No sex please, we’re writing

(Today’s title is a pun on the (British) comedy “No Sex Please, We’re British”. Which, incidentally, I have not seen, but it is probably not too bad, being British.)

The story I am writing for this year’s JulNoWriMo is extremely chaste. There is nothing in it that I can imagine would activate the gonads of any remotely sane human, and I think the chance is very low with the insane as well.

Therefore, I can only assume that some completely unrelated influence (like the Norwegian summer?) is whipping up my sex drive. Not that it can do much good or harm to the world, since I have settled into a comfortably celibate lifestyle. It would surely take weeks if not months of preparation to change that.

For my poor characters, however, the world is in a great deal more flux. They and their universe live inside my mind, and when my mind is shaken (or even stirred), they are the ones likely to pay the price. So, my writing is more or less on hold until the compass needle of my mind stabilizes again, or at least stops spinning wildly. It should only take a couple days. Usually a couple extra hours of sleep will help with the problem. Details not really available, beyond the fact that dream sleep (REM) increases over the course of the night.

Many years of writing experience has taught me to NOT get my poor characters mixed up in my hormones. Besides, I have bought and paid for books where the author seems to have failed this rule, and it was not a pretty sight.

Happy birthday to me!

I guess I did change

I guess I did change this year. And that makes me happy. But I will be happier if I change more, I am sure.

I did, in fact, have a happy birthday. But then again virtually all my days have been happy for years and years now. For a while this worried me, as I was thinking I would have to suffer in the afterlife for being happier than I deserved in this life.

Reading the books of Ryuho Okawa convinced me logically that some happiness is a natural result of making the right choices (even if, in my case, there was a lot of help to make me do so). I don’t simply take this on faith, there was a solid body of reasoning that I could check for myself. My heart agrees with it as well.

On the other hand, reading about the lives of saints has shown me that some of my more superficial joy is indeed misguided and needs to wither and die. This refers to enjoyment I get from worldly entertainment, such as computer games, and from allowed sense pleasures such as delicate food. For the inner, deeper happiness to increase, my “center of gravity” needs to move further inward. So hopefully my 54th year will be marked by this. I am not made of saint material, really, so who knows how much progress there will be, if any. But that is the direction in which I am looking.

My experience from the past (and I have a lot of past, now!) is that as my center of gravity moves inward, certain parts of my life start to wither and die naturally, without  a lot of whining like when one slaughters a pig. It is more like when you look at old trees, you see they no longer have the lowest branches, which younger trees have, and the lower branches that remain are sometimes already dead, otherwise rather bare and seemingly bound for death. But new branches are growing higher up. It is a natural process. It is something similar here, I think.  I just passed by the stacks of comics that I still have left (having gotten rid of large heaps of these each time I moved) and I was like, what are these doing here? So that is good.  I don’t go around think “Oh noes, I have to give up my comics or God will punish me in Hell!” – in fact, I have bought a few digital ones this fall and winter – but the emotional attachment has been fading for years and still does. I have other interests now.

So that makes me happy. It would be sad if nothing happened and I just stayed the same, even if it was a cheerful same. It is better that I grow a little each year, even if it means some branches close to the earth are withering and dying.

Google+ revisited

Despite the prominent + sign, this picture was actually taken in spring. And not everyone on Google+ is a pervert. Not quite.

Actually, I have visited Google+ every day since first I wrote about it. In fact, I suspect I have visited it way too much. But we’ll get back to that. My world may be revolving around me, but yours is not. So, Google+: Dead or alive?

If you were to believe a widely quoted article by Chitika Insights, Google+ lost 60% of its traffic in just a couple days. Of course, this was right after they had gained 120% in a couple days, namely the days after they opened from invitation to open beta. If you have ever joined the open beta of anything – such as one of the many online games – you will be about as surprised by this as by the bright circular thing that rises from the eastern horizon in the morning.

Chitika has a good reason to try to understate the rapid growth of Google+ (the fastest of any social media so far). It is in the business of advising advertisers. Google does not show ads on the Google+ pages (unlike Facebook, Chitika’s favorite). And when Google shows ads, it has its own system and does not require or appreciate any help from Chitika. So there is definitely a bias here.

That said, I can’t help but feel a little sorry for the crowd who rushed into Google+ without an invitation. They did not come into a noisy common room, but rather an almost empty corridor with locked doors on all sides, except for the exit.

Google+ comes with ready-made provisions for limited sharing. It encourages you to sort your contacts into circles the first thing you do, and while the posting default is still “public”, that only lasts until you actually post something to one (or more) of your circles. This then becomes the new default when you post again.

The higher security level has attracted early adopters who are not your average Facebook user. Minorities, activists, perverts and liberals (but I repeat myself) make up the overwhelming majority of the people I see on Google+. Admittedly, this is probably because I am the kind of person these people include in their circles. But it is certainly a difference from Facebook. Actually, some of the people are the same, but the content is still quite different and rather less restrained.

This goes some way to explain why so much of the Google+ traffic is not public.

Of course, those who have nothing to hide (and want to show it) can do so in Google+ as well, posting whatever they want in public. But there is no particular reason for them to move there if they already use Facebook, unless they have the level of self-awareness to suspect that not everyone is interested in every detail of their very normal life.

Of course, if you really want to share everything with the world, you could make your own blog instead. But then you would not have the illusion that all your friends read it…

Once you’re inside, however, Google seems to be much more active than Facebook or Twitter. Part of it is that people can write as long entries as they want, and generally they are quite a bit longer than “status updates”.  While there are no nested comments, you can alert a specific person by placing a + (or alternatively @) right in front of their name. They will then be notified – if their setting allows it – that you have addressed them directly. This seems to encourage some people to write back and forth at great length, adding to the traffic.

Sharing av media, from music to animated pictures and YouTube clips, is done directly in the stream. No clicking on links named bit.ly and which you have no idea where they go. But all these things also add up. These days there is, unfortunately, a flood of reposts about the various “Occupy [town center]” demonstrations in America. Unfortunately, while Google+ now support clickable #tags, you can’t use them to hide all posts in that category, only to see more of them.

To be honest, Google+ feels kind of crowded and beside the point for me now. I have made a couple small circles with people I really want to read, and go through these more often. The main stream, as it were, is only visited when I don’t feel like I have anything better to do.

One way that Google+ is more like Twitter than Facebook: You can follow people without them following you back. Of course, you are likely to only see their public posts, if any. But it fits me. The people I want to read are not necessarily those who want to read me. I feel a little like the comedian who said he would never join a club that admitted people like him. Well, apart from the comedian part. I probably feel a lot less like a comedian than people would believe…

 

A day without rain!

 

I mean it literally, the sun was back today. But if you are looking for the melody by Enya, I have that in my record collection too.

Because of heavy rain, I did not get to take any long walks at all yesterday, and only half an hour the day before. It looks like that was enough for my body to completely fill up my glycogen reserves, if that really is what happens. My pulse was ridiculously low, touching on 60 when sitting in front of my computer at home and even at work. (There is an app for that! Really! Well, on Android at least.)

Of course, pulse is very individual. But even for me, the envy of health personnel for some reason, 60 is usually my resting pulse, when lying flat on my back and not even thinking. Although once or twice I have seen it down to 55. I am a tiny bit more active than that at work, I like to think!

An hour and three quarters of walking fixed that. But it took its sweet time. As soon as I was over the top of the hill, my heart went back to “walking across the kitchen floor” mode. It was kind of funny.  It took about an hour and a half of rapid walking before my body grudgingly admitted that maybe I was being serious. In all those 105 minutes I spent just over 950 calories, so it was pretty relaxed. But it was the best I could do without actually running.

City of Heroes Freedom is out, the free-to-play version of my favorite online game. I may write a little about it in the future, if any. Tried the start of the game and it has become even more user-friendly, I would say.  But I’m just not so into those things now as I used to be.

Salongfähig

The German word “salongfähig” is well known here in Norway, with a meaning vaguely similar to “politically correct”. It literally means something that fits in a salon, a place where cultivated people gather to talk.

However, in Norwegian the word “salong” is also used about a set of living room furniture, and the heart of this is the sofa. (We do not have a word for “couch” in Norwegian, only sofa and divan.  The Arab word “sofa” is used almost interchangeably with the Persian word “divan”, although there seems to be a vague consensus that divans are better suited for napping in and sofas better suited for just sitting.  Sofa seems to be winning and may remain the only word in use. Divan has been retreating internationally as well, from what I read.)

The lack of a proper Germanic word for these things is no doubt due to the fact that our ancestors were quite austere. Some variant of the word “bench” is quite common in Germanic languages. In Norwegian it is called “benk”, but sitting on them is no longer comfortable enough for our skinny rumps.

The other mandatory part of the “salong” is of course a couple matching living room chairs. I believe it has been possible to buy more than two, but in today’s small families that is probably rare.

The third and final component is the low living room table, “salongbord” in Norwegian. It is used to put coffee cups on while drinking coffee in the living room, as Norwegians like to do.  But I bought this set used, and there was no table with it, for reasons unknown. This suits me well, as I don’t drink coffee. I would probably just have covered it with magazines anyway, or even computers.  This time, I intend to have no big computers in the living room, only laptops at most.

Instead, I would like to sit reasonably near the wood stove with a good book. I find that my home office, completely crowded with computers, is not so conductive to reading books, since it puts me in a computer frame of mind just by entering. Wood stove and living room furniture seems a more suitable environment.

Whether that will be enough to lure me away from the computers is another matter.

IKEA has just this week opened a shop outside Kristiansand, and people are swarming the place. As a result of many people buying new furniture, you can get great used furniture cheaply.  Today’s very durable purchase set me back about NOK 1000, or $175, but well over half of this was fuel for my friend’s van. He lives in the province east of this one, but came all the way to pick me up, help me buy the furniture, drive it home and help me carry it. So he certainly deserved it.

In all fairness, it was his idea too.  He is the only person who occasionally visits me anyway, but it was probably not for his own sake. He is used to austerity, as an old-fashioned Christian he spends much of his time in prayer and fasting, not to mention celibacy, and hard work to earn his own money and give to those in need. So he probably does not mind the hard folding chair that was all I had before. But if he thinks I should become a little more “salongfähig” in this regard, I don’t see it as a great loss, even though I personally live more like a porcupine than a human socially speaking.

And at least it let me write a diary entry that humans can actually understand. I hope.

Less about happiness

“He told us to use this to practice making money so we can be rich like him.” Probably a lot less popular than actually giving large amounts of money, but also probably more effective in the long run.  I suspect the same for happiness.

I realize that my previous post, “Can happiness be shared“, was a bit rambling and branching into diverse topics. What I really wanted to say was this:

We can try to share our happiness with others through a smile, a gift or some friendly words. But how well this works depends greatly on the person who receives. Each person has a “capacity for happiness” of their own. This capacity seems to be partly inborn, possibly influenced by upbringing, and slowly altered through our life choices over the years.

If the other person has a high capacity for happiness, your “gift of happiness” is likely to ignite happiness in the other person as well.  That happiness can then continue to burn for a long time. Eventually as they gather happiness they may become “permanently happy”, throughout their life (and even beyond, but I cannot possibly prove that even if it should be true.)

If the other person has only a moderate capacity for happiness, the happiness you share with them will only burn briefly, like a matchstick (for those old enough to remember them).  After a little while, it is gone.

If someone has a low enough capacity for happiness, they may get envious at seeing you happy.  So your happiness actually makes them unhappy.  And even if it is not quite that bad, they may quickly get used to your gift of happiness and become angry if you don’t keep “feeding them happiness”.

It is this “capacity for happiness” which I believe cannot be given away, but is like health or stamina, part inheritance and part lifestyle.

I hope it was clearer this time around! It was to me, at least.