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A Carnot engine of self-loathing
17 June 2017 @ 02:53 pm
 
ah so this is my art philosophy:
it is how i relate to people and the world and it is a fun game
art is something with me and other people, so i like to make drawings as gifts for people
that is why it doesn't make sense to pay me for it
they are all gifts
so i like to have people tell me what to make
because they are validating my activity
and i get to spend my time and effort focusing on them and what they want
it is an exchange
and i want other people to do that to me
i want them to tell me what to make
and i want to have them make things for me
it is a way of encouraging each other
yes you can make a thing, it is fun, here, do this
and then they can make the thing and be happy with it
and i am also happy with it
it's like a happiness generator
why don't more people do this
why won't they play with me
 
 
A Carnot engine of self-loathing
23 March 2017 @ 08:23 pm
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b085wj18

Contrast this to the TED talk I posted in 2014. The TED talk, in prime TED talk manner, was hysterical and emotional and screaming for action. This, in prime BBC manner, is much calmer, actually taking a step toward considering how to deal with the issues presented, instead of just screaming about it.

So, what are the issues with having algorithms* make decisions? From the program,

"In short, we are using machine learning software in a wide range of applications that have real effects on important aspects of our lives - essentially what decisions we make, sometimes through way of choosing what options we're given, or in other ways that are typically invisible to us."

The unease around this idea is understandable, but part of me revolts at it because it's not wholly different from much of the rest of the universe. We don't always really understand how decisions are made. Compare to bureaucracy - no one person understands how it works, but there are many subroutines that sort of work together to in the end mostly get the thing done. It's a process that combines tools with human decision makers.

The questions around how disturbing it might be to have a pseudo-infallible source of decisions whom we generally trust but can't understand reminds me of this old post actually. It is kind of unnerving to just have to trust something you don't understand, except we do it all the time. It's just that this is MACHINES and it's SCARY.

What I like about this program, though, is it illustrates through example how, you know, people are actually pretty shitty at making decisions. They're stupid and ignorant and biased and prone to sleepiness and crabbiness and who knows what else. From this program, you can see the use of algorithmic decision-making tools - they can identify patterns that we might otherwise miss.

Reminds me actually of a story from 'The Silent Language' by Edward T. Hall, an old book talking about the information that culture provides that isn't directly encoded in language. The example is about the difference in enforcement of law, in particular the speed limit. In American culture, the speed limit is fuzzy. Sure, the sign *says* 50 mph, but you're not really going to fine or arrest me for going 51, are you? That would be ridiculous, not to mention unjust. In Spanish culture, the law is written down and we can't leave it up to unreliable interpretation, that would be unjust. Instead, they rely on the likelihood of having some uncle or cousin or such involved in the court, who would pull strings and get the speeder out of any punishment for such a tiny infarction. Both cultures prefer non-draconian laws that allow reasonable leeway; they simply implement the informality at a different point in the process.

And it's that flexibility that seems like it could be lost when turning decisions over to algorithms. The example of parole prediction given in the program illustrates this well: these are the exact same heuristics we were *already* using. It's just that now they're being codified, and that seems like it leaves out any room in the process for informal leeway or exceptions. I'm not necessarily sold on the thought that the likelihood that you're arrested or released on parole or whatever needs to be heavily influenced by a human who's just anxious to get out of there and get to lunch, or is going through a tough time at home, or didn't get enough sleep, or whatever other random factors it is that inform a human's decisions.

*Side note for people who care: Am I the only one mildly irked at the polysemous meaning the word 'algorithm' has taken on for laymen? Only very mildly because that's just language for you, but having taken computer science classes and read books and whatnot I've been repeatedly taught a very narrow definition for 'algorithm', whereas in wider use it is similar but can encompass a much more general idea of 'computers and software'. Ok, I'm over it, but I had to take a minute to announce how learned I am for preferring the narrow terminology.
 
 
A Carnot engine of self-loathing
09 December 2016 @ 08:42 pm
I want the wrong things.
What I most feel the lack of, what I really want right now, is someone to: get high, make art/out with, and go to raves with and dance ourselves silly. But I feel bad, I feel like this is the wrong thing to want. I want to want to spend my time doing things productive, worthwhile, admirable. Intellectual activities, research, engineering, problem-solving, building. Things that I will wish I had done when the doing is over.

If these are the things that make you want to dance like crazy:
Rubber Kangaroo (Original Mix) - Pyramyth
Glitch Mob
Ansome
DJ Coone


and the things you find hilarious might include:
Bo Burnham
Maria Bamford
ERB
5SF
Catch-22
Mitchell & Webb
Oglaf
bad kids' jokes
sincere nerd jokes

If this is not you but you think you have a better idea, I'd like to hear it.
 
 
A Carnot engine of self-loathing
18 May 2016 @ 06:38 pm
 
In my brilliance and humility, I have started therapy once again. This time, I will get fixed.
Except, I am already fixed. Because I do not think of myself as broken, as needing to be fixed. This alone is enormous. Instead, I wish to be better, to be different. It may be a challenge; I, who am already a surly little snot, too proud to submit to therapy correctly, even when I am in desperate circumstances, am now in a weird place where I am not so dangerously prey to the traps I once was. But perhaps I am in fact the same: now, as ever, my problems seem to be merely the problems of being human.

In other words: I get to go through a little workbook and write down my honest reflections and run through exercises and so forth. And exercise number one is to narrow down my values to the three that I think are the very most important. Imagine, my therapist says, that you are at your 80th birthday (or funeral): what do you want people to say of you?

For starters, they give a list of common values. (Definitely not correct or exhaustive, just common, they assure you.) Things like:
acceptance
authenticity
cooperation
fairness and justice
friendliness
industry
kindness
order
skillfulness
supportiveness
etc etc. There's 38 on the list. For most of them, yes I want to be that. For probably about half of them, it's very important to me to be that. I have to pick three; the reality is that values are sometimes in conflict.

Trying to take the exercise seriously, I falter. I have a distorted concept of time. What do I care what people in the future will think of me? Will have thought of me? I want people to think well of me now. If I'm going to live this fantasy of envisioning the future, then what I will care about is what I have actually done. What effect I have actually had.

But now I'm just getting tripped up on immaterial details. The framing story was just to help focus me on the purpose of the exercise: by what values do I want to guide my decisions and shape my life?

I think this is something I already know, once I start thinking about it. Something that has already been coalescing in my awareness and behavior, and which I want to hone down and continue to train, to further develop. Since I am forced to limit myself, I will say that there are two values.

The first is actually a cheat; it is all of the values rolled up in one. It is what I have formed over the past near-decade of processing the inspiration that began with the Twelve Virtues of Rationality. This isn't a perfect representation of where I now stand, but it is an eloquent summary, closer than perhaps anything else. My version of it is still strongest on curiosity and honesty; on knowing the truth, on being accurate, on being consistent. Being aware, of accepting truth without judgment, whether you like it or not, whether it serves you or not, of understanding the reality of your existence in the world and the limitation of your perception, that the sources of your desires and beliefs are idiosyncratic, accidental, and historical, and that this is the same for everyone. They all seem to fit together into one semi-coherent philosophy, so I will cheat and call it a single value.

The second value is perhaps more focused, easier to explain, but I feel it compliments the first well. So here we have, fairies and gentlewomen, my core value system:

1. Understand the world as it is.
2. When in doubt, don't be a dick.
 
 
A Carnot engine of self-loathing
20 March 2016 @ 09:32 am
 
Starting to read 'The Silent Language' by Edward T Hall. Early on, he talks about how people don't realize just how enmeshed in their culture they are, considering many things to be universal, or idiosyncratic. The study of culture is not something obscure having to do with just anthropologists and far away peoples. His main purpose in the book may be to bring to our attention what we communicate without realizing it. But it was this sentence that struck me: "The job of achieving understanding and insight into mental processes of others is much more difficult and the situation more serious than most of us care to admit."

It struck me because it is essentially exactly that which has been weighing on me frequently. But I focus on people within my own culture, barely able to face thinking about other cultures. I am painfully aware, quite often, of the differences in background, experience, assumptions, and culture - even if they be subcultures within a larger one that we share, or individual strayings from the shared culture. It strikes me again and again, just how much of a difference some basic assumptions make in your entire worldview, interpretation of events, experience, beliefs. Maybe I can notice this because I am so fickle, because I change. I particularly seem to be aware of the difference between something like depressed vs non-depressed worldviews. Since i have spent plenty of time on both sides, I can notice just how deeply whichever side one is on infiltrates absolutely every thought and action. I notice because I am almost shocked by how hard it is for me to imagine the other side - even though I have personally been there, often incredibly recently, as soon as I have shifted from one side to the other, the mode I am no longer in is very murky, difficult to recall. I feel almost frightened when I become aware of this in dealing with other people, in knowing that their understanding and interpretation of events and the world are so different from mine. And I am only aware of the types of things that changes within me - the bulk of my culture I don't even notice, because I have been steeped in these assumptions for my entire life. For someone who has been steeped in different assumptions, the gulf becomes enormous. The weight of this distance burdens me in almost all of my interactions with other people, and I have all but given up hoping to have a deep connection with anybody.
 
 
 
A Carnot engine of self-loathing
03 January 2016 @ 01:34 pm
As I've tried to explain a few times to a few people, I've lost my words. I used to write quite a bit, read quite a lot, be at least able to try to express myself. I've barely written over the past few years. My reading level has dropped (of sustained threads and complex concepts), and I cringe inwardly almost any time I open my mouth beyond a sentence or two. I just can't word.
This, it seems to me, is a pure matter of practice. I have focused more and more on drawing in the past two or three years. I've gone into computer science, and been spending much more of my time wrestling with programmatic syntax - where you can say almost anything, but there are severe restrictions on how you can say it. The vocabulary is relatively meager. The point where creativity comes in is on a different level than in spoken or written language. The structure and logic is more apparent - it's quite easy to babble on, sentences that don't connect to each other, unheard of ideas and visions, internally inconsistent and even approaching incoherence. We can do that, and it still brings pleasure - we still delve into the mess and pull out a kernel of meaning, whether it was put in there or not, and there's a beauty and rhythm in the errors.
There is much less of this in programming - at least, at the low-tech level that I do, can't say much about more sophisticated systems with more learning and intelligence. You don't get far unless your sentences make sense. The compilers and programs that read my code aren't so clever or insightful. (But, everything that you can and do say that they can understand, they understand perfectly. Almost too perfectly.) I only say certain things that address certain issues, using only certain words and sentences.
And so my verbosity has dwindled. I find it hard to put thoughts together in human words so that others may understand. This I want to fix. So, this year, I will try to write more again.
 
 
A Carnot engine of self-loathing
19 March 2015 @ 06:01 pm
Yes, I mega-failed on that blogging goal. Moving on.

For those of you into the deep symbolic meaning of dreams, I had another tooth dream the other night. These dudes have happened to me periodically my entire life, at times more frequently than others. Usually the focus is on how horrible it is to deal with my teeth falling out, but comes in many flavors. As a youth I mentioned it to my mom, and she said they're supposed to represent losing control over your life, or some such bullshit.
So, for your subconscious entertainment, this one was:
All my teeth were falling out, I was trying to make them stay in but eventually realized it was totally hopeless, all very horrifying, as per usual. Even the requisite "Oh shit, this time it's not a dream, it's actually happening, goddammit." Except this time I scheduled an appointment to get dental surgery to fix it, give me fake ones or something. In the meantime, I would open my mouth, revealing gums with a few jagged tooth nubs left, to show people, saying "Damn look at what's happening here, it's pretty gross huh, oh well I'm going to get fake ones tomorrow we'll see how that goes".
 
 
A Carnot engine of self-loathing
26 January 2015 @ 02:21 pm
I've definitely got a strong hipster streak. I've actually heard the term 'hipster' thrown around for ages before it started to sink in what most of its connotations were. I associated it mainly with a clothing style (which frankly, I find aesthetically appealing) and of course with a preference for non-mainstream music. Existing purely on their own, these seemed perfectly harmless of course, and I was never really impressed by the seething hatred of hipsters by practically everybody around. Gradually I caught on that although there are specific artists, fashions, and activities most often associated with 'hipsters', the main connotation is a fierce guarding of one's status as 'cool' and ahead of the curve, meaning you dislike mainstream music because you're too good for it, and you're so ahead of the curve you liked popular bands before anyone else, and you're definitely too cool to like anything with the slightest possibility of lameness to it so everything you do you do ironically, because it's cool to be ironic. So I guess the problem with hipsterism is being actively, aggressively insincere in order to portray oneself as a particular brand of genuine. The most common hipsterism tends to be associated with the nostalgia for mass media and pop culture either from the childhood of people roughly my age, or for things from before anyone was born.
But so before I figured this out, all I noticed was that it was cool to hate hipsters. If you displayed any hipster-like tendencies, or liked any hipsterish things, you were in trouble for maybe possibly being a hipster. Shame on you. You should be more careful about what you like, and why you like it, and how you talk about why you like it, you don't want to be a hipster do you?
...
So I recognize a lot of what I do is, of course, for status. I listened to Daft Punk's first couple albums in high school and college and then kind of lost touch for a while, and then last year (or the year before?) they had a mainstream popular hit. These are all facts, make of them what you will. Personally, I don't actually like their newer music, what I've heard of it, as much as their older stuff. Is it because you're more likely to like things more strongly when you're in high school? And/or that helped define my taste in music and their new stuff is different enough from their old stuff that it's not close enough to my taste anymore? Or maybe actually my taste has changed. If I convey this information in anything other than a completely neutral tone only when it is absolutely relevant to the topic at hand, it's hard to avoid it coming off as at least somewhat a hipster status grab. And generally when I would reveal something like this, it's going to be a little bit more value-laden, phrased and intoned in a non-neutral way. Because I *am* disappointed when there's a Daft Punk song but it turns out to be from post-Discovery. 'Aw damn,' I say, 'It's their new stuff. I liked their old stuff better. I listened to it all the time, but now people only know 'Get Lucky'.' This is unfortunate for me, because I got my hopes up to hear a song that I know every measure of and can't not dance to and have over a decade of fond feelings and memories and associations with. My experience of Daft Punk is, therefore, not the same as the experience of people who have not known them as long. I am not saying, 'You losers, I am cooler than you.' I am saying, 'Here is some information about myself that I feel explains a few things about this extremely narrow situation, but also most likely gives you some more hints as to my greater background and personality. I was a kid who was into techno as a teenager in the early 90s and 00s. This tells you something about me, both my age, what kind of music I was listening to since techno was different then, and my personality, since a person who listens to techno as a teenager is different from one who doesn't is different from one who listens to techno as a teenager now.' And frankly, I like that little persona. There's obviously much more to me, but the Daft Punk fan character is one aspect, and I find her endearing, and am hoping you will too.
And so there we go, I've gone from defending my statement as a bare innocent fact to admitting that I am preferentially revealing information about myself in the hopes of creating an image of myself in your mind, thinking it will make me more appealing to you. Probably maybe I would have phrased it differently, or not said anything at all, if I had a different prediction of what you would have thought of it. I do this all the time. It's most of what my brain is for, really. Assessing the incredibly intricate and subtle nuances of a complex situation and behaving in a way that will, by my calculations, with high probability produce a desirable goal, by sorting through my storehouse of knowledge, facts, and learned experiences. Because being culturally aware and having good taste are positive traits. Because if I like something, there may be a good reason for liking it, and maybe other people like it for the same reason and that means that we have something in common.

Well, I have several threads of thought that this can lead to. Originally I was thinking about status signaling and intelligence; but it also meshes with my recent worries over my activities and people's opinions of and feelings about me. I'll do a choose-your-own-adventure and each as a different post I suppose.
 
 
A Carnot engine of self-loathing
22 January 2015 @ 02:12 pm
As a preview of the stuff I've been thinking about and will probably write tons about (although really maybe it's all unnecessary, maybe there's nothing more for me to say),
is this paragraph from SlateStarCodex:

Interesting thing I came across in research for Untitled post but didn’t get a chance to explore: female journalist Norah Vincent decided to investigate sex roles by disguising herself as a man and then going undercover to extremely masculine things like bowling groups and strip clubs and Catholic monasteries and men-only therapy groups where they talk about their rage issues with women (well, that escalated quickly). She concluded that “Men are suffering. They have different problems than women have, but they don’t have it better…I really like being a woman…I like it more now because I think it’s more of a privilege.” Her book Self-Made Man (ha ha) is available on Amazon. Anyone know of any men who tried the reverse of this?

The main point there being "Men are suffering." That seems to sum up a lot of what I was going to say. Maybe I should rephrase it as, 'People are suffering.' or 'Human beings suffer.' I actually find this to a common theme where I differ from many collections of people or beliefs - I generally tend to believe almost everyone is suffering, and generally tend to believe that it is unfortunate for anyone to suffer. I have a hard time with villains. Sure there are probably some pathological cases, but I wouldn't really extend their popularity as an idea in stories into what actual people are like. Shit is complex, dude, and life is terrible if you're conscious. Why is this so hard to realize or understand?
 
 
A Carnot engine of self-loathing
I don't actually of course believe in a thing like constancy of arrival time, but I can jokingly apply it to my life.  Sometimes I think I have got some things figured out, and wonder what is up with everyone else and why are they all still children, and feel good and proud of my maturity or precocity.  But then to make up for it there are all those things that I am so late to the party on...

But so it's hard to talk about some of the things I've been thinking about lately, because I recognize how insanely boring and cliched they are.  Except that I had just sort of ignored them all this time until I accidentally came to some sort of realization.  Or, maybe I didn't ignore them, maybe I did think about them, but somehow it seems to be of more interest to me, or I am more truly feeling how relevant it is, or something.  So I've got a lot of old hat to mash over, and consider this your warning that I recognize that most people have trundled through these woods 100 years ago.  It's just that, as I woefully rediscover again and again, there is so so much more value and impact from figuring something out on your own than being told or taught it.  In all kinds of areas.

This philosophy can lead to a lot of blathering about education.  But I'll spare you that for now.  It seems like the sorts of things that have been arresting my attention are the same old boring things like the meaning of art, what is important to do with your life, and various dumb interpersonal romancy things.  So I guess I'll have to talk about those, if only to get them the hell out of my head so I can move on to other issues.

We'll start with art.  Yes, I know that's an incredibly broad and vague topic.  I mainly contrast it with things that are more objective, or goal-oriented, such as science and engineering. I've been getting rather disenchanted with art lately, even as it's become a higher priority in my life. I'm beginning to doubt its motives and its use, and have been unsatisfied with the answers and attitudes of the few people I've talked to who want to do art for their life.  I ask them how they decide that that's what they want, and generally get answers like, 'This is just what my passion is,' 'It's what I love to do,' or 'I'm just following my heart.'  Yes, great, but how does that translate into what you should do with your life?  I don't think there's really any *should* to it, so I don't particularly think, 'You are incorrect, that is not a legitimate life choice,' even though I am strongly prone to that type of thinking, at least about myself.  I just don't have that certainty that what makes you happy is the rubric by which one should decide what to do with their time.  No, I don't think everyone should sacrifice happiness for the greater good, or whatever.  But I also don't think that my personal fulfillment is the only requirement I should use for decision-making.  Factor it in, for sure.

So let's look at drawing, since I've been liking to do that lately.  Imagine that I genuinely enjoy it, and feel happiest when I'm doing it.  The prototypical American Dream response is to say, 'Well, then, find a way to make that your livelihood!'  And so it turns into this goal to monetize drawing.  And almost every aspect of that is completely unappealing to me.  If I wanted to, say, be a full-time webcomicker, I'd have to maybe get my own website, puts ads on it.  Maybe make merchandise.  Maybe sign up for patreon, or do special projects with a kickstarter.  Maybe go to conventions.  Advertise.  And above all, make sure I am making good shit that people want to pay for.  And although in the world of webcomics, you're not exactly in competition with all the hundreds of thousands of others, people certainly do have a limit of how much time and money they'd want to devote to webcomics overall, so I'd have to fight to make it into the top list.  And the truth is, I am just not that devoted to becoming SO GOOD compared to anyone.  I just like to make things that I enjoy.  I don't really like the merchandise aspect.  I hardly ever give money to other webcomickers since I can't really afford it, but as much as I would love to help other awesome people making stuff I love to make a living off of it, I don't particularly feel like I want to or can or should do the same for me.  I don't have that impulse that says, 'Since this is what I want to do with my time, therefore I should endeavor to get other people to pay me to do so.'  No.  I like webcomics, but I'm not really thrilled about t-shirts and books and stuff, and really, all of these things are luxuries.  Yes, they and other arts improve my quality of life in some immeasurable way, and I certainly want the world to be such that these things continue to be made and available, which does mean that at least some people need to be able to make a living off of it.  But I don't actually feel like I'm producing a significant contribution... not compared to say, anything in technology, engineering, medicine, something in research and development.  Something that improves the world in a more concrete way than just making me smile or have deep feels or whatever.  Maybe it's that I think, in theory, I may be capable of doing something other than art, so given the choice, I'd like to focus on that.  Or at least, that's what it seems fair to get money for doing.

I love 'art' and sure, it fills my life and guides my actions but I can't verify that this is actually the best thing.  When I watch my own drive to create things, I'm not sure exactly why I want it or why it's so important to do it - a lot of it seems to stem from wanting to create a thing I can proud of.  And certainly the more I've reflected on this, and observed the practice of other art-like people, I've noticed that honing a skill in something artistic - music, visual arts, dance, etc - is highly visible and recognizable.  Almost anyone can look at your drawing, or listen to you playing the guitar, and say, 'Oh hey, that's really cool, you're really good!'  It's easy to display in a wide variety of situations and easy for anyone without particular training in your field to see it as impressive.  True, there's still that aspect where less trained people overvalue the ability of less skilled people - I experience it all the time when people think my drawings are great and I wonder, 'Have you ever seen anybody draw before?' - but it's not nearly as pronounced as in other areas.  How easy is it to display in a variety of settings how brilliant of a programmer you are?  It's hard to just be obvious about it in any public setting, and anyone unfamiliar with programming will have little to no ability to recognize how good you are.  You would need another person in your field to recognize when you've done something actually well.  On the one hand, then, it might not take much to appear impressive - I experience this all the time, 'Look I wrote a program that prints out multiples of 2!' 'WOW You're so talented! I could never do that I'm so bad at math' - but on the other hand when you're actually clever others won't know.  I am on the other end of this all the time - some genius friend of mine will try to show me what amazing thing they did with their program and I just won't know enough to recognize just how clever they were.  So it flattens everything into 'Can program' and 'Cannot program' or 'Can math' and 'Cannot math', with no distinctions.  Thusly, almost everyone I know assumes that I can get a job and succeed and be awesome at math or programming, because they see that I can do anything AT ALL and from their point of view it looks the same as awesome.

And so I suspect that, in my case at least, a lot of the drive behind wanting to art is for recognition.  Which dismays me.  And it's not necessarily a straightforwardly ugly status-grabbing move.  For me at least, it's not explicitly wanting others to admire me, but wanting what I admire in others.  So it's the similar result, without me thinking things through well enough to realize that really I'm just trying to get admiration.  It's very easy for me to be impressed with pretty drawings or other highly visible arts and talents, and so from that impression I think, 'I want that, I want to be able to do that,' so that's what I turn my efforts to.  I'm still a little impressed by less obvious things, but it's harder for me to see just how impressive the little ins and outs of math knowledge is without more training, and it's less immediately rewarding if I start to try to work toward it.  But whenever I stop to think about it, I admit that what I sort of admire *more*, or at least desire *more* isn't recognition but some other sort of achievement that in my blurry definition skews toward more practical things.  All in all, I don't think drawing *produces* something in the same way that engineering does, and so although it's clearly a good thing to have in the world, I don't really think it makes the most sense for me to get *paid* to do it.  I always want to pay for art, but it has to be put on the back burner and wait until I've bought food, paid rent, covered transportation costs, electrical bills, and c and c.  Things that improve the world in such a way that these things are more effective, more affordable, more efficient, more available, or what have you, seem to rate higher in my mind as something that it makes sense to get *paid* for.  Trying to turn a hobby into a paying job feels, at least to me, like trying to coax money out of people.  Yes, most people have more disposable income than me and it's not that big a deal.  But certainly I'm not the only one who has this idea - it's sort of a heavily endorsed trope in this culture.  And it ups the ante and increases competition for everyone thinking, 'Oh wouldn't be cool if I could just draw for a living?'  And so people get better and better and better, throw money and time into art school and graphic design training and spend their whole life drawing so that they are amazing and totally deserve to get paid for their work but of course to get actually paid you have to produce something someone else with money wants, so you get these totally charming and well-made commercials, and exquisitely produced websites and posters and book covers, and it turns into that old blah about making what you want and what someone else wants.  And whether one or the other is preferable, you can only do the second one if you are a fuck-all businessman and self-promoter and the absolute best.  And I'm just not that devoted to making myself that good so that I can kill myself convincing other people to pay me to do what they want done.  I certainly like doing things for other people, but I also like doing any number of other things, and don't want to devote all my time and effort to honing this skill.

So I know this is just a disorganized mess of thoughts on the vague topic, but essentially I seem to be sort of uncomfortably in this position where I strongly desire many art-like activities and talents, and seem to be continually making choices to improve myself in that direction, but I don't, at bottom, endorse it fully as what I would really prefer to be doing.