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The hardest part of completing anything is beginning it. Lately, when I come to write here, I waste a few minutes trying to think of something compelling to write, get frustrated with my dormant creativity, and close the tab. It’s a quiet defeat, but the guilt of it stops me from coming back and writing every day. When I started this blog I wanted to write every day, as both an outlet for my thoughts and experiences and a way to improve my dubious writing skills. And ironically my failure to do so gives me my next topic. That we only fail creatively when we fail to try.

 

They when you start a project you’re already 50% done. I’m going to start this back up. I’ll write more often, I swear it.

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Why the Men’s Rights movement exists.

mens-rights-activists

 

 

There is a lot of noise on the topic of gender equality. It may just be our generations biggest movement. But not surprisingly, the communication surrounding it is absolutely atrocious. As a man, it’s incredibly difficult to get behind the feminist movement when it spends so much of its time demanding that blame be placed on Men alone. Feminists try to raise the concerns they have about the inequality that they feel, but instead of broaching the topic with pragmatism and a level head they’ll spend the majority of the conversation talking about how men bring them down and the patriarchy is controlling women. I would consider myself a feminist, but the Patriarchy is a conspiracy theory, and ultimately its why Feminism can’t speak for Men’s Rights as well as Women’s.

Below I’m going to quote a reddit article that I saved, unfortunately I didn’t save the link, but the test instead. So if anyone has a link to the original post so that the author get’s full credit, please let me know.

 

I think the most fundamental disagreement between feminists and MRAs tends to be on a definition of the word “power”. Reframe “power” as “control over one’s life” rather than “control over institutions, politics, the direction of society”, and the framework changes.

Now that second kind of power is important and meaningful, but it’s not the kind of power most men want, nor is it the kind of power most men have. I don’t even think it’s the kind of power most women want, but I’ll let them speak for themselves.

Historically, that second kind of power was held by a small group of people at the top, and they were all men. Currently, they’re mostly men. Still, there’s a difference between “men have the power” and “the people who have the power are men”. It’s an important distinction to make, because power held by men is not necessarily power used for men.

If you use the first definition of power, “control over one’s life”, the framework changes. Historically, neither men nor women had much control over their lives. They were both confined by gender roles, they both performed and were subject to gender policing.

Currently, in Western societies, women are much more free from their gender roles than men are. They have this movement called feminism, that has substantial institutional power, that fights the gender policing of women. However, when it does this, it often performs gender policing against men.

So we have men who become aware that they’ve been subject to a traditional gender role, and that that’s not fair – they become “gender literate”, so to speak. They reject that traditional system, and those traditional messages, that are still so prevalent in mainstream society. They seek out alternatives.

Generally, the first thing they find is feminism – it’s big, it’s in academic institutions, there’s posters on the street, commercials on TV. Men who reject gender, and feel powerful, but don’t feel oppressed, tend not to have a problem with feminism.

For others, it’s not a safe landing. Men who reject gender, but feel powerless, and oppressed – men who have had struggles in their lives because of their gender role – find feminism. They then become very aware of women’s experience of powerlessness, but aren’t allowed to articulate their own powerlessness. When they do, they tend to be shamed – you’re derailing, you’re mansplaining, you’re privileged, this is a space for women to be heard, so speaking makes you the oppressor.

They’re told if you want a space to talk, to examine your gender role without being shamed or dictated to, go back to mainstream society. You see, men have all the power there, you’ve got plenty of places to speak there.

Men do have places to speak in mainstream society – so long as they continue to perform masculinity. So these men who get this treatment from feminism, and are told the patriarchy will let them speak, find themselves thinking “But I just came from there! It’s terrible! Sure, I can speak, but not about my suffering, feelings, or struggles.”

So they go and try to make their own space. That’s what feminists told them to do.

But, as we’re seeing at the University of Toronto, when the Canadian Association for Equality tries to have that conversation, feminist protestors come in and render the space unsafe. I was at their event in April – it was like being under siege, then ~15 minutes in, the fire alarm goes off. Warren Farrell, in November, got similar treatment, and he’s the most empathetic, feminist-friendly person you’ll find who’s talking about men’s issues.

You might say these are radicals who have no power, but they’ve been endorsed by the local chapter of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (funded by the union dues of public employees), the University of Toronto Students Union (funded by the tuition fees of UofT students), the Ontario Public Interest Research Group (funded by the tuition fees of UofT students), and the Canadian Federation of Students (funded by the tuition fees of Canadian postsecondary students).

You might say these people don’t represent mainstream feminism, but mainstream feminist sites like Jezebel and Manboobz are attacking the speakers, attacking the attendees, and – sometimes blatantly, sometimes tacitly – endorsing the protestors.

You might say these protestors don’t want to silence these men, but a victory for them is CAFE being disallowed from holding these events.

So our man from before rejects the patriarchy, then he leaves feminism because he was told to, then he tries to build his own space, and powerful feminists attack it and try to shut it down, and we all sit here and wonder why he might become anti-feminist.

Ultimately, Men’s Rights needed to create its own space to talk about men’s issues. Feminism as a majority, doesn’t care and won’t listen to the plight of men because they only regard men as privelaged. It’s a non starter, how can a man have a concern in the world when the Patriarchy spends its collective waking life pulling for them? It’s nonsense, and being told to deal with it is a dialog that’s long gotten old for men. I’d like to requote the end of the above citation, because its ultimately the root of the movement’s frictions.

So our man from before rejects the patriarchy, then he leaves feminism because he was told to, then he tries to build his own space, and powerful feminists attack it and try to shut it down, and we all sit here and wonder why he might become anti-feminist.

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What minimalism really is: From a programmer’s perspective.

Some of the best products we use every day employ the use of minimalism. So why is it so poorly defined by the people who admire it? Correct me if I’m wrong, but most people find a pure white house, with almost no furniture, and only turtlenecks in your closet to be an extremely uncomfortable living situation. Colors are important in minimalism, and so are things. 

To me, minimalism means the practice of organization that puts function before pattern, and pattern before design. Google recently created a page for their design philosophy, and their first sentence states

Focus on the user and all else will follow.

I think the word “user” here is interchangeable with “function”. As a software programmer I constantly see user interfaces that try and make their platform look pretty without putting as much thought into what makes sense for the user to view. Designers have try and move away from “list styling” in favor of “cluster formatting”, where the website is essentially different sized blocks that fit side by side (think windows 8). This, frankly, is crap. It essentially reverses the concept of minimalism. It puts design first, pattern next (though pattern should really read repetition here, explained below), and then function last. Often design formulas completely neglect organization and function.

I want to outline some of the terminology that is muddy in minimalism, but drives its core concept.

Organization

Organization is the ability for a user to take a glance at a interface and intuitively piece together where they can execute their function. As people don’t just visit software to stare at it, they logically always come with a function in mind. With good organization, a user can quickly find the path (hopefully a short one) to their goal, without having to scan the page to find out of place links and actions.

Function

Function is really the collection of functions available to the user to accomplish their goal. Functionality should only be present if its useful, and when possible functionality should group together common actions an automatize where it makes sense.

Pattern

Not to be confused with repetition, at least not in this case. The human mind has an extraordinary capacity to recognize patterns and employ them in useful ways. If you have to display information to a user, use patterns. Listings are a perfect example. Forums, reddit.com, facebook, and twitter all use lists. When these lists get cluttered or unreadable, the pattern recognition fails and its no longer intuitive.

If you compile the above, you’ll have a blueprint of a great layout. Be it for your programs interface, or you living room, the same concepts apply. Which leads to the final step.

Design

You’ve got a blueprint created from all the above, now you just want to make it look pretty. Aesthetics are important in all aspects of creation, studies show that it’s often just as important to users as the content or function. But the designs job is easy at this point. Make your buttons look good, use a appealing color pallet, know how to effectively use white space and never use pure black or pure white (hex: #000000, #ffffff). This is probably the easiest part of the whole process, but it’s completely driven by the steps above. Fall short on the above, and your design will look like crap, too.

 

So the next natural question is where the “getting rid of shit” aspect comes in. It’s often overvalued, but it’s definitely important. Simply put, if it doesn’t serve a function, then get rid of it. Design that doesn’t serve a function just confuses the pattern. Just the same, don’t attempt to use pattern where it doesn’t make sense. When you drop unnecessary items from you program, or even your house, then your function and design improve. It also does wonders from stress levels and mental clutter. If you’re like me, it pretty much ruins whatever you’re doing when you have to step over things to get to where you’re going.

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Shipping container homes

Something I’ve always wanted to do is build my own house. And minimalism is probably my favorite design concept out there. Now, don’t get me wrong, I absolutely hate getting rid of things for the sake of getting rid of them. To me minimalism is about ruthless function. If you can make something look nice without compromising its function, then that’s minimalist porn.

Shipping container homes may sound cold, but if you put the money in (which is far less then building a traditional house), you can get the same square footage, warmth, and at a far lower price. (3k+ sqf houses for ~$20k). Granted, the largest cost is always the land. But who really cares? These are awesome anyways.

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Pie, and why silence is golden

It was Ghandi who said:

Never say anything that doesn’t improve on silence.

I was inclined to remember that quote after my night yesterday. I spent the afternoon/evening with a wonderful girl I’ve recently reconnected with. After loudly celebrating the USA vs Portugal soccer game, we retreated to her house to make a delicious peach pie. As the sun set, we had fragmented conversations about past loves, current interests, and general outlook on life. Maybe it was the calming aroma of the cooling peach pie, or the dim lights in her strangely serene home, but I left that night feeling more placid than I have in years.

 

 

It’s the feeling of being understood before you speak, which often removes the need to speak at all. I think if people are perceptive enough, they can experience this with anyone. But I can’t help but believe that most people think conversations are supposed to be quick witted and measurably interesting, as if being reviewed by a panel of judges. I embark the following idea to anyone who reads this; Put away your phones, take a deep breath, and share yourself with the people you choose to converse with. Do not reserve your thoughts for fear of sounding stupid or uninteresting. The most interesting thing a person can do is present themselves raw. If you run out of things to talk about, sit in silence together.

I get the distinct feeling that I’ve found another kindred spirit. If you ask me, finding people that you connect with in your bones is one of the greatest rewards in life. You should strive to keep in touch.

 

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School shootings and how we address the problem.

Yesterday I read an amazing article regarding the “propensity” for young white males to perpetrate a school shooting. It’s not secret that these incidents have been on the rise in recent years, or at the very least have been more publicized and used to advance political agendas. But one thing that’s irked me as a man, is the use by the mainstream feminist movement to blame this on “Privileged males who feel that they’re owed sex and respect”. If you’re like me, this didn’t resonate with what you might consider your more logical senses.

The article outlines how a loss of connection with our young men could be what’s leading to the violent outbursts. While we may look at even our youngest boys and think “they can handle it”, “they’re tough enough”, “man up, kid” they are experiencing the same emotions and needs as any other child. By encouraging the internalization of these problems, we force them to compound and develop into a habit of developing discontent and frustration if not dealt with.

One of my favorite quotes from the end of the article.

If we really want to get serious about curbing mass shootings, we have to address the root cause of the problem: that an entire generation of young men have been left to their own devices about growing up in a society that may only regard them as privileged, and in doing so has neglected to attend to their basic human need for guidance, connection, and support.

– The Manthropologist

In any case, the article is worth a read in its entirety. It’s full of useful information and offers a nice change in perspective, without the intense rhetoric that’s so often the narrative of the more radical equal right movements.

Reconnecting with our Young Men -or- How to Prevent School Shootings

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Tom says: I need serious help, I’m destroying my life and my future

Some time ago I stumbled upon a great post on reddit, where a user by the name of Tom posted on /r/getdisciplined “I need serious help, I’m destroying my life and my future”. Below, while its a lot to read, was one of the best blocks of advice for life I’ve read in a long time. /u/bauski offered great advice on how to curb the growing apprehension and anxiety involved with falling behind on what you value.

Worth the read.

Hey Tom!

First off, let me just say, I know exactly what you’re going through. Through personal experiences with “slacking” and procrastination, I can honestly say that I’ve been in a state of mind just as you have been, where projects get pushed back into obscurity and you’re left with nothing because you let all the things that mattered drop to the wayside. The part about social anxiety, I am not as personally wise about, but I do have friends who have had the same exact kind of social nervousness, the kind of feelings that stops you from being able to even talk to strangers, and I think I can help you on that as well.

It sounds like you’re very overwhelmed. I can understand that. You’re at an age where you feel like you have to bare all of the responsibilities for all of your actions. In some ways this is true, but life isn’t as scary as you think it is Tom. Life doesn’t have to be that scary. I’m not asking you to join a cult, but I am going to ask you take some time to consider how you perceive the world.

It’s good that you’ve tried seeing therapists before, they are good people, but it’s hard to start a relationship with them, to really get close and trust somebody that you are paying money to see. Not just because of the transaction of services for goods, but because of the feeling of “there is something wrong with me and that is why I am here, fix me”, not every session can help.

When I was in College, what you Brits call Uni I guess, I took a year off from school to really take a look at my life. At least on paper that is what it said. In reality, I took a year off, figured out nothing, did a ton of drugs, and then wasted away my life with video games and 4chan. When I got back to school the next year I wasted away that year doing the same thing, without even being able to finish most of my classes because of my lack of participation. The year afterwards was the same, and the year afterwards the same as that.

All in all, I think a huge chunk of my early adult life was used spending my parents money while living a lie. I’m sure you can understand how horrible a feeling that was.

For me it all started in middle school, right around when I got my first computer. Since then I’ve been fairly addicted to the computer, and only recently have I been able to control my misuses more. But since middle school I have used the computer as a tool to perpetuate my real struggle. Tom this is the important part. What is your real struggle? From the sound of it, you have a very similar problem to what I had. I knew I had potential, and talent. When I did things I liked, or when I was motivated enough to do them, people loved what I did. People praised me for it. They said I had a new way of looking at it, or that I had such pertinent questions. The idea that I was special, my ability to be cognizantly faster, conceptually more voracious made my struggle harder and harder. The struggle was that I could imagine the perfect life, the perfect things, the perfect project, all done, all nicely wrapped in a bow and paper, but all the work that would be involved looked so hard, so difficult. And as I grew older, and the projects got bigger, and as life grew more real, I pushed it all away, I kept on pushing it back further and further, not wanting to deal with it. And the more I pushed it away the harder it got for me to try.

While in my mind I could think of the most perfect things, the most perfect ways, and the most perfect scenes, in real life I just couldn’t be bothered to do them, because I was afraid to start.

I didn’t want to have that pressure. That responsibility. I was too afraid to live my life.

Here’s the good news Tom. It’s not always going to be that way. Not if you want to change it. Seeing as how you’re asking a group of strangers for help you’re already doing the right thing. You’re struggling to get out of your trap that you have set, and that’s what it takes. You have the power to change things Tom, and the best part is that as you get older your brain chemical balance will settle down and you will feel better, things won’t seem as bad, but the important part is, that you must start now, you must take steps to work out of it, if you are going to move on with your life.

Before I give you suggestions on what to do, lets get back to the mindset thing.

  1. “Failure is a specific label for a specific type of result.”
  2. “Failure will not kill you.”
  3. “You learn more from failure than you will from success.”
  4. “Failure can lead to success.”
  5. “Results are rarely as important as the journey.”

If we take a look at the idea of failure we can see that failure isn’t a bad thing. Failure is just a temporary state that results from some actions. It is a label we put on to results, just the same as we put on a label for “success”. For instance, lets say you go for a run. What are the state of possible results? You either run, or you don’t. What if you end up walking in between? What if you only do 1 lap? What if you walk 5? What is failure? What is failure based upon? If you jogged, walked or ran, and you enjoyed the moment, and you got some exercise, isn’t that good enough? Judging yourself upon results is useless and will only amount to sadness. Don’t worry about failure Tom. Don’t worry about the fact that most of your projects you start will not end up in the same way you planned it to be, or hoped it would be. The fact of trying is what is important. The fact of opening up that blank screen and writing those first 6 words is what is important. Not what those words say. That can come later.

  1. “People are so worried about themselves they don’t have time to worry about you.”
  2. “The very high majority of people want to look smart and strong.”
  3. “The very high majority of people really just want somebody they can share their hopes and problems with.”
  4. “The more open you are to people, the more open people will be to you.”
  5. “When people say something awful, it is rarely intentional, and often caused by something unrelated to you.”
  6. “There is an unstopping wealth of love, ideas, beliefs, and resources within people.”
  7. “There is no “normal” when it comes to humans.”

I’ve had two close friends who have had problems with social anxiety. Two friends with the same fears, but with very different ways of approaching the problem. One has had anxiety since middle school, and has slowly shut himself off from the world. The other had taken the opposite course and has continuously been practicing his social skills since child hood to try and be as suave and “perfect” as possible. Neither methods have made either of them happy. Either way, they weren’t really dealing with the main issue of WHY they had social anxiety. Instead of trying to deal with the mindset, the belief that was causing them this stress, they tried to patch it over. And it has led to problems for them.

Good news is, both of them are getting older now, becoming more comfortable with their skins, and have found a more balanced way of approaching the situation now. I can suggest plenty of different tools and references for you to start on learning social skills but that is only a band-aid to the problem of why dealing with strangers is so hard. Why opening up is so difficult, when we all know most of us just want somebody who will listen and understand.

Like the previous part about failure, there are no optimal scenarios of meeting people. There are no perfect get togethers. Every human being you encounter will steer your perfect conversation in ways that you might have never imagined, but that is not a bad thing. People are an infinite pool of knowledge and experience. Every encounter you have with people can be a journey.

I used to ignore my parents a lot. I loved them, and I respected them, so I wanted to perpetuate their idea of “Perfect Bauski” to them. And so I lied for a lot of my life. Sure sometimes I shared some non-important problems, but when they would ask how things were going I used to lie all the time. The phrase “Everything is going well” used to be a favorite. Right next to “I’ve got it under control.”

I know this sounds hokey, but the truth will set you free. At some point, thanks to a very smart and caring person, I decided to open up to my parents. Maybe not all of the truth, but at least start from a very small part. Instead of “Everything is okay” I called them, and I told them a little bit, and I told them, there was more that I wanted to share, but it would take some time.

The reality of the situation is, opening myself up to them, that wasn’t as much for them as it was for me. The release that I got from being able to share my real fears, my true feelings, it has been like a dam bursting open for me. Like I didn’t have to worry about my problems anymore, because somebody else knew about them. Like I wasn’t dealing with my issues by myself. Telling strangers can be nice too, but I suggest you try really sharing your problems to people that care about you. You might be very surprised by how good you feel.

And I’m talking about parents because that’s where it starts. You say you don’t have many friends, but you must have some. Start with parents, and then do friends, or vice versa, but I’m sure there are people you trust in this world. You gotta go out and open yourself up. Because people want that. They don’t want the “I’m perfectly fine and everything is okay” because everybody knows that’s a lie. Nobody is okay. We all have our own worries. And when somebody can open up to tell them, somebody that they care about, then they open up, and you become a real part of their life.

So start there. Start small, and start close. And once you can do that, you’ll feel much more capable of meeting you people and opening up to them.

  1. “Baby steps.”
  2. “Two steps forward is easy, one step back is hard.”
  3. “Loving yourself is the hardest thing to do.”
  4. “Live in the now.”

Everything people tell you, remember to take it in baby steps. You feel pressured I know. You want something to fix it now! But I guarantee you, just a little bit of progress can go a long way. Think in baby steps. Don’t overwhelm yourself with all the things. If it’s possible for you financially, I highly suggest cutting down on everything. Instead of trying to do 3 courses like a “normal” person, try doing 1 class that you know you’ll enjoy. Take walks, try to figure out what your heart really wants to do, not just things that make you upset about yourself. Although sitting inside and reading the internet might keep your mind off things, think of how you will feel afterwards and stop yourself from doing the things that make you unhappy.

Take care of yourself. Don’t think of yourself as just 1 being. Think of yourself as a tiny bird that you need to muster strength for. Think of yourself as a fragile chicklet that needs to be nurtured and strengthened. Love yourself like somebody that you would want to meet and hang around with. And of course, remember to do it slowly. Very, fucking slowly. Because if you race forward too fast, you’re only going to hurt yourself faster.

And when that progress stops, it will hurt. Progress cannot continue on a straight path forever. It will meander. Some days it’ll feel like you went back four steps. You’ll start working out for a week, and you’ll be doing well at school, and then suddenly a month goes by where you did nothing again. Where you ran back into your cave and feared the world, because you hated yourself. But remember, pitfalls are all just part of life. There is no failure. As long as you get back up again and try, things will never be over. So after a month or two months or half a year of hurting again, you’ll get back up, because you’ll get sick of being stuck, and you’ll start moving forward again, and you’ll start remembering all the lessons that you’ve taught yourself all over again, and then you’ll progress once more, and then you’ll fall, and then you’ll hide, and then you’ll get stuck, and then you’ll start moving forward once more and everything will go on forever. But each time, it’ll be a little be farther, a little bit easier, and you’ll feel a little bit better. Cause that’s how life goes.

The final piece of advice I have is this: Breath. Every time you do anything, any little thing, take a long breath and live in the now. Try to enjoy the moment of whatever you are doing. Try to enjoy the small and fine details of the process, instead of worrying about results and pride. People don’t give a shit. Just make sure to take care of yourself. That is all that is asked of you. Breath, enjoy, and love.

Good luck. And remember to have fun.

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