Misc. Nerdstuff

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For those who read my last post, I’m feeling much better now, and I’m feeling cautiously optimistic about some real progress for some of the people in my life.

In general, I’m feeling optimistic about almost everything right now. Life is moving forward in interesting ways for me, and so I want to give a quick update about some things right here.

-Just 5 more weeks at my job of 3 1/2 years, and I last weekend I completed the hardest part of it! We had our annual spring fundraiser and for the first time in more than a decade, we decided to not do an auction (for anti-capitalist value reasons, not money reasons). This was really scary for us, and we were prepared to make way less money. But, in fact, we made almost double what I expected, and actually surpassed the donations from past auctions. It feels like such a positive way to transition out of my job.

-After long agonizing, I did decide to go to grad school to get my Master In Teaching. I begin in early July, and I’ll be in school for a year. That means that I’m going to be trying to chill during this last month or so of work. I am so eager to actually feel rested and calm for at least the next couple of weeks.

-Glendi’s family is still struggling so much. We’re sending all the money we can, and that’s still not enough, but at least they seem to be holding on for now. For now, what else can we do?

-Some old organizing friends and I are starting to talk about forming a new, open study group in the fall. We just had a meeting yesterday, which I came to thoroughly ambivalent, yet which I left feeling inspired. I think, after the hardship of the breakup of Common Action, I’m now ready for a new political project, and this one is feeling pretty good. Right now, we’re discussing it as a study group that will center around questions of revolutionary intersectional politics…that is, understanding how systems work in an intersectional way, and trying to ask what revolution actually looks like for those systems. Yes!

-I’m starting to work on game design again. This is part of my own real-life game (which I’m still rocking through, though I’m scoring myself less frequently than before as I’ve internalized a lot of the habits)…to be more creative again.

The board game I’m working on is a cooperative game, in which the players must work together to build a post-revolutionary economy. The game will have multiple phases in which players have different roles. For example, in one phase each player represents a different industry’s workers council, and in another phase each player represent a different region’s consumer council. The idea is that players need to discuss and negotiate where to invest the economy’s limited resources and labor to produce a better life for all. Of course there would mechanics representing reactionary opposition, which players would have to cooperatively deal with. This is so fun to design, but the trickiest thing is boiling the concept down to its most essential parts, so that it still fits the them but without being too complex or fiddly.

-I think I’m going to get a haircut. Like a serious haircut. Like maybe even a buzzcut. I think I’m just about tired of having longer hair.

I’ve been doing really well since my last post. Lot’s social interaction, having a great time with Glendi, and making great progress on all of these crises have hit us since the New Year. Sure, there was hard week of depression in February, but then sort of a beautiful moment where I was able to channel that into a lot of creativity. It felt good.

One of the coolest ways that I’ve managed to feel so great lately is my secret little nerdy project: my real-life game!

Here’s an old Facebook post I originally wrote about it back in September:

For many years I’ve noticed two interlinked personal problems that get me down alot and make me feel like I’m not living up to my potential: consumerism (especially just constant internet window-shopping for items that I’m not even going to buy), and video games. These go back to like elementary school!

So the other evening I was playing a computer game in which I spent like 3 hours chopping wood and gathering bricks to like build a house, and I was like: “why did I just spend all this time essentially doing chores in this game when I could be doing real chores or even more, fulfilling, revolutionary stuff?” And without getting down on myself like usual, I just acknowledged it, because I want to gain a new level and have something that makes me feel safe and makes me feel definite progress.

So, thus was born the project: I decided to try an experiment to convert my life into sort of a real-life roleplaying game, in which I get experience points for doing things that help me live my bigger desires and values, and if I get points, I gain levels, and those levels give me little rewards.

Is this geeky and sad enough, yet? Potentially unhealthy? I hear ya, but it gets more embarrassing.

I worked out a whole structure of level progression based on 8 values (love, community, health, playfulness, responsibility, political action, curiosity, creativity), and then I created like 50 missions (along the lines of World of Warcraft, if you know that game) that give me points towards some or all of those 8 values (for example: if I read 100 pages of a book this week I get 3 curiosity points, and +1 point for political action if it’s political, or +1 for playfulness if it’s fun fiction, etc…or I get points for cooking Glendi or the housemates breakfast 3 times in a week, or for reading and responding to my friends’ blog posts, etc.). Getting even worse, right? There’s more!

THEN I actually inputted all of these missions into an excel file, and programmed macros and little buttons into the excel file, so that if I complete a mission I can actually just click one button and it automatically updates my point totals for my 8 different values. And then if the average of all my 8 values reaches 100 or more, I go up 1 level, and the excel program is actually programmed to change the color of the cell and the font to show what level I’m at! And if I get to a new level, I get to buy myself either a new game, or new clothing…thus also tying my consumerism to the reward system of the game.

So, it sounds freakish and weird and geeky, and I think it’ll probably end up not working at all and feeling really not right. However, on paper, in order to gain my first level I’ll have to be more community oriented, read more, pursue spontaneity and fun more, eat more healthy and exercise more, and be more politically active.

So, the idea is to use my nerdiness in the service of living a more balanced and community oriented life.”

Well, guess what! I got the game done in October, then had some major bugs in the excel formulas that had me put it aside for a number of months, but then I came back to it just a couple of weeks ago and got it all working for real.

Now, with one week down I’m halfway to achieving level one! So far, the game actually feels really effective. My scoring and leveling system actually provides me a really accurate-feeling sense of where I’m spending my time, and checking it every morning gives me a sense of a whole world of options for how I can spend my time.

So far, playing the game has helped me learn new recipes, spend more time with friends and political comrades, deal with outstanding financial issues, read more, and even write this post (I get creativity points for each post I write!).

I’ll be really curious to see where I’ll be in a week, then in a month. I’m still trying to figure out some of the systems for leveling and especially for rewarding myself when I reach a level…but the cool thing about my self-taught excel programming is that all this stuff can be changed on the fly while I’m playing the game.

When so much terrible stuff is happening–Japan, Libya, Wisconsin, and even Seattle schools–this is one thing that’s keeping me moving, and especially keeping me fighting. Finally, I’m using my video game problem for good!

First morning of my weekend and I’m in bed again, now into the third season of Friday Night Lights. Despite all sorts of emotional rollercoaster cheesiness on this show, my interest in this program is still unshakable.

It’s really unacceptable, though, how all of the main characters of color keep getting written out or they just disappear, at a rate of one a season…to the point now that in the third season it’s looking like an all-white cast. What’s up with that? Not to mention that two of the major storylines in the second season had to do with racism, but one of those storylines just…poof…disappeared, while the other one ended up sending the lesson that if a person of color defends themself or their family from racism, they get crushed. No thanks, NBC.

But I also think that I’m beginning to understand the personal appeal of this show for me, as strange as it is to realize: positive masculinity. There is something in some of the main characters, especially the character Coach Taylor, that is like viscerally hitting at my dad issues. Just watching that Coach Taylor character (who’s very well acted, by the way), and the way he makes decisions and yells and is all masculine, but also caring and ethical and emotionally present, it’s like hypnotic to me. It’s weird. This is something that my old therapist had brought up a number of times, my search for models of masculinity that make me okay with who I am and also let me stand up for myself. I don’t really have more to say about it, but it’s almost a scary level of realization to see that that is why I’m watching this silly TV show…what is this unearthing for me?

So, Glendi’s in Guatemala for a month–which is a future post in itself–and I’m alone in the house with a sprained ankle. So this weekend I had very little to do.

I played a whole lot of video games (Tales of Monkey Island and Monster Hunter for the win), and then I started streaming this TV show that my friend Bruin had mentioned, Friday Night Lights. An NBC series about a high school football team in a small, depressed West Texas town? Not for me, I thought. Well, I bought in as soon as the pilot, and I’m embarrassed to admit that I watched all 22 hours of the first season in a day and a half. I was in bed watching the show for 15 HOURS on Saturday. In fact, before I started writing in this blog tonight I was just finishing the 4th episode of the second season!

So what do I like about it? Do I have a political reason? Not really. I just think the stories are good. It’s pretty much about the whole town and people’s lives, not just football. Now, there are layers of politics to explore and the show does explore them–there’s lot’s of stuff about ablism, some about race and class, a little bit about gender so far. But honestly, I don’t think much of it is all that deep (except for the ablism storylines, which I think are compelling and pretty rare for mainstream entertainment), but it’s gripping for me. I wouldn’t actually recommend it to you, necessarily, but it was gripping for me.

One thing that I particularly was struck by, oddly, was the way people set boundaries in the show. There is a whole lot of “get out” “leave and never come back,” “do the right thing or face the consequences,” kind of talk in the show, and it’s sort of the dominant way people make tough choices in the program. A lot of sort of razor-sharp decisiveness, whether it’s about monogamy or reconciliation, or quitting drinking, or confronting injustice. This didn’t strike me as realistic at all, because I’m very indecisive and I’m terrible at setting boundaries…but I think what is intoxicating about the show is watching people make tough choices and growing by leaps and bounds in each hour long episode…and here I am struggling for years just to even maintain an internal dialogue with myself through mediums like this blog! I think I was drawn to the escape into this world where tough situations are so clear and easy to confront and take action on. If only it were so.

It’s almost midnight now on Sunday night, and I have to get up at 6am to go to work and work on a grant with a deadline…but I’m mighty tempted to put on one more episode to fall asleep to.

Why should anyone but me care about my addiction to this silly show? I have no idea, but I think there are more profound things at work here, relating to how I’m feeling about real life in general. Which hopefully I’ll get to soonish.

Currently Reading:

-Dispersing Power by Raul Zibechi