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November 30, 2003

Social Ineptitude

Before the now time, I had always seen myself as socially inept. That is to say, I didn't know how to act in social settings. There were always those around me that just had it. They were alive in social settings. People wanted to be with them, laugh at their jokes, listen intently to their musings. It always seemed that the more I tried, the less successful I was. This was such a big issue to me it caused me to adopt certain habits like rehearsing my conversations before AND after. I am a logical person and as such looked for logical answers. I tried desperately to pinpoint what these people had that I didn't that made them so socially adept.

Recently, I've begun to change my thinking on these matters. What does it mean to be socially adept vs. socially inept? Coming up with a label like social adeptness implies some possible learning or training like one would with a sport. Climbing, for example, is something one can be inept or adept at. Someone who is inept can train and become adept. There are those who are naturally more adept than others, though all climbers were inept at one point, for some amount of time. Is the art of social interaction really like this?

No. At least not as I see it. There ARE those who seem to be naturally better in social situations, but it has nothing to do with being 'better' at anything in particular. My observation is that those who seem more socially adept are merely more confident in social situations. Those who seem to fare the BEST in social situations are those that are both confident and genuine. You can correctly read that to mean one can be confident and fake at the same time. Confidence and genuineness can be measured in degrees. To believe in the above is a bit of a problem since it is so different from what I had previously thought. Its like playing chess against someone who always wins only to find out your opponent was playing a different game the whole time where the better you tried to become at chess the worse you played at the game your opponent was playing. It's also like arguing a point with someone who isn't arguing back. The harder you 'try' the more you lose. The more I believed being adept socially was something that could be learned, the more I tried to learn, the worse I got.

So, if social adeptness isn't something one can 'get better at' (ie. practice), what can be done? It seems as though just being yourself and not caring about social adeptness makes one 'better' in social settings. Logically, I don't know why this is. I can speculate that, like how dogs can sense their master's emotion, people can sense when someone is 'trying'. That act of 'trying' reveals ones lack of confidence. My memories of social situations that went well back up this hypothesis. Those positive experiences were usually with people I was comfortable with where I have no memory of rehearsing, preparing, or trying to make it a better experience. Like any attempt at changing a personal moor, it is a slow process. Frustrating too, finding oneself racing as fast as you can in the wrong direction.

It didn't take much to test the theory. It was easier to test on strangers though, where it didn't matter. I just acted confident. I convinced myself it didn't matter how I acted so I should just act however. These conversations with strangers went exceedingly well. It's another matter to transfer this knowledge to my everyday life. I try, and thus fail. I forget to try, and succeed. Its hard to try and not try. Seems self defeating. Especially since I've grown to accept the 3rd person voice in my heard that provides subtext to everything my first person is thinking. I'll have to cover that in another entry.

Just be yourself. It makes me angry whenever I hear that phrase. Probably because it was so pummeled into me when I was young to where it lost all meaning. It is too overly simplistic to be true. What does it even mean?! A severe weakness of the intelligent is the assumption that problems that seem complex must have a complex answer. Most often, when trying to find a hypothesis, the simple ones are never even considered. Just as often when the simple answers to complex problems are presented, they are dismissed as overly simplistic. Especially when they infer some commonality between oneself and others. My situation is unique! It is!. No I mean it, I'm not being sarcastic, it is! Of course, believing my situation to be unique does not mean there are no commonalities. Our perception of those commonalities often differ though. In as far as perception is our reality, our experience is unique. We need to see past our perceived differences of our commonalities in order to find answers. Easier said than done.

Humans scream for identity. The mere thought of being 'like everyone else' is repulsive. When I was young, my parents told me everyone else in school had the same problems I did. Nothing made me more angry. Yet we also crave acceptance, and often rely on emulation to gain that acceptance. This paradox of desires is likely one of the root causes of our confused personal identity. This confusion manifests itself in our social ineptness. We are caught somewhere between trying to be ourselves and trying to be accepted. It is all self-defeating and quickly turns into a negative feedback loop. We lack confidence in social settings not knowing who to be. That lack of confidence causes us to 'try' in social settings. Others perceive our lack of confidence, which makes us less socially desirable. We pick up on their judgment and use it as proof of our believed social ineptitude, causing us to 'try' that much harder. And the cycle begins again. Different night, different people, same result. How many times have I asked myself, "What should I say?" The only break to the cycle is when we are surrounded by those we trust intimately. They already know who we are, so there is no need to try to be anything else. What can be particularly damning is when we go from spending lots of time with those we trust, to spending little time with those we know that well. It doesn't make sense why things were going so well before, but are going so badly now. It is even more difficult when we find ourselves surrounded by others who know each other intimately, but do not that share that relationship with us. All of the members seem so socially adept. They all know what to say at just the right time. They all seem so confident, while we struggle to interject into the conversation without it sounding contrived. It is their intimacy with each other that lets them 'be themselves' and not 'try', thus making them successful. It is our lack of intimacy, combined with our lack of confidence that betrays us.

Final thoughts. So what am I going to do with this information? The first step is to acknowledge, repeat and solidify the idea that social adeptness is an illusion. The second step is to believe myself to be more self confident and act on that belief. This last point may seem like circular reasoning, but I will explain myself in a followup post entitled, "Feedback Loops" that has already been written. Just be yourself may be overly simplistic, but it may also be more right than wrong. Of course, if I'm right, knowing oneself is a crucial element to success.

Posted by wonko at 11:30 PM | Comments (21) | TrackBack

Thanksgiving '03

Thanksgiving, or any major holiday for that matter, is a strange time where I live. Our town is overrun by tourists who seem to forget they are on vacation. They also seem to assume that there is no need to use turn signals in a small town. If you live in my town, you probably work on Thanksgiving. You probably work on Christmas as well. As such, holidays usually do not feel like holidays. Despite these facts, this was a very fun and festive Thanksgiving for me.

A bunch of my friends and I decided to have a big Thanksgiving potluck dinner at my place. We decided to start the festivities after 9pm as most people got off at either 9 or 10. I was lucky enough to get off at 4pm (after having opened at 7am). After work, my roommate Eric and I proceeded to fry an entire 12lb turkey in a giant 30 quart deep frier Sarah and I picked up on our way back from SF. It was delicate, sometimes dangerous, work. Luckily, Eric volunteered for the dangerous task of lowering the turkey into the giant pot. 45 minutes later, the turkey was done. I can honestly say it was by far the best turkey I've ever eaten.

Besides the turkey, the 15 people who came brought all their special dishes. We had a second 16lb turkey, stuffed mushrooms, mashed potatoes, multiple sweet potato dishes, a string bean dish, rolls, squash, and lots of fine drink including a well aged Port. By midnight after all the eating and drinking was done, I was practically in a coma, which did not bode well for me as I had to open at 7am the next morning. Alas, I dragged myself into work on time, if not fully capable.

It was a wonderful Thanksgiving surrounded by good friends. I'm sure this will become a tradition as long as I live in a place where I can't leave for the holidays.

Happy Thanksgiving

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On the road again: LA

I'm in LA for a couple days for Sarah and Kris's birthday. We're having a party at a bowling alley in Hollywood. Did I mention I like to travel?

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November 26, 2003


I have regressed a bit since my trip to AZ. I justified going back to 'normal' life with excuses relating to obligation. I have a job and deserve time away from that job to snowboard, ice climb or whatever. Going back to my analogy of going between two worlds. Once I stopped pushing towards the new world, I quickly started getting pulled back towards the old. Put differently, momentum can carry you a long way unless you are headed up a steep hill, in which case you may not even feel the affects of momentum. This was definitely what happened in my case. That being said, I have an acute feeling that 'the experiment' is in fact the most important thing I can be doing at this time. Work is necessary, but many years from now, the work I am doing for them will not even be remembered. I am looking ahead and pointing my bat in the direction I hope to hit towards. I must keep vigilant on my journey though, less I fall back into everyday stagnation. Traveling helps me keep focused for some reason. I've done quite a bit of writing on this last trip, most of which is ready to post. I won't post it all at once as few people can read War & Peace on a daily basis. Most importantly, I'm back on the case. I'll probably fall off the wagon again and I do request my friends loudly proclaim when I have as knowing and doing are almost always separate beasts.

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San Francisco, European Style.

Sarah and I came to SF for Sarah's brother Ben's wedding. He married Nina who had moved to SF from Zurich, Switzerland. A number of her friends came representing a number of different countries like India, Italy, France, Germany, Switzerland, etc... It was very enlightening speaking to such a diverse group of people. I will be writing about it over the next couple days assuming the holiday's in Mammoth don't kill me. I am not going to limit myself on the length of my posts, but I will start using the 'extended' feature to limit download time. Please be aware that some of these posts have a link at the bottom of them to read the rest.

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November 20, 2003

I'm in SF and online!

Sarah and I made it safely to SF and I've managed to get dialup working. Too bad all hotels don't have high speed net. I probably won't be online much, but I will be checking email. I've started writing some blog entries on the way that I hope to post soon.

The drive was absolutely beautiful. Going through Tahoe on the 50 was gorgeous. Fall leaves under snow capped peaks. It was quite picturesque.

Posted by wonko at 08:32 PM

November 19, 2003

Off again... to SF

Sarah and I are leaving for San Francisco in the morning. We're going for Sarah's brother Ben's wedding. We're coming back on Tuesday. I love SF, its a great city. I'm definitely looking forward to spending some time there. It will also be nice to have some time to spend with my wife. Its likely I won't be updating until I get back.

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November 18, 2003

The car chase that wasn't

I was driving home from Phoenix when I caught "This American Life" on the local PRI station. I miss NPR/PRI quite a bit. The theme of the show was Like it Or Not, stories of inevitability. There were a number of interesting stories, but one in particular was just amazing. It was about a car chase in LA that was unlike any other car chase. It started like many car chases. The driver had a minor fender bender with another car and just decided to keep driving. Cops started pursuing him, lights flashing, helicopter following. The driver was obeying all traffic laws. He was well within the speed limit, he was stopping at all lights and stop signs. He was doing everything legit, except not stopping for the cops. The police chief decided the safest course of action would be to just let him go. They had his license plate number and knew who he was and where he lived. They figured he'd go home eventually. So, all the cops backed off. At this point, all the news media, having nothing further to report, backed off as well. That is, except KCAL. They decided to keep running the 'chase' because their ratings are 4x better while covering their weekly car chase. So they continued following, in their helicopter, on live TV, while a car, with no police chasing it, kept driving aimlessly, all the while, without breaking any laws or for that matter, making any other moves which would be newsworthy. The 2 news reporters covering the event quickly lost track of things to talk about. After 4 hours, at one point, one of them commented that the car must have very good gas mileage. They talked about how undercover cops must be following, though they weren't.

The car entered Inglewood and 2 rogue cops who were mad that they police were letting them go, decided to start following him. They followed him until their police chief, who had seem them following the guy on the news, told them to stop. Finally, the guys car started running out of gas and pulled over. Turns out, he thought he was being followed the whole time. He was surprised when no cops came up after he stopped. He was just pulled over. At this point, the wife of one of the Inglewood policeman who was following him, called to tell him the cops were looking dumb. They looked like they just let the guy go. So they drove to the car where the guy got out and gave himself up, without a fuss.

Years later, the lady doing the piece for This American Life, interviewed the guy. It was the first time the media had ever tried to contact him. His story: He had closed some big deal at work. To celebrate he went to some hotel and did some coke. When he was leaving he had the VERY minor fender bender. He knew the cops were following him and at no point did he think he'd get away. He had NO plan. His only thought was to drive until he was a little less noticeably high. At no point did he even realize they had stopped chasing him. Probably because he never thought he'd get away.

For four hours, thousands of people watched a car drive around LA, obeying every law. Still people couldn't change the channel. Its a crazy world we live in.

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November 17, 2003

Ice Climbing

I'm headed out to go ice climbing for the first time this season. It'll take a while to get back into it, but I am excited.

Posted by wonko at 10:18 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

November 16, 2003

What does that have to do with the price of soda in Japan?

On Friday night there was a big party sponsored by the store I work at, and some other brands. I didn't stay too late, but did my damage. The next morn, I had to open at 7am, which I did. To facilitate the waking process I decided to go to our local beanery, "The Looney Bean" and buy some tea. In an instant I realized the absurdity of them charging wildly different prices for difference sizes of the same tea. No matter what size you ordered, they just handed you a cup and a tea bag. You filled it with hot water. At least with a larger coffee, it requires more beans.

As I was leaving I was reminded of something I saw on my trip to Japan in 97. There were tons of vending machines everywhere offering everything you could imagine. I walked up to a soda machine and noticed they had multiple sizes of coke for sale. The crazy part was that the two sizes of coke had the same price. I stared for an eternity trying to figure out what madness this was. Was it a trick? Why wouldn't everyone just buy the larger one? Do the locals really buy the smaller one just because they think they might not finish the larger one? Certainly, if that machine were America, everyone would buy the larger one. I knew that to be true, but didn't know why. I know an American would never think to buy the smaller one because he couldn't finish the big one. An American would buy the big one and save the unfinished portion for later. Was it because American's are cynical and always think corporations are screwing them, thus they take as much as they can? Is it because American's always think more is better? Is it a selfish thing? I still don't know. Anyone have any thoughts?

Posted by wonko at 11:40 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

November 15, 2003

Trading spaces...

Its funny how when I was blogging religiously, Obigabu was slacking, but now that I'm slacking, he's back at it. If you feel even the slightest bit slighted by my lack of attention, I suggest you check out Intangibles in Decrescendo.

Posted by wonko at 09:12 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

You guys are stupid (.com)

This is pretty funny. I like their style. Click on the Route Map. Its slightly less mileage than the PCT, but I get the feeling these guys aren't your normal outdoorsy types. I bet they don't make it.

Posted by wonko at 09:11 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 10, 2003

Broken Email Notification

For those of you who get email notifications, it was broken for a while during the server upgrade. Just warning you that there are new entries for this month that you would not have received a notification for.

Posted by wonko at 05:31 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The Art of Worldy Wisdom

I recently purchased this small pocket book which is packed full of interesting aphorisms. I'll be posting them as I find them.
I found this one particularly fascinating.
"Nothing really belongs to us but time. which you have even if you have nothing else." [#247]

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November 07, 2003

The Meatrix

As mentioned on Life on Mars, I give you The Meatrix.

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November 06, 2003

Snowboarding as salvation...

As I've mentioned before, living in Mammoth is a strange thing. The anticipation of this very day by so many residents is definitely one of those things that makes this town strange. Today was opening day on the Mountain. The first day we could get back on a lift and ride down without breaking a sweat. Mind you, only 1 chair was open and 2 runs (one on either side), but that didn't stop the whole town from showing up. Summer's are great here, but as far as money goes, its the dry time. By this time of year, most of the worker residents are dirt poor, with barely enough money to pay rent. Its times like these that try a man's soul. The anticipation of riding again is more than just a playful wish for the return of a fun activity. It is anticipation of a time when all ones problems will fade away under a blanket of fresh powder. It is THE solution to all one's particular, immediate problems. Once you're on that hill flying down, nothing else matters. For many, from now until June when there's no more snow to be ridden, nothing else matters. In this sense, those who had a rough summer, or at least are in a rough spot for one reason or another see today as the second coming. You may think I'm exaggerating, but I'm not. Can't pay you're bills? No problem, you can still ride. Not sure what you're going to do with the rest of your life? For the next 6-8 months, the issue will not surface in your mind.

I took my first hesitant turns of the season today. It only took a short amount of time before I was rocketing down the hill carving big Ss in the snow. While I am not as zealous about boarding as many of the locals, I have to admit there is a little of that feeling for me as well. I remember all the fun I had last year and how nothing mattered while I was out slaying the mountain. I have many goals in my life, and it will be a struggle to keep them above water (or snow as it were) when there is that much fun to be had so readily.

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November 05, 2003

Poor Tax Part II: Health Care

As I alluded to in my last entry, Health Care is one of the worst of the poor taxes. It is getting harder and harder for individuals to afford their own health care. This was less of a problem when you could be assured that slaving for a large company would yield satisfactory health insurance. That just isn't the case anymore. 35% of those without health care work for large companies. Unfortunately, companies of all sizes are beginning to rethink their health care benefits. Health care has increased in cost over 40% in the last 10 years making it difficult for companies to afford health insurance for its employees. There is a lot of truth to their claim. However, it is also safe to assume many companies who COULD afford health insurance for its employees are taking the easy way out. Until recently, it was considered very bad form to not provide health care for your workers. Due to the rising cost of health care, this stigma has lifted and companies are free to take the cheap way out. Most companies who do not provide health care COULD provide some coverage or at least some cost sharing.

The modern American Dream at its least duplicitous is about starting your own business, being your own boss. During the 90s the nightly news would do exposes on people who were successfully working out of the home while rising their kids. The inaccessibility of health care for small business and individuals has made this proposition far less appealing. Most of us have had something wrong with us that required we go to the doctor. Think you can get health insurance after that minor knee surgery that you've 100% recovered from? No, I've tried. I had knee surgery 4 years ago and haven't had any trouble with it in 3 years. However, the fact that I had surgery meant I have a pre-existing condition. When I went looking for health insurance, I found no one would even give me a ridiculous quite, they just said they wouldn't cover me.

I used to be fully against a government health care, arguing that the government spends more and screws up everything they do. However, what do we do when private health care just won't cover a huge portion of our population? Do we just keep making laws to further regulate the health insurance industry? At some point, you end up with so many laws, the job of enforcing those laws becomes more expensive than if the government were to just take it over. What's the difference between massive government regulation/enforcement and government run? The fact the the government is full of pork and corruption is a wholly separate issue. To me it seems the solution isn't to try and take as much from the government as we can because we don't trust them. Since we rely on them for so much anyway, it seems the solution is to try and fix government.

Back to the idea of Health Care being another poor tax. This is one area that I do not think the non-rich will stand for for long. As the health care tax encroaches on the powerful middle-class, they will not stand idly by with those who have getting health care while those who don't have get sick and die. I heard a report recently that boggled my mind. It talked about the epidemic in America of excessive health care. Their study claimed that those who had too much access to health care were more likely to die younger than those who had less health care. Worse, there was a huge percentage of the population that had this fatal excessive health care. To me, this sounds like the tobacco industry saying cigarettes are healthy after-all. I wonder who paid for this study? I mean, obviously, now that we know this new information, its good that people don't have as much health care right?

Those who don't have enough to provide the minimum of health care for their children will not stand idly by while the those who are more fortunate are taken care of. The rich had the poor fooled into thinking it was enough to live in this great country. Now the poor will hear what they're really saying,
"Let them eat cake!"

Posted by wonko at 10:03 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

November 04, 2003

Jobless recovery.

I was watching CNN when I heard a phrase that befuddled me. "While we will have an economic recovery, it may just be a jobless recovery." I'm paraphrasing. What is a jobless recovery? Just after the gentleman stated that, the ticker at the bottom of the screen scrolled some facts by.

- "35% of people without health insurance work for large companies."
- "The cost of college has gone up 40% in the last 10 years."

The jobless recovery statement was made after a discussion on the world trend towards fewer manufacturing jobs. It seems as though a jobless recovery means that those that already had will get more while those without, won't. All of this flies in the face of trickle down economics of course. How can the rich make more without dragging up the poor. Quite easily, it seems.

There is an ongoing debate on how much more the rich should be taxed. Reagonomics, aka trickle down economics, says that the more money the rich spends, the better the economy in general. The argument goes that it is the middle class and lower who benefit when the rich spend money. So, by lowering or at least not raising their taxes, they'll have more money to spend, which will just help the poor. I do not think this works, but that is irrelevant because it seems that the poor are taxed more while the rich less and less.

How are the rich taxed less you might ask? Lower or removing taxes on capital gains, and investment dividends affects the rich more than the poor.

Ok, but how are the poor being taxed more? This one is less obvious. In California the cost to renew ones license tripled. Who does this affect more? Everyone pays, but it is a far greater percentage of a poor persons income than a rich persons. I own a 95 Nissan Pathfinder. It used to cost under $100 to register. Now it is $240. That is a lot of money. Gas has become a poor tax as well. It is so absurdly expensive, it affects the poor far more than the rich. You could argue that the govt has little control over how much gas costs, but I beg to differ. Their involvement may be more convoluted, but they are certainly involved. Remember that many of the heads of our current administration come from big oil including our commander and chief.

I am not a conspiracy theorist. Its always more simple than that. People are selfish, they crave money and power. People will generally do what gives them more of those things, even at the expense of others. No conspiracy is needed.

Posted by wonko at 11:11 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

November 02, 2003

New Server!

Finally, I've gotten the new server up. Hopefully this will mean more uptime for this site and my email. I'm just glad to be mostly done.

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