dorchadas: (Default)
This post is inspired by an article I saw about how procrastination is often caused by anxiety and not laziness, though I unfortunately can't find the source right now.

If something is bothering me, I have a tendency to let it slide for a while. Part of this is conflict avoidance, it's true, but part of it is that most of the time I'm legitimately chill and am willing to put up with a lot if I figure that it's going to be a short-term thing. The problem is that I let things go for a long time without saying anything, and then once I hit a particular threshold, I explode. Where normally I don't want to say anything because I don't want to upset things, or because I worry about what the other person will think, or because I can't figure out how to phrase my request properly, once I cross that threshold none of that matters.

The main example that springs to mind is cleanliness. I tend to prefer things almost completely spotless and the floor with no clutter on it at all, whereas [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd doesn't mind a backpack dropped by the door or a few pieces of clothing laid out for the week. What used to happen is that I let things go for a while, quietly getting more and more annoyed every time I saw a cardigan left on a chair or a piece of mail on the table, until I went into a cleaning frenzy and scoured the entirely living space with bleach and soap. The first time [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd went to a grad school conference, I spent three hours cleaning the entire apartment. And this was our first post-Japan apartment, when it was three rooms, one of which was the bathroom.

I have gotten better about it since then. I'm more careful to bring up when something is bothering me earlier in a way that doesn't lead to everything seeming okay until it's suddenly, overwhelmingly wrong. But one thing I've noticed over the years is that when I get into the annoyed side of the cycle, I don't actually feel anxious. If I'm pissed off at a company because of something I think they did wrong, I can actually pick up the phone and call them to complain, and yet I dreaded making restaurant reservations until I got an app that let me do it without any human interaction. Somehow, I need to find a way to synthesize those two attitudes into a Voltron of healthy response to my circumstances. I'm working on that.
dorchadas: (Grue)
As a general rule, I prefer to be alone. Parties and events on weekends make me nervous because my usual unwinding time from work gets interrupted and also because I spend time dreading their approach as an interruption of my usual alone time. That's not to say that I don't have fun when I get there, because I do, but the thought process I have before hand is "Ugh, that's right, I'm going to [X] this weekend. There goes my Saturday night."

That said, I might be approaching things the wrong way:
This mistaken preference for solitude stems partly from underestimating others’ interest in connecting (Experiments 3a and 3b), which in turn keeps people from learning the actual consequences of social interaction (Experiments 4a and 4b). The pleasure of connection seems contagious: In a laboratory waiting room, participants who were talked to had equally positive experiences as those instructed to talk (Experiment 5). Human beings are social animals. Those who misunderstand the consequences of social interactions may not, in at least some contexts, be social enough for their own well-being.
That line about "underestimating others’ interest in connecting" really hits home with me, because I almost never initiate a conversation over an electronic medium due to worrying about bothering the other person. I'm a lot better about it in the age of texting, because there's an understanding now that texting is asynchronous in a way that IMing never really was, but I still don't carry on nearly the same number of conversations online as a lot of people seem to.

And reading this article, I ended up thinking of some of the times people have randomly talked to me on the CTA. And while I get extremely annoyed about things like people talking on their phones on mass transit, and even conversations nearby bother me because those old images of everyone reading the newspaper and ignoring each other is my idealized commute, I have to admit that CTA conversations run about 50/50. Some of them are people bothering me when I'm trying to read, and that almost always just annoys me. But some of them are people chatting when I'm just wasting time on my phone, and those I end up enjoying despite myself.

The incident that springs to mind was a bunch of obviously drunk people making nuisances of themselves and playing around on the CTA, until one of them sat next to me, ignored my attempts to rebuff him, and we eventually got to chatting about why they were Chicago (they were glassblowers) and what they were doing on the CTA (they were attending the SOFA expo at Navy Pier). I actually enjoyed the conversation, and alighted at my stop after having written down the dates of SOFA for the next few years so I'd know about it if I wanted to attend as a guest.

That also ties into something else I sometimes think about, which is the desire to have (some) other people force through one's barriers to talk to you. If someone tries to initiate a conversation and keeps trying to talk even in the face of reluctance, it proves that they are actually interesting to talking to you and not just putting on a front for the sake of politeness, whereas if you initiate a conversation with someone else you have no such reassurance. But that doesn't work in reverse, and badgering people to talk is certainly more likely to get them to only chat out of politeness while actually thinking badly of you (and they have no way of accessing your inner life), so often I end up talking to no one even when I'd like people to talk to me.

The Hedgehog's Dilemma. It's a thing.

Graduation Time!

2014-May-12, Monday 18:14
dorchadas: (Zombies together!)
Not mine, [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd's. After three years of schooling, on Wednesday she finally got her Education Specialist degree and is now fully qualified. Yay!

...well, other than having to finish out her internship. She mentioned that even though she was graduating, it didn't feel like much because she had to wake up and go to work the next morning. There's only a couple weeks of school left, after which she has to find something to do during the summer so she won't go insane, and then we'll be a DINK household once again.

I was surprised at how short the ceremony was, probably because I was remembering the enormous production that was my own graduation. It wasn't a general ceremony, though--it was just for the School of Education--so there were only about a hundred people there and the whole thing took maybe an hour and a half. The speaker was some guy from somewhere who gave a speech whose impact on me you can probably tell by how well I remember who he was. I was honestly a lot more affected by the way the announcer kept saying magnum cum laude instead of magna cum laude. It's petty and stupid and it annoyed me way out of proportion to the severity of the offence.

[personal profile] schoolpsychnerd has an official hood now, which she's occasionally been wearing as proof that she's equivalent to Superman. Sadly, it's not structured the right way for her to wear it as a wizard's cowl.

She'll probably be going back for a Doctorate in Education, but that's a question we'll deal with in a year or so. In the meantime, yay!

P.S.: 祭 (matsuri) isn't really the proper Japanese for this--graduation ceremony is 卒業式 (sotsugyou shiki)--but damned if I'm going to split tags that finely.
dorchadas: (Zombies together!)
Friday - Burgers, Art, and Sauerkraut
The next morning, [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd again had to be somewhere early. This time, though, I didn't even wake up when she wished me goodbye, so I was pretty disoriented when I woke up and the room was otherwise empty. I loafed around the room for a couple hours, getting progressively hungrier and less willing to leave the bed, and then I finally scarfed down all the remaining nuts and headed out the door to a burger place I had looked up on my phone. When I went outside, the weather was pretty much my ideal weather: cloudy skies, cool breeze, wet ground, and the smell after the rain. It was almost enough to make me change my mind and go into the Irish bar I saw along the way, but I kept to my original plan.

I had originally set out with the intention to walk from our hotel down to the National Mall, and I managed to stick to that plan even though when I left the restaurant it was raining. I went to the Freer Gallery of Art (and apparently just missed an exhibition about the tea ceremony! By one day! ARGH!), which was recommended I think by my father, though I can't remember exactly who told me to go. Anyway, it's a collection of art from what a 19th century art collector would have called "The Orient," so there was everything from Japanese screens to Arabic pottery. The last one I didn't devote much time to, despite how beautiful it was, because I've never really been interested in pottery. Honestly, I'd be happy with plain white bowls or bowls made out of dark wood, much like my taste in furniture.

There were other interesting things, though:
2014 DC Meteoric Iron dagger for Emperor Jahangir

That's a literal starmetal dagger. Emperor Jahangir had it made out of a fallen star, and later said that it "cut beautifully, as well as the very best swords." So maybe there is something to that meteoric iron superweapon fantasy trope!

2014 DC Kobo Daishi going to China

That's a picture of Kōbō Daishi on his trip to China to learn the teachings of Buddhism, which he later brought back to Japan. I mainly liked this image because it has a literal example of red oni blue oni (赤鬼青鬼), though the art is definitely beautiful as well. It's the kind of thing I'd love to have in [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and my bedroom, in my imagined dream residence where the bedroom has byōbu, tatami floors, a futon instead of a bed, zaisu and low table, and so on. I can probably do a lot of that even if there isn't a tatami flooring, really. I actually prefer sitting on the floor in a lot of cases.

Oh! Also, in a weird coincidence, I found proof that [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd, like Nicholas Cage and Keanu Reeves, is an immortal vampire who has survived through the ages and secretly manipulates us from behind the scenes:

2014 DC Green and Gold: the Little Green Cap

Green and Gold: the Little Green Cap, but it's pretty obviously a picture of my wife. I'm on to your schemes!

The collection of jades was neat, but it's just jade discs so it doesn't make a very good photographic subject.

After I looked all around there, I used my remaining time to head back into the Museum of the American Indian and look around some more. There was a short movie called Who We Are that they showed in the theatre on the top floor, so I headed up there to watch that. It was maybe fifteen minutes and primarily served as a well to tell people that Native Americans aren't just records in history books or cultures frozen in time, both of which I already knew, but it was a good introduction to the idea. Then it let us out in an exhibit that went into detail on various tribes' traditional beliefs and practices, most of which I knew almost nothing about. I couldn't stay for the entire time, though, because [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd texted me to let me know she was finished with her presentation an hour before I expected, so I had to start walking. I was determined that I would walk from our hotel to the National Mall and back to our hotel, and I did. It just took me about an hour since it was mostly at a slight-to-moderate incline. I didn't go back to our room when I walked into the hotel room; I just sat on the couch and let [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd know that I was down there.

We were going to meet with [ profile] satinalien for dinner at Old Europe, but she was feeling under the weather, so [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I went ourselves. Here's a sample of what we ate:

2014 DC Dark rye bread with schmalz at Old Europe

That's dark rye bread with Griebenschmalz vom Schwein, or a spread made from rendered pig fat. It may have been the least kosher thing I've ever eaten, but it tasted fantastic. I also got the Schnitzel Old Europe, which had veal, chicken, tomatos, onions, hollendaise sauce, and sides of sauerkraut, potatos, and mixed vegetables. And beef stew as an appetizer and a dark chocolate cake. It was quite possibly the most stereotypical German meal I could have eaten other than the lack of bratwurst, but you can't have everything at once. I also learned that my pronunciation of German is not particularly good, which shouldn't surprise me since I've never studied it at all. Maybe I should look into that if I plan to go to German restaurants more often.

After that, we went home and went to sleep. We were going to meet up with some friends, but they were drained from the day's activities and so were we, so we all went to bed.

Saturday - Trip Home
Not that much to say for the final day, since it was mostly just taken up by going home, going shopping, and then sitting around at home. There was one minor hiccup when it turned out that the hotel's free shuttle didn't run on weekend's until 9, so we had to walk from the hotel to the Metro, and then that Metro trains only run about every half an hour on weekends, but we made it there, made it to Union Station in time to take the MARC train (which only started weekend service in December!) back to the Baltimore airport, and then flew out. The only notable thing was the restaurant we ate in in the Baltimore airport had USB plugs in the wall. They also were locally-owned and served locally-sourced food which was really good, but I didn't take any pictures so you'll have to take my word for it.

It was pretty great. I'm glad we had enough money and I had enough vacation time that I could come along, because if I'm going to be a tourist in a city, DC is a great place to be one, and a lot of [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and my friends seem to live either in DC or in the cities around it. Next year is Orlando and I've heard that it's in Disney, but how much fun would that be by myself? The year after that is New Orleans, though, where I've never been before, so I have to go to that one.

Whew! That took forever to write. Smiling sweatdrop
dorchadas: (Zombies together!)
The continuing adventures of [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and myself at her NASP conference in DC.

Wednesday - All the Smithsonians, Free Middle Eastern Food, and Good Company
[personal profile] schoolpsychnerd didn't have anywhere to be on Wednesday, so we got up relatively early and set out to meet up with friends at the Air and Space Museum. After taking the shuttle to the conference site and then diving into the Metro, getting out at Metro Central, and walking down to the Mall in the rain, we wandered around and checked out the space side, but I don't have much to report on it. My father inherited my grandfather's interest in flight and airplanes, but I never did, and while I have the same interest in space that any reasonable person does, I don't have much to say. Those rockets sure are cool, though.

After that, we headed over to the Mitsitam Cafe at the National Museum of the American Indian because [ profile] q99 had told me that it was fantastic, and truer words have rarely been spoken. This is what I ate:

2014 DC Mitsitam Cafe food

From left: chili-roasted carrots in jalapeño butter, celery roots and raisins with honey vinagrette, roasted brussel sprouts and onions, and buffalo chili. It was fantastic. Much like Marrakech, if you're ever in DC for any reason, stop by in here, or in the coffee-and-dessert cafe closer to the entrance that sold me hot chocolate with enough chili in it to burn my throat. They even have a cookbook, which I'm really tempted to get now. The food is really expensive, though.

[personal profile] schoolpsychnerd had to go after lunch, but the rest of our friends decided to skip the rest of the conference day, so we wandered around the museum for a bit before moving on. We had a bunch of stuff we wanted to see and needed to be at a Loyola-sponsored mixer at 5 p.m., so we didn't stay long, but we went up to the Our Lives exhibit at the museum which was all about different tribes in the Americas and their customs. I mostly wandered around and looked at the ones about the tribes in the Southwest and a bit about the Yakima. The Yakima exhibit was actually pretty hopeful, since it repeatedly made the point that they still live on their ancestral lands (well, the 10% of their lands that are left) and can practice most of their traditional practices, which is way better than the vast majority of tribes are doing, sadly.

While we were there, someone mentioned that there was a similar museum in Evanston, so now I have to go to that.

We left the museum and hit up a few of the other museums and exhibits in relatively quick succession. In the Museum of Natural History we ducked in past the water life and mammals exhibits and saw the human origins exhibit, where I learned to my surprise that I'm much taller than the neandertals were. I'm not sure why I expected them to be so huge, considering that modern height is mostly a result of modern diet and modern medicine, but I had this idea of the neandertals as being huge in proportion to how they were apparently much stronger than our ancestors. Nope. I was completely wrong.

After that was the Museum of American History, where we just popped in quickly and poked around the main display on the bottom floor. The one thing that sticks out in my memory other than seeing Kermit was this:

2014 DC Smithsonian walkman

The iPod already being in the Museum of American History is an obvious sign of how old I am. I remember when they first came out, and I told [ profile] nytesenvy that they were a fad that would obviously never catch on. That was my own "640K ought to be enough for anybody" moment, as should be obvious considering I took all these photos (and indeed, all the photos I've taken in the last five years) with my iPhone.

We walked past the Washington Monument, which is still closed due to the 2011 earthquake, and went into the Lincoln Memorial, and then went off to the bus stop where the L1 bus promptly failed to show up. Not wanting to risk being too late, we hailed a cab (and later learned that the buses don't take temporary fare cards, so good thing we did) and took that to Lebanese Taverna, where Loyola University was hosting a meet-up/party for its students and assorted hangers-on, including myself. At least, I think it was for hangers-on, though I didn't see anyone else there who wasn't a student. Well, I won't complain. Great Middle Eastern food, including plenty of kabob meat, waiters going around refilling people's wine glasses, falafel and vegetable trays along with big bowls of hummus, and trays of baklava dripping with honey brought out near the end. I didn't eat much of those, though, because we had other plans with [ profile] nytesenvy later on.

She was at dinner nearby, and after the party was over--I did not really get to meet [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd's professors, since they were talking shop most of the time--we met up and she took us to Dangerously Delicious Pies, which were indeed pretty damn delicious. I mean, look at this:

2014 DC Dangerously Delicious Pie Winter berry pie

Winter berry pie a la mode. There were pears and raspberries and a couple more fruits in there, and it was fantastic. The conversation with [ profile] nytesenvy was fantastic too--it's been a year and a half since we've seen each other--but for obvious reasons I don't have a picture of that.

After our pie, she took us back to our hotel and we went to bed. [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd had a presentation to get to in the morning again and I had other plans.

Thursday - Alexandria Old Town and Seeing Friends
I woke up with [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd in the morning because [ profile] nytesenvy was going to pick me up and take me down to Alexandria. We ate in a cafe and chatted, and then I left her to study for the bar while I wandered around and looked at the sights. Well, I only briefly wandered, because I had seen that there was a history museum in town that [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd told me she didn't care about going to, so that was the first place I headed and I stayed there until she finished her presentation and headed down to Alexandria.

Did you know that Alexandria used to be part of DC? I didn't. Apparently they thought it would bring in a bunch of business and help grow the town, and when that turned out to be completely wrong they decided that they had gotten the wrong end of the bargain and petitioned to be let back into Virginia. And having been let in, when the rebels seceded from the Union, Federal troops were pretty much waiting at the bridges and marched right across from multiple directions and captured the town, which was occupied for the remainder of the war. There was a neat exhibit about the occupation with excerpts from people's diaries, newspaper accounts, books written afterwards, memoirs, and so on which it turns out I didn't take any pictures of so I can't post one of them here. Boo.

I did take this one though:

2014 DC Pitt St in Alexandria

Not the best picture of either of us, but what's what happens when you're awkwardly trying to take a selfie that also gets the street sign into view while having to deal with the bright sun.

We went to a restaurant that [ profile] nytesenvy pointed out as a good one (and it was), and then went down and took that picture and then just wandered around Old Town, going into shops and down to the Torpedo Factory, which is now an artists' display area, though we sadly didn't have enough space in our apartment to get any of the great art that we saw in there. Same with the furniture store we went into. Battered dark wood is probably be favorite decor ever, and the store was just loaded with great pieces on sale, but even if we had bought it and had it shipped back to Chicago, we really don't have any place to put it. We did have a place to put yarn, though, so we went into Fibre Space where [ profile] nytesenvy works and bought two skeins of yarn. One for my wife to make into a scarf, and one for [ profile] nytesenvy to make into a hat for [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd.

After buying that, we walked back to the Metro stop, but I persuaded [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd to go past it to the George Washington Masonic Memorial that I had seen listed when I was looking around for places to go in Alexandria. I figured that maybe it was in the park somewhere on the other side of the giant building we could see. But then we got closer:

2014 DC George Washington Masonic Memorial in Alexandria, VA

Nope, it's totally the giant building. The inside is exactly the way you'd imagine it to be too:

2014 DC Masonic Memorial Interior

There was a tour, but we decided not to go with it since it was $8 each instead of $5 each and we did have other places to be and didn't want to be tied down to a schedule, so we wandered around and looked at all the displays of masonry in America. In addition to a lot of Washington's personal masonic memorabilia, they also had artifacts (I guess that's the term) from Franklin and several other figures of prominence in America. And John Philip Sousa's conducting baton, for some reason. My middle school band teacher would be proud.

We had an appointment to meet [ profile] bexplant for coffee near the Foggy Bottom stop, so we spent about an hour in the Memorial and then got on the Metro and headed over. It was a bit rainy again, so we ducked into the nearby George Washington University Hospital and waited for her to show up, which didn't take long. I was pretty quiet, since I didn't know [ profile] bexplant that well since I was only at Knox on alternating weekends, but it was nice seeing old friends. Then, we had another meeting to see more old friends, so we said our goodbyes and walked up to M Street to meet up with [ profile] redpikachu and her boyfriend at Clyde's. We had originally planned on going to Paper Moon, but I happened to look it up on the internet because I wanted to check the menu before we went to see what I would get (a habit I've gotten into now that we all carry the sum total of human knowledge in our pockets) and noticed that it only had two stars on Yelp. The new restaurant was a whole lot better than the internet thought the old one was, though.

After that we went out for dessert at Gelateria Dolce Vita, where the gelato was average but the view was really nice:

2014 DC Georgetown waterfront building

I'm sure if it had been summer I would have been able to take a great picture of the waterfront or the river, but it's winter and night, so the ice skaters are what you get. Though it's still kind of impressive that they were able to skate that well, considering how warm it was. It had been above freezing for days at this point.

After gelato, we parted ways and [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I went back to our hotel.

Next post: Friday and Saturday
dorchadas: (Zombies together!)
[personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I spent most of the last week in Washington DC because she had a school psychology professional conference. That meant she spent a lot of the time at presentations or presenting herself, but it also meant that I got to wander around DC myself. Here is part of the record of my adventures.

Monday - Arrival, Dinner, and Forest Friends
Our trip started out a bit exciting because our flight had previously been cancelled the previous night and we had to scramble a bit to get another one, so after some time on the phone for me and an hour on the phone with American Airlines for [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd when we didn't see any seats assigned to us and couldn't check in because we weren't able to have seats assigned. The call cleared up that the airport was just holding on to the seats and would assign them based on when we got there, so with a slight grumble we went to bed and set our alarm for 6:45 a.m. The next morning, though, there wasn't any trouble at all. The flight went fine, [ profile] nytesenvy picked us up at the airport and drove us to our hotel in Georgetown, which apparently isn't technically in Georgetown but was close enough for me. We checked in, got a message that our friends were eating at a restaurant on the other side of the city, and set out to get to them.

Because I'm incredibly stubborn, we tried to walk down to the DuPont Circle Metro station instead of taking advantage of the free shuttle that our hotel ran to anywhere within a mile radius--which includes the Metro, and indeed, a large chunk of the city since DC is so small--and walked down there only to find that there was a portion of the Red Line shut down for work on Monday only. Fortunately, there was a free shuttle bus running, and so we got on it going the wrong way. There was an express shuttle running the other direction to Metro Central, so we hopped on that, I checked my phone, and then we walked to El Rinconcito where I proceeded to eat an absolutely enormous amount of food (a theme for this whole trip, really). We then retired back to their hostel to play Illuminati, and after a game where the Discordian Society pulled out a win on literally the last turn, we decided to go home.

We took the shuttle from Metro Central up to Woodley Park, and then I decided to walk home, consulted Google Maps on my phone, and off we went. As you can see from that link there, it does look a bit suspicious, but I figured what could go wrong? Well, nothing really went wrong, but it was exciting--the path took us through Embassy Row and then into Dumbarton Oaks Park, so we walked down nearly-empty and silent streets to a cul-de-sac where the Danish Embassy was located. It looked like a dead end, but I found a path next to the security wall around the embassy and took us down a path that was pretty much solid ice, across a half-frozen river, then up an icey path along the other side to right behind our hotel. As we had crossed the road earlier to get to the dead-end road that led to the embassy, we saw a deer bound away into the woods, and when we came out of the other side of the park, this is what we saw:

2014 DC Deer in Park

They looked at us like that until we crossed the road away from them, at which point they bounded away into the woods. Then we went back and went to bed.

Tuesday - Old Houses, Cathedrals and Moroccan Food
The next morning, [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd had a presentation she had to be at, so she left early while I lounged around the room for a bit. After I got sufficiently hungry that I didn't want to wait around anymore, I grabbed a handful of nuts (which we brought specifically for situations like this) and headed out to lunch at a Middle Eastern restaurant I found along the way and then down to Dumbarton House, which I picked based on randomly searching for things to do in Georgetown and having it pop up close to the top. It was your standard Colonial period house, and with no photography allowed I don't have a record of all the things that were really cool, like the dining room with the bright green wallpaper or the best chamber (so-called because chamber originally referred primarily to bedrooms), but it took about an hour and if you like old houses I can recommend it. Maybe the main hallway will be done when you go, too--it wasn't when I was there. I also felt kind of bad for the tour guide. Not because she did a good job, but just because she was about half my height and all that looking up at me must have been uncomfortable.

Right when I was leaving, a couple from France (or maybe Belgium. Or Quebec. They had what I think was a French accent, anyway) came in and said they'd be happy to pay admission but only wanted to see the green wallpaper in the dining room, since it had been under renovation when they were there last. So that tells you how awesome it was, that they'd be willing to go there specifically to see it. I mean, they were probably in DC for other reasons, but they did make the effort to stop by.

It was now about 1:30 and I had an appointment to meet up with a bunch of people at the National Cathedral at 2:30, so I started walking. Google tells me that it was two miles and it was almost entirely uphill, so I'm glad that I got there early and sat on the bench for a while, basking in the sun. It was something like 15°C out, and having come from -10°C in Chicago it felt like high summer. Then my friends showed up, and we wandered around for five minutes to find the entrance, and went inside, and it was absolutely worth it. The moon window:

2014 DC National Cathedral Moon Window

was definitely a highlight, but the entire cathedral was fantastic even considering the state of disrepair it's in. Not because of any neglect on the part of the Church, but just because the earthquake of 2011 damaged the stone enough that parts of the spires actually fell onto the roof, and there are large nets all over the ceilings of the cathedral just in case any stone falls. There's even a section called the crypt, though just because it's underground and not because there's a large number of people buried there, though there are a few--Helen Keller, Woodrow Wilson, and Cordell Hull are the ones you've probably heard of. Or maybe they're just the ones I've heard of.

It also had by far the best bathroom door I've ever seen anywhere:

2014 DC National Cathedral bathroom door

Sadly, you did not need to pull the ring to open the door--it opens inward. But they get massive points for ambience.

And to explain the title of this post, it came from this book that they had in the cathedral gift shop.

We hung around the cathedral for a couple hours, poking into the various niches and crannies, until it was almost five o'clock, which meant that [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd would be done with her presentation and that two of the others had to get to their own presentation, so [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I went back to our hotel room for a bit and rested for a while until it was time to meet up for dinner at Marrakech. I'm not sure if it's a chain or if it's just coincidence, but there's a restaurant in Philadelphia also called Marrakesh that my friends and I always used to go to at the end of every year as a sort of celebratory meal, so when I saw Marrakech on the walk that [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I did to the DuPont Metro on Monday, I knew we had to go there.

It was exactly as good as I remembered even if the two restaurants are totally unrelated. They had the seven-course meal I remember Philadelphia Marrakesh having, but we didn't get it because [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd didn't think that she was hungry enough to eat it, so instead I got some lamb and prunes dish that was absolutely fantastic, along with a hummus and baba ghanoush appetizer plate, the free bread with the olive oil, pepper, garlic, and onion dip...yum. Just yum. I can give this one my unqualified recommendation if you ever have the chance to eat there.

After that, we went out to dessert at Thomas Sweet, about a half-mile away. I figured that the walk would help stoke people's appetites, and I was right at least for myself and managed to eat the entirety of my brownie and rum and raisin ice cream dessert, but no one else was nearly as lucky. Like I said, me eating everything in sight was kind of a theme of this trip, though in fairness I did walk a lot.

And that was pretty much it, since we were all tired from all the walking we did and all the food we had eaten, so everyone who wasn't [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd or myself hailed a cab and went back to their hostel and the two of us walked back up the hill to our hotel and went to bed.

I'll do Wednesday and Thursday in the next post!
dorchadas: (Kirby sweatdrop)
I've been reading books and listening to podcasts about cognitive biases and psychology (examples: Thinking Fast and Slow or the You Are Not So Smart podcast), and while a lot of it just covers the kind of things I already knew, it's still destroying what little faith I had left in the human race, which wasn't much to begin with.

Not too long ago, though, I read Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength, which is all about how willpower is a limited resource, works like a muscle in that it can get tired and not be there when you need it and be strengthened by exercise, and also that there's one kind of willpower that isn't subdivided by type of activity, so having to resist eating chocolate makes you more likely to rage when someone cuts you off in traffic.

The real name for that is ego depletion, for the curious.

Where this meshes with utopianism is that I have what I call a cynically utopian view of the best possible future, in that I think human minds are so flawed that the only way we'll get a government and society that's more than "great for a few, adequate for some, horrible for the majority" would be turning all important functions over to AIs, much like Iain M Banks' Culture.

The problem comes in when it turns out that self-control and resilience, or what's lately been called grit, are the personality traits that consistently predict success better than any other traits (not counting stuff like parental income here). And while we aren't sure where grit comes from and why some people have more and some less, I think it's not an unreasonable assumption that it develops through adversity and exercising it, because that's how willpower can be strengthened as well. That gets in the way of the ideal future being a crystal spires and togas civilization where robots do all the work and humans are free to devote themselves to the life of the mind, since it'd probably just end up with people watching holovision all the time and slowly falling into barbarism while a small percentage of the population keeps the flame of knowledge alive through the Long Night that follows.

What's more, apparently our grandparents' advice is correct and one of the best ways to resist temptation is simply never to be exposed to it in the first place. The best way to avoid eating chocolate is to not keep any chocolate in the house, and the best way to avoid civilization from descending into a decadent orgy of bloodsport and barbarism is to make sure that...okay, that's not the best analogy, both because individual brain activity can't really be broadly applied to society that way and also because it's trivially easy for civilization to descend into a decadent orgy of bloodsport and barbarism no matter what the technology level is. It's really easy for humans for decide to be terrible to each other for no reason.

Then again, if we can get to the point where we can make superintelligent AIs to rule us, maybe we can hack our brains to remove these problems, so maybe there's still hope. And this does rely on a supposition on grit, though if it turns out to be unalterable then that rapidly heads into Gattica-style dystopia. So at least I can maintain my cynicism unchallenged, and use confirmation bias to reserve my mental energy for other tasks!
dorchadas: (Perfection)
Why not, I'll write about HabitRPG. I did just spend nearly an hour codifying all my tasks there, after all.

If you're not one of the people I've already mentioned it to and don't know what it is, HabitRPG is a gamified productivity program. There's a fuller explanation of how the systems break down in the video on the main site if you scroll down, but it's basically a to-do list crossed with an 8-bit RPG. Checking off tasks gets you XP and gold, which you use to buy better gear to reduce the damage you take from unfinished tasks and earn XP faster. Also, for people who like meaningless collectables, there are pets and mounts that come from random drops. And they just added classes with special powers--I picked wizard, of course--along with quests and boss fights.

I've been using it for about a year now, after a friend told me about it right after the Kickstarter they launched for a mobile app had ended. Originally it was pretty bare-bones and the website barely worked, but as the year has gone on it's gotten more and more usable. They just added the ability to add checklists to tasks, so you can make a "do chores" daily task with "1) wash dishes, 2) prep tomorrow's lunch, 3) start rice, 4) pick up stuff from floor" or whatever.

I'll admit, most of my checklists are on my various "Beat [x] videogame" Tasks with lists of the levels or other milestones for levelless games like Oblivion. (>_>)

Playing video games to completion isn't the only thing it's been helpful at for me, though. If you played World of Warcraft with me, you know about my internal drive to get all the achievements, and it's that same urge that makes me want to check all the boxes. As an example of how well it worked, I managed to stop oversleeping and get out of bed within 10 minutes of my alarm going off basically every day, because if I don't get up by then I don't get to check the "Get out of bed by 6:55" task off, and then it's just sitting there unfulfilled, and I can't have that. I'd be missing out on a chance for pet drops! I'd have less gold and I wouldn't be able to get the equipment I'm looking for! Some of that equipment is time-limited! Exclamation point!

That's the part that makes it so effective, at least if you're like me. If you're the kind of person who plays RPGs for the story and doesn't care about getting extra equipment or maxing out characters, it will probably be like any other productivity app, though with more pixelated graphics. But if you're me and spent multiple hours in FFVI's Fanatics' Tower getting every character every spell even though some of the characters are basically worthless, then it's perfect.

Well, not quite perfect. One thing I would really find useful that isn't in there is a frequency between "daily" and "eventually." Right now, there's no really good way to implement a task that's supposed to be done once a week or three times a month unless it's always done on the same day every week. The addition of checklists means it's possible to hack it--remake a weekly or monthly Task with a checklist as long as the number of times you should do it in that period of time--but something more elegant would be nice. Fortunately, I went and looked at the suggestions board and implementing something like this is the most-voted-up item there, so I imagine it'll be coming soon enough.

In conclusion, if we got XP in real life, I'd probably be a billionaire by now.


dorchadas: (Default)

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