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Q: Why is text messaging stupid? [Sep. 26th, 2007|01:09 am]
Universal Donor
Q: I intuitively know that text messaging is a shitty way to communicate. But why?
A: It's complicated.

(edited and reposted from a comment I wrote here at claudelemonde , then re-edited Septmber 2008 to add better percentage information.)

I'm not saying you're a bad person for texting, nor am I saying technology is bad. But I am saying this: your life would be better if you never texted, and I mean it. I say it because the time wasted and damage caused by texting does not outweigh its benefits, when compared with other available means of communication.

Implicit assumptions I make in thinking about this stuff:
  1. Effective communication is a good thing.
  2. Bad communication is often more harmful than NO communication.
  3. it is possible to approximately measure the quality of a method of communication using information/time. A standard unit being bits per second (bps).

Face-to-face, real-life communication is only 8% verbal. The rest of the communication is carried through gestures and body language (54%) and tonal information (38%). People don't receive the other types of informational flow with equal skill or, more importantly, consciousness, but the bits/sec reading on interpersonal IRL convo is HUGE. Posture, facial expression, inflection, cadence, eye contact, status transactions, pheromones, skin flushing, respiratory rate -- I could go on. It's a Niagara of info.

Use the phone and you remove more than half of the information (the 54% communicated through gesture), but you are still left with a lot. Though lacking visual, tactile, and olfactory info, hearing still allows for fairly effective communication -- and I think people improve with practice. People who are phobic about the phone are usually people who rely heavily on the other info avenues, like really flirty people, or alpha-type intimidators. Anyway: less info, fewer bps.

Instant messaging is still less effective, but preserves a time-based ability to respond that mimics real, or telephonic conversation. Most people spend a lot of time explaining, apologizing, or generally MANAGING the interaction in a really intense way. You can probably tell when someone you're IMing with is distracted by something else at their desk, and I bet it's a little irksome. Again, some people are better than others at this -- IM favors fast typists and people with an ability to focus. IM is popular because it has certain obvious advantages -- the ability to talk to multiple people more or less simultaneously, and the fact that your content can be private even in public, unlike a phone call. BUT STILL: fewer b/s. Communication degraded.

Use email and you remove the time-based nature of the communication, and almost all emotional content is gone. Emoticons help only minutely. The medium of email is prone to disastrous miscommunication because, lacking emotional cues, people guess the emotional content, and people are VERY VERY BAD AT THIS. (I have a truly marvelous explanation for this phenomenon which this margin is too narrow to contain.) Email is suited to communications free of emotional content, like announcements of meetings in conference rooms, or weather reports. But you are on dangerous ground with anything else. You know this to be true. Don't fight it. Fewer b/s. Bad news.

Text messages. You see where I'm going with this? The bitrate is down to like less than a hundred bits per second. Having a conversation via text is like trying to have sex with a picture of a person: it's so distant from the original act that it can't really be called the same thing. Only the text remains, and the time between messages. In my experience, 90% of text messages should be cell phone calls. In those remaining ten percent of situations (meetings, loud clubs, in cars driving through bad service areas,) text can be a godsend. But please people. Pick your medium with care.

GOOD (high b/s)-----> BAD (low b/s)
face2face -- videophony -- regular telephony -- IM -- email -- text -- morse telegraphy

DISCLAIMER: the above is not necessarily true or practical for people who are mentally ill, or who have other extreme external factors (illiteracy, morbid obesity, addiction, or a history of abuse) all up in their grillz.
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Forgiveness: What Gives? [Jul. 6th, 2007|02:19 pm]
Universal Donor
Q: Should I forgive people who have done me wrong?
A: Only if you want to feel better.

That's right, YOU. Forgiveness is fundamentally -- and almost universally -- misunderstood.  Forgiveness is not something you do for the sake of the forgivee. It is something you do for yourself.

Let's assume that now, at square one, you feel bad about something that happened. Mad, even. Someone did you wrong. Your feelings are hurt. You are in pain. You are angry, and you feel like you will never, maybe SHOULD never, forgive the person who made you feel this way.

Perhaps you have heard that it is bad to deny your anger, and that is surely true. But the continuum of reactions to anger looks something like this:
< - DENY IT - - - - - FEEL IT - - - - - HOLD IT - >
...and it is just as detrimental to your health to hold on to your anger as it is to deny it.

The event that caused you pain is already in the past, over, done. It only exists in your mind, where, without forgiveness, you can hold that grudge forever. But realize that the ONLY thing you are doing is making yourself suffer -- that is all. Take responsibility for the fact that you are making a choice to suffer; that your suffering is the SUM TOTAL of the effects of your grudge. Your anger does not avenge any wrongdoing, nor does it punish the wrongdoer. Your grudge does not protect you from future harm.  However you think anger benefits you, it does not.

  • a way of saying "I absolve you of responsibility for your actions."
  • a way of saying "what you did was cool with me."
  • a way of saying "you should keep doing stuff like that."
  • a way suppressing your emotions
  • a way of denying your anger
  • a way of saying "I am removing you from the real estate you occupy in my head."
  • a way of saying "I choose to move forward, taking responsibility for my own happiness."
  • a way of saying "I refuse to place blame for my unhappiness outside of myself." (see disclaimer, below)
  • a way of accepting your anger without becoming enslaved by it
  • a way to suffer less -- to feel better.
You don't have to take my word for it, though. If this sounds like feel-good hippie Jesus bullshit to you, I understand. But maybe try it first. Read the entry on karma below and try to understand that forgiving others is also the first step towards forgiving yourself for all the harm you have caused.

Well that probably deserves a post of its own, and I'm not an expert on the process. But if you want to experiment with forgiving someone, just... try it. Because forgiveness is about you, you don't have to say anything to the object of your resentment. You can forgive them right now, from your chair. Just DO IT. Forgive. Move on. FEEL BETTER.

Disclaimer: Similar to the karma disclaimer. Pain and suffering rooted in childhood trauma is clearly not a failing of forgiveness on the part of the victim. And certain traumas, experienced at any age, cause psychological and physiological problems in the victim that cannot be addressed only with forgiveness, either. As usual, I'm less interested in extreme cases here, rather the everyday resentments that plague us unnecessarily.
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Q: Is Karma Bullshit? [Jul. 2nd, 2007|03:32 pm]
Universal Donor
Q: Is Karma bullshit?
No, karma is not bullshit. But the common western perceptions of karma ARE bullshit.

1. karma is a literal kind of justice where, if you hit someone with a hammer, someday you will get hit with a hammer.
2. karma is a great wheel of universal justice that brings good things to the just and bad things to the unjust.
3. karma is a tool of a great wheel of reincarnation where we we are punished/rewarded for deeds committed in previous lives.

Actual karma is based in simple psychological facts:
  1. PERCEPTION/MOOD DETERMINES EXPERIENCE. If you are (for example) angry, you will tend to experience and respond to things to get angry about (traffic, slow coffee line, snide coworker). If you are (for example) grateful, you will experience the same events quite differently (good song on radio, cute guy in coffee line, pleasant coworker).
  2. SUFFERING BEGETS SUFFERING. This facet of karma just says that a) causing harm will cause YOU to suffer, and b) people who cause harm do so BECAUSE they are suffering. That's it. Hurting people makes you feel shitty; people who feel really great and spiritually centered tend not to cause a lot of harm.

For one thing, the first point means that if you can cultivate a good mood early in the day, you will feel better. The western version of this is the folk wisdom of "counting your blessings," which sounds ubergay but WILL ACTUALLY MAKE YOU FEEL BETTER. Maybe one day when you feel shitty enough, you will try it, and you will see.
Obviously, this also means that you are largely responsible for your feelings. The world is not full of good things, or bad things -- it's just full of things.* Your response is everything, and it is one of the few things in life you have the REMOTEST chance of controlling.

As for the suffering equation, remember that doing harm makes you feel worse, always always always. Revenge is a dish best 86'd from the menu. Two wrongs make two wrongs. This is not about morality, it's about biological fact.

Furthermore, and this is harder: remember to have compassion for those who do wrong, because they are suffering. FACT. Wish for them to suffer less, because they would cause less harm. FACT. And don't for a moment believe that the Trumps of the world aren't suffering, despite their claims of exquisite joy -- they are suffering.

* q.v. "it rains on the just and the unjust alike"

DISCLAIMER: the above is not necessarily true or practical for people who are very mentally ill, or who have other extreme external factors (war, abuse, poverty, addiction) all up in their grillz. So don't bring up psychopaths or child soldiers as counterproof.
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Big Questions Answered, in Brief [Jul. 2nd, 2007|12:31 pm]
Universal Donor
Okay, so I am opening things up on a test basis over here for anyone to ask me questions about big issues. I don't know what topics I want to cover, but If a question is not interesting to me, I will let you know. I will try not to explain in too much depth, giving instead short answers.
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Comments at UDvGS [Sep. 10th, 2003|11:03 am]
Universal Donor
Well. Comments are working again at the real site, but until everything has proven stable, let's keep it rolling here with the nested threads and pretty pictures.
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Suck the leathery cock of un-fame [Sep. 9th, 2003|04:01 pm]
Universal Donor
I don't know how long this link will remain live, but for the moment I will use Alyssa Milano to illustrate everything I hate about Los Angeles. Don't worry, if the link goes dead, it will only take me a few picoseconds to locate another illustration.
     Yes, look at her, seen here in a film still from Dickie Whatever Blah Child Whatever. Whateverr. Tan, thin, disproportionate boobs, irritatingly clichéd tattoo on her wrist, and a FUCKING COWBOY HAT. I can't see her hoop earrings, but I can guarantee they're close by, probably in that giant circular suitcase -- her giant hoop earring suitcase, right? This is Milano as Sheryl Crow, by which I mean one facet of the L.A. Woman trichotomy: Sheryl, Marilyn, and... oh, I don't know. Maybe David Geffen. There are only Maidens and Mothers, because no Crones are allowed, but Sheryl Crow(ne) is the closest you get: leathery, world-weary, hungover, and STILL gonna fall for every drunken scumbag with a pair of shades and a car. WHICH IS EVERYBODY.
     There are only two things L.A. has over, oh let's say New York: 1) sweat evaporates faster, and 2) In 'N' Out Burger. That's it. Therefore, everyone in L.A. is an idiot. Actors are stupid! Stupid and ignorant! Oh!
     Viz last night we caught this new show called The Joe Schmo Show which is fucking genius squared, especially if you're a fan of Survivor, which, yes, shut up, but I am. Shut it. TJSS is fake, and all for the benefit of this one guy, and even though the fake "contestants" are supposed to represent these diverse reality show types from all over America (schemer, asshole, bitch), they are all still Los Angeles fucktards. Talking earnestly about how hard it is to fool an idiot all the time. Talking about their "craft!" Not kidding! Glaaargle Fuck! Take your craft and wrap it around Hollywood's fat johnson, you airbrushed nincompoops! Thalia and Melpomene are not skin-care products! Why doesn't anyone ever acknowledge that "hummer" is slang for a blowjob? Everyone knows this! AAARGH.PSCollapse )
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Dream a little dream of mediocrity [Sep. 8th, 2003|05:08 pm]
Universal Donor
I am a failure at dreaming. I don't have nightmares, which is okay with me on the surface, but I understand that it means I'm denied part of the rich variety of sleep experience, and it's another sign of my emotional dwarfism. But my real failure is more terrible than your foulest goo-dripping polyheaded bogeyman, and the more I think about it, the more worried I get.
     Shouldn't my conscience stay out of my dreams? Shouldn't my superego go on a temporary vacation when I drift off? Shouldn't my dreams differ, in some appreciable way, from my real life? Because they don't. Hardly at all. The ONLY thing I can recall from last night's dream was a bit where I put down a water bottle with too much force, splashing some drops onto a Yamaha synthesizer. I immediately got up and unplugged the keyboard to prevent a short circuit that could have damaged the machine.
     WHAT THE FUCK? Can my brain just allow me to be reckless or irresponsible for one hot minute? I swear that I have had numerous dreams which might have ended up as the wet variety, except for the fact that I refused to have sex with some dream woman because I didn't have any dream condoms. Oh yes. That's right. I have also abstained from numerous dream antics because a) they involved the destruction of property or b) I had to get up early for work the next day. Say what? Unbe-fucking-lieveable.
     You see the problem here. My dream life is essentially indistinguishable from my real life, and perhaps even more dull. Sure, there are rich scenes in fantastic, physics-defying locales, but what's the point if I can't fuck a mermaid now and then? Or if I stop flying up and down staircases to take an antihistamine? This is why I'm insomniac -- I've got nothing to look forward to. (Well, I'm fairly sure that my back doesn't hurt in my dreams, but then again, I also seem to remember spending some dreamtime doing stretches.) What does it say about me that I live by a strict moral code in the one place where I'm expected not to? Yes, okay. Say it along with anthrochica: Control Freak. I am a stupid, awful, unrelenting control freak.
     Please dream about me, my solemn dogs, and tell me about all the adventures I have in your dreams, because mine are shite. ZP shared a wonderful dream about me -- I can't recall the details, but I think I was a Sex Pirate. Now we're talking. Tell me more, friends. More.
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Turn off that smokestack and that goddamn radio [Sep. 4th, 2003|05:03 pm]
Universal Donor
[mood |sore]
[music |The Fucking Champs]

As noted previously, my back is fucked. My scoliosis wasn't detected in high school because Stuyvesant had a relaxed attitude towards gym class. Well, I had a relaxed attitude toward gym class, anyway. I was either sick, cutting, or out with a forged doctor's note on the days they were supposed to test us for spinal twistery. So my curvature progressed apace, uncorrected by any futuristic Fakir Mustapha-style bondage brace. We've been over this, haven't we? So let's skip ahead.
     The pain just got worse over the years, no matter how much time I spent avoiding any kind of physical labor, exertion, or movement; no matter how many cigarettes I smoked and movies I watched; no matter how many bacon egg & cheese sandwiches I consumed. I am a poster boy for un-health (and here's the poster), but all my friends are viable candidates for the Slothful Feckless Fuck of the Year award, too. It's not just that we don't exercise, or eat right, or exhibit any symptoms of self-preservation. It's that we actively despise anybody who does. We would never be seen in public in sweatclothes. Owning ANY kind of fitness equipment is an unforgivable transgression against taste, and even an ironic late-night telepurchase of a ThighMaster would fall outside the protective umbrella of Camp. Jogging? It's not even worth the effort to disdain. With a peer group like that, I was doomed from the start, right? I asked my mom about this recently:

UD: I don't get it. You and Dad are both fairly healthy, active people. Why'd I turn out like this? I need to exercise.
Mom: Hey -- are you feeling okay?
UD: Well, obviously not.
Mom: No, I said "are you feeling okay" because you said "I need to exercise." You know, like: "who are you, and what have you done with my son."
UD: Oh, right. Heh. But seriously, if my friends had been more healthy when I was younger, maybe I wouldn't have turned out so fucked.
Mom: But you never liked healthy people. It's not like you were kidnapped by slobs and forced to adopt their habits.
UD: Well, couldn't you have guided me towards healthier kids? Or like forbade me to hang with the sickly ones?


Mom: You're kidding, right? How would that have gone, exactly? "Dear adolescent son, please clean your room, do your homework, and select a peer group of higher quality to ensure your future health?"
UD: Yeah, ok. But maybe before I was an adolescent?
Mom: We sent you to that afterschool sports program. Do you remember?
UD: Oh.
Mom: Do you remember what that was like?


UD: Oh GOD! I do! It was absolute torture. They hated me. Always put me in waaay right field for baseball, and picked me last for everything. Punched and kicked me! Fuck! That's it! It was trauma! I'm unhealthy because of those protojock fuckheads and their abusive alpha cocksuckery!
Mom: Oh whatever. Quit blowing smoke in my face.
UD: Do you think they maybe molested me on the bus and I've suppressed the memory? Those raping monsters!
Mom: Please give me a small break for once. Puh-lease.
UD: [muttering under breath] Those bastards.
Mom: How's physical therapy?
UD: It is awful. Awful awful awful.
Mom: Good. Proud of you.
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The Crawl [Sep. 4th, 2003|11:47 am]
Universal Donor
[mood |hating yaccs.com]
[music |Lilys]

As most long-term readers know, I have two official roommates. If I'm RM1, RM2 is Pussy Willow, who used to write on this very blog before she decided to devote her full attention to the oral satisfaction of freight-hopping vagabonds. RM3 has only been referred to here as Heroic Third Roommate for last summer's triumph over vermin, realized with only a rolled up issue of Wired and balls of brass. Then there's RM4, the one who's made of AOL promo CDs. I guess you could count the upstairs neighbors ("the Pirates") as spiritual RMs; we certainly live with them every day. (Ask me sometime about The Pirates. It's sad when an entire family is cursed to wear peglegs, dance jigs, and move trunks full of treasure around their apartment 24 HOURS A DAY.)
     Well, I have a new roommate. It pays no rent, because it is a monster. Not like your down-on-his-luck cousin who's been aromafying your couch for a week, no. Like a terrible, flapping, fluttering, scuttling thing. I don't know what it is, but I hate it.
     I first saw it Saturday night, hurtling out of my room along the floor and under one of the living room couches. Acting on pure instinct -- Wham! -- I flung my shoe under the couch like Byung-hyun Kim. I then stood on one shoe, stupidly, horrified. Whatever that thing was, I had just given it my shoe. Fuck. Pure instinct can suck a fat cock. Monster: 1, UD: 0.
     The rest of the night I danced around that couch like it was leaking radioactive poo, and found a stick (yes, a stick!) with which I could retrieve my sneaker. The monster was hibernating, I suppose, or resting after a hearty meal of children's eyeballs. At first I thought it was a giant cockroach, the stars of my personal nightmare theater. But it moved too fast. A mouse? Maybe. A man can dream, can't he? I can handle the vermin that share my phylum. I was sleepy before I saw that sumbitch, but he woke me like a stack of white crosses chased with Mountain Dew.
     As I awoke the next morning from uneasy dreams I found myself transformed in my bed into a giant backache. The stress of living with an unidentified, unslaughtered monster ratchets my spinal muscles into elevator cables. Mostly Sunday was uneventful. Maybe the monster left us for the pungent week-old trashpile just out the window, in the "courtyard"? Ha! Ha to the word "courtyard" and ha to the idea of monster exodus. At 2am, weak, half-nakies, and woefully unshod, I peripherally spied the transit of a brown something in the kitchen. A flutter from the dishrack to the teapot on the stove. Oh god. A flutter. I mean come on. Too fast for a crawler, but too weird for a flying cockroach. Too... cartwheely for a stupid mouse. I swear, it tumbled like a piece of windblown debris, like a crumpled negative caught in a gust. Rattle tumble. And in an instant: poof. As gone as Keyser Soze.
     Somebody help me. I think they are breeding in the stove. Oh sweet holy mother of fuck, I can hear them breeding!
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(no subject) [Jan. 17th, 2003|11:17 am]
Universal Donor
You really should go to Universal Donor vs. Pussy Willow -- but only if you like to feel good.
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