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February 14th, 2003


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10:32 pm - The obligatory Valentine's Day update
I received one card today. It had no Valentine's Day connections; I feel I can be as sure about this as I ever am about anything. However, it was from a dear friend who I had barely been in touch with for years. Whether you got tons of Valentines or none, today seems like a good excuse (if ever you needed one) to get in touch with old friends even explicitly without romantic intent. If you feel that sending something on the fourteenth adds unwanted romantic complications, put it off a day or some days (maybe write the letter today and send it tomorrow?) - just don't put it off forever.

I didn't really ask the question I meant to ask yesterday - or, at least, I didn't make my true thoughts on the matter clear enough. Yesterday's question was really about the abstract concepts of doing favours and not doing favours. I've said in the past that I consider posting to LiveJournal to be partly image manipulation, partly performance art. (An awful lot more, too.) I want you to feel that I'm a person worth knowing, a person who says things worth reading, a person worth caring about. Now if you truly don't think that your LJ is motivated by that to any extent, that's cool, but I think there will be a stronger element of it than many people care to admit. That's OK, especially when it takes such outlandish, fun, cool forms as Erick's mad poetry or tromboneborges setting parts of other people's LJ entries to music and performing them. With this in mind, I very egotistically claim that whenever anyone shares something with anyone else in their LiveJournal, they're doing them a favour. This is all only up to a point, very frequently a very near point.

For what it's worth, I have made two private entries in this LJ to date and about half a dozen Friends-only ones. I don't use any friends filters at the moment, but I've thought about it and I can't guarantee that I won't in the future. I don't think anyone can on LJ and I don't think anyone should expect to, but I do think it's something that people should think about. (I apologise if you feel deceived at all that my emphasis is not far more on that one issue, given what I said and the way I expressed it.)

Incidentally, very occasionally I like to look at someone's LJ from the very start and work forwards. (I think I've done this for about fifteen of you - which may sound a lot and somewhat stalker-y, but many of you have joined relatively recently and so it was pretty trivial. In a few cases, it has been the default behaviour as I seem them right from the start.) Obviously this is tricky if they've written thousands of entries, but within reach if the number is tens or even in the low hundreds. The best technique to page from one entry to the next is to use the little green > arrow at the top of this page. Much easier than going through the calendar. (Better still would be for "recent entries" to go back more than 75 entries, but I'm sure there must be a good reason at the LJ servers' end as to why it doesn't.) Unfortunately you sometimes hit a "protected entry" error, which signals straight away that someone's made either a private entry or a protected-and-you-can't-see-it entry. No way of telling which, of course, but it's a brick wall sending you back a few pageviews to the rather less convenient calendar interface. All the same, it would probably be more useful functionality if the > button were to take you to the next entry that the author wants you to see.

However, the general point applies to all other sorts of unidirectional favours; sometimes it's hard to know whether they truly are unidirectional or not, whether the person on the receiving end of the favour would appreciate reciprocation in some form or not. Communication is the key, but there's always a fear that even to express the communication spoils the spontaneity (sp?) or conveys the wrong impression.

I like transparency, I like openness, I like the ease and peace of mind that complete openness brings, I would like the thought of having not to worry about the image manipulation issues I perceive above. (Oh, self-inflicted conflict!) One of the first personal journals I followed, probably the first, was Jane Duvall's All I Need Is Everything, which seems remarkably open from the outside, as well as being extremely entertainingly written and depicting the life of someone who is well worth following. Of course, it's impossible to judge how open it really is and there are some areas where Jane has deliberately chosen not to be open, principally regarding her kids in any but the most general terms. (By very similar terms, I don't talk about my parents and find it harder to talk about those who do not currently LJ.)

Thanks to someone who has been a spectacularly great listener recently (with their permission, I'd love to give them the credit they deserve!) and who has been the right person in the right situation at the right time, I think I'm finding it a bit easier to trust people than I used to. Going back to the "unidirectional favours" theme, I guess this implies that there are things that I don't feel confidence to share with all-but-one of you. If I can eventually find it a lot easier to trust a lot more people, especially on the tough personal issues (and I don't feel like telling you even what subjects the tough personal issues cover at the moment) then I think my life and my state of mind will be a lot easier.

The other aspect of performance art is that a reasonably substantial chunk of my motivation for following LiveJournal is entertainment and it might well be some sort of chunk of yours too. Rationally or irrationally, there can be some sort of pressure to entertain, even if completely unstated. If you don't feel this at all, more power to you, but I know some people have expressed it from time to time. (After all, is there more to life than entertainment? Is there more to my life than entertainment at the moment?) I'm not sure to what extent I feel it and suspect it varies from time to time. Yet there are people who can be wonderful and warm and entertaining all the time (such as my favourite funny/games/etc. blog Defective Yeti) and they are admirable and in some sense you want to be just like them. It's confusing, it's negative, it's natural. You know, I bet that even the adjectiveiest bloggers get this way from time to time.

However, this all leads up to the fad du jour, the LiveJournal Valentine System. You may have read about this already on lj_nifty or elsewhere. The theory behind it is sound:
  1. You write down the name(s) of the people you admire, fancy, or appreciate.
  2. They also write down their list of candidates.
  3. The lists are given to a trusted third party.
  4. If you write down their name and they write down your name you are both told.
What's not to like? It's completely mutually consensual, right?

Now I'm not saying whether I took part or not, but I certainly knew about it in good time (you know this because I do read lj_nifty) and so I will have thought about whether to participate or not. I have looked into the issues involved fairly deeply and... well, I'm not going to tell you whether I participated or not. Possible outcomes include, but are not limited to:
  • I didn't participate.
  • I participated, got no match and was not nominated by anyone else.
  • I participated, got no match, was nominated by one or more mystery people.
  • I participated and got one or more matches, possibly receiving one or more unmatched nominations.
I'm not saying which. I don't want to know which category you came into, either. Every time you say whether you participated or didn't, a kitten part of the mystery dies. If you participated, you know that your nomination(s) participated and you didn't get a match, that's a knockback. So, if anyone participated and nominated me (I don't want to know!) then you don't know whether it's a knockback or whether I didn't take part. Hopefully that's got to be a more comforting prospect for someone, should they exist, than knowing they've been knocked back.

(From here you might choose to second-guess and work out whether I would bother going to the extent of making this long posting should such a circumstance not have come to pass. Obviously I'm neither going to confirm or deny this, but happy second-guessing.)

Can you see the connection between this and the concept of unidirectional favours? If you participated and received what you can deduce to be a knockback, then you know someone hasn't done this unidirectional favour to you. If you participated and know that your choice didn't reply, then you've got to wonder whether they didn't participate because they didn't know about the scheme's existence at all, because they knew about the scheme's existence and decided not to participate or because they participated and decided not to list you.

Going back to yesterday, I see this as being the related concept as making a subsection-of-the-friends-list posting in which you confess something to the members of the friends list. Until I've said the above, you didn't know whether I didn't know how to, whether I knew how to but didn't or whether I have been and just haven't included you. More to the point, I'm not admitting whether it's going to happen in the future. However, you now know it exists as a possibility. The genie is out of the bottle. Likewise, you know of the existence of the LiveJournal Valentine's Scheme for future years - if you don't get a match next year, then you may be able to discount with certainty the possibility that your sweetheart(s) didn't know about the scheme's existence. (Forgotten about it from year to year, possible. Tried to use it and suffered Internet downtime, possible. The whole scheme might be lying, possible.)

There are also a few other slightly troubling elements of the scheme. From the FAQ, should you make a match, the scheme will tattle upon you as to whether you are their only Valentine or not and vice versa. This strikes me as possibly a little more information than it would be desirable to include - it raises the existence of issues of polyamory and other topics akin. Admittedly it's down to the people involved to work out whether they have any issues with the results, but in a world where the general social convention is for monogamy and so it's possible for there to be issues caused by the results then I'm not sure it's a good thing. Even if people do find that a match has been made, it would be a troubling way to find out that your sweetheart's attitudes to monoamory or polyamory were not what you expected. (Now it could be that they have registered you as their one true love and sent out six other "I think you're cute" messages through the system, but it might not be. You have no way of knowing. Ah, the perils of partial information.)

Likewise, the extent by which it is possible to convey a number of different messages ranging from "Be my Valentine!" or "I think you're cute!" to "I want to have rampant sex with you" or "I want to have a relationshp with you" (incidentally, in each case, I'm not sure which item of the pair is the more extreme...) offers some intriguing, possibly not-intriguing-in-a-good-way issues. The sagacious queerasjohn has insightfully compared the scheme to an exercise in game theory. Even if you and your partner do agree that you want each other and that your ideas concerning the number of partners you all want are what you expected, here is where it's possible for a relationship to suddenly go sour. If you've sent "I want to have rampant sex with you" and received "I think you're cute" then, Houston, we have a problem. (Other way round? Oo-er, could be even worse.) Admittedly this is where the stakes are highest; should the scheme get to people to admit that they both want rampant sex with one another then this represents the potential for a very high payoff indeed, but incompatibility here could do harm for an existing relationship. I say it would be better to double-blind the responses much as you have double-blinded the protocol for deciding whether to generate a response or not.

(Sidepoint: I used to use a software package called RAMPANT, but it seems to have been assimilated into another package by the same company. Wah.)

There's also the issue of trust in the efficiency of the scheme in the first place. Much havoc could be played with egos if the system, accidentally or deliberately, does not work as planned. It would probably be a fun, ego-boosting sort of fault to have people receiving phantom matches which didn't really exist (everyone needs to know that they're loved by someone, right?) but probably would cause more angst and confusion than necessary.

It's still a lovely idea in the first place, though - too good to be restricted to February 14th. Would that there were some sort of international "I like you a lot" day which managed to deliberately and successfully avoid implying or denying that the appreciation and good wishes went any further than that. We have one possible system in place already, so why not use it to give a wider, more inclusive, more feelgood, less commitment-y, less angsty day a try?

390,000 in England and Wales claim to be Jedi. (kaet has a funny take on this.) Can we all claim to attend Hogwarts in 2011, please?

tall_man points to woot_comic, your feed for the /user/bin/w00t online comic. If you like the concept of there existing an online comic called /user/bin/w00t then you will enjoy the comic. (It's only a couple of months old, too, so you read the whole canon in about half an hour.) If the name alone doesn't amuse then no amount of suggestion that it's somewhere vaguely between Megatokyo and Dilbert (a comparison that author chaobell may not like) will be likely to convince.

The BBC have ordered six episodes of a new series of compare-people-from-different-sports show Superstars, hooray! I have long been a fan and had hoped for a second incarnation. Fantastic news.

Endemol have a new theoretically-€5m big money quiz which is here, which is now and which must, I suppose, be the current game show prize world record holder. Trouble is, the actual game within doesn't look terribly exciting to me - no indication that the players have to do anything terribly interesting to earn their money or that there is any great skill in determining how much money they actually win. Sounds more to me like the US version of "Treasure Hunt" than anything else, except possibly without the laughs, which doesn't sound like a winning combination.

The one item of interest there is the expression €5m - here I assume it means €5,000,000 but this is not necessarily the case. I think it is extremely unlikely that €5m actually means 5m€, not least because there does not exist such a coin as the half-cent. (I do think that the concept of dividing a euro - a name I can live with - into a hundred cents is wholly unoriginal and really rather naff. Sorry an' all that, North Americans, but I do!) The amusing possibility comes from observing that in most European languages the word for 1,000 begins with "m" (French: mille, Italian: mille, Spanish: mil) and so perhaps 5m might be shorthand for a mere 5,000 rather than 5M which would, according to SI, be 5,000,000. (OK, so the Dutch for thousand is the m-free "duizend" and the German is "tausend". Meh.)

Not sure if the episodes of Banzai on E4 at the moment are a third series or another repeat of the second, but makers Radar promise Banzai-meets-WWF laughs in Three Kings. I do like the premise of returning champions living like a king between their appearances while they defend their title (albeit more than a touch Jet Set) but I suspect that I will probably pass on watching any show which invites members of the public to compete for the title King of Pain.

Ooh yes - I had a The Weakest Link dream last night. Don't think I was playing the game (I think I was in the audience and/or helping the crew strike the set - for some reason, probably in a derelict building in a seaside town) but I do remember that I was able to impress Anne Robinson while she was in character. Not the first time I've had this dream - and not an unpleasant dream, either. :-)

NTK have beaten me to posting this gag, but I do think that the government should have given the emergency news service pertaining to terrorist attacks in London (and, later, other major conurbations) a name with fewer geeky connotations than CATS.

There were seventy-five people at the Middlesbrough Gamers Club on Tuesday, which is a ridiculously large number, certainly the largest I know about and possibly a record of some sort for a weekly club of our type. It's enough for us to be able to invade Belgium! Off to play board games with the Brancepeth Castle crowd tomorrow - not back to the freezing cold castle, but to someone's nice warm house in Leeds.

I forgot to go to the dentist yesterday. This would not be worthy of note were it not for the fact that I have had the appointment card resting between my keyboard and my computer for the last two and a half weeks. Anyone can be forgetful, but that represents spectacular inattention. Unfortunately this represents the third rearrangement of this appointment; the first was also due to forgetfulness, the second was deliberately rescheduled because I knew it would coincide with my return train journey from MacT00bage, but the surgery may well be starting to get a little sick of me by now. This is a shame, as I get on very well with my dentist who is a cheerful guy and extremely lavish with his praise.

So today I walked to the dentist's surgery to try to reschedule; bad move, they're only open on mornings on Friday. So I took the opportunity to wander further around the neighbourhood and discovered some roads that I'm sure I have never walked down before, despite the fact that they're within ½ mile of my house. Indeed, I saw a new view of the 50-yard-by-100-yard hospice whose existence I vaguely took for granted. Now it's not the sort of thing that one will generally pay much attention to, but over the 20 years I've been here I've gone for quite a lot of walks around the streets, especially at night in good company. Now admittedly I'm not going to be visiting the hospice on a tourist basis regularly, but to still find unbeaten paths and surprises within half a mile has been a wake-up call. What unexpected surprises are there within half a mile of you?

One tiny other thing is that I have applied for more information about the position with the Insolvency Service as discussed yesterday. (Networking contacts still requested!) I know there will have to be very many more "please send me information about the jobs available" requests, many more application forms filled in and quite a few interviews before I find the job which starts to get my life back on track (and even that the first job may well not turn out to be the right one) but it's still a baby step in the right direction.
Current Mood: pleasedpleased
Current Music: DDR remix of this strange sort of skipping tune thing

(17 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


From:dr4b
Date:February 14th, 2003 03:10 pm (UTC)
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I'd feel awful if you actually went and read my whole journal. I'm notably overprolific, if such a word exists. :)

The valentine thing reminds me of a matchmaking thing they did in my highschool. You paid a dollar to take a questionnaire and get back your top ten matches or something. The thing is, only half the school did it, and you had no idea if anyone you liked did it, so when you got back a list of ten random strangers, it was like "uhh... wtf?" So I decided not to do it, because it's pretty obvious who my valentine is.

I feel jealous of a gaming group with 75 attending members. That's amazing.
[User Picture]
From:jiggery_pokery
Date:February 14th, 2003 06:50 pm (UTC)
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It's about 40%-60% CCGs these days, with maybe 20% RPGs (sometimes three games going at once), possibly 20% board games and the rest being miniatures war games. Very noisy indeed. Typical attendance is more like 50-60 than 75, but it's rising to almost unsustainable levels.

It's mad! It's out of control! It's going to kill us all! (...as zorac used to say about Tony Blair, per Chris Evans.)

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