Decisions, decisions

Something lighter, this time.

Starcraft II (henceforth referred to as SC2) is out. My Collector's Edition arrived yesterday, so I spent most of last night playing the campaign. It's been a while since I've been really into RTSs, and I was never really fond of Terrans, so I'm only playing on normal for now. Still, I got about a third of the way through I think.

(Random note to self: getting more than 6 hours of sleep is a good thing.)

It's pretty fun so far. I like the addition of the research trees, though the armory is kind of hit-or-miss for me. The amount of story in this is a lot higher than even Brood Wars, so I'm happy about that. I logged out last night after running across Zeratul with his ominous forboding (dun dun DUN!!!).

Tonight, though it's back to (unnamed Final Fantasy game which I'm not supposed to name yet but we'll just call FF). FF's finally going to be available 24/7, theoretically, so I'm now I'm in a bit of a connundrum: I've got SC2, I've got FF, and I've still technically got stuff in WoW I'm committed to (I run in a raid every Thursday).

Such tough choices. Tonight'll be FF, tomorrow will be WoW (if the raid runs), and I'm taking Friday off to do whatever I damned well feel like (probably FF most of the day, if it's actually up and running).

You know, it's really rare that I have a video game I actively want to play (I think the last "new game" I played was when Rex got me the TIC-knockoff on Steam). Having two games come around at basically the same time is a new one on me.

Here I stand

(This is a rough approximation, so be gentle; I haven't worked the kinks out yet.)

They try to fill our heads with their belief,
Advocating sufferance now, and, maybe later, some relief,
Heed their words because they tell you so
And someday off to paradise you'll go.
They rarely face their own morality,
Their rules are arbitrary boats upon a stormy sea,
Do as I say not as I do is shaky ground,
From which to cast aspersions all around

And yet, here I stand,
On the shores of shifting sand,
Watching how the waves fit to the sky,
Wrestling with doubt
That I'll never be without,
Searching for the truth behind the lie.

I've spent my life seeking reality
Buried in tales from the wise and in the smiles I see,
Looking for a seldom-travelled road
And maybe someone else to share the load.
Landscapes seem to pass me in a blur,
And exits never seem to be quite where entrances were.
You can't be lost if you never had a goal;
You can't be broken if never were you whole.

And yet, here I stand,
In a far-off foreign land,
Where the only question worth asking is why.
Closing one more door
I can't walk through anymore,
Searching for the truth behind the lie.

And though I don't know quite where I should be
I'll let the facts I know stand for the truths I cannot see
The lives I've seen are worth saving today
Instead of waiting for far-off someday.

And yet, here I stand
With your hand in my hand,
Never knowing when we'll say goodbye.
Living for today,
And hoping anyway
Reaching the dreams of you and I...
Searching for the truth behind the lie.

And though I can't believe in heaven,
I'm still doing what I can:
Here I stand.

Drawings and photos

Sometimes, it's necessary to try and explain to people how the world looks to me: how I see it, how I interact with it. Why I can get lost for hours staring at the sand.

Part of it is the difference between a drawing and a photograph.

When you draw, you take a blank piece of paper and fill it. You usually start with whatever your focus is - the thing your drawing - and add in whatever details or surroundings you think are appropriate. Nothing goes on the paper that you didn't intend, that first wasn't in your head.

When you take a photograph of an object, it's different. Either you take the picture in whatever environment it occupies, or you place it in some setting. However, while you can somewhat control the context of the photo, you can't completely do so: often times, you simply have to deal with what's there. Good photography is about the way the subject interacts with the environment as much as it's about the subject itself.

That's an important difference: in drawings, you're adding context, but in photos you're subtracting or filtering it.

Most people, in their minds, are drawing. If you ask them to consider something - say, a tree - they first wipe everything out, then place the tree on the blank space of their minds. They may add some context as they see fit, but only as they see fit. They also don't generally realize they're doing it, or that there are other methods. It's a phantom negation - a "ghost not", as Alan Carter calls it - that takes place on a level before they think they're thinking.

I have trouble thinking of something outside of context. That first step - wiping the slate clean - I can only perform with conscious effort, and even then it's difficult. I can do mental abstraction with concepts, but only by using multiple contexts, not by eliminating all context: rather than thinking of an isolated "tree" on an empty set, I think of trees in various settings - parks, beaches, yards, conservatories, whatever - and kind of "overlay" them to find the commonalities. It's an average, rather than a true abstraction.

Another example that happens a lot: most people look at a bunch of people moving through, say, a crowded club and tend to focus on individuals. I see a the same bunch of people and see the crowd, as a single dynamic entity. I can plot interactions, projections on where individuals will move and how they'll interact - but ask me to focus on a single person, and I'll often lose the thread unless I can keep it in the context of the whole.

I can't stare at the stars without knowing that the sky isn't flat, that space isn't a black slate but is instead nearly infinite depth. The moon, in my eyes, is a sphere, not a circle. It isn't a perspective I have to bring to mind, it's my normal perspective and always has been.

I know I'm not the only one who does this - it's a level of observation that, while not held by the majority, is certainly semi-common. I am, however, one of the few people I know who do it natively and the only person I know who can't "turn it off", so to speak. It's like wearing polarized sun glasses: while you can see things others don't, some things are also obscured that others see clearly.

One end result is that I have a higher awareness of (and value in) reality but almost no purely creative capability (anything I try to manufacture in my mind has to be created with complete context, and that's extremely difficult; as a result, I tend to adapt more than create). Another is that I end up having some very strange conversations with people because I start at the top level and filter down, whereas tend to start at the lowest level and build up. Eventually we meet in the middle, but rarely with the same understanding.

Summer's lease

I live my life in a probability matrix (hence the name of the blog). By that I mean that I try not to let my expectations or "shoulds" get out of control. Almost anything can happen, and while most possibilities are extremely remote, that still leaves a wide range of "maybes" out there.

(Random note: ear infections suck.)

So, I try to build a flexible plan around the most likely outcomes, leaving enough room to make decisions or cover emergencies in case one of those outliers comes to pass. This means that, in general, I deal with the little bumps and grinds in life without much issue, and that while few things shock or startle me, life is fun to experience for the sheer novelty.

Once in a while, though, I find myself getting fixated on one branch (or set of branches) of the future, locked into the whole "wouldn't it be cool if..." menatility to the point where, when it doesn't happen (and it rarely does), I feel the let-down. Not often, mind you; the last time was probably more than a year ago.

Well, I find myself disappointed that I haven't heard from the guy in Texas at all. I know, intellectually, that there's absolutely no reason I should hear from him. I've written him twice, a week apart and the second time last night; if I don't get a response this time, it's because he doesn't want to respond. That's fine, and it's his right. Realistically, nothing much would have likely happened anyway.

But still, there's that part of me that is saddened. I saw the possibilities, the "could be"s, and they were fun. I got too fixated on them, and now I have to mentally back out of that. I won't say it's painful or distressing, because it's not. It's just... sad. Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May.

Intellectually, I know I'm going to be single for the rest of my life - oh, sure, it might be punctuated by dating here or there, but the core of me is a solitary wanderer. I suppose the pitfall in this instance was meeting someone who appeared to be the same - but the core is still solitary. Comets don't travel in pairs: they may meet and, in some small way, alter each other's course, but they will still separate and fly on alone.

Or, perhaps, stars are a better analogy: flying through the galaxy, dragging worlds and wonders with them. Occasionally, very rarely, you get the exact right conditions for two stars to orbit each other, but that is so rare as to not be worth considering.

And yet, the ultimate salvation of man is that we can consider such things, to dare to dream of the far edge of the wave function. "A man's reach should exceed his grasp/else what's a heaven for?"

The paradox is that I'm still reaching beyond my grasp, yet I don't believe in heaven. That is, truly, the source of my insanity.

Walk the walk

When I was planning my Maui trip, I decided that while I was there I would do a fair bit of hiking. While looking around for books of trails on Maui, I came across a book of hiking trails in Los Angeles County. So, I bought both, with the intention of trying to get out and hike around a bit (and take pictures, of course) when I got back.

So, I looked through the book and at the weather and picked a relatively easy 3-mile-ish hike for Sunday. Patrick decided to come along, which made the choice very good as he's not exactly in the best of shape. In fact, the three miles - which actually may have been stretched to four with a few side-trails - took us about 3 hours, and it wasn't at all hilly. For reference, I did a 4.2-mile hike in Maui, up and down hills and across streambeds, in less than 75 minutes.

Anyway, he survived to tell the tale, and I got a few decent pictures. I have to pick the next one I want to do - I may make it deliberately more strenuous to try and discourage him from coming along, but we'll see.

(Not-so-random note: if any of the places in those pictures look familiar, there's a reason.)

On a separate but fitness-related note, I noticed in the mirror that, whereas in the past few years the lines on my lower abdomen have all been defined by "rolls", this morning the lower edge of my abdominals was visible along the inguinal ligament. For non-bio majors, that's the "v" shape guys get in their lower torsos. It's actually the lats stretching along the ligament. Anyway, it's a good sign that I'm starting to get some definition from musculature rather than fat in my abdominal area.


So, the guy I liked lives in Texas and, while we exchanged email and phone info, I'll probably never hear from him again. And even if I do hear from him in some casual way, I doubt we'll meet. We talked for 3 hours one night and (at least from my perspective) really hit it off; I ran into him briefly before he caught his flight Friday, and there still seemed to be some interest, but you never know.

The guy who likes me lives in L.A. and got offended enough to leave the hot tub when I tried to (as politely as I could) tell him I wasn't interested in having sex. He of course immediately took it as a "you're an old pervert" kind of thing (I believe what I actually said was, "while I appreciate the compliment, I'm not interested"). I immediately apologixed for offending him, but that didn't seem to matter - damage done.

C'est la guerre.

(Random note: the mosquitos here seem to be *attracted* to bug repellent.)

On a side note, a very nice straight couple from the military randomly picked our hotel here (which is primarily gay) to stay in. We were chatting it up a while (Mr. Offended waited until they left before getting touchy, in both senses of the term), and they seem really cool. They're car-less, so if I drive into Lahaina for the fireworks tomorrow I might take them. We'll see; they may make other plans in the interim.

One more full day in Maui, then back to California.

No lines

It's an old metaphor, the idea of "staying between the lines"... It's used to connote the notion of a defined, limited, perhaps restricted set of actions that are "allowed" or permitted. To stay between the lines is to follow the rules, do what is expected of one.

(Random thought: hiking on a trail in the second wettest place on Earth means you'll likely end up a little damp...)

And, of course, if one can stay between the lines, one can also venture outside them into forbidden territory.

It might be nice to claim that I love to go outside the rules - it has a certain cache, the notion of the rogue or rebellious spirit. It'd be a lie, though in a weird way.

Rules are what I do. And by "do", I mean, they're something I am fundamentally aware of at all times. I "do" pattern recognition - finding repetitive behavior or observation, relating it back to past knowns, projecting out future possibilities. To do that, you have to know the rules by which you're playing: the limits or conditions that define the boundaries of the field of possibilities.

It's part of the reason I love law, mathematics, logic, and video games: they all set up rules, often arbitrary, within which you try to figure out how to achieve your goal. That's where the fun comes in - not in breaking the rules, necessarily, but in findind out how to abuse them. We used to refer to is as "raping the rules" in old dice-and-paper RPGs.

But there we come to the key - because there isn't just one set of rules. Every ruleset operates within another, at different levels or to different degrees. Rules are a set of Russian dolls, where the most visible ones always contain the restrictions of other rule sets. So, a big part of the game is finding out not only what the rules are, but *which* rules are applicable - and whether or not it's possible to jump up a level or two in the rules to work around something you don't like.

Say a virus is sending out messages from your computer to the internet. In the software ruleset, you have to try and uninstall or clean the virus. In the OS ruleset, you could try turning on the firewall or shutting down the app, or setting up a host redirect or forced route for the virus's destination. In the network ruleset, you could block ports on the router, block all outbound access, or even just unplug the network cable. In the ultimate hardware ruleset, you can just turn the machine off.

A big part of the game is figuring out which set of rules to play by, and changing them when you can.

That's where the lines come in: what may be "staying between the lines" from one perspective or rule set could be going well outside them from another. Me, I'm always staying between the lines - they just may not be the same lines you're looking at.

On Monday night, a bunch of us are up on the deck - two of us nude, the others dressed. A new guy comes up to use the hot tub, and he's wearing a bathing suit; that plus his posturing seems to indicate he's new to the whole "clothing-optional" thing. He flew out today, but last night he and I sat in the hot tub - even after it turned off - for 3 hours or so just talking, and today we were both up on the deck sunbathing. He also commented on how he'd spent one afternoon at the local nude beach and how amazing it felt.

It was kind of cool to see someone's mindset shift from "lines" to "no lines" - no tan lines, in this case, but also fewer mental restrictions on what is or isn't acceptible/comfortable. There are still limits, but they're not where they used to be.

Now to work on the next set of lines.