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Posts Tagged ‘psychology’

Not Everything Sucks

April 7, 2014 Leave a comment

NegativeLet’s have a little chat about negativity and why it’s not as great an idea as it seems.

 

 

 

 

 

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A Nebulous Doom

March 17, 2014 Leave a comment

ClockworkEver get that feeling like the clock in your head is speeding up and the seconds are ticking away faster and faster because you’re not working on something RIGHT NOW? I certainly do.

Incidentally, if you’re curious about the awesome and entertaining Geologic Podcast, which I mention early on, it can be found at http://www.geologicpodcast.com/.

 

 

 

 

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Categories: Observation Tags: ,

Filling in the Gaps

March 11, 2014 Leave a comment

fixingabrainI’m fascinated with the way our brains fill in the gaps about people and things when we use social media. So I’ve decided to ramble about it for a bit. 🙂

 

 

 

 

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Write or Else!

June 25, 2013 Leave a comment

I’ve been on a crusade of late.typewriter

Well, maybe “crusade” is too strong a word. “Quixotic Jaunt” might be a better description.

The last few months I’ve been focusing a great deal of attention on getting my various projects done, or at least making significant progress on them. To that end, I’ve begun doing this strange thing I once heard about on television called “scheduling.” Apparently, the idea is that you plan to do a particular thing on a particular day at a particular time, and when that moment comes… you do it!

What a crazy concept!

For a good portion of my existence, my process has been: 1) Get an idea, 2) Start working on the idea, 3) Get distracted by a shiny, NEW idea, 4) Repeat steps 2-4. You can see how this naturally leads to an unending spiral of unfinished work.

Enter “scheduling.”

For the first time in my life, I’m actually working on one thing at a time.  And it seems to be working. I’ve started playtesting a game I’ve been writing and I’m about 42,000 words into a novel that I aim to finish by around the end of the month. (Which month, I’m not exactly sure. Probably not this one – but ONE of them, anyway, I know that much!)

I’m stepping things up not only because I desperately want to, but because I feel as though I’m denying my identity as a content creator if I don’t. Writing is a sizable part of what defines me as a person, and it’s about time I jolly well acted like it.

When I think back on every career I’ve ever considered, I realize that those career choices are just excuses to write. I once wanted to be a computer programmer so that I could write the plots of computer games. I once wanted to be an actor so that I could eventually write and perform my own material. I got into theatre because I wanted to write and stage my own plays. I got into broadcasting in the hope that one day I might be able to write and produce my own TV or radio shows.

See a pattern there? When I saw it, things became much simpler. I realized that the best thing for me to do right now is to cut out the middle man and get some actual writing done.HandPen

There’s another reason I need to get busy creating things, though.

I had an uncle who passed away a couple of years ago. He was an amazing actor, writer, singer and teacher – he was a great inspiration to me and is one of my personal heroes. The last time I saw him, he told me that no matter what happens, I *must* write. He knew me very well, and saw me for what I am. So, I’ve taken his instructions to heart.

I write because I must – not just because I’m following an avuncular edict, but because it is who I am.

And to be honest, I couldn’t be happier about it.

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Categories: Observation Tags: , , ,

Don’t Kill My Buzz, Man!

April 16, 2011 Leave a comment

As you may have noticed from the audio of the monologue at the end of my previous post, I’m a fan of caffeine.

The problem, though, is that the further I creep into that thing which, for the sake of argument, we’ll call my thirties, I find that I’m becoming more a fan of the IDEA of caffeine than the actual caffeine itself.  As I get older I notice that caffeine has a much subtler but more pronounced effect on me than it did in the past.

Back in the good old days when I was ridiculously young and agile and crazy like a jackalope, I would guzzle down caffeinated beverages like there was no tomorrow.  Back then the only real work I did was for a theatre company and the rest of the time I was a professional wastrel. I’d usually stay up until 3 or 4 in the morning regardless of what I’d been drinking that day.  Even so, I’d be able to go to bed mere seconds after I’d had caffeine and not have the least bit of trouble getting to sleep.

While cola, tea and the like were staples for me, they seemed to have little or no effect. But coffee was a different story.  One sip of java and I’d be bouncing off the walls.

Nowadays, if I drink ordinary caffeinated beverages, I seem to get very little in the way of an energy boost from it.  To all appearances, nothing significant happens… until I try to go to bed.  If I’ve had more than, say, a couple of thimblefuls of caffeine in the last few hours, sleep is utterly IMPOSSIBLE.

But one thing has remained consistent, and that’s my reaction to coffee.  One sip of java and I’m bouncing off the walls.  Okay, maybe it takes TWO sips these days, but the effect is the same.

This is how I eventually came to admit to myself that my reaction to coffee is probably a placebo effect.  I came to this realization not too long ago when I guzzled two frappucinos in preparation for participating in the morning show that’s produced at my broadcasting school’s radio station.  The idea that coffee can turn me into a wired and witty cartoon character is so powerful to me that when I drink the coffee, that’s what happens.

But sadly, it’s naught but an illusion.  The truth is that caffeine doesn’t really GIVE me energy.  It just changes WHEN I have it.

Does it matter, though?  We do all kinds of crazy things to motivate ourselves – you only need to see footage of any random sports rally to confirm that.  So why not let me have my fantasy of a magical concoction that throws my personality into overdrive?  If it amuses me and helps me get things done at the same time, I call that a victory.

What this really means is that while I’m not drinking nearly as much caffeine as I did in the old days, I’m more determined than ever to harness my power of self-delusion and use the resulting tide of caffeine-inspired wackiness for the greater good.

So don’t kill my buzz, man!  Don’t rain on my parade!  Don’t repossess my euphonium!  Lest my army of encaffeinated ninjas descend upon you!!

Er… or words to that effect.

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Categories: Observation Tags: ,

I Can Quit Whenever I Want

March 6, 2011 Leave a comment

I’ve been playing a ridiculous amount of World of Warcraft lately.

I’m sure if a cyber-cop pulled me over on the Information Superhighway and gave me a virtual breathalyzer test I’d be several points over the legal WoW limit.

Why am I so captivated?  What is it about this game that’s got me wondering if I need to join a 12-step program?

My troll fighter Gorbirian, who enjoys knocking back and fishing when the mood strikes him.

Is it the Immersion?

Have I begun to slip heedlessly into a fantasy world and lost all sense of reality?  Nah, probably not.  I’m more of what one would call a “casual gamer.”  I understand the fear of entering a game world and feeling as though one is more a part of it than one’s own life.  That’s often the kind of problem one sees in science fiction stories about people entering virtual reality and losing all sense of self.  But the truth of the matter is that World of Warcraft is pretty cool, but the Matrix it’s not.  Heck, even the Matrix MMO wasn’t.  Besides, I don’t have all that much of a sense of reality to lose in the first place.

Is it the Simplicity?

World of Warcraft is very easy to play.  The controls are easy to learn.  There’s very little in the way of resource management (aside from how much space you have in the bags you carry around to stuff quest items, fishing poles, alchemy bottles and magical pairs of pants into).  You receive instructions, get pointed in a direction and usually go off to either kill things or pick things up off the ground – sometimes both.  Not a lot of thought is required.  If you want to interact with other players, you can, but recent updates to the game mean that you don’t really have to socialize if you’d rather go solo.  I must admit that the game’s convenience factor is a pretty big deal.  The fact that I don’t have to devote a lot of time to it means that I end up… devoting a lot of time to it.

Azeroth in 2011. Is there an island or two missing, do you think…?

Is it the Potential?

One of the major draws for me with games like World of Warcraft is not what you can do with it, but what you COULD do with it.  Azeroth is a huge, new, shiny, undiscovered world (okay, maybe a bit less shiny since the Cataclysm) and I haven’t visited every single corner of it yet.  I’m one of those obsessive bastards who tries to see ALL of a game’s available content.  Some of it – like, say, any given dungeon – requires you to team up with other players, which is something I don’t usually have a lot of time for, but I still feel a need to keep quests involving said content on my to-do list.  Even though it’s highly unlikely I’ll ever get to them.  If you add to that the fact that they’re regularly updating the game with MORE shiny, new things, you can see that this game may be holding my attention for a very long time.

Is it the Adventure Gaminess?

Back in the crazy, carefree days of the 1980’s, we had these things called “adventure games.”  Among my favorites were the games in the Quest For Glory series.  These were games in which you had a character with RPG-like stats and the freedom to have him wander around, fight monsters and explore different plot threads.  The developers at one time had an idea to make it into an online game, but that plan never came to fruition.  World of Warcraft seems, to me, to be the closest thing to what they had been hoping to do.  So maybe I play it as a way of trying to recapture my youth – which I’m told is much safer and cheaper than the usual method of buying a muscle car and treating every road as though it’s the Daytona Speedway.

But, anyway…

My gnomish wizard, Map. He’s currently working on a degree in Engineering.

I think that if I try to be brutally honest with myself, World of Warcraft – or any other MMO, for that matter – is, more than anything, an excuse to listen to a bunch of podcasts.  I like the game music and only listened to it while playing at first, but as soon as I got comfortable enough with the game that it didn’t require my full concentration, I started playing podcasts in the background instead.  MMOs and podcasts can make an awesome combination.  I’ve already blogged about my deep podcast affliction, so I won’t go into detail about it here.  But I think it’s interesting that I’ve essentially got two addictions that feed into each other.  If one desperate need wanes, the other will always be there to drag me back to my plush Obsession Suite in the Junkie Hotel overlooking Dependence City.  Lucky me.

All kidding aside, though, I’ve gone several months at a time without playing WoW, and if my schedule requires it, I’ll go cold turkey once again.  I’ve done it voluntarily before – most recently when I hit a point in the game at which I felt I couldn’t progress further on my own and decided to just park my characters in a corner and wait for the Cataclysm.  And, lo and behold, when the Cataclysm happened, there was enough new content to pull me back in.  I’m not sure what it says about me that it takes a near-apocalypse to garner my interest these days, but that’s another topic entirely.

To return to somewhere in the general vicinity of the point, I’m sure that what with all the various things I’ve got going on my life, sooner or later I’ll need to take another break from WoW.  It will be a sad day indeed but I’ll find some way to survive.  After all, there’s always City of Heroes.

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Why I Need a Doctor

July 22, 2010 4 comments
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I think I’ve just figured out why Doctor Who is so important to me these days.

I know, it’s shocking – a geek like myself being a fan of Doctor Who.  I’ve been one since I was about seven years old.  I’d been hearing for years about that odd, British, science fiction show about a dimensionally transcendent police box and a guy who can travel in time and change his appearance, and at that time I’d never been interested enough to look at it.  But then, one day back in the early 1980’s, I happened to catch part of a special early evening showing of The Five Doctors on PBS – not too long after it had first premiered in the United States – and thought I’d go ahead and give watching it a try.  After that, they showed the regularly scheduled story for that week, The Creature from the Pit.  By the time I got to the end of the evening, I was fully hooked and would never miss an episode if I could help it.

photo by Andrew Wong

The show was like a life-line for me.  It encouraged people to revel in being different – which meant quite a lot to me.  To say I was a bit odd as a child would be a gross understatement.  My horrifyingly bad grade school experiences kept beating the idea into me that being different was bad, but here was a TV show giving me a completely different message – and in a much more entertaining way than I’d encountered from the name-calling bullies on the playground.

I kept watching the show right up until it went on what we can now happily call a long but temporary hiatus in 1989.  Then there was a long dry spell punctuated only by an American TV movie and a few books from Virgin that I managed to pick up every now and then.  I no longer had Doctor Who in my life in a significant way (though I’d go back and watch episodes that I’d recorded every now and then).  But I was okay with that.

The dynamic changed again, though, when the new series started in 2005.  I put off watching it for a while, but then when I did I became utterly hooked on it once again, and was soon as deeply attached to it as I’d ever been.  The new series had begun acting like a life-line for me again.

I didn’t realize why that was the case until a very short time ago.  It wasn’t because of the whole “being different” thing – that’s pretty much a given at this point – but because of the struggle the Doctor goes through in the new series.

You see, for all practical purposes, my life pretty much fell apart in 2005.  It had started falling apart long before then, but 2005 was the year of the final collapse.  I won’t go into too much detail about it right now, but suffice it to say that I went through some very difficult changes that left me a depressed shell of a person for quite a while.  Eventually, though, I started learning once again how to interact with people and even how to trust them.

It’s still not easy, though.  I’ve gotten to the point now that I can behave as though I’m alive and can go out and do things with friends from time to time.  But there’s always a struggle to keep myself from sinking back into the abyss.

In the new TV series, the Doctor’s life has fallen apart as well.  He’s lost nearly everything he cares about.  And he’s always struggling to keep himself from falling into the darkness.  Since the premiere of the new series there have been three new Doctors, and no matter which one of them you look at, you can see that struggle going on.

Maybe it sounds a bit nuts, but it’s an interesting parallel, and nuts or not, it’s working for me.  After helping me deal with the pressures of early life, my childhood hero went away for a while.  But when I needed him again, he came back.

The Doctor has his ups and downs, but when it counts, he’s able to remind himself that he’s not alone.  Despite everything that’s happened to him, he’s continuing to reach out to people.  He’s trying to befriend them and learn to trust them again, even to the extent of taking on new traveling companions.  Even though he had to watch as so much he held dear was destroyed, he’s still trying to keep going – to get back to living his life.

And if the Doctor can do that, then maybe I can too.

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Categories: Fandom Tags: ,

Online Gestalt Entities

April 23, 2010 14 comments

I’m about to get into a topic that might tick a few folks off.  You see, this is going to be about something that is fairly commonly done on the internet (in fact, a number of my friends do it) but that I’m not too fond of myself.  Just know that if you happen to be one of those folks who follow this practice, I’m not meaning to single you out or hurt your feelings.  I also don’t think any less of you as a person.  But yes, this IS about you.

I’m talking about taking a picture of yourself and another person and posting it as your personal avatar on an internet community.  Now, I don’t mean including a picture like that in a collection of photos – I have no problem with that.  I’m talking specifically about using a photo of you and someone else as the one identifying image that comes up on Facebook, MySpace or any number of other services when I go to look at your profile.  It’s your avatar – the one picture that’s meant to convey the essence of who you are to everyone who looks at your personal page.

I realize I don’t have a lot of room to complain, here, given that MY avatar photo is usually a close-up of my left eye.  At least in my case, though, there’s no doubt that what you’re looking at is supposed to be representative of only one person.  There are plenty of folks out there who post things just as abstract or bizarre, and I have no issue with that.  But when you’re posting a photograph for your avatar and there’s more than one person in it, things can get a bit confusing.

Me and another guy. Which is which?

Sometimes it’s you and your kid, which I can kind of understand – after all, a lot of folks are proud of their children and place them above all else in importance.  If you consider your kid part of your identity as a person, then there’s no reason not to include them.  I must admit that I find it a little bit disturbing when the photo is ONLY of your child – suggesting that your identity has been completely subsumed by your offspring – but that’s another topic.

There are folks who like to use pictures of themselves with their significant others.  Again, I completely understand if you’re proud of the fact that you’re in a relationship – especially since some of us go through what seem like entire ice ages between them.  If your name is fairly gender-neutral, though, I may have trouble telling which one of you is which.  That, of course, assumes that your significant other is of the opposite gender.  If not, then it becomes difficult to tell who’s who regardless of naming conventions.

When it’s a picture of you and your best friend (again assuming that we’re only talking about cases in which you’re both the same gender), I have no idea what to think.  If I haven’t met you before then I have no way of knowing which one is you.  This is a common problem, I think, and yet people persist in doing it.

Are you trying to remain anonymous… without remaining anonymous?  I know that the last thing I’d expect my best friend to do is use me as a decoy to throw people off of his track.  It’s kind of like a superhero moving his sidekick in front of a bullet.  (“I knew you’d come in handy one day, little chum!”)

I often hear someone say that they’ve used a picture taken with a friend because it’s the best picture they could find of themselves.  That’s all well and good, but it doesn’t solve the fundamental problem of identifying you.  That’s what an avatar is for, after all.

Are you trying to co-op a second person into your identity?  Are you symbiotes?  If it’s your best friend I’m sure they don’t necessarily have a problem with being “part of you” but I have to wonder if that diminishes their own individual identity a bit.  Are they okay with being a gestalt entity?  Does the essence of all that is you inhabit more than one body?

Maybe it does.  Maybe you and your friend are so inseparable that to know you is to know them as well and vice versa.  If that’s the case, then more power to you.  But I just have to ask one little favor: if your shared identity allows you at least the tiniest sense of self, could you possibly make it clearer which of the two people in your avatar photo is you?  Be the one standing closer to the camera.  Do something funky with Photoshop — give yourself a halo of light or glowing eyes or something.

Because ultimately, when I look at your avatar – whether it’s a picture of a giant eye, a cartoon armadillo or an ordinary photograph – I’m meant to be looking at some facet of the person you believe you are, or at least the person you’d like to be.

Otherwise, why bother?

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Thought Without Thinking

October 12, 2009 4 comments

Whenever I talk about my own thought process, I feel as though I’m about to attempt an impossible task.  After all, it’s not possible to talk about what a maze looks like from the outside when you’ve never been outside the maze, is it?  It’s like trying to see the top of your own head – without the aid of mirrors.

Nevertheless, let’s give it a shot.

I have a little issue with getting tasks done.

“But Jim,” I hear someone saying, “you’re writing an article for your blog right now, aren’t you?  Isn’t that a task that you’re getting done as we speak?”

Sure it is, but all that means is that the issue isn’t completely insurmountable.  It IS pretty overwhelming, though.  Also, this article is pretty short compared to the plethora of other tasks I need to be working on, so that makes it easier to finish.

The issue is this: I think too much.  A shocking revelation, I know.

A few years back I came to the conclusion that I have the ADD/OCD cocktail.  This means I have trouble keeping thoughts in my head and am distracted fairly easily.  It also means that I obsess over pretty much each one of those fleeting thoughts for the duration of its brief stay in my cranium.  When I’m working on something, I analyze it to the nth degree and try to get it as close to perfection as possible… until I’m distracted by something else (which I then proceed to work on to the nth degree and try to get as close to perfection as possible… until I’m distracted by something else… and so on and so on and so on…).

I don’t have much in the way of direct experience of this, but from what I’ve heard, when you have a child it becomes incredibly difficult to hold onto a thought for more than a few minutes because the kid is constantly distracting you.  If that’s truly the case then I think living in my head must be somewhat analogous to running a day care center.  I spend a lot of time chasing down individual thoughts that are important to me and trying to deal with them while all of my other thoughts are yelling for attention.  I can keep them all quiet if I play a video game or watch a movie, but if I then try to do something else, they all start acting up again.

The easiest thing to do, of course, is to follow the path of least resistance and just do whatever I feel like doing.  Unfortunately, this has made me a champion procrastinator.  It has also led to a lot of half-finished projects.

So, how do I get past this to be a good, productive, drone-like member of society?  Is there a way to harness my childlike, multi-headed thought beast and make it work FOR me?

Honestly, I haven’t worked out a COMPLETELY satisfactory solution yet, which is likely why I’m still unemployed, but I have at least started to get a tiny bit further on my creative projects.  Granted, this is about like Sisyphus just getting an inkling of how to position himself to move the boulder up the hill, but at least it’s a start.

So, what did I do to make it possible to write this article?  True, I haven’t finished it yet, but if you’re reading it now then that means I must complete it sometime in the near future.  Either that or we’re about to experience a rift in the space-time continuum.

"Maze" courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The truth is that when I do something, I have to trick myself into not thinking about it.  This is an especially strange process when writing because the words have to form in my head before they appear on the page, which of course means I’ve thought about them.  But how to think about something WITHOUT thinking about it?

There IS a way.  It requires sneaking up on my psyche and suddenly leaping into action without any thought whatsoever beforehand.  If I begin working on something without warning – even though I’m really just going through the motions because I have no Earthly idea what I’m actually doing – it seems to kick some part of my mind into a state that can only exist AFTER all the necessary decisions regarding the task have already been made.  If I’m lucky, the rest of my brain will then play along and supply me with the bits I need to keep doing whatever I’m doing.  Thus far I’ve been able to get it to work better for shorter tasks and I’m hoping that with practice I can sustain it over time.

I don’t understand how the process works.  It shouldn’t be possible to just skip to the second step of doing something if the first step involves figuring out what the second step IS.  And yet it must work somehow, because I see that we’ve just about come to the end of this article.  I’m sure that if I spend too much more time trying to figure it out, my head will explode.

So in the interest of maintaining my cranial integrity, for the time being… let’s just say it’s magic.

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Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Categories: Observation Tags: ,