Follow the rules, dammit!

Follow the rules, dammit!

2/23/13

One of the themes I’ve identified was my penchant (I’m being kind) for following rules at my own expense.  I’ve always gotten along well with rules.  Maybe it’s my German heritage.  If I have a clear goal, I can move mountains to make it happen.  Earn a college degree or three?  No problem, just tell me what I have to do.  I’ve been generally well rewarded for following rules, doing what is expected of me.  If you play the game according to the rules, you will win, at least on some level.

It was literally unthinkable to simply say “I want to do this” and let that be all the justification needed for me or anyone else.  Instead I have hidden behind some pretty flimsy excuses to validate or justify my actions.

What happens if this world order isn’t best for me?  What if I try a different view?  What if I put myself first, my needs, my wants?  I cringe at that thought, it sounds very selfish, and hence BAD.  I’ve always been GOOD.  Like Sarah and I exchanged on Facebook last December:  I want to be naughty, but can only seem to be nice.  I patterned my life after Popeye and Superman and that Canadian Mountie from cartoons, Dudley Do-Right.  Save the damsel in distress on the railroad tracks.  Fight the BAD guy and always win.  Save the earth.  Uphold justice and honor.

So maybe I’ve been living their lives instead of mine.  I tried to save the fucking damsel, plus Hansel and Gretel, and they just shat on me.  I only ran from my marriage when my impersonation of Atlas led me to the brink of complete emotional collapse, and that’s no exaggeration.  Clearly this approach sucks rotten goose eggs.  It almost got me killed.  Time for a paradigm shift.  (Marcia is my clutch, I think.)

So what does the new world order look like?  I don’t know.  There are so many things I enjoy, so many things I want to do and experience.

  • Dance, both doing and creating
  • Massage (those two entries were really easy)
  • Piano & music
  • EMT, counseling (save a tiny bit of the world)
  • Dance research?
  • Soccer & tennis
  • Crap, I can’t add my job to this list…how sad

What world do I want to invent?  How do I decide which things I want in my world?  Is it based on how they make my body feel?  My mind?  My heart?  My genitals?  Some combination of those?  See, I’m looking for rules again!

I have this insanely logical mind, and something of a gift for science and engineering.  It seems rude to Mother Nature to throw that away, and instead focus on something I’m mediocre at.  Does that make sense?  I have worked on awakening my creative side, with composing dance and music, but I’m at such a primitive level in those areas compared to other parts of my life.  I guess I don’t want to feel I’m wasting the gifts I’ve been given and have developed for so long.

Part of me still wants to save the world, or at least a little of it.  Is that contrary to my new world, or an integral part of it?  Do I need to get out of the business of saving the world, and save myself first?  Only then maybe see if there’s energy for others.  Again, sounds horribly selfish.  The man box doesn’t shut up easily.

This is a scary prospect.  What if I show my true self and no one likes it?  I don’t have much self-esteem at this point, am I strong enough to be me in the real world, and handle the (strong) possibility of rejection?  There are good places to play with this new world, but it seems like a huge leap from those cozy bubbles to any part of the real world.  Ok, “real world” sounds horribly judgmental and inaccurate.  The goal is to be authentic most of the time, and only put on camouflage when needed.

Why do I care so much if I disappoint my family?  How do I learn not to give a damn what others think?

I just shut off the music I had playing in the background.  I usually have something playing to keep me company, but I realized it was keeping me from paying attention to my body.  My shoulders are fairly relaxed, my heart feels open and scared.  I’m breathing slowly.  My heart is pounding a little bit.  This is the same kind of open I’ve felt on stage, ready to overshare myself.  I’ve gotten up to tell people about my cock, and read letters to myself, and I’ve shared the stage with amazing sensual ALIVE people, and I feel like a complete fraud.

So what gives me the right to stand in front of 50 or 60 people and talk about sensuality?  I must have huge cajones.  I can be open, I can talk about the past, I can talk about my dreams for the future, but my present is non-existent.  I feel like I’m a 15 year old virgin, because interacting with women intimately is so foreign and so exciting and so terrifying.  It’s like I’m the anthropologist again, watching an exotic new species I just discovered, and I’m trying to understand their language and culture and rituals, and how to approach them without scaring them back into the woods.

Grounding is the first step, that makes sense.  Breathe.  Open up.  Be your Self.  Crap, that sounds hard!  I’ve been so good at following the rules, so good at putting on masks to hide behind.  “Oh look at Glenn, he’s so smart.  He has a great sense of humor.  Look at all the cool things he’s doing!  He’s such a Respectable Citizen.”  Half of it is pure distraction to keep from feeling how lonely I am.

Before getting involved with my ex, I spent night after night alone in my apartment.  I’d watch TV, and go to bed.  I was so profoundly lonely I screamed into my pillow sometimes.  Didn’t want to scare the neighbors.  Fear of that place got me into, and kept me in my marriage, because I knew I didn’t have the social skills to find a partner very easily. Or even a date, for that matter.

Sometimes when in a bar surrounded by people I don’t know, I’ve been tempted to try the dumbest pickup lines I can think of, using the sales approach.  Namely if you try enough lines, someone will eventually say Yes.  This supposedly worked for Richard Feynman, a famous and completely amoral physicist.  I think of lines like “Excuse me ma’am, you have lovely legs.  Would you like to wrap them around my ears for a while?”  Or ask if they shaved their legs recently, and when they respond in the affirmative say “good, I hate razor burn on my ears.”  Feynman would proposition women before even buying them a drink, so he wouldn’t waste money on a losing cause.  Clearly I need better role models!  And no, I never actually tried this strategy (you knew that), but it amuses me to ponder it.

Back to the present.  In order to ground I have to be able to catch myself hiding.  Disassociating.  Spacing out.  Putting up endless shields of laughter.  The start of this has been promising.  In this week’s therapy session, I switched up from the previous week, and stayed focused and present with her, and we had a very productive session as a result.  I made a point of keeping eye contact, shutting down the false laughter, and keeping myself open.  And yes that was scary, even in the safe space of therapy; and so it is in other safe spaces to open up, be completely present, and experiment with this “new” way of sharing and interacting with others.

It’s really scary to be me.  I had to say that.  It feels open and vulnerable and I get huge butterflies in my chest, and I’m convinced the world is about to end.  Maybe it is.  Maybe that’s a Very Good Thing, if it means the end of the world I knew.

[this was edited to keep from oversharing]

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J. C. R. Licklider

Internet Pioneer:  J. C. R. Licklider

Glenn Booker  COM 150

February 17, 2013

He just wanted an automated office assistant to help with his psychology research, but the late Dr. Joseph Carl Robnett Licklider (1915-1990) became an Internet pioneer who led the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) to start developing a global computer network.  He was also a visionary in human-computer interaction and digital libraries.

Born in 1915 in St Louis, MO, he earned a triple Bachelor’s degree from Washington University with majors in physics, mathematics, and psychology.  His Master’s degree (1938) and PhD (1942) both in psychology were from the University of Rochester.  He taught at Harvard from 1943-1950, and did research mostly in physiological psychology (Rappold).  He didn’t care about computers until he needed help modeling human perceptual mechanisms, such as how vibrations are interpreted as sound.  After self-study, he realized that a large amount of his time was spent on clerical tasks that could be done more efficiently by a machine (Rheingold).

In 1950 he moved to MIT and worked on an air defense system called SAGE.  That gave him his first inkling that computers could work more closely with humans, instead of feeding them batches of punch cards and waiting for the output (Griffin).  In 1957 he went to work for Bolt Beranek and Newman Inc. (BBN), a firm specializing in architectural acoustics.  Under Dr. Licklider’s influence, the firm started becoming known for computer consulting.  In 1968, BBN won a bid to supply computers for ARPAnet (Griffin).

In 1959 he published his first book, Libraries of the Future, where he foresaw library resources shared among many users via a database, and manipulated in ways not possible with printed books.  He recognized his vision was far beyond the capabilities of the day; “Present-day information-processing machinery cannot process usefully the trillions of bits of information in which the body of knowledge is clothed (or hidden), nor can it handle significant subsets efficiently enough to make computer processing of the textual corpus of a field of engineering, for example, useful as a tool in everyday engineering and development.” And he accurately predicted “By the year 2000, information and knowledge may be as important as mobility.”  His ‘procognitive system’ used the same decentralized structure as the Internet (Licklider Libraries of the Future).

Dr. Licklider also envisioned other forms of input to a computer such as pen and tablet, and discussed the basic principles of human voice recognition, natural language processing, information retrieval and relational database structures (Licklider Libraries of the Future), all technologies used extensively today.  Coming from a psychology background, he was focused on the human side of computing, such as finding faster and more efficient ways to get data into and out of computers, and helping people perform analyses.

Dr. Licklider turned an early minicomputer into the first interactive computer in 1960, paving the way for the entire modern-day field of Human-Computer Interaction.  This event was so significant for him he referred to it often as his “religious conversion to interactive computing” (Rheingold).  His goal for human-computer symbiosis was for the relationship between them to help identify the questions that needed to be answered, not just find the answer for a known question.  To achieve these goals, he discussed Artificial Intelligence, now known by the less spooky name of Data Mining.  In contrast, at that time computers were regarded as calculators or used for rote data processing  (Licklider “Man-Computer Symbiosis”).

In 1962 Dr. Licklider became director of the Information Processing Techniques Office for ARPA, where his ideas for interactive personal level computing with keyboard and screen were supported by the military need for smaller and faster computers (Rheingold).  Connection of many computers in a real-time network gave birth to the ARPAnet, the foundation of today’s Internet (Rappold).

Dr. Licklider’s 1968 paper “The Computer as a Communications Device” pioneered the concept of computer communities and the field today of socio-technical computing.  These communities differ from normal computing environments “by having a greater degree of open-endedness, by rendering more services, and above all by providing facilities that foster a working sense of community among their users” (Licklider and Taylor).

Dr. Licklider worked at IBM from 1964-67, then returned to MIT from 1968-86, interrupted by a brief stint in Washington DC back at the Information Processing Techniques Office in 1974 (Edmondson-Yurkanan).  He died in 1990 from complications following an asthma attack, at the age of 75 (Rappold), having seen most of his visions become reality.

Works Cited

Edmondson-Yurkanan, Chris. “Joseph Carl Robnett Licklider”.  Austin, TX, N.D. <http://www.cs.utexas.edu/users/chris/think/ARPANET/ARPA_People/Licklider.htm&gt;.

Griffin, Scott “Internet Pioneers J.C.R. Licklider “.  N.D. <http://www.ibiblio.org/pioneers/licklider.html&gt;.

Licklider, J.C.R. Libraries of the Future. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1965. Print.

Licklider, J.C.R. “Man-Computer Symbiosis.” IRE Transactions on Human Factors in Electronics HFE-1 (March 1960): 4-11. Print.

Licklider, J.C.R., and Robert Taylor. “The Computer as a Communications Device.” Science and Technology 76 (April 1968): 21-31. Print.

Rappold, Raychel. “J. C. R. Licklider “.  N.D. <http://www.cs.rit.edu/~rpretc/imm/project1/biography.html&gt;.

Rheingold, Howard. Tools for Thought the History and Future of Mind-Expanding Technology. MIT Press, 2000. Print.