Thursday, March 30

short sweet iterations

sometimes not so short or sweet, but it made a nice-sounding title.

yesterday a few of my colleagues and i participated in a focus group for one of the grad students here who is studying workplace-simulated learning environments. we talked about the way real life has been mirrored in the upper-levels academia to which we as students have ascended thus far. subjects included those of collaboration, accountability, problem-solving/designing, usability, awareness, and iteration.

this last bit became most interesting to me. we were asked about the cycles we've seen in the coursework we've been doing. taking a deep deep look at things, i was able to see it:

we approach the problem. we evaluate it. we make plans, present solutions, possibilities, and we work towards achieving those solutions. we come up against obstacles, limitations. we evaluate those new problems, and our plans change to accomodate what we learn. and we keep going.

a little more deep thought led me to see the same pattern in everything. we come to this life, we see things through a one-way set of eyes, we carry billions of expectations with us. and then we meet other people. new situations. and all of those things sometimes prove our own preconcieved notions wrong, so we adapt. we grow and change and re-evaluate ourselves and our lives.

Wilson Bateman, a friend who was in the group, responded: "It's just like the scientific method." and i agreed, yes, it is!

i kept thinking about that idea all of yesterday. we make plans. we want things. we do things. and we make mistakes. how do we know that they're mistakes? the world proves it to us. guilt. pain. horror. etc. and we either re-evaluate and change or we don't get any further.

someday i think i'll write more about this--the pride cycle and the scientific method. it's pretty cool how similar the two things are.

Tuesday, March 28

pain is

this cartoon here was drawn by hugh macleod.
his site of blogging, marketing, web rants is full of cartoons, many of which are quite vulgar, many of which are quite inspiring. his book proposal on how to be creative is brilliant. [2011 edit: it's now a book, Ignore Everybody. cool]

anyway, I've been thinking about pain and being prepared for it. I firmly believe that life is pain. unavoidably, mercilessly, beautifully. and I don't find this attitude pessimistic. nor am I saying that because I'm afraid to be labeled a pessimist. I'll admit that in other ways I am one, but my life is pain motto is not at all a complaint--it's an observation. and a rejoicing in paradox. a poetry of balance. realism. equation. without pain what would life be like? what would be the point? (I know, I know, I often ask what's the point anyway, of anything, but just play along for a minute).

life = pain. pain = life. beautiful, yeah. pain.

hugh macleod says "if you accept the pain it can't hurt you."


but then is it still really pain?

is my assertion that life is pain the same as acceptance? anticipation? does it make a difference? really?

I still can't change it. I still get hurt. I still make mistakes.

so acceptance must mean something higher... maybe... or nobler. letting go of that pain and seeing bigger pictures. I'm not there yet. I'm not invicible.

or am I?

pain does not equal death.

and most of the pain has left me unscarred, unbroken. that's the beauty of it.

but I find it kind of weird that even knowing that life is pain doesn't give me any more power. I still get thrown out of my groove. that's mortality for you.

Thursday, March 23

bring it

last post i mentioned something about interest being one of those weird human things, less of a quality and more of a relationship. because where you have one thing and another thing, there's always some kind of relationship, even if it's distant.

where do those relationships come from?

do the molecules just bump into each other and randomly stick? is it some weird potential keneticism that we can't control, an invisible chemistry? a coincidence that me and you or he and she got from strangers to dearest friends?

hm. but it doesn't just happen. i mean, it can... but real meaning is only a result of effort. meaning must be made. we humans pull it out of our ears if we have to. but it's more fun to pull it out of the stars. out of each other. out of the earth. out of the library. wherever.

and naturally things just don't pull themselves out of the stars. there's got to be someone doing the pulling. the reaching up. reaching out. reaching.

who is it? who are you? what do you want?

more importantly, what do you have?

there are too many holes in you to spend time worrying about. instead, worry about what you do have. and bring whatever that is with you when you leave the house. bring it with you when you reach up. bring it with you when you're pulling things out of your ear. without it, what are you?

nothing. an empty hole in the universe. right?

maybe not. there is a reason words like inherent and intrinsic exist.

but if we take a deconstructionist view today, you and your opinions and your knowledge can all be sliced up and torn apart. you and everything that describes you or defines you can be carefully separated until all your qualities have become autonomous, independent, and instead of thoroughly possessing those qualities you will be only related to them, however closely.

okay, we needn't take that view. but it is interesting.

even stripped of all your you-ness you'd still probably exist. as much as a hole exists, anyway. the whole world is defined by boundaries: skin, dirt, atmosphere, infinity.

and so, you. whatever that means it's an important ingredient. without you, what is there? just all the other stuff. unrelated stuff. uninteresting stuff. (relatively, of course)

okay, what is the point i'm trying to make here?

well, it's something i'm only beginning to understand. it's a cogito, ergo sum sort of idea, a tree falling in a forest sort of idea... only of course the forest is there and of course the tree makes noise... but your being there--that matters. not to the existence of the forest, but to the interest of it.

and this goes back to the hi-resolution experience idea. if you're only distantly related to that tree in the forest, say you only read about it once in your high school geography book, then it isn't that interesting to you.

so interest isn't just up to the bank. you have to bring your money in first.
it isn't just up to the stars. you have to go out and look up and bring your heart with you first.

Monday, March 20


the word interesting can mean anything from stupid to cool to weird to indescribable. it's a word people use when they don't know what else to say. your most basic all-purpose adjective, ambiguous but not outright insulting.

why then is it my favourite?

the root, interest. also an ambiguous word (most words are, in one way or another). the extra pennies you get on your bank account or the sparks in your brain that get your attention. what is that? i don't know. what edge creates those sparks? where do those extra pennies come from? they're just extra. inexplicable, maybe. just one of those weird human things...

anyway, interesting is one of the highest compliments I can give. if it generates interest, it's got that something... whatever that is. interest is one thing you can't buy, you can't cheat or fake it. it's not even something you really have, it's an element of your relationship to the world. just the right edge, between you and whoever is looking.

of course there's always someone watching, right? even if it's just yourself.

interested in yourself? i hope so. yeah, it sounds weird. but i guess you just have to shake off all the connotation for a minute and think base root interest. no promises, no expectations, no questions, no nothing, just a fundamental gravity. everything else comes after.

the other day somebody told me I was a very interesting person.
there are a billion ways I could take that. interesting confusing? interesting odd? interesting... intriguing? interesting attractive? interesting complicated? what?
but i'm not going to worry about it. interest is a good thing.

Sunday, March 5

rhetoric is a dirty word

on thursday I sat in on a small crash course in proposal writing, taught by professor John Mclaughlin, who wrote proposals for the government and the military for eight years.

proposal writing never sounded very interesting to me, but after this short class the other day, i realize it's just like rhetoric. Mclaughlin introduced the concept of proposal writing by explaining the purpose and process in terms of selling/marketing to a customer. that's rhetoric.

when I said as much('so, this is just... rhetoric, isn't it?), he simply looked at us. rhetoric, he explained, is not a word he likes to use. he's not one of those tech. writing professors who goes on and on about communication and theories. to him, there is no "audience," only a customer. there is no "rhetoric," there's only sales pitch. what does rhetoric even mean, anyway?

the art of influence. it sounds so grand and eloquent. rhetoric.

and all it is, really, in real life, is an indelicate a thing as sales pitch?

ah well. whatever you call it, it's there and its how the world works. and even if i don't end up working for a company that needs a real proposal writer, understanding proposals is the same as understanding any written form of rhetoric. it's selling stuff.

the other cool thing Mclaughlin said was that you're never really talking about things or features. you're talking about power. he didn't use the word power, but he explained that a pair of shoes is not just a pair of shoes. it's a way to keep your feet warm and safe. or a way to make your feet look stylish and match your skirt. or a way to make yourself 3 inches taller. people aren't interested in things. they're interested in benefits. what does it do for them? what kind of power or ability or stylishness will it give them?

this idea reminds me of what hugh macleod says all the time about "the market for something to believe in" being infinite. I wonder what kind of power or benefit is in belief...
or maybe that is the benefit behind all benefits: confidence. you want to be sure of things. to know that your shoes won't fall apart. you want to have faith. you want to be able to live your life without worrying about your poor vulnerable feet. wow.

there is so much doubt in the world.

the market. infinite. yeah.