taking joy in human unreason

Tomorrow will be/is a better day

Actually, things are looking up right now. The funk is passing. The sleep is returning. My mental equilibrium is back. I’m back laughing, and doin’ it with with pleasure. And frequently. Like when I learned what a Davy Crockett is. Or when I found myself pinned in the corner of a nook of a hallway being threatened with tickles (I maintain that not many tickles were actually gotten in because of my violent thrashing around). Or when I saw the content of last Chemistry quiz, because all the hours of reading/note-taking/question-asking I put in paid off to make it extrodinarily easy. Why I would laugh upon seeing a Chemistry quiz at 08:00 on a Thursday, I don’t know. I just about aced it, however.

I’m also back to being able to think about things other than VSEPR models and infinite series convergence tests. Mental input has been a bit limited (I just got the nntp//rss reader working today–I am such an idiot, because it was so obvious), because I haven’t been surfing for anything non-technical for about two to three weeks. Time not spend doing direct schoolwork has been spent attempting to completely disect the Perl scripts used to install Maple 8 on Linux. Ohmygawd, I’m going to stab that thing in the eye! I’ve torn those scripts up three ways from Sunday, and can still barely make heads or tails of what exactly it is that is failing, but not failing enough to return an error and kill the installation. The installation completes “successfully”, but I’m missing every damn binary needed to run the shit. And our bookstore doesn’t sell Maple, so I’d have to buy a copy for over $100 online, which is unacceptable. So I have to boot into Windows to take tests and do homework in math. But enough techie stuff. Back to my thinking. I’m not feeling particularly coherent right now (am I ever?), so this may not make any sense in the morning. (But will you still respect me?)

A recent conversation with a friend got me thinking about the boundaries I set on business versus pleasure. I’ll put in a mandatory disclaimer here that anything following the previous statement has absolutely nothing to directly do with the conversation I had with my buddy, but with my own train of thoughts about myself. There, that’s sufficiently ass-covering, ain’t it? I mean “business versus pleasure” in the sense of how friendly you let yourself be with teammates in order to get work done, or how you respond to romantic overtures, or how you generally conduct relations with people that may be useful to you. For example, given that I was in a rational state of mind, I would probably never enter a relationship (friendship/romantic/whatever) that I felt would jeopardize my “business”–school, career, extracurricular, etc. Underlying much of what I do is the thought of The Resume, or The Future. Things that seem to actually jeopardize my goals will be removed, plain and simple, whether they be people or activities. But that’s kind of ruthless. I’ve found that I give myself a lot of leeway in determining what “jeopardizing my goals” means. I would pull some all-nighters ahead of time to be able to do the Thorn, and possibly turn in some less-than-perfect work or be a bit dull in class the following morning. I generally try to be nice to people that I’m working with on a team, particularly if they’re actually doing work or have any kind of expertise. Of course, I generally try to be nice to people anyway, but sometimes it takes real effort to be civil to some people, and I’ll put less effort into someone on whom my grades don’t rely.

But at what point do you start being nice to someone just because they can do something for you, or because you rely on them? And what if you reach a point where the line between where you know you are being somewhat manipulative and where you are flat-out glad-handing people ruthlessly without a care for their feelings starts to blur so that you don’t even realize which you are doing anymore? It’s the kind of thing that gets me on my guard when people tell me to “network”–I want to make damn sure I can provide a service just a valuable to them as they are potentially providing to me (I just turned down an interview today because of my lack of qualifications, alas…). Networking is a slightly impersonal example, though. What disturbs me is this: How do you know if you’re really friends/favorable acquaintances with someone who is like that? You can’t ever be sure (although you can never be certain of anything with people, really) that they aren’t just tolerating you because you are providing a service, or because some of their success in a class or in the workplace relies on you, or because you’re a cog in their well-oiled machine of life. All the (re)assurances in the damn world can’t overcome the idea that they are, in fact, merely glad-handing you. And I would much rather be openly loathed or loved than that… sickening limbo in which you are tolerated, when who really knows what lies beneath the surface. So why the hell would I inflict that on others? I don’t think it’s a matter of being outspokenly obnoxious, rude, or emotional, but it’s a matter of being honest with oneself and respecting others enough to be honest with them.

That’s all fine and idealistic, but what about when it’s my fun, my resume, my damn career potentially on the line? To what extent do I allow myself to manipulate others? To say “none at all” is rather ridiculous–this is the real world (or at least the facade with which I am presented daily–not that there’s a difference in my mind between the facades we see and “reality”, but that’s another topic altogether), with promotions and money and “friends” to be had. I don’t think making a conscious effort to minimize the bullshit is overly idealistic. But it’s not really something you can set boundaries on; if you’re doing it a little, you open the door to doing it a lot. Perhaps it’s a matter for self-control and self-discipline, the two classes I failed in elementary school. (Hey, what was I supposed to do if my second grade buddy Paco was just too funny, and my teacher didn’t have a liking for squeaky laughers?)

In much more pleasant news, I think I am making a new friend out of an old acquaintance. I think I’ll just call her B. We are going to attend the Central Indiana Celebration of Women in Computing two weekends from now, and attended the convocation our school held (with speaker Robert Wilkins, Esq. Don’t know who he is? Check out the case Wilkins, et. al. vs. State of Maryland.). She’s nice, and we get along pretty well; we had a nice discussion about the topic of the presentation (racial profiling, primarily) on the way to lunch. She always manages to convince me to do things (like go to CICWIC, or go to the convocation) when I have no intention of doing so by simply saying, “Come on, let’s go to the [insert item here]. It’s important to you because…” and by the time she’s finished her list, I’ve written out the check or am halfway to our auditorium. And she’s a CS major, so she has a quirky sense of humor.

I’m fizzling out, so I’m off to do homework and listen to Peter White, who is the man, by the way.

Oh, and yes, I am going to leave that whole manipulation of people bit as open as I did. I can’t really conclude anything at all, but I still wanted to jot down my thoughts. Hence that title “Everyday Thoughts”…

  • Anonymous

    I’m sure you know that even those that manipulate don’t always do it on purpose, or for their own personnal gain. Sometimes it’s done to maintain things without any degradation in the friendship.

  • Absolutely. But I’m not sure that’s how I always use it, and that disturbs me.

  • Well, wait a minute…

    Even if it’s done to maintain things without any degradation in the friendship, it’s still done on purpose. That should at least be owned up to. And it *is* for personal gain–I want the friendship to continue, so I manipulate a bit. That fits into the category of keeping the cogs in my well-oiled machine of life movin’ along, in my mind.

    Of course, I’m the chica that sees self-interest in all altruistic acts. You do something good for someone or some cause because it makes you feel good to do it, or because you feel good when *they* feel good, etc., etc. I don’t think it cheapens or takes anything at all away from the altruistic act, by any means (or needs to lead to putting “quotes” around altruistic, like that’s not what it really is, anymore), but I think it’s part of being honest about the whole thing.

  • Hannah


    Sorry to be a bitch, but it’s actually VSEPR theory even though we call it “vesper theory”.

  • Yeah, I know. That’s not my only misspelling in that post.

  • Hannah

    Another Comment

    As you know, I share your love of simplifying life by being a bit more honest than most people and refusing to sugar coat, for the most part. If you think about it, it’s not idealistic or ruthless, it’s just streamlining. You can’t like everyone and everyone can’t like you, so who cares? There’s just not that much human energy in the world. Liking someone genuinely requires an interest in his/her life outside of the place you know him/her from–for instance, if you are doing group work with someone, and you really think “Abby” is cool and nice, you might say “hey, let’s go have coffee later” or something. It’s that interest in things not “business” that usually lets me know if someone is merely tolerating me for “business” or actually likes me. But, I guess in the case of shy people I might just found out by asking, instead of being asked. Oh well, my thoughts are just as jumbly as yours, and I don’t want to start a separate journal here on your comments page, but I think you get what I mean. Have fun at CICWIC!!


    I am an evil (am I alllowed to say it here? no disrespect meant, Lissa [cuz its yur blog] or any truly fatherless folk) bastard. For the longest time, I wondered why people I “liked” (or admired, etc.) always ended up being my friend. Well, “i can see clearly now all the ” – yeah. So, the story:
    I was in my RA seminar and we were having a group building activity (mind u this is not the friends part, but…..i dunno maybe i’ll hit on that). There were 5 of us in the seminar, and they put some tape on the carpet in a way that put a “river” (including a little masking tape dead fifh) between us and the…other side of the room. Hokay, so then the faculty wants to observe us as we try to get everyone across without more than a GROUP TOTAL of 3 touches of the water. so the first thing i did was to suggest something, anything, I wanted to show that I would b a contributor, but open to change, so i suggested that someone with a relatively large leg span jump into the river (landing on his feet [i had the largest span, hence his, rather than Pat’s]) with his legs spread and then each person could step on one of the volunteer’s feet then the other, and then hop into the other side. Immediately, before becca or the other two girls could say how that was a good idea/start, this one devilwoman was like, “Idon’tthinkthatwillwork. ” SOOoooOO then I was thinking, (hm, only half the people in this seminar are even going to make into the hiring pool, from where even fewer will actually get a job) “she’s gone.” just to be sure, i immediately suggested 3 or 4 more only semiplausible strategies, each time 2 girls would say yeah, maybe, one girl would say, well that, but like this, and then the one devilwoman fell right in the hole and delivered three consecutive “Idon’tthinkthatwillwork”s making her look like she is negative,and not only that would not offer other options, etc. So I played off of her. This is something I have found that I do a lot. All the time. And for awhile I was like, some bastard, but then I was like, who cares, cuz u have to look out for yourself. MOre on the pretending to or thinking your friends (I dunno bout the love-interest type), I think it’s a bastardly thing to do and that it should b avoided, I think that may be (prolly IS should be here) why I got to know u, so i am greatful for it anyway, but like, last sem 3D comp animation, (KAAaaRMA!) these 3 folk would always have me help them , then would pick on me whil i wasn’t there, damn bastards befirended me while they needed my help. Sorry for ne incoherence, hope it brigthens your day. I still await lissaLaugh.wav