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The Pressure of Existence

In lieu of having gotten enough sleep to say anything interesting today, even after two cups of coffee, I’m just going to post a little exchange between two characters in my primary novel-in-progress. I’m not sure if this is a good idea at all, but I thought about it as Greg was criticizing my Uno game for being very unstrategic. Blackman is a human lady visiting and studying U’look, an alien with a rather different way of perceiving time.

Blackman: We haven’t seen your people play strategy games, U’look. Do you have strategy games?

U’look: Of course, we had and have concepts of strategy.

Blackman: But do you have games? Ways to test strategy with no long-lasting effects?

U’look: All things have and had and will have long-lasting effects. We have always been and are strategic, but it is never a game.

Blackman: So you never play in a lighthearted way?

U’look: Such a thing would be sick, Nilara. One cannot play lightly with existence.

I’m over capacity in terms of personal workload and actually feeling a bit stressed. Since leaving teaching, I’ve always found it silly to be stressed about work (although I do it anyway). Healthy stress that keeps me moving, yes, but I’ve never done anything–college included–as heartrendingly stressful as teaching. To find my heart rate up and my sleep restless about finishing a recreational project is startling. Can’t say I’m a fan.

I want there to either be more hours in the day or for me to need less of them for sleep. A common desire, I’m sure.

Weekly linkage

This week’s internet cruising:

Keep Telling the Difficult Stories

I had dinner with some friends about a week ago, and I retold (part of) a story that I’d been told of a painful in vitro experience that included the selective culling of some of the fertilized eggs. I hadn’t thought twice about it–if you go shopping for one kid and end up with four (!!) fertilized eggs and the doctor offers to cull the herd in a standard (albeit risky) procedure, there’s little issue with taking said option.

My nurse friend didn’t say anything, but she got a look on her face. Oops? The word “abortion” never even crossed my mind as a label for that until I saw her face.

We didn’t have a discussion about it, alas, but I mentioned the situation to a woman I work with, and we had this exchange:

Her: I probably wouldn’t have shared that story.

Me: Why not?

Her: That’s too personal.

The more I thought about it, the more I was bothered by that response. How can we learn about these experiences if we don’t hear them? I’ve been strongly impacted over the years by stories I’ve read on blogs and heard in person of (later-term than the above) abortion experiences, IUD insertion procedures, growing out of broken homes, rising out of financial ruin, etc. The original teller (a single mom, no less) wasn’t keeping it secret; it was her body that had suffered, and she told it in a fairly public forum. It was very brave of her. I was standing there listening, fighting severe light-headedness at her descriptions of the medical procedures and pain. I didn’t retell those details.

It’s these personal stories that change our perspectives and let us give proper informed consent to things. I’d probably think abortion of a fetus was only as simple as painlessly taking a pill if not for the personal stories women were strong enough to tell. I’d never once thought in vitro would be an unpleasant experience. I’d never have thought getting an IUD would be so painful until I got my own. Thinking in retrospect, of course, I can say, “Yes, you have to cramp the baby out. Yes, they’re inducing a lot of ovulation. Yes, they’re stretching your cervix wider than a non-mother has likely ever had it stretched.”

I’m a little sorry for making a friend uncomfortable, although I wish we could have had a discussion about her discomfort and figured out the source of it.

Weekly linkage

This week’s internet cruising:

  • How to keep someone with you forever – "You create a sick system." I wanted to cry when I read this.
  • Looking Back — Discord&Rhyme – "To be successful at bootstrapping, you have to cut every feature except those you think are absolutely necessary. Then you cut some that you thought that you absolutely had to have. You compromise your design because you need to get the product to market. You ignore automated testing and documentation because your code is too unstable to be held back by rigorous processes."
  • Launching beta, or “How to decide when and where to cut corners”
  • 200+ Seamless Patterns Perfect for Website Backgrounds – Pretty! They're a bit busy, but I think they could be used tastefully.
  • Statement by Apple on App Store Review Guidelines – Courtesy of Greg. Apple seems to be getting off their high horse with regards to development tools. I'm not sure yet if this means I'll be springing for Plants vs. Zombies on the iPhone.
  • These Dance Moves Are Irresistible – ScienceNOW – Courtesy of Michael. "The most important factor to the women was how much the man moved his head, neck, and torso, the researchers will report online tomorrow in Biology Letters." This is a really cool-sounding study. Thinking about the types of dancing I like to watch and see done well–hip-hop, even bellydance–I like fancy foot-work, but tight (pop and lock) torso and head movements do draw my eye more. Flailing arms are just hilarious.
  • Action Not Words: The Difference Between Talkers and Doers – Wonderfully (and miserably) timely for me. The last few weeks for me have been very slothful (as evidenced by the lack of posts here), with correspondence and projects piling up while I squander my time. I've taken to returning to my 3 Most Important Things per day. If I get nothing else done in a day, I will get whatever those three things are done. I know from experience that having the 3 MITs builds momentum so that I'll rarely only ever get those three things done.
  • We’re Not Paid To Write Code – This is a really well-written article on how we're paid to deliver a product, not sling code. This is a hard-won lesson for every comp sci major worth their weight I've ever met in their first 2 years out of college, myself included. I'm still not great at balancing quality vs. out-the-doorness on personal projects, but I've learned a lot more about what's acceptable business-wise.

I don’t use too many tabs!

No story last weekend — I apologize! One will be up this weekend, and I’ll be sticking with the Witches of Ming Ung until it’s done. I think it’s confusing to keep switching back and forth, especially since Witches is a serial plot (whereas Transhuman Congress jumps around).

I’ve been in the world of software development for a hot minute now, starting in the high school classroom, through an internship at a startup, to doing fast-paced client work, and now to big corp. One thing I’ve consistently found time and time again, is a correlation between computer UI usage skills and problem-solving efficiency. This is all anecdotal, of course.
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