently watching TV, or at least listening to a podcast. It explains why my misophonia has been worse lately, to the point I'm wearing earplugs to meetings and I don't even care if my co-workers think I'm weird. It explains why I'm intensely picky about touch some times but not others.

These explanations aren't exactly antithetical- there's a lot of evidence that introverts find life in general and social interaction in particular more stimulating than extroverts (which is why extroverts are more likely to have adrenaline-junkie hobbies, and introverts solo hobbies trend towards the quiet). And I've undoubtedly had genuine needs to introvert in the past. But trying to recharge these last few weeks felt like trying to force in a peg that wasn't quite fitting, and now it feels smooth. I feel more true to myself, and more hopeful about finding ways to make myself happy.
pktechgirlbackup: (pktechgirl)

Finally, people are talking about introversion and extroversion and how they interact with the rest of the world, rather than keeping them in their own isolated bubble. Privilege exists. Introversion and extroversion exist. Except for extrovert privilege*, your orientation does not affect the amount of your privilege, but it does affect its expression. And it's vastly easier to notice that in opposite-orientation people than in yourself or people like you.

*which is the worst privilege because it's the best one I don't have. Yet.
pktechgirlbackup: (pktechgirl)
In American culture, it's rude not to give someone 100% of your attention. I think this is the root of a lot of the problem. Extroverts people who have bought into the American value system, who can be of any persuasion because culture is like that, think they are simply asking for an acknowledgement when they say hi, and I agree with them that a lack of any acknowledgement would be rude. But I feel like what they are actually asking for is for me to drop everything I am thinking about and give them 100% of my attention until they choose to return it, and that is horrendously unfair. It's like walking into a factory where people are working and demanding they scrap everything they are doing (including widgets that are 95% done), pushing one whosit through the production line (necessitating leaving workers idle or throwing away unfinished whosits at the end), and then letting them go back to the original widgets. And being mad at them for being inefficient, although that's probably internal pressure in my case.

If people would agree that a distracted nod was sufficient to fulfill my social obligations when they held the door for me, I would not resent when they did so.

It's an issue even with people I like though. I have a good friend with whom I have many fascinating discussions. I tend to clean my house while we're talking. She herself is notorious for having a variety of fidgets in her house. I've taken to doing puzzles while talking with my boyfriend sometimes. It looks like multitasking, and I do feel somewhat less responsive. But what I'm actually doing is taking the energy they're giving me and turning it into something else immediately, so I have more room and can keep talking to them. Going back to the assembly line metaphor, I'm keeping a full pipeline going so I don't get a pile up at their station.

This makes me wonder if context-switching is less expensive for extroverts than introverts. Maybe they can hold things in their head better, maybe they find it less costly to wind up and spin down. Maybe they are more like craftsmen than assembly line workers, so trashing all in-progress work is less costly.
pktechgirlbackup: (pktechgirl)
I am tired of hearing "alone time" and "social time" referred to as distinct, fungible buckets. There are lots of different kinds of alone time and people time and they cost and give different things. A teacher friend has described teaching as rather lonely because even though you're surrounded by people all day, they're children, and the energy flow is almost unidirectional. I don't play MMOs because they invoke the worst parts of dealing with people- having to negotiate with them to get a thing I want- without making me feel connected.

There are kinds of social activity that I need other social activity to recover from. Most noticeably when I'm around my parents for significant lengths of time, I start reaching out electronically. My first choice is chatting with good friends, followed by posting to facebook and livejournal, but when desperate I'll resort just to reading blogs and commenting on them. If you think of all social interactions as energy exchanges: I can't participate in the kind of exchanges that make me feel like me with my parents. It's not even a matter of hiding who I am, it's that they are incapable of seeing it and therefore can't react proportionally. Participating in exchanges with my friends makes me feel more whole.

Incidentally, I'll do the same thing when pushed into the introvert wall and forced to socialize (such as at work). Work is not such a violation of my sense of self as talking with my parents, but I am more actively suppressing certain aspects. As is appropriate for a professional situation and is totally fine as long as I have the cope, but when I'm depleted than g-d damnit, someone is going to hear the funny innuendo about what my boss just said.

Alone time that I've planned or deliberately turned down an invitation for is scored differently than incidental alone time. It feels worse, because everyone is hanging out without me/I'm a loser for wanting to stay in/I'm missing an opportunity I may never get again/I genuinely wanted to do that fun thing. But if I'm able to fight through that, it's also more restorative. There's is more flow when there is an event I have separated from than when I am merely adrift.

So if you assume everyone has some equilibrium they wish to maintain, and no one can balance those perfectly immediate, extroverts whose ballast or rebalancer tends to fall under the broad category of "social time", and introverts are those whose ballast or rebalancer falls under "alone time".
pktechgirlbackup: (pktechgirl)
I'm dissatisfied with the current discourse around introversion. I'm glad we're noticing that the rules for expressing love and respect in America were written by extroverts, and that introverts have a set of internal mechanics such that following these rules exacts a huge toll. I'm glad that the internet has given introverts a way to feel belonging and solidarity without exhausting them, and if the forums tend to get taken over by the problems of the socially anxious and misanthropic... oh well, they need belonging too.

But I think it's time we moved on to some more interesting questions. For example, it is great that we have explained to our extroverted family members that we don't hate them, that we need alone time after family gatherings even if we had really excellent times. But that doesn't change the fact that many people live far away from their family, that plane tickets and hotel rooms and time off of work are expensive. Reality being what it is, introverts need to spend a lot more money and travel time per unit interaction with their family. Assuming a respectful if imperfect family, how do you get the most out of your relationships with them at minimal cost? How do you steel yourself to stay home alone when everyone else is having fun together, and you want to join them but need time alone? How do you recharge "efficiently"? How do you know when the desire to do so driven is by an extroverted culture that allows us alone time only in service of together time, versus really wanting to do specific social things and not being able to? How do you separate culture pressure that says you're a loser for staying in from a genuine desire to go out? Do other introverts genuinely feel like they have a battery, with a clear indicator of remaining charge and shut down upon depletion, or are they like me, where they can overshoot and not notice for, worst case scenario, weeks?

I would also like to see more pieces like this video from zefrank, explaining how his extroversion feels to him

or Howard Stern on his introversion (long, but the relevant part is right at the beginning)

because I want to get past this idea of a linear spectrum of introversion and extroversion and into a framework of accepting individual needs and wants with neither judgement nor obligation.
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)
My favorite pants were $30 at Anthropologie. For the uninitiated, Anthropologie's pants are rarely under $90 on sale. I don't even know what their retail price is because it might as well be a million dollars. So to find pants that could be both quirky and neutral, were comfortable, made my ass look great enough to be be-seen pants, but not so overtly as to make them inappropriate for work, for $30, is a truly astonishing feat. And even though I know the odds of a repeat are astronomical, I am compelled to check Anthropologie's sale rack every time I'm at the mall. This despite the fact that I've never seen pants I liked as much or that were that cheap since that first time. Because lightning could strike twice, and won't I feel stupid if I miss it.

I had a similar experience dating. A guy I'd interacted twice in large groups and had no connection with asked me out because he was horny and okcupid wasn't working (he didn't tell me that until later), I said yes because I needed a practice date, and we hit it off suddenly and violently, in a way that wasn't actually once-in-a-lifetime but generated enough hormones to make me feel like it was at the time. That boy was even better than the Anthropologie pants. It ultimately didn't work out, but it left me with a low bar for accepting first date invitations. I can't risk missing someone who's fascinating 1:1 because they were boring in public.

This does, however, lead to some really boring dates. Like the one I went on this week. I can now point to a lot of reasons I would never date this guy: he was boring, he performed a number of PUA tricks, all of which were subtle enough that I didn't notice the manipulation until afterwords, but which were numerous enough to be problematic whether or not they were conscious, his only compliments were for my looks despite meeting me at a stand up open mic*, he ordered me to give him a hug as a left.

But the most interesting red flag was how he kept talking like there was definitely going to be a second date, despite a complete lack of enthusiasm from me. It was always "when we" or "we should", without waiting for any interest in my part. When he finally said he wanted to get together again (without explicitly asking me), I said he was welcome to keep coming to my open mics. When he complimented me I was gracious but non-reciprical. At first I worried I was falling into the trap of wanting to smooth things over and not hurt his feelings, but I now think was me refusing to take responsibility for protecting him from his own his irrational optimism, which I feel much better about. Either way, this projection of enthusiasm without waiting for me to display the same was a serious turn off. At best, he's not reading me well (and not taking appropriate steps to compensate for his inability to do so), at worst he's displaying complete disregard for my feelings. Either way, not someone I want to interact with further.

But post-date, he has failed to take any of the follow up steps he indicated he was going to. Which makes me think that he did not at any point miss my lack of interest, but was hoping that either his enthusiasm would be contagious, or that I would simply go along with it despite my lack of interest. Assuming I'm correct, the plan backfired horrendously, and while I was originally going to criticize it for that, I suspect this guy is getting exactly who he wants.

*Even if he didn't genuinely think I was funny**, given an apparent willingness to manipulate me, it doesn't speak well of his intelligence that it didn't occur to him to use that.

pktechgirlbackup: (pktechgirl)
I have a new pet peeve, and with it, a new resolution. The pet peeve is a common American phrasing that takes some set up to explain. Suppose something could be A or B, with B being either an opposite of A, or clearly bad when A is good. Instead of saying "This is B", people will say "This is not very A." For example, if you go to Hawaii and it is mysteriously freezing, people will say "I was planning on something warmer" rather than "I'm freezing my balls off". Other variations include:

  • "That's not my favorite" = "I find this actively unpleasant"
  • "This is not necessarily what I planned on" = "I wanted the opposite of this"
  • "Weren't completely relevant" = "Were irrelevant", "Weren't very relevant"
  • "Wasn't exactly a model" = "fat"

I find this actively annoying. We all know what people mean, but... no, we don't. There's still a lot of ambiguity and suddenly it's on you to guess where. It makes it a lot harder to answer follow up questions. In the particular case of my boss telling me "not necessarily what we wanted when we started this project" (not my project), it makes it harder for me to ask follow up questions about things that were poorly done, versus things that had to be changed because the plan was based on incorrect facts.

I have tried to stop doing this myself, and it is hard. It feels harsh and mean. I try to stick to it because I think verbal imprecision is disrespectful, and that is worse than mean, but it is very hard. I haven't even attempted to fix my use of the word "maybe" to mean "definitely", but I think that is the next step.
pktechgirlbackup: (pktechgirl)
I have a big thing for merit based distribution of anything, which makes the Christian concept of Grace a difficult one for me. The best I was ever able to do with the proverb of the prodigal son was that salvation is given for what you are, not what you did, but that just creates different unfairness of people who would have converted had they lived a week longer, but are now doomed to hell. I'm not Christian, so I don't need for grace to make sense as a concept, but it's been coming up a lot lately and I think it's relevant to me.

If you think about it, my relationship with my cats is, in many ways, godlike. I determine where they live, what and when they eat, what medical care they get. And they haven't really done anything to deserve it. I think I am in the top 10% of pet owners. Very few people would have adopted a cat that sneezed blood, much less spent as much time and energy as I did trying to heal him. Now one of my cats ha a weird inflammation or displacement of his third eyelid gland, and while I'm not definitely getting him surgery, it's not out of the question either. Lots of people- good people who love their pets- wouldn't (or couldn't) do that. And my kittens didn't do anything to earn that level of care, relative to all the other kittens in the world who don't.

But while the gifts I give them are unmerited, they're not impersonal. Intellectually I know that I would fall in and love and care for any cat I adopted (and of my two cats, I only picked out one. The other was whichever the breeder had left over), and yet I'm immensely responsive to them as individuals. It always shocks me when other people play with my cats, because they're so bad at it. Subconsciously, I've learned what they like best and do it.

I think what bothered me about grace wasn't it's perceived lack of meritocracy, it was its impersonality. You can't claim what I do matters if I receive the same rewards either way. But I am beginning to see a gap, where something can be responsive to you do and yet not earned. Maybe very strict merit-based systems are the impersonal ones, because they give everyone the same reward for each action regardless of what it costs them.

*Something Communist-identified countries seem to be especially bad an implementing.
pktechgirlbackup: (pktechgirl)
Capitalist is a weird word, because it can mean "pro-capitalism" or "an owner of capital". Neither communism nor feudalism have this problem, and I think it muddies up the waters quite a bit. I have no particular affinity for the owners of capital. I don't think it makes them* morally better than non-owners. Policies designed to give people with more money because they have money seem prima facia stupid to me.

What I do have an affinity for is markets. Markets are clearly neither feudalism nor communism, so we'll call them capitalist, but one of the things I like about them is their disregard for who has the capital. Centrally designed systems tend to pick a winner and stick with them, and this helps the rich get richer. Markets, in which ideas compete freely, are much more open to the latest good idea. IBM had a good idea, but it stopped, so it withered away. Markets do end up creating owners-of-capital, but I see that as a side effect of their actual point, which is to give people choices. Note that once people acquire capital, they often favor anti-market practices, like tariffs and overly restrictive licensing.

Side note: This is why privatizing government functions while retaining the monopoly is the stupidest possible plan. There's nothing magic about a private company, what I want is *competition* that lets people choose between multiple options, leading the lesser options to die or improve.

This is tangentially related to my latest book Hungry Ghosts, which is about the famine caused by China's Great Leap Forward. Without knowing much about the subject, I had assumed that the famine was caused by Communism's edict of "to each according to their needs" creating a tragedy of the commons, in which no one had an incentive to work. This is incorrect. The famine was primarily caused by the government taking all off the food. Initially people in the cities ate fine because they were given grain rations, but the government insisted that the peasants were hiding grain and thus took everything they could find. In later years the famine did spread to the city, not because the farmers were freeriding, but because many of them were dead of starvation or torture. The communists' belief that their ideological purity allowed them to improve agriculture in ways those bourgeois scientists and farmers could not did lower the crop yield, but if the crop had been good, they would have just stolen it and sold it overseas. Also, I have trouble taking seriously the idea of "according to their needs" when the government mandated abandoned children be left to starve, because it would only encourage people to abandon their children.

So ideological Communists? I'm officially allowing the argument that the Chinese were not practicing real Communism and thus don't count as a failure disproving Communism. I still think Communism is a terrible plan, but it's not the terrible plan the Chinese were following.

*As a net saver, technically I'm an owner-of-capital, although like many rich people, I don't feel rich.
pktechgirlbackup: (pktechgirl)
I recently developed quite the jigsaw puzzle habit. I can go through a 500 piece puzzle in a day or two, although it scales up exponentially from there. I have funny rules for the purchase of puzzles. I will spend $70 in a go on a bunch of $12 puzzles, even though I already have more puzzles than I am likely to get to before I get bored of this. But one $17 puzzle? That is Too High for a puzzle and I will not stand for it, no matter how perfect and amazing it is.

I finally found a way out of this dilemma through trickery. My friend Ashley and I are stretching buddies, and she has agreed to buy me the puzzle if I meet my goal this month. So 1. the puzzle is a reward for something unpleasant, but that I will retroactively take pride in. 2. I'm getting a nice dose of
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)

May 2014

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