Thanks to the Internet, my life is worse in one obvious way.

Before I owned three computers and relied on the Internet to connect me to the world at large, my favorite form of procrastination was to keep house.

…But not anymore.

I don’t own any television sets. I don’t indulge in any recreational drugs, unless you count tobacco. I rarely booze it up. Getting laid? HAHAHAHAHA!!1!11!!!11!!!!one

The intensity of my feelings on that subject goes back to the fact that I’m actually girl-crazy at heart.

You know, I really should read more books. The kind that are printed on paper, I mean. The only book I’ve read from cover to cover in the last six months is mine, and only because I needed to.

My point in describing what I don’t have is to make a fitting introduction to my kryptonite: PC strategy games. I can’t play chess worth a dann, but… damn. “STOP ROCKING THE BOAT!” said in the right cadence and timbre will make me giggle for the rest of my life. (That’s only funny if you know what the next two clips say.) When Iain Banks explained a missed deadline by pointing to Civilization IV, I chuckled in spite of myself.

As for the housework: I hate washing dishes. Force me onto my knees to clean a toilet with a disused toothbrush, but dishes? Gaaahhh. I think I’ll just stay online instead.

Journalling is the closest thing I have to prophylaxis against procrastination.

Curled up in the dark

Several months ago I did some rough math and calculated that I’ve eaten something like three-quarters of my meals alone.

From the time I was nine years old, my home environment was too much at the mercy of differing schedules to allow for any shared dining experience beyond the occasional weekend breakfast out, or Friday night pizza, and for almost twenty years I’ve lived alone or with people who typically snacked instead of eating meals. I, on the other hand, all but live for the sated feeling that comes from finishing a hot square, carb crashes notwithstanding. This is doubly true given the absence of participatory orgasms from my day-to-day life.

Yes, I’m talking about SEX. Some people call it FUCKING or, if they’re feeling warm and fuzzy, MAKING LOVE. Nor is that a comprehensive list of names for the act of carnal love. I’m not calling it “participatory orgasms” so much because I’m ashamed — although my Inner Good Catholic Boy is blushng — as I am because I like to play with words. Deal with it.

Thanks to this and so many other forms of loneliness, I call those strategy games my kryptonite, but it’s more truthful to call them anesthesia.

Procrastination to me isn’t about being lazy, and apart from dirty dishes it’s not about wanting to avoid the tedium or distastefulness of the effort. The procrastination — the anesthesia — is a form of hiding.

What if it sucks? What if it’s not good enough? Well, it’s not my best. Why am I being a selfish bastard about this work and billing $obscene dollars per hour when I could be working for social justice? This project’s a dog, the client’s too full of themselves to admit it, and I can’t afford to lose my temper. What if I show somebody up by doing this well, and get dragged into another game of King of the Mountain? What if? What if? What if?

That dull roar is constant. If it was going through your head, you’d want anesthesia, too. I can deal with those challenges singly and in small groups when they do come true. It’s the prospect of dealing with them simultaneously, all the time, that gets to be overwhelming.

Journalling is the best way I have to actually hear myself over the roar so that I can recognize my kind of crazy for what it really is. Historically, there’s a pretty keen correlation between the sincerity of my journalling and my net level of productivity. Thousands of entries written at various times in my life, and my memories of what I accomplished in the meantime, are strong testimony to that.

If a man yells in a forest and nobody hears him

In the end, I’ve always ceased journalling because it didn’t make sense to write so much without an audience. When I consider the lack of an audience, my immediate thought is, “good grief, I whinge a lot.”

I stopped blogging in late 2004 because my internal dialogue was All Mom All The Time, and because my hosting provider went through ownership, management, and platform support changes. Even so, the feeling persisted that I was yelling into a chasm of nothing.

There’s also the matter of my writing style. My favorite novelists are John Steinbeck and Tom Wolfe; I often think that I’ve taken their examples too much to heart.

If you don’t believe me, read the first chapter of The Grapes of Wrath. Since I can be said to like you in the absence of reasons to dislike you, I won’t ask you to read the whole thing.

So… if you want to cast me and my writing into a wholly harsh light, you could call me Mr. Obtuse As Fuck Attention Whore and not to be too far off.

…And even when I do make a point of Omitting Needless Words, the result is highly compressed — not quite Immanuel-Kant-compressed, but certainly more compressed than the typical weblog entry or magazine article.

Right now, though, my need to put the dull roar into context, and to be honest in public, far outweighs my concerns about being called names or (worse still) hearing crickets. I don’t want applause; I want more confidence that my loneliness is all on me.

Once I take full responsibility for my loneliness, resolving it’s all about working smart, and working hard. It will no longer be a black box of what-the-fuck.

Music

Pink Floyd, “Comfortably Numb”
@amazon
@allmusic

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Anesthesia

Anesthesia —by Ben Henick, 25 June 2010

All journal entries

  1. Talking About the Weather
  2. To the Rafters?
  3. Coming of Age with Killer Apps
  4. Race to the Bottom
  5. Meditations on Decay
  6. Net Neutrality, or the Lack Thereof
  7. Three Problems
  8. Post Mortem of a Book Project
  9. The Egg and the Chicken
  10. Yellow Dog
  11. Digging Through the Clutter
  12. Lessons from Mom
  13. Being Careful What You Wish For
  14. Out on a Limb
  15. Beliefs, No. 1
  16. Like a Chimney
  17. Does Not Compute
  18. Past Trends, Future Results
  19. Beyond These Four Walls
  20. Competence, Confidence, and Reality
  21. Anesthesia
  22. King of the Mountain
  23. “A Deer in the Headlights”

Disclaimer: This is definitely self-indulgent. If you don’t like it, read somebody else.

This nook of the Internet is my antidote for Twitter. ©2010 Ben Henick, all rights reserved.

Job, or hell?

Yesterday I happened on two links. (Good grief, I love the Web.) The first is an e-mail alideshow of sorts aimed at the guts of some hypocrite named Spencer, the author’s (erstwhile imaginary) boss. The second is an article in Slate discussing the (un-) desirability of low- to mid-level service jobs.

…And then there’s the story of the flight attendant who on Monday found a spectacular way to say “take this job and shove it” after being verbally assaulted at length by a passenger.

All three pieces are a kick. Reading them in rapid succession, as I did yesterday afternoon, is a kick in the guts. The article about jobs-in-general particularly evoked from me a visceral response.

Rich get richer, poor get poorer

The sense of entitlement to profit that I raised a few days ago is evident in every talk about compensation I’ve heard about, or participated in, in the past several years. It seems to me like the vast majority want labor for the cheapest they can possibly obtain, while remaining content to throw handfuls of money at senior management and holders of equity — even ones who, as it turns out, contribute little or nothing.

It always seems like the same old story: hire somebody with the basic minimum of proven ability in order to get away with paying them as little as possible, train them up to the minimum needed by the organization, fire the ones who don’t take comfortably to that scheme at the instant they’re identified, and work the others to the bone until they burn out.

I believe that on some level, most people recognize that this is going on. However, I struggle to understand why. It seems axiomatic to me that people who feel valued will work harder, yet the trend moves toward every possible effort to remind people that they’re replaceable and ought to get the best out of things while they can.

Compassion vs. sociopathy

The only fact that adequately explains this prevailing state of affairs is broad, unwitting subscription to the system cobbled together from the amoral rants of a mildly nutty Russian emigré. On balance that would not be so bad, except that like that ethos’ nemeses — Communism and Christianity — “Objectivism” works a hell of a lot better in theory than in practice.

I see two deep flaws with this ethos, deepening my my confusion. First, we can’t all be Howard Roark; lots of us lack the temperament requisite to that outcome. As much to the point, if we all could have and act upon that power, civilization as we know it would rapidly descend into barbarism. One man’s clear thinker is another’s cold-hearted sonofabitch, and the latter type is awfully good at inducing conflict.

Second, human beings possess and act upon compassion compulsively; the ones who habitually refuse or fail to do so are (rightly) called sociopaths. We all recognize that the chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and communities tend to raise the minimum when given the chance. Cutting loose that weak link instead… goes a bit far.

Meritocracy

The happy finish of the labor market’s neo-Nietzchean race to the botom can be found in two virtues that are compatible with all of the belief systems in play: honesty and fidelity.

As it stands, the realities of social (im-) mobility leave some with first-class tickets, and consign the rest to steerage barring both outstanding luck and superlative effort. Furthermore, there are no guarantees that anyone who manages to climb their way out of steerage won’t be shoved back down by some vindictive asshole.

Rewarding honesty and fidelity in the workplace — and penalizing those who lie, cheat, and habitually cover their asses — would go a long way toward making the labor market a better place for everybody.

We have the technological capacity to discover and promote out of steerage quickly the ones who’ve earned it, as a matter of course. We can do the reverse for those who feel most inclined to rest on their laurels. Why don’t we?

Music

Hey Lewis & The News, “Workin’ for a Livin’”
@amazon
@allmusic