Messages from a variety of sources have been urging me to maximize my enjoyment of my current location and position in life, and to be cautious in not unnecessarily limiting myself in terms of experience both personal and professional.  A recent horoscope pointed out that it is an ideal time to bring more balance by enhancing my professional stature.  I must say that, given the amount of enjoyment I have wrung from my free time for the past several months (and planned for the next few), it probably is time to buckle down and absorb some professionally-useful technological knowledge so I can feel as if I am at least remaining current with whatever industry I think now best fits my aptitude (attitude be damned).

As I mentioned to my boss when we were comparing personal notes on last Friday morning (and also a dead horse I have surely beaten to paste in this blog by now), almost everything anyone else can see about my life –except my job– has changed radically over the past few years.  I am hopeful that my job will remain steady for the foreseeable future, as well as thankful that I am reaching the point in my narrative in which I can no longer use the distraction of any of my personal goings-on as an excuse to not focus on some level of professional growth.  That said, I write enough about work at work, so this blog will rarely deal with rows and columns, table names, data types, transformation scripts, nor the various means of Getting Things Done that I should probably adopt.  Work to live, not live to work, amiright, amiright?

I know people who spend their free time getting excited about new software development technologies, who complain (to other people who secretly don’t care, I hope) that they can’t get Spotify’s newest beta client to run on their alpha-release Linux-variant deployment, and who like their phone to tell them whenever someone on their extended social circles passes gas within earshot of the coffee shop they’re currently in, but I am not one of them.  In fact, I tend of late to have more of an adversarial relationship with technology than one that involves early adoption –or even much of an embrace.  It is especially irksome that the problems typically manifest in areas of my workflow that have been working perfectly fine for years, using software tools whose provider has suddenly deemed worthy of a new and horrible look-and-feel to enhance the “user experience.”Chris Ware is not a replicant.

The combination of the new Windows OS and the new Office “productivity” suite at work has done more to foil me than to facilitate visible progress.  My Outlook email application now has three different Sent folders.  One is empty, one contains 2 copies of everything I have sent, and another contains only one copy of only some things I have sent.  Outside of work, Facebook’s finally forced my account to use the new messaging system that seems to really want me to Chat and also to pipe all my FB messaging activity via txt to my phone.  MyYahoo, which I’ve used for longer than I care to admit as a personal Internet launch pad / RSS reader and e-commerce oriented email, now makes me tell it every fucking day that I don’t want to play Fishville or have my FB wall integrated into my RSS feed –and it’s been trying to politely tell/nudge me for months that it is going to drag me into using its new webmail interface by the middle of this month whether I ever finally click OK to agree or not.

The more often I have to squint to see the squiggly and warped phrases with lines and cross-hatching across them so that I can key them back in to a text box on Ticketmaster’s reCAPTCHA system and be deemed human enough to buy tickets to a concert or a hockey game, the more often I am reminded of the Voight-Kampf test (scene from Blade Runner), designed to help the administrator determine if the subject was human or an android replicant.  The other day when Wilco tickets went on sale, I finally got the Ticketmaster system to tell me that I was human enough to successfully select and pay for 2 tickets, but by the time I had ruined my vision and exhausted my patience with trying to re-type something I cannot visually discern, I was just too irritated to believe the show would be worth the hassle (no offense, Wilco), so I clicked Cancel and let the show sell out instead.  (Good thing I’ve seen them 5 times before!)  You get the idea.

So, couple what you just read with this: Now that I am down to such a small circle of local friends, I have also been thinking that it would be smart to expand my social scene a bit, and that exploring a preference-matching profile-driven online dating service may be a valid way to do that.  I have never done anything like this before, but I kind of figured how the software would work, based on having used preference-matching type services for music recommendations, etc.

What I didn’t expect was how much attention I was going to pay to the construction of the actual profile questions and the wording of the multiple-choice response options, nor how easy it was going to be to weed out huge populations of prospects simply by glancing at their choice of username (e.g., KeptNoMore, I-Wud-Bi-4-U, DaddyzBadGrrl, PssDoff, Want2BHappySoon) –not to mention the stuff they choose to put in the written portion of their profile.

The written profile can be a huge time-saver if used properly.  For example, one woman’s profile actually stated that she prefers her partners be so physically fit that, even if all other factors indicate a strong likelihood of a mutually perfect match in all other areas, “if I can outrun you, I probably will.”  She didn’t say this to me personally, but it’s very convenient to know in advance that she would if I were to make the mistake of attempting an introduction.  In the system’s defense, I saw that woman’s profile because as a noob I accidentally clicked outside the Recommended Matches list in response to some message-y thing from someone who I am sure is nice, but who is also a bi-sexual married chick who “likes Christian rock and heavy heavy metal”, and was wondering if I had more pictures.

Then there are the people women who have two profiles that are similar enough that both show up in the recommendation list.  I have no idea why someone would do this other than as an admission to themselves and others that they suffer from (or possibly embrace) schizophrenia.  This happened twice within my first two weeks of having an account on the system:

  • one is a woman who I already know from other common interests, who has proven to take much more than she gives and also to have poor control over what she says to others about others;
  • the other is an Asian woman (or at least her photos for each profile are slightly different photos of the same Asian woman) whose one username begins with Sweet and whose other of which begins with Spicy.  Both are better than Sour, though, right?

So, when I first started clicking to answer the profile-matching questions, I noticed that some of the questions are generated by the service, and others are submitted by other users of the system.  I quickly began thinking You know, there are some questions that I’m just not going to answer into a web-based form to remain in an online database in perpetuity.  Then I became just as interested in trying to imagine what some of the users who created the user-created questions must actually be like, and what (if anything) their question says about their proclivities, and whether those proclivities were actually real or imagined as part of the persona they’re portraying while using the service.

So next I’m thinking surely the Voight-Kampf test must make use of the sequencing of the questions.  Here is the exact sequence in which I was presented with a couple of interesting questions for my profile:

Do you use a fresh towel to dry off after each shower, or is it okay to re-use the same towel for a while before washing it?

Would you consider cutting your partner during sex if they asked you to?

Would you consider performing anilingus on your partner if they asked you to?

followed immediately by

When you brush your teeth, do you brush your tongue?

Wait, can I go back and answer the question about the towels again?

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I receive an email (sometimes two) each morning from a photographer who pairs one of his photos with a couple of positive quotes from various philosophical sources.  These come at roughly the same time each day, and usually on M-F at a time when my day’s to-do list has just gotten either nearer to the cannot-all-be-done-today level or has started to make me dread the arrival of one more email.  Here’s a recent one:

Perhaps the deepest reason why we are afraid of death is because we do not know who we are. We believe in a personal, unique and separate identity; but if we dare to examine it, we find that this identity depends entirely on an endless collection of things to prop it up; our name, our ‘biography’, our partners, family, home, friends, credit cards…It is on their fragile and transient support that we rely for our security.

-Sogyal Rinpoche

When I got that email, I was listening to Alice Cooper’s “We’re All Clones”, which I have attached below for your clicking pleasure.

Following the reasoning of Mr. Rinpoche, some of the more interesting things I’ve used to prop up my identity lately include:

  • Participating in the comparison and contrast of Marilyn Manson and Gene Simmons (with nods also to Alice Cooper and Rob Zombie) as rock-and-roll icons and commercial entities, over cheeseburgers one of my new favorite dive bars.  Seeing a rich variety of top-shelf musicians and high-quality people in a few others.
  • Getting tickets to the Ellnora Guitar Festival, which I am hopeful will constitute a very nice and much-needed vacation, as well as for jazz legend Sonny Rollins.
  • Arguing for things and actions I never figured I’d ever advocate (and many more that I wish more Americans would find obvious), some of which mark me as highly altruistic and some of which mark me as extremely cynical and darker than I care to admit.
  • Helping my son prepare for culinary school and beyond, hopefully in a manner that is giving proper credence to gratitude.
  • Manning the light switch at the magnificent Dyer Observatory to provide light/darkness at the appropriate moments during the laser-assisted alignment of a new sundial to the North Celestial Pole.  It was also the only of about 10 visits to Dyer that was on a night clear enough to actually use the telescopes, so I got near-optimum viewing of M13 –not the Mexican drug gang, the cluster of stars 27,000 light-years away and once thought to be a comet.
  • Getting to interrupt a renowned Australian scientist just long enough to cause him to get “out of the zone” to meet some nobodys while he was otherwise nearly done calibrating the world’s first University-operated browser-based robotic telescope.
  • Getting a new tattoo, below.
Owl tattoo.

My new distinguishing mark.

I want more life, fucker.

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