sidebar 2005.05.01
"Just like high fructose corn syrup, distraction is package in a mind-numbing variety of eye-catching ways, all of which are bad for you."

This might be a bit of self-serving, after-the-fact cart-before-the-horse rationalization on my part, but have you ever considred maybe those distractions are part of the point? A chunk of what makes life worth while? On my 4/28 entry, I talk about people finding what's "axiomatically good" for them, and for me those "distractions" fall into my axiomatic good of "interesting".

Counter point, maybe I'm better at selecting distractions than you...I tend to avoid level grinder games and 1000 page novels, because I weigh everything on its "Interesting Stuff to Time Needed" ratio. Cryptinomicon was a good book, but was not worth the amount of time it took me.

In fact, I'd argue it's those little tasks which are the real distractions, which is why I often risk over-minimizing the effort I put into them.

My doctor/yoga instructor is quite a polymath, pretty deep into a variety of sports and being a musician and a bunch of other stuff...I asked him the "how do you have time for all that" and he said part of it is he only sleeps 6 hours a night. I wish I could do that and not feel ill effects.

Nice sidebar...makes me happy I put in the code to recaption it on a per-author basis.
--Kirk Mon May 2 01:05:17 2005
I like lots of sleep. I also like distraction. I like to produce distraction that provides for deeper thought. I'm writing a novel and a thesis. It kind of feels like it gives me a purpose beyond consuming other people's distractions. But I wonder if it's more than just distraction. After all, don't people communicate a lot through Simpson's references?

I guess it's also kind of like an article I read that, at least, stoners use the word "Dude" not as an expression of a thought or emotion but as something of a "binding" expression, like "Hey, we understand what dude means to us, so we understand each other." It's kind of circular, but I guess it's like that word black people say to each other but I wouldn't say because I'm not black, and if I did in front of a black guy, he'd kick my ass or at least give me this look, but to them, they can see it to each other and it's like a sign of affection.

I think Kirk may have talked about something like this in his entry about how he views himself as someone into middle culture or something like that rather than high or low culture.

But anyway, I think I may being going deeper than I need to. I guess I kind of see these forms of distraction as a form of both engaging in the expression of a subculture and also an expression of ourselves.

That's just some thoughts off the top of my head.
--Mr. Lex Mon May 2 17:06:05 2005
Lex, re: "Dude" -- last December I wrote a finding that sometimes "Dude" is "cool solidarity" "in group" thing like you say, but it's also a bit distancing, which might be a bit of homophobia:
--Kirk Mon May 2 17:11:30 2005
But just how connected is the "Dude" to the actual non-intimate contact? I know plenty of people who don't say "Dude" who act the same way and plenty of people who say "Dude" who do act pretty affectionate. Just my social science mind thinking and before following any kind of hypothesis, want more quantitative evidence. =D

Thanks for the reminder, though.
--Mr. Lex Mon May 2 17:24:19 2005
Well, obviously not everyone who acts that way is going to say Dude...
I suspect there's a spectrum of use of the word "Dude", like most other seems like it might create closeness/informality with people whose name you might not know, but a little bit of emotional distance (read, friendliness without seeming "gay") to people whose first names you absolutely know.
--Kirk Mon May 2 17:30:31 2005
That's possible.

As for Evil's post, what do you mean by success when it comes to these distractions, anyway?
--Mr. Lex Mon May 2 17:33:57 2005
Of my friends who are doing financially well, almost all have tied their money to their distractions. 

The investors love money, and will stay up till 3am regularly grinding on research.

The lawyers love the law and obsess over nuance. 

The computer geeks who do well get done with a 12 hour day, then come home and code. 

These are the people I know who have done well financially. 
----Evil B Mon May 2 21:49:12 2005
So does distractions = interests?? In that case, I don't think it's proper to call 'em distractions any more. 

Still don't know what you mean by shorter but deeper for the cycle.
--Kirk Mon May 2 23:19:23 2005
What do these distractions distract against, anyway? The emptiness of existence and the metaphysical pointlessness of everyday life? The insecurities we hold and alienation from the Whole of Being? Knowing ourselves? or something else?
--Mr. Lex Tue May 3 09:29:46 2005
What this really boils down to is how much my world view is at 90 degrees to the reality of every day life. I have a 1950's understanding of manhood, which is heavily rooted in immediate personal responsibility.
You are supposed to be able to take care of yourself:  wash your own clothes, cook your own food (yes that includes killing or growing it), manage your own finances, etc. Interdependency is fine, so long as you are farming out tasks you understand.  But paying good money for something you could do yourself is wasteful. 

Turns out, 90% of that is horseshit. In all the cases I mentioned above, the people who have done well are largely dysfunctional outside of their field. God help you if you asked the lawyer to cook, the financial whiz to clean up after himself, or the computer geek to do anything remotely healthy. In the world view that has been beaten into me since childhood they are overspecialized. 
But I am wrong, they did the right thing for success, they followed what they loved. I did the wrong thing and tried to be a man of all seasons and ended up being the guy wearing the parka with the swimming trunks :)

----Evil b Tue May 3 09:58:14 2005
Evil B-
It's a good bit of analysis there. There is something strongly compelling about the Heinlein "Specialization is for insects" / laundry list of things a person should be able to do...but it seems like these days, in practice, specialization is key, at least for being able to get the big bucks. If the lawyer can dine out, the financial whiz hire a maid service, and the geek...well, whatever (incidentally there are some healthy geeks, but they tend to be obsessive / geeky about it), then they can use that universal agent money to make up for the deficiencies in their lives.

It all comes down to communications. It's a twist on what Kurt Vonnegut points out in "Bluebeard", "A moderately gifted person who would have been a community treasure a thousand years ago has to give up, has to go into some other line of work, since modern communications puts him or her into daily competition with nothing but the world's champions." The easiest way to compete, then, is to focus, devote your energy in one direction and hopefully the rest will find a reasonable balance. But conversely, or synergistically, other increases in communication make it easier to connect with the people who can make up for the lacks.

Still don't know what you mean by shorter but deeper for the cycle. Sleep? Something bigger?

--Kirk Tue May 3 11:51:07 2005
Are you bored?

Also, I don't know why, but I always kind of thought that the over specialization thing started really happening in the 40's and 50's. I would think that more of that man does everything thinking is more of a 19th-century thing, which I'm totally, "Cool! I'm down with moving into the woods and doing this back to nature type of stuff," even though I'd probably want more of a communitarian bent with a rotation of responsibilities/jobs, so I don't have to do everything at once but can know how to do everything. That would be interesting.
--Mr. Lex Tue May 3 11:51:49 2005
Heh...arguably it had some of its start with Henry Ford and the rise of the assembly line... don't know if that holds up or not.

Anyway, I couldn't stand that woodsy life. None of the stuff I find Interesting is there. Like Socrates said, "Talking and listening to the people in this marketplace is the best way to learn. The trees in the countryside can teach me nothing." That might be overstating it - you can "learn" from a tree but it's damnably difficult - but I know what he means.
--Kirk Tue May 3 12:07:11 2005
Notice that I said that I would want a communitarian edge to living in the woods. . .not just for the variety of jobs, but also for the people, too. I wouldn't want a commune, necessarily, though. . .too much of a "brainwashing" possibility. It would be nice to have a lot of frequenting travelers and such, too. And I guess it would be nice to have good reliable transportation to a big city to have the freedom to reach Socrates's markertplace.
--Mr. Lex Tue May 3 12:33:07 2005
Well, I learn from the Internet too.

For me the ideal life would be something like the set of Friends or Seinfeld. Actually the Big Yellow House (where I lived w/ Evil B and Mo and 3-5 others) was as close to that as I've come, but the shared resources (kitchens and bathrooms and cleaning same) made it problematic
--Kirk Tue May 3 12:53:18 2005
BTW, the deeper part of the cycle is in reference to the kind of behavior or maybe my observation of it. I have geeked out for the last few months rather obsessively, much more so than before. Now I am coming out of that phase and I find myself rising to a disquieting level of self-awareness. I am much more cognizant of my relations with other people than I have ever been before.

----Evil b Tue May 3 13:46:47 2005
Disquieting as in new or disquieting as in, "Oh crap! What have I become?!"

I should probably get off my ass and write my own sidebar.
--Mr. Lex Tue May 3 13:50:29 2005
Sadly, both. Whole new pieces of information fall into place showing me what I should have been doing, that throw what I have become into stark relief. 

Big fu, wakes you right up, who needs those 7 hours anyway. :)

----Evil B Tue May 3 14:15:46 2005
Heh heh.

There's always an alternative perspective than looking at it sadly: looking at it as an opportunity. =D
--Mr. Lex Tue May 3 14:17:32 2005
So by cycle you been between times you're geeking out and times you're becoming more aware?

And you must be geeking out on your own, man...the amount of game nights with you and/or Mrs. Evil over have gone way down over the same stretch of time.
--Kirk Tue May 3 15:53:20 2005
No! It can't be! Geeking out on your own. That's when you know that you've got a problem. . .. =D
--Mr. Lex Tue May 3 16:20:38 2005
And here I was thinking that geeking out on your own was the only way to do it. Hey, I was in high school at the time and surrounded by people who thought anime consisted of Godzilla and Pokemon cards. So I geeked out alone by default.

Besides, everything in life is really a distraction if you think about it. Your preoccupation with your expanding waistline distracts you from enjoying that delectable ice cream sundae sitting on your wife's naked chest; that Twilight Zone marathon on Sci-Fi distracts you from doing your laundry; your job distracts you from doing the things you find more enjoyable (and if you're one of those people lucky enough to actually do what you enjoy, #%@^! you).

As for Evil b's note on specialization, my mom used to say that you should never let anyone do for you what you can do for yourself - because they'll probably do it wrong and you'll have to fix it for them anyway, so why waste the time? My dad would have protested, but since he could never pay the bills on time or even program the VCR, it kind of negated any credibility on his part. I owe all my control issues to her wise teachings (so now Mr. Lex knows who's to blame for that).
--The Halfpint Tue May 3 19:49:35 2005
I know from experience that for fairly small money I can pay someone who will do a much better job cleaning my apartment than I am likely to.
--Kirk Wed May 4 01:24:52 2005
Kirk does have a good point. I can remember all the times as I walked to the bus, stressing about making it to work along with stressing about keeping my apartment clean and stressing about eating right and stressing about finishing a thesis and novel about how much I would love to just have a maid, a cleaning service, etc. etc. just to free up so much more time. Sure, I may have to review their work and so forth, but it sure would provide some free time, so I could do something I would really enjoy. And yeah, a cleaning company could possibly do a much better job than me, too.
--Mr. Lex Wed May 4 12:15:27 2005
However, it is difficult to hire someone to eat right for you.

Of course, your standards of eating "right" are a bit more extreme than a lot of people...before you, I thought Vegans were the leading edge of other-organism-friendly eating.
--Kirk Wed May 4 12:37:40 2005
I think they call that person a Nutritionist or Dietitian.

Not sure if I understand the leading edge statement. Just don't get the connotation.
--Mr. Lex Wed May 4 14:01:42 2005
evil b, perhaps "financially successful" folks are deficient in the kitchen and with a hammer because they don't have to be, they an afford to buy proficiency. you reason that specialization has brought success, i think it's really the other way around.
--FoSO Wed May 4 14:31:16 2005
It probably also depends on how we define success. That can be a pretty personal thing, even though I guess people discussing with each other could come up with some kind of consensus on a definition.

I think I've become dependent on to keep me sane while at work. . ..
--Mr. Lex Wed May 4 15:01:06 2005
I thought Vegans were the most careful set of moral eaters, making Vegetarians seem like amateurs. But then the Fruitarians, who will only eat plant matter that is "freely offered", make the Vegans seem morally relaxed and sloppy.
--Kirk Wed May 4 15:02:35 2005
PS and a dietician doesn't eat for you. Which was the basis of my poor joke.
--Kirk Wed May 4 15:03:27 2005
Hey FoSO,

I would go a step further and say that success and specialization recipricate and that you get into a chicken and egg problem of which came first.

There is a cultural component, as to how much specialization you will allow yourself.

----Evil B Wed May 4 15:22:36 2005
Oh, and there are several people who are financially successful / secure through no fault of their own. I have a few friends from prep school who would have to kill several family lawyers in order to be able to waste their own money. They are reasonably secure for the next few generations, unless we hit double digit inflation.

Bottom line: Money makes money.
----Evil B Wed May 4 15:25:42 2005
Hell, they would have to kill the lawyers just to stop making money, much less lose any of it. :)
----Evil B Wed May 4 15:26:24 2005
This is some great conversation, but the quantity of it just makes me think: a new sidebar would be refreshing. I really really should remember how to do it. . ..

And now a bit of what you say, Kirk, makes some sense. . ..
--Mr. Lex Wed May 4 16:17:46 2005
"And now a bit of what you say, Kirk, makes some sense. ."

Wow, talk about damning with faint praise...

I'll email you a reminder of the sidebar stuff.
--Kirk Wed May 4 16:26:37 2005

Some acquaintences in college said I'd make a good politician. It had something to do with hippies and showering. I forget what I said, but it was kind of in the same spirit.
--Mr. Lex Wed May 4 16:39:57 2005
yeah, i wouldn't mind having my kids' college paid for already...
--FoSO Thu May 5 10:10:48 2005